End of Season

by Max Abell

Well the ferreting season is now over for us, due to the doe rabbits being full of young; there are also a lot of rabbit kits already showing on top of the warrens. Hopefully we will start again at the very end of August.

We have had a good year accounting for many rabbits. The ferrets worked very well this season and we only got held up about five times, but these were very soon rectified with the ferret locator.

Rabbits seem to be breeding earlier and earlier and, keeping in contact with other ferreters up and down the country, some are finding does in young as early as Christmas, but there doesn't seem to be any pattern to it. Sometimes it's in the North, sometimes in the South and at other times in the West.

The same seems to go for myxomatosis. An area gets hits by an outbreak then you don't see it for a couple of years, whilst other places get hit with it year after year, never seeming to let up. Even so the rabbits, being the prolific little breeders that they are, always tends to survive to repopulate and I for one am very glad they do so, because although the rabbit needs constant control to keep on top of their numbers it would be a boring countryside without them.

When the ferreting has to stop we then go out at night with the 4x4, lamp and silenced .22 rifle and lamp for rabbits; another humane way of control, until we can get out with the ferrets again.

We must also remember that rabbit is a very tasty, low fat, organic meat that is not only versatile but free to anyone that ferrets. To anyone who has never tried it, go on, give it a go.

Our freezers are full of rabbit portions and rabbit pies for us. Some of the pies we eat, others we sell. The front of the rabbits, skins from the ribs up including the offal is always kept for the ferrets but frozen first to kill any fleas, etc. so that they don't spread to the ferret court. The ferrets quite often get the whole gutted rabbits as well as wood pigeons and whole game.

We tend to use a lot more dry ferret food in the height of the summer due to the flies, as it doesn't seem to matter what you do, the flies are a pain and can very soon infest raw meat with eggs, so great care must be taken in cages/courts as they can soon be full of maggots: dry food does seem to be the best idea although we do like to get them back onto fur and feather as soon as we can. This is not a put-down on dried ferret food, it's just that I like to feed my ferrets on the most natural food I can but dry is the next best alternative and for some pet owners who keep their ferrets indoors, fur and feather would not be practical. But whatever food you decide to feed your ferrets, fresh water is a must.

We will only be breeding one of our jills, Daisy this year as a friend of ours needs to put a bit of fresh stock in his ferret team and we need a couple more jills as we lost our old polecat recently; she was thirteen years and one week old and died peacefully in her sleep. She was retired but during her working life she bolted hundreds of rabbits and never so much as nipped anyone in her life. She will be greatly missed by us all.

We only breed from our very best workers. All ferrets will work but some work exceptionally well, Daisy being one of the latter, a lovely silver jill who has been mated with Harry, my friend's albino hob who is also a great worker so hopefully we should get some good workers out of this litter.

We never breed for the sake of it like some irresponsible ferret owners still tend to do, we only breed for ourselves and very close friends. We have our vasectomised hob for taking any jills out of season when we don't need to breed, which means that most years he's busy! I will let you know how Daisy's litter of kits get on.

As always, a big thank you to everyone who supports the NFWS and other like-minded societies.

(First published in NFWS News - #88 September 2010)