EDWARD COOK says: I prefer to feed my ferrets in the evening after finishing a day’s ferreting.
Some say ferrets should not be fed before they work as they will ‘lay up’. There is an element of truth in this, but that isn’t why I prefer to feed them in the evening. If a ferret is fed shortly before it starts work there’s a chance that its hunting instinct won’t be as sharp as usual.
In other words, it’s no longer hungry.
Fed ferrets will bolt rabbits but they are unlikely to work hard at more stubborn rabbits – and that’s why some folk say that unfed ferrets ‘lay up’.
My team of ferrets will work a rabbit until its either bolted or dead, plain and simple.
I’m in the business of rabbit control, not pot filling, so I have to be effective and in my mind feeding once a day in the evening is good enough. As for their diet, fresh flesh is by far the best, but do make sure you remove any uneaten meat from the hutch, particularly in hot weather.
As for staying underground, if you don’t want to dig your ferrets out – play golf! Anyone who goes ferreting will have to accept that digging is part of the job because ferrets will lay up on young rabbits.
You certainly need a spade, so get digging, it’s good exercise if nothing else!
Tips to get a stubborn ferret off a lay up? I use a number of methods.
If a ferret has laid up for hours it can be for many reasons. The most common are the ferret has been underfed, or it’s stuck, possibly by a rabbit it has killed. This happens quite frequently and if the ferret can’t be dug out it only has one option – and that’s to eat its way out.
Failing this, it could be your ferret is the kind of worker I like – one that refuses to leave a rabbit bottled up in a ‘stop end’.
In fact this is probably the most likely reason, so don’t blame the ferret’s working capabilities.
You can try opening the belly of a rabbit so the smell of guts can waft down the hole. But don’t open it too far or it will come to the surface and drag the paunch out of the rabbit and down the hole.
Believe it or not, mobile phone ring tones work well (if you find one your ferret likes of course!)
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