Comparing Ferret Mills and Breeders

Comparing Ferret Mills and Breeders

Marshall Farms (MF)

Behavior: Tend to be more docile and very submissive, may find more aggressive ferrets to be a bit overwhelming.
Body structure: Smaller stature. Due to higher incidence of Waardenburg’s you may see some with broader skull and wide set eyes, recent MF ferrets have been much larger than previously and it is rumored that they have imported some new European lines into their breeding stock.
Personality/attitude: considered “bite proof” (this has changed since the new breeding stock import)
Coloration: may see a large proportion of “exotic” colors (higher incidence of Waardenburg’s) such as silver, panda, mitts, DEW and marked DEW, Blaze, etc in addition to albino, champagne, chocolate, and sable.
Health: Prone to Waardenburg’s Syndrome which causes deafness and a spectrum of mental and social dysfunction (seen particularly in ferrets with high white markings such as blaze, panda, DEW, silver, etc), very prone to Adrenal Disease even at young ages, more prone to insulinoma, lymphoma, etc, weaker immune system and shorter lifespan.
Tattoo: Two Blue Dots in the left ear
Fit Info: Marhsalls ferrets are mill bred and prone to many chronic and genetic diseases, including deafness, but if you don’t mind supporting Marshalls’ they are a very docile, mild-mannered ferret who are reputably “bite-proof” and smaller in stature. They tend to be less expensive than breeder ferrets, but will cost more in the long run due to health problems.
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Real Canadian (RC)

Behavior: Higher energy, prone to biting, extremely intelligent problem solvers that need a lot of stimulation or they become bored and will bite more often/harder and develop other bad behavior, love to chew and dig everything, jumpers and climbers
Body structure: Tend to be significantly bulkier than Marshall’s – bigger in general but not as stocky as breeder ferrets, generally smaller than Path Valley ferrets.
Personality/attitude: tend to be high energy and high maintenance as kits but become very loyal as the mature, get bored easily and figure out “problem solving” toys fast, think that punishment (i.e. scruffing) is a game, loves to play and explore and to cuddle, bond very strongly with their humans
Coloration: varied, includes “exotic” colors
Health: More prone to heart and cancer problems, prone to Waardenburg’s Syndrome which causes deafness (seen in ferrets with white heads – albino, DEW, Blaze, etc), stronger immune system. Respiratory illness – known for a bad Mycoplasma outbreak some years ago and reportedly closed down, however with a recent appearance of new RC kits rumors are that RC sold some of their breeding stock to other mills and has reopened some of their mills.
Tattoo: Black Bar in Right Ear
Fit Info: RC is a great choice of you want a bigger, high energy ferret with a LOT of intelligence, and a Big personality that will be very loyal to you as an adult. Be prepared to give a lot of time to letting an RC ferret have free time, attention, and new intriguing toys to satisfy their high energy and intelligence. Bite training may take extra work and be prepared to spend time to super ferret proof – they are problem solvers! However, RC ferrets are very loving and form strong bonds to their humans and will return to your lap for a good snuggle and some kisses after they have tired themselves out exploring.
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Path Valley (PV)

Behavior: Very High energy need a Lot of free time and stimulation to avoid rebellion and nasty behavior
Males: very mellow compared to females but still high energy and intelligence compared to Marshalls
Females: very territorial and tend to become the alphas

Body structure: larger and more bulky than Marhsalls, smaller and more sleek compared to Breeder ferrets
Personality/attitude: tend to bite more frequently and with more force than Marshalls (similar to RC, possibly worse), becomes nasty if caged too long/often, no inhibition – very much dare devils, do not tolerate discipline well (i.e. scruffing) and may fight back or think it is a challenge or game
Coloration: varies, includes “exotic” coloring
Health: less prone to adrenal than Marshalls, but are more prone to heart and cancer problems, prone to Waardenburg’s Syndrome which causes deafness (seen in ferrets with whit heads – albino, DEW, Blaze, etc), stronger immune system
Tatoo: No marking
Fit Info: PV is a great choice of you want a bigger, high energy ferret with a LOT of intelligence, and a Big personality. Be prepared to give a lot of time to letting a PV ferret have free time, attention, and new intriguing toys to satisfy their high energy and intelligence or they may become ill behaved. Bite training may take extra work and be prepared to spend time to super ferret proof – they are problem solvers!
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Private Breeder (Breeder Ferret):

Behavior: Breeder ferrets tend to be more active, robust, and intelligent than mill ferrets. They require extra handling, extra patience, and extra socialization. Some may have polecat hybrid backgrounds and be more prone to biting if not handled regularly. They are very intelligent and amusing ferrets who are constantly solving puzzles and finding trouble. They will keep you on your toes!
Males: tend to be significantly larger than mill ferrets
Females: may be smaller than mill females, especially if late altered but this does vary by breeder, are very independent and often dominant

