Ferrets in winter: how to keep them outside?

Keeping ferrets outdoors in the winter is usually not a problem if you follow a few tips. The enclosure should be large enough to be kept outdoors all year round, protected from the weather and equipped with activities. The lively marten animals also need protection from the cold in winter.

Snow doesn't bother ferrets in winter thanks to their plush fur - Shutterstock / Timof

Snow doesn’t bother ferrets in winter thanks to their plush fur – Shutterstock / Timof

In general, ferrets tolerate cold better than heat. So basically, leaving the ferrets outside in the winter is wonderful for the animals. However, they do need some time to grow their plush, warm winter coat and the opportunity to pack on some winter fat.

Plan well in advance to keep ferrets outdoors in winter

In order for the ferrets to grow their winter fur, they have to gradually get used to the falling temperatures. If you don’t put the animals outside until late autumn, their body will not be able to react to the cold in time, their hair will be much too thin and they will freeze. They can get sick, catching a cold or pneumonia.

So if you want to house ferrets outdoors during the winter, you should put them indoors as early as spring or summer. After that, you can keep them outdoors all year round. Exceptions apply to sick and weakened animals; they are better off kept indoors because that way you can keep an eye on them and care for them more thoroughly.

How to protect ferrets from the cold in winter

In winter, ferrets need at least one well-insulated sleeping hut to retreat to when it’s cold and at night. It must be large enough for all residents and allow air to circulate despite being protected from the cold and draughts. Otherwise moisture can collect in the house and mold can form. An extra house for water and food is also useful, since the food then does not freeze as quickly. Heatable bowls or bowl pads are still recommended so that the martens don’t have to lick ice.

Sleeping and feeding houses must also be easy to clean, just like the entire enclosure. Make sure the straw and bedding are dry and clean, and it’s better to change them more often than not enough. Remember that you should check on your ferrets more often during the winter to make sure they are okay and not too cold.

Peculiarities in winter in ferret nutrition

Ferrets are small predators and carnivores, they generally need adequate animal protein to stay healthy. In winter, their energy requirements increase and they eat up a small fat reserve as a protective layer. In order for them to be able to build up this winter fat, they need an extra portion of meat on their menu from autumn. Males gain around 500 grams in winter, females around 300 grams.

In combination with the winter coat, your ferrets will look particularly plush and plump in winter – but as long as they are still moving around and not sitting sluggishly in the corner, there is no need to worry. In the spring they gradually get their summer dress back and eat less again, so that the winter fat dissolves again.

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