Ferrets 2012

First blood…

Just worth recording that today was the official opening of the ferreting season for my four little terrorists. It hasn’t been a great year for rabbits in my usual haunts this year, so I’m going at it with a sedate pace and trying to make the little I have last as long as possible. Within a few minutes of the first ferret going to ground, he had found a bunny and spent a few seconds kicking hell’s bells out of it. I could hear squealing, and then the purse net filled up with a familiar ball of brown fluff. The ferret was obviously in hot pursuit, and as I ran to grab the net, the rabbit wriggled out and ducked back down the hole it had come from.

I was certain that it would never bolt again after that near-miss, and it turned out that I was right. There is a real stubborn streak to some rabbits – they would rather face a deadly and almost inevitably fatal danger below ground than risk the possibility of any danger above it. True to form, the rabbit died somewhere under my feet. Without a detector or even a spade, my ferret returned after a while to peer out of the hole with that humorously myopic expression on its face. An amusing expression was not all that it was wearing, since twin smears of rabbit blood marked out each cheek like a red indian.

It was frustrating that I couldn’t turn his hard work into a meal, but I had left the collar and detector at home because I knew it was only a small warren and I had the time to wait if there was a problem. Since I started ferreting two years ago, I’ve had an amazing array of comments and advice from well meaning ferreters from across the country. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of advice has been contradictory. A good example is the division between the “never feed your ferret rabbit” school of thought and the “feed your ferrets nothing else” believers. To begin with, I avidly followed all advice given, but it started to get so complicated that I now just do it my way. I don’t particularly like rabbit meat, so anything I net or shoot with the ferrets is fed straight back to them. The pleasure is in watching (and hearing) them work, and it really doesn’t matter to me whether I go home with anything in the bag.

As a point of interest, the reason people give for not allowing your ferret to eat rabbit is because it supposedly makes them more likely to kill, eat and lie up. I feed my ferrets rabbit all the time, and I’ve never had a ferret lie up. A few times (when I have gone out in a hurry) I have worked them on empty stomachs and they’ve never eaten anything until I cut out a bit of warm liver and pass it to them. I have dug ferrets out many times, but only when they’ve come across a particularly stubborn bunny that they can’t kill on their own – never to find a ferret sleeping off a good meal. The rabbits are always intact, and it’s just not something (touch wood) that has ever happened to me. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t, but if I had believed some of the people who taught me some of my first lessons about ferreting, I would probably never have had the confidence to do anything for fear of the sky coming crashing down.

Nobody is trying to deceive anybody when they are giving out helpful advice, but perhaps ferreting in particular is just something that you’ve got to work out for yourself. And if just watching your ferrets work is all you want from a morning’s sport, then you are just easier to please.

Combat

Fighting for the pheasant egg…

July is a pretty dull month if you’re a ferret. Rabbits are all breeding, the grass is too long and work is out of the question. It’s just a matter of passing the time until the first frost, so my selection of four little bailiffs have been lying idle since the first week in March. They come into the house periodically so that they can let off some steam and tear around, and it’s been great fun to give them a damaged pheasant egg and watch them try and roll it around while it leaks onto the floor tiles. One of them tries to sneak it off into a corner to eat it, but it is quickly attacked by the other and a full scale squabble breaks out.

They are such fantastic little buggers, and I feel bad for them that summer draws on so long. Still, the rabbits are producing copious numbers of offspring up on the Chayne, so there’ll be a busy autumn and winter ahead…

Training Day

Keen as mustard on her first trip out.

With all the chaos and confusion caused by taking on a new puppy, it’s been easy to lose track of the seasons. It’s now time for ferreting, and my four savage cylinders are raring to get started.

The little jills have never worked before, so today formed a basic introduction to the world of rabbits and rabbiting. Taking them to a place where I knew that the warrens were either or empty or holding just a few rabbits, I attached their ferret location collars and set them off for an exploratory mission. Both vanished for some time, but the locator told me that they were just having a good old wander around underground, and within half an hour, they were back in the box and on the walk back home. I think it’s good to give them a bit of a dummy run before going “live”, but there is so much controversy about keeping and working ferrets that I’m sure that others would disagree.

When the hobs went to their first warren last year, there was all sorts of fooling around and silliness. By comparison, the jills went straight in and carried out a thorough examination of the premises before returning above ground. It’s still very early days, but it could be that these two little polecats have the potential to be great little workers.

Shredder and the Shaving Foam Cap

Nothing is more entertaining than the cap from a can of shaving foam

Just thought it was worth posting this picture of one of my two new ferret kits playing with the cap from a can of shaving foam. She was dumped in the bath to amuse herself while I dealt with the pheasant chicks which are settling in to their new home in my sitting room, and when I came back, she had the cap stuck on her head. I reached down to take it off, but it fell off before I got close. Startled, the kit (named Shredder) instantly jammed her face back into the plastic lid and walked around with it as if it was some kind of space helmet. She was clearly enjoying herself, so I left her to it and took some photographs. Every time it fell off, she shoved it back on again with great enthusiasm, setting off on a victory lap of the bath.

I’ve been living in a house without a television for eighteen months now. The absence of telly was very conspicuous for the first few weeks of withdrawal, but since then, I have hardly noticed. With pheasants and ferrets bedlaming around the house (in seperate rooms, obviously – that’s not a lesson I need to learn at first hand), it’s hard to imagine how I’d ever have time to watch television now anyway.