Body structure: Can very greatly by breeder from stocky and a more European look (especially if the breeder began with European import ferrets), to petite “micro” ferrets. Tend to have sharper teeth than mill-ferrets.
Personality/attitude: depends on breeder and parent personalities, talk to the breeders near you to ask what the personalities of the parents are and of their previous kits
Coloration: Reputable breeders will only have naturally occurring colors/markings. These include sable (“poley”), black sable, champagne (“sandy”) and albino ferrets. Beware of “fancy” colors and markings as these are more associated with genetic disorders, Waardenburg Syndrome, and proposed to also be linked to increased propensity for lymphoma.
Health: less prone to adrenal due to later altering, less prone to cardio and cancer problems, healthier in general, strong immune system, longer lifespan
Tattoo: Breeder Independent, usually unmarked
Fit Info: Breeder ferrets are a fantastic option if you do not want to adopt, and want a kit – but do not want to support mill-breeders. They tend to be healthier and you can talk to the breeder about personality and health issues. Be prepared to spend a little more money than you would on a mill-ferret (Marshalls, RC, PV) but it will be worth it.
***Please note that there is a difference between professional, registered breeders and backyard breeders. Check to make sure that your breeder is a reputable breeder or you may have a higher risk other health issues such as are commonly seen in farmed ferrets from inbreeding or breeding for coloration.
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Manitoba Mill Ferrets

Behavior: Tend to be very dominant ferrets. The females especially are alphas! They have an attitude and will let you know it.
Personality/attitude: alpha ferrets, prone to biting
Coloration: varied, includes “exotic” colorings
Health: Prone to respiratory problems. It is suspected that the Manitoba mill purchased RC ferrets during the RC mycoplasma outbreak. Prone to adrenal disease
Tattoo: Green H in the Ear
Fit Info: ??
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Hagen Ferrets:

Behavior:
Males:
Females:
Body structure:
Personality/attitude:
Coloration: varies, includes “exotic” colors
Health:
Tattoo: Black H or Blue Bar in ear
Fit Info:
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PhotoCredit: Desiree

Shelter/Adopted Ferrets

Behavior: Often come pre-trained, but may have behavior issues to to abuse, poor conditions/treatment from prior owners, shelter shock, and depression from potential separation of bonded pairs, may or may not get along with other ferrets, potential to adopt a ferret who has been a “teddy-bear” and does not know how to play and must be retaught
Males:
Females: may need immediate vet attention if they are unaltered
Body structure: varies based on original breeder (see other categories)
Personality/attitude: sometimes bite-trained already though they may bite more in the beginning as they adapt to their new home and test boundaries, harder to reach and bond with and may take longer to warm up to you, often potty trained, though shelter shock, stress, and moving into a new territory may cause them to go outside of the litter box. On the other hand, Some adopted ferrets may have a rough history causing serious behaviro problems including biting.
Coloration: varies
Health: prone to shelter shock, prone to insulinoma from poor diet dep. on previous owner, may have contracted ADV, may have weakened immune systems
Tattoo: Varies by original breeder (see other categories)
Fit Info: Adopting is always recommended to help save the life of fuzzies and avoid supporting mill breeders. Adopting is a great idea if you want a ferret that is already litter and bite trained, and already matured (age) though babies can often be adopted too. Do run the risk of unknown health problems from previous diet and living conditions which you may or may not be able to find out about. Adopting can be a very rewarding experience for both you and the ferret(s). Please try to adopt bonded pairs together rather than letting them be separated.

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European Imports

Behavior: Varies by breeder but in general tend to be much more intelligent and active than Mill ferrets.
Males:
Females:

Body structure: Tend to be stockier and larger (heavier, longer, wider) with shorter faces, they frequently have polecat hybrid in their near background
Personality/attitude: can depend on breeder, talk to the breeders near you to ask what the personalities of the parents are and of their previous kits
Coloration: Higher occurrence of Polecat coloration (“sable”), may also see albino, champagne (“Sandy”), black sable, or black self
Health: less prone to adrenal and heart and cancer problems, healthier in general
Tattoo: Breeder Dependent
Fit Info: European ferrets are a fantastic option if you want a bulkier, healthier ferret that is more strongly related to the polecat (due to cross-breedings that often occur in Europe).
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Polecat/Ferret Hybrid

Behavior: more “wild,” can be more difficult to train, prone to biting without consistent and frequent handling, will bite harder and more frequently, require more socialization, very independent. Super intelligent animals who need a lot of mental and physical stimulation.
Males:
Females: tend to be much more dominant, may be smaller but are much feistier

Body structure: Tend to be stockier and much larger than normal ferrets.
Personality/attitude: less domestic, far more independent, stronger wild instincts, great hunters,
Coloration: Polecat coloration is most common (“sable”), also may see black sable or black self
Health: less prone to adrenal and heart and cancer problems, healthier in general, strong immune system, longer lifespan.
Tattoo: Breeder Dependent, usually unmarked
Fit Info: A “wild” ferret that has many of the characteristics of both the domesticated ferret and polecats. May have stronger instincts, so be prepared to provide the necessary environment and enrichment. Much more time intensive to train and bond, significantly more challenging to own but very rewarding for the right person.

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Angora Ferrets:

Behavior:
Males:
Females:
Body structure: Have no undercoat, very long, fine topcoat – extremely prone to “hairballs.” Commonly have cleft palate and abnormally structured nose an sinuses.
Personality/attitude:
Coloration: Polecat coloration is most common (“sable”), also may see black sable or black self
Health: prone to eye problems, respiratory problems and various genetic issues due to the breeding required to produce the angora mutation – cleft palate and nose very common
Tattoo: Breeder Independent, usually unmarked
Fit Info:
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