Oh you also asked about his neck. The wound is gone, the fur is only about a third of the length of the rest of his body, so I'm not taking the bandage off yet. I replace it when its dirty or torn, and the rest of his fur isn't getting irritated. I just want the skin to be protected there for when he inevitably goes back to scratch it. He moved when I was changing the chest bandage, and it broke open his scab... I cleaned it and redressed it, hopefully a scab forms again quickly. I wish I could put little booties on his hind feet or something so he doesn't do this anymore.
I've decided to start feeding them an hour at a time throughout the day and giving them one update a day. It'll be a lot easier on all three of us, and I won't be so exhausted trying to keep the schedule up. Plus the chicken is less likely to go bad than if I just left it in for solid hours at a time to make sure they eat enough. If I should change this, let me know please! I don't want to make them feel like they need to hide food.
What is the temperature in the room where their cage is? Unless it's exceptionally hot, in which case the ferrets shouldn't be there either, the raw meat will stay good for several hours. Soup is good for 6-8 hours, chunks are good for 8-12 hours depending on their size and the ambient temperature. Once we move them onto bone in meats, those can stay out for up to 24 hours. Many ferrets don't like to eat until their food is 'old'. One of mine won't touch chicken unless it's been out at least 2 hours. Once it gets to that point, he loves it. Another one of mine wants his organs to be old before he eats them.
Marty especially because of his age NEEDS to have food available all the time. The hiding, or stashing, of food is another one of those ferret quirks. Having food available all the time may or may not stop that. Some ferrets are just stashers. The best way I've found to avoid the stashing problem is to ONLY feed in the cage. Mine get out to play when I get up. When I leave for work, I put them in the cage with their food. They get out again as soon as I get home at 3:30ish. Any food that is left is put up until they ask for it, usually around 5:30 or 6:00. They go back into the cage until they're done eating and then I put the food up again while they come out to play. At bedtime, I put them all to bed and refill their dishes. Most of the time, their dishes are empty again in the morning but if they're not, I just put it up while they're out and then give it back to them with fresh food for the day. I only throw it out if it smells nasty. By not letting them have their food out of the cage, I rarely have trouble with stashing, even with a determined stasher in the house. The only way he gets by with stashing is if he hides a piece of meat in the blankets and I don't find it before I let them out.
That poop doesn't look good. It's too dark and too runny. What had he eaten for the meal before this poop?
Notice how long I leave that meat out. In most cases, it's about 12 hours. The ferrets' room stays between 70-73 degrees. At that temperature, I rarely have a problem with meat getting too bad for them. My goal is to feed enough at one time that 12 hours later, there will be a couple of bites left over. That way I know that they've had enough to eat and there's very little waste. I could never feed for only an hour at a time, because I have a grazer. He will only eat 3 or 4 bites at a time, but he does that many many times throughout the day. He's the one that will hide food in the blankets so he'll be sure to have enough when he wants it.
I try to keep it in the low 70s or lower, but its summer and I don't have an AC, so when the sun is hitting the room directly, it spikes up to the 80s. It normally stays cool on the ferret's side because there's a tree outside in just the right spot, but now that I know that the chicken will be ok, I'll be sure to leave it in. Thanks for the patience, I'm just really skittish with the idea of mold and flies getting to their food.
Today's diet: I left the food in all day, took it out while they were sleeping because there's a couple slices left. I put some water in, but I think they had about 5 oz of food in there minus the water, and now there's about 1 oz left with no water. I did have to throw some pieces away because someone who may or may not be named Marty decided the litter box was the perfect hiding place, and then forgot he hid food there.
Layla: She ate about an ounce and a half, and preferred eating from my fingers like an alligator. She seems to be a lot sleepier than usual, but she does have days where she's more cuddly than usual, so I'm not too worried.
Marty: I couldn't really tell how much he ate because he was moving the chicken to his hiding place like an assembly line, and I had to keep moving it back 'cause Layla wouldn't eat it out of anything but the box, the bowl, or my fingers.
All in all: I need to get a large tupperware bowl to use as a hidey hole, but after that I hope it'll go a lot smoother.
I gave them a smidge above 4oz of (sloppily) sliced chicken thigh with 1oz of water to finish defrosting the chicken and if they finish that I'll give them a heart too. Tomorrow I want to see how they take chicken neck (its deboned unfortunately, I'll be going to the store to get fresh stuff once I get the go ahead to upgrade them.) Update later today/night on how much they eat.
Giving an early update because I'm heading out of the house soon. I'm going to try to defrost a piece of chicken fast enough to give them another ounce or two.
Today's diet: Food stayed in all day, and they ate the entire thing. Fed them each half a freeze dried heart too.
Layla: She ate about an ounce and a half including the heart. She didn't seem to want to eat much when Marty was eating, but couldn't eat when Marty was taking a break because he then started moving the food around. She'll get her own small portion on the upper levels of the cage, so she can eat out of both bowls.
Marty: He was a complete pig, but after the third time of me putting the food back in the bowl (so it wouldn't get dried out, as his favorite hiding spot right now is a cardboard box, I let him keep it in there for a few minutes before moving it again) he left it in the bowl! He may have re-hidden and eaten the rest while I was taking a nap though. He doesn't seem to like heart at all, I had to almost play tug-of-war with him to get him to actually chew it rather than just spit it out. Probably because it was freeze dried and I couldn't reconstitute it well. (I don't know why, but scruffing never works with him, he just hangs there, but can still move freely)
All in all: I'll be buying more chicken and the tupperware tonight! I'll also be looking at alternative proteins, but I don't know if I should introduce them now or when they're eating bone-in meals.
Sorry for the absence yesterday. My internet crashed. Crossing my fingers that it's fixed...
