So it’s February – the month of love. But instead of all things romance, we are going to talk about ferrets and reproduction. As you’ll see, there’s very little to do with love when it comes to ferret reproduction.
Ferrets, like any other mammal, are controlled by hormones. It is those hormones that cue ferrets about what to do to reproduce, and when it should happen. However, unlike quite a few different mammals, ferrets’ hormones are controlled by what we call photoperiodism. Let’s take a closer look at ferrets and reproduction.
Ferrets and reproduction: What is photoperiodism?
At the most basic level it is about the amount of light or dark there is in the ferret’s environment. So as the nights start getting lighter, or as the days start getting longer, the light to dark ratio changes. That is when ferret hormones kick in and tell the ferrets it is time to mate.
That is when you’ll start to notice your ferrets coming into season.
In fact, it is this time of year (around February) that many of our ferret friends (those that are whole) will start to experience the kick of hormones. Jills will start to ‘put their make up on’ and boys will start ‘straightening their ties’. Metaphorically, obviously!
As a result, it’s easy to get lots of unwanted kits appearing in the world and ferret rescue centres become overwhelmed.
How to recognise when a hob is ready to mate
Let’s start with the hob. Think about spotty teenage boys in their bedrooms – they smell a bit, don’t they? Well hobs start to smell a bit different when they’re ready to reproduce. The smell will be quite distinct as long as they’re a whole hob. The hormones produced at this time are what cause the smell, which only gets stronger as their season becomes more pronounced.
We call it the ‘eau de hob’. Some people love the smell of it (strange!) but it can be quite a strong smell. In addition, you may find your ferret mounting everything. Animate and inanimate objects will be a target for this behaviour. They’ll also become a lot more aggressive so be careful when handling them.
Stashing is a common behaviour of in-season ferrets – they may even try to grab and stash you or your other ferrets. This can be quite painful for other ferrets so keep an eye on them when they’re together.
A hob reaches sexual maturity around nine months old. Their testes come in around six months but it takes a further three months for the testes to develop fully.
Check out our video on this subject and keep your eyes peeled for more ferrety videos as 2023 progresses! In our next blog we’ll talk about jills and how to recognise when they come into season. If you’d like to find more articles about ferrets and their care, check out the NFWS website.