Ferret Mills and Large-Scale Breeders (aka: Pet Store ferrets)

Ferret Mills

Ferret mills are the ferret equivalent of puppy farms. They are large businesses whose priority is meeting a market demand to make a profit, rather the health, longevity, and well-being of the ferrets. They frequently breed for “exotic” colors, without regards to the genetic health of the parents, leading to a proliferation of genetic disorders and congenital defects. (See Waardenberg’s Syndrome). The ferrets are often housed in cramped conditions, with a high population of ferrets in small, cramped spaces with little room to move an play, and wire-floored cages that damage sensitive feet. The kits are removed from their mothers before they are old enough to wean, spayed and neutered at 4-6 weeks of age, and shipped off! Because they are taken from their mother too early, they often do not learn appropriate behavior such as proper hygiene (potty training), bite inhibition, social behavior, ferret vocabulary/body language, etc. This can result in a variety of behavior problems including as well as significant health issues. In particular, through being spayed and neutered too young, ferrets are experiencing a significant increase in adrenal disease, and it is being seen in younger ferrets each year!

Marshall Farms (MF)

Behavior: Tend to be more docile and very submissive and may find more aggressive ferrets to be a bit overwhelming.
Body structure: Tend towards smaller stature, though in recent years they have brought in some larger breeding stock. Due to higher incidence of Waardenburg’s you may see some with broader skull and wide set eyes.
Personality/attitude: Previously considered “bite proof” (this has changed since the new breeding stock import)
Coloration: A large proportion of “exotic” colors (higher incidence of Waardenburg’s) such as mutts, 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 in ferrets is associated with a spectrum of mental and social dysfunctions (seen particularly in ferrets with high white markings such as blaze, panda, DEW, silver, etc). Extremely prone to Adrenal Disease even at young ages. Seem to have increased rates of insulinoma, lymphoma, etc, with overall shorter lifespans.
Tattoo: Two Blue Dots in one ear.
Fit Info: Like other mill-bred ferrets are prone to many chronic and genetic diseases, including deafness. However, MF ferrets are typically very docile, mild-mannered ferrets 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.

Photo Credit: Katt; Kenai’s Marshall’s Farms Tattoo

Real Canadian (RC)

Behavior: Higher energy and intensity, prone to biting. Extremely intelligent problem-solvers that need a lot of stimulation or they become bored and will bite more frequently/harder and develop significant problem behaviors. Are avid jumpers and climbers.
Body structure: Tend to be significantly bulkier than Marshall’s – bigger in general but not as stocky as breeder ferrets and generally smaller than Path Valley ferrets.
Personality/attitude: High energy and high maintenance as kits but become very loyal as they mature. Easily become bored and are great at “problem solving,” such as foraging toys and getting into trouble. Explorers. Bond very strongly with their humans.
Coloration: Varied, includes “exotic” colors.
Health: More prone to heart disease in particular, as well as the typical ferret cancers. Also prone to Waardenburg’s Syndrome which causes deafness (seen in ferrets with white heads – albino, DEW, Blaze, etc). RC is known for a bad Mycoplasma outbreak several years ago and reportedly closed down; however with the reappearance of new RC kits it was learned 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 ferrets might be worth considering f 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 put a lot of time and work and for letting an RC ferret have free time, attention, and new intriguing toys to satisfy their high energy and intelligence. While this goes for any ferret, RC ferrets are often higher maintenance. Bite training may take extra work. Be prepared to spend time to thoroughly 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.

Photo Credit: Katt; Koda’s Real Canadian Farm Tattoo

Path Valley (PV)

Behavior: Very high energy require a lot of free time and stimulation to avoid developing behavior problems.
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: Frequently biters, biting 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.
Coloration: varies, includes “exotic” coloring
Health: May be slightly less prone to adrenal than Marshalls, but are more prone to heart disease and, like all ferrets, cancers. Prone to Waardenburg’s Syndrome which causes deafness (seen in ferrets with whit heads – albino, DEW, Blaze, etc).
Tattoo: No markings
Fit Info: PV might be a good 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!

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:

Hagen Mill Ferrets

Behavior: Varies
Body structure: Varies
Coloration: Varies, includes “exotic” colors
Health: Similar to other mill ferrets
Tattoo: Black H or Blue Bar in ear
Fit Info:

Tundra’s Hagen Mill Tattoo
Photo Credit: Desiree Ferret: Tundra