A Ferreter's Code

Some practical advice to the working ferreter drawn up with the interests of the countryside and the welfare of the ferret foremost.


The use of ferrets in the hunting and control of wild rabbits is widely practiced in the UK. If you are getting a ferret or ferrets purely for working then please act responsibly.

Make sure you have permission from the land owner to work the land, it is best to have written permission and carry a copy with you every time you go ferreting, then there can be no arguments.

Remember you will be seeking a favour when asking for permission so do not abuse it.

Observe the country code, close gates, don't damage fences and hedgerows, don't disturb other wild life, take your litter home and leave the area as neat as you found it.

Ideally you should visit the site without your ferrets and watch the rabbits so you can become familiar with the bury and clear the odd patch of brambles in readiness for ferreting. Don't leave this until the ferreting expedition as the rabbits won't bolt if there is a lot of noise above ground.

The simplest form of ferreting expedition is a ferret and a gun or lurcher. If you intend to use these methods make sure it is safe to use the gun and the dogs will not run onto a road or cause a nuisance. If you fail to kill a rabbit you have hit, make sure you track it down and kill it before you leave the site.


A carrying box for one or more ferrets.

Purse nets, made from hemp or nylon, you may need up to 20 nets or more for some buries. Ensure your nets run freely and aren't tangled or damaged before you set out.

A small spade in case you have to retrieve your ferret or a kill from below ground.

A sharp knife to remove the odd persistent bramble and to gut and leg the catch at the end of the day.

Ideally an electronic 'ferret finder', this consists of a radio transmitter collar you attach to your ferret and a receiver box which clicks when it is receiving a signal from the collar, a knob allows you to measure the distance between the box and collar. If your ferret stays underground you can quickly locate it and dig down to it. An experienced ferreter will follow his/her ferret as it works and note if it stops then moves on as this may indicate a kill below ground to be dug out.


Keep your ferrets in a roomy house with an outside run and ensure there is shade in hot weather.

Feed a meat based diet, not bread and milk, or a proprietary dry food. Clean the toilet corner daily to minimise the smell.

Ensure a supply of clean drinking water at all times.

Feed your ferrets before you take them working.

Be sure you don't leave the carrying box in the sun with the ferrets inside, they can quickly overheat. Have a drinking bottle with you or a supply of water.

If you are using a 'finder' check it is working properly before you fit the collar to your ferret.

Put your ferret into the bury only when you are ready to bag any rabbits that may bolt.

A ferret that is well used to being handled and played with at home is more likely to come to a whistle or call when you wish to move to another bury.

If your ferret fails to return and you aren't using a 'finder' a second ferret, usually a hob, on a line may be used. Beware of the line becoming tangled. You may have to dig along the bury until you reach the ferret or as a last resort leave the carrying box by the bury and check regularly until it returns.

After a working trip always check your ferrets for fleas, ticks or any injuries and use the appropriate remedy immediately.

Good hunting.

(First published in the NFWS News, October, 1997 - Issue No. 43)