So, you've heard of a ferret, and probably an angora ferret, and even maybe a European Polecat, but you may not have previously heard of a miniature ferret (frequently referred to as a 'micro' ferret). And if you have, you may have heard all manner of different things about miniature ferrets, I frequently see people denying their existence or suggesting they are a money-making scam.
Miniature ferrets are exactly the same as any ferret you may have ever met, except they are smaller.
Many people think that miniatures are runts, malnourished and poorly grown, and some surely are. Others hypothesise that miniature ferrets may suffer from a condition called pituitary dwarfism, and again some may well do, which would be the cause of their small size, but many do not. An animal with pituitary dwarfism has a deficiency of reproductive hormones, amongst others, and for this reason cannot produce offspring. Any ferret that can breed does not have pituitary dwarfism.
The miniatures here at Mischief Maker Ferretry are neither malnourished runts, nor do they have pituitary dwarfism. They are a line of ferrets who have a smaller size than most of their counterparts, which is a trait selected for in breeding choices over generations. In very few lines is this trait 'fixed', and for that reason, some of our litters will have a mixture of standard, greyhound and miniature ferrets.
We aim here for jills with an adult weight of around 250-400g and hobs with an adult weight of 400-600g. I liken the size difference between standard and miniature ferrets very much to the difference between a Border Collie and Jack Russell Terrier. Both breeds are known for generally being hardy, healthy, long-lived working breeds of dog, but have very different size ranges. The Border Collie would weigh in between 17 and 24kg, and the Jack Russell Terrier somewhere between 4.5 and 8kg, very comparable to the weight differences between miniature and standard ferrets, we do not charge differently for different sizes.
Generally our smallest adult jills will be about 9 inches from the nose to tail base, and the hobs around 11 inches from nose to tail base, but these are the smallest ferrets. We do not have intentions to keep breeding smaller and smaller, but to work towards a line with good health and temperament that are consistently this size. The smallest jills born here will either stay with us or go to a select few trusted homes. This is to ensure their safety in the future, a mating with a standard hob would more than likely kill a very small jill, whether that be at the time of mating or labour.
Miniature ferrets were traditionally bred for working, and are preferred by many that work in pest control to their larger standard counterparts. In a standard working line, hobs are not typically used to flush rabbits as they are too big and strong and will often either get stuck or trap and kill a rabbit in the hole, before having a feast and settling down for a nap! This leads to ferrets having to be dug out on a regular basis. Typically only standard jills will be worked as they are less likely to kill a rabbit in a hole and stay down there. When you consider hob ferrets the size of jills and jills comparably smaller, with all the drive and instinct of a standard ferret, you can see why the smaller size has been bred for. Some think miniatures are too small to work, but very few miniatures are smaller than a stoat, which is a species that can and does take on rabbits!
The founding ferrets here at Mischief Maker have been selected from lines which are long-lived and healthy wherever it is possible to know this. Some of the first ferrets bought in have relatives that have lived to beyond 12 years old. In some cases, the line history of a ferret may be unknown and we may use them to avoid unnecessary inbreeding. As miniature ferret breeders are few and far between and very few of those keep good records, it is inevitable that some history is not fully known, but we start here with recording all that we can and striving to keep good health and temperament and improve further on what we have. We have a policy that we do not breed from ferrets with health problems, or from lines with known health problems that could be hereditary. For this reason, you will notice a certain proportion of our ferrets are neutered and/or implanted and this will have been a decision to benefit the individual ferret and the future of miniature ferrets.
All of our jills raise their own litters without any help from us - only a good diet, warm quiet space to nest and lots of cuddles and fuss! In fact, we do find our micro jills produce vast amounts of milk, and our kits are very fat and fast-growing. If we have to help a kit along because it's not very strong, it will not be kept for breeding, no matter how good the temperament, size or type.