Annabel's Babies

by Frieda Byng, Redditch Ferrets

One day last summer a tiny stray albino jill was brought to us for adoption. We hadn't any more room so we put her into a small cubby temporarily that I used as a hospital box when required.

We were at the time dismantling our existing garage to have an extension built so Ben rushed in and whipped the last cupboard off the wall and began to transform it into a hutch for Annabel as we'd named her.

We let her settle in for a day and then I had her out to weigh her and examine her properly. She weighed just one and a half pounds and was also in kit but how far we couldn't tell not having seen a pregnant jill before. She was very tame and handleable and she had odd eyes, one the normal pink colour and the other almost colourless.

I 'phoned Mary Neale for some advice which we duly followed. One suggestion was raw liver so off we went to Tescos to get some and I divided it up into daily amounts. Annabel went crazy over it and Oh! What joy when it was followed up with a drop of milk and some Ferretvite.

In the meantime Ben had finished the new hutch and brought it into the lounge to get the paint to dry quicker hopefully (I said we were short of space didn't I?).

Unfortunately Annabel couldn't wait for the paint to dry and early on her fifth day with us she gave birth. When I came into the lounge I was welcomed with a chorus of squeaks, it was surprisingly loud I hadn't expected to hear anything at all. I gave her food and while she was eating I had a quick peep but could only see two little pink bodies. A the next opportunity I had another look and counted four little wrigglers.

When the kits were a week old the box was getting rather crowded so we decided to take a chance and move the family into their new hutch. I put Annabel in first with some food and then after rubbing my hands in the bedding and transferring the scent to the fresh bedding I gathered up a bunch of little wriggly pink bodies and put them in their new home. During this time I had a final count and there were nine in all, all very fit and healthy.

Annabel was a lovely mum, very placid and caring, and she never objected to us having lots of looks at her family so long as we didn't take too long over it. I felt very proud of the little group we'd given a home to and dread to think what would have happened to Annabel had we not taken her in.

When we were able to handle the kits properly we found we had four hobs and five jills. Three hobs were Siamese and one was a poley and there were three poley jills and two Siamese.

At three weeks old my didn't they nip! I thought I'd never be able to cure them but having had a bitey adult ferret before that I was successful with I knew I would get them out of it eventually and I have done now I'm pleased to say. Until I did, not a day went by without one of us went dripping to the first aid box!

The weaning process came next and how messy that was. I put a large dish of food and the kits into a big cardboard box from the supermarket and that contained it all very nicely. It was so comical seeing them practically having a bath in the food dish, I had to wipe them all down before putting them back in their hutch.

As the family grew they needed to go into a larger cage. During this time Bas. my first ever pet ferret was beginning to ail. He'd been without most of his fur for twelve months and then he became ill. We had several tests done at the vets and we think he had a disease of the adrenal gland. Anyway, it resulted finally in making that awful decision we all hate and he was put to sleep very nicely and quietly and now resides in a corner of our garden. He was exactly seven years old.

Our growing family took over Bas's cage. A week or so later it was time to separate the boys from the girls and Ben took the jills into his shed where he looks after Bibbi, Bobbi and Bramble. I kept the hobs with me in the conservatory where I have Barnabe and Acorn, Bear, Avon and Badsey. I'd rather not have separated them but difference in size between the hobs and jills made it impossible as the hobs were getting rather rough and overpowering.

As the kits grew Mary found a home for two jills which helped us out spacewise, I couldn't part with anymore as by that time I'd grown too attached to them all.

The poley hob I've called Baztu and he has to live on his own as he became too big and bossy to stay with his siblings. He's huge, his winter weight was five pounds. He plays with everyone including the older ones without any bother and he's a real softie, but not in a cage with others, although I think he could get on with Barnabe and Acorn without much fuss. I've tried him once or twice and seemed OK. They need a bigger hutch before I can make it a permanent affair though.

The jills have settled in with Ben's set-up and they now have a lovely large silvermitt hob living with them. A ferreter friend of ours bred him then decided he was too big and soft natured for rabbiting so gave him to us. His name is Bigfoot and the little jills love him, he's ever so good with them and hasn't got a bite in him.

Annabel has turned into a beautiful animal and has a lovely coat, she weighs two pounds now, half a pound heavier than when she was in kit.

They've all been neutered now, quite an expense, but we managed it and it was all worth it, they've given us such a lot of pleasure.

At the Christmas show at Baginton I entered kit Barley and he came 2nd. I was so thrilled when he won his rosette. I've never entered one before.

So, Annabel you did us proud, a fine healthy litter and a prize-winner too, thanks Annabel.

(First published in the Summer 1999 issue of the NFWS News)

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