LOL, silly Marty! He makes me laugh. He seems to have a personality like my little Leon. Once we get them to larger chunks, you might want to invest in some hooks to attach their food to the cage so Marty can't move it to the litter box. Poor Layla... However, did you know that wild ferrets will often deliberately defecate on their food so other animals won't bother it? Apparently, poopy food doesn't bother them.
They're both doing well. What size chunks are they eating now? Go ahead and get another protein and we'll start working that in. Pork seems to be a favorite and it's pretty cheap here. Also, pick up either a CGH or some quail. Those both have good starter bones.
I have a massive information overload for you. Read through it; ask questions if you need to. We'll go over everything as you need it, but it's good to have it all in one place for reference.
Welcome to the world of raw feeding. Since you’re here, you already know that raw feeding is the healthiest and most natural way to feed your fuzzbutts. There are several types of raw diets that are commonly fed. Many ferrents use a combination of these methods to provide a balanced diet. Obviously, the MOST natural way to feed would be to let your ferrets hunt for themselves like they do in the wild, but what kind of pet owner wants to just turn their pets out into a field and tell them to ‘go find dinner’! Controlled live feeding is a great way to mimic this behavior and can be used to supplement any raw diet. While it is a personal preference and must be done with caution, IF the ferret is a good hunter, and provided the live prey is no larger than a mouse, controlled live feeding is great enrichment for a ferret. The biggest downfall to feeding live (besides owner squeamishness) is the limited prey options that are small enough to be safely fed live. Pre-killed whole prey is the next closest to ‘all natural’, and is probably the easiest way to feed a ferret. Each whole prey meal is completely balanced in and of itself, so there is no need to measure and weigh (and worry about) what they eat when feeding a whole prey diet. In addition, whole prey poops are awesome - they are complete little fur- or feather-covered packages that are easy to clean up. However, whole prey can be expensive and some of us can’t feed anything that still has a face attached. A commercial grind or mince is another type of raw food that is available. The company simply takes a carcass and grinds it all up together – meat, bones, and most organs (usually not fur or feathers). Grinds are packaged in many different ratios and you must rely on the company to accurately report the contents and percentages of organs, heart, etc. in the grinds. Many grinds include added plant material (veggies and fruits), so careful research must be done to provide a completely balanced diet. Also, there are no “dental hygiene” benefits with commercial grinds so teeth must be brushed frequently, and again, it can be very expensive. And that brings us to frankenprey, a big word that simply means feeding a balanced diet with “grocery store meats”. It is possibly the most complicated method of feeding in the beginning, because it requires thought on the part of the owner, but once the initial learning curve is mastered, it is no more difficult than any other type of raw feeding. With all of these options, it’s easy to choose a method, or a combination of methods, of feeding that works for you. And once you understand the basics of ferret nutrition and establish a routine, you’ll discover that it is very simple to feed your ferret a balanced, healthy raw diet.
One thing you must remember is that with ferrets and their food, we have to speak in generalities - feeding raw is not an exact science. Our goal in feeding raw is to replicate as closely as possible what a ferret would eat in the wild with the correct balance of meat, organs, and bones, but how can we determine EXACTLY what that balance is? Because the difference in bone mass and the size of organs even between two animals of the same size and the same species can vary tremendously, we cannot set a DEFINITE ratio for our prey model and say “This is it; this is the exact amount of meat/organ/bone my ferret must have to be healthy.” Even if every single prey specimen were identical in proportions, who is to say that every single wild ferret would eat every part in exactly the right amount, especially with larger prey that cannot be consumed by a single ferret in one meal. So we get as close as we can to ‘natural’ by using a prey model that has been used for decades, a rough average of many species of prey animals - 80% meat, 10% organ, 10% bone. This prey model was originally geared toward dogs and cats who generally do not need as much bone in their diets as ferrets, which is why we say ferrets need 10-15% bone, depending on their poops. (This will be addressed later.)
Because of the different vocabulary used when discussing the different kinds of diets, there has been some confusion regarding the correct balance of a raw diet. Whole prey is easy. Each prey animal is a completely balanced meal, so there’s no need to think about numbers. Commercial grind companies use a ratio to determine the amount of meat, organ, and bare bone in their foods. (An ideal commercial grind would be approximately in the ratio of the prey model, or 80:10:10.) Frankenprey feeders don’t just toss a bare bone to their pets, but rather give them bone with meat attached, what we call edible bone-in meat. This terminology is where the confusion lies. Because the bone is served with meat, the percentage of bone-in meat is about 50-60% of the total diet (as opposed to the 10% of bare bone in the prey model). This SEEMS to be in conflict with the prey model ratio, but if you were to pick apart a frankenprey menu and weigh and measure every single thing separately, you would find that the ratio of meat to organ to bone would be very close to 80:10:10.
Below are a few of the things you will need to know as a raw feeder no matter which method of feeding you choose to use. All of this information is located in various places on the forum, but I’ve tried to condense some of the basics here for reference. This seems like a lot of information, but believe me, once you get into the actual planning and feeding, this becomes second nature.
First, raw food MUST be served RAW. I know that sounds like a really obvious statement, but I’ve heard from several people that they feed raw meat, but they cook it. (I know. I don’t understand that statement either, lol.) Cooking destroys many natural vitamins, minerals, and proteins in the meat and bones. In fact, cooked bones are extremely dangerous because they can splinter and perforate the stomach or intestines. Raw bones do not splinter; they break cleanly. They pass through the intestinal tract safely and the clean edges are actually smoothed by the stomach acids. They come out the other end a little rubbery feeling, and rounded with no sharp edges. (This video shows the effect of a stomach acid on bones. video)
Raw meat is safe for ferrets to eat. A ferret’s digestive tract is very short and bacteria doesn’t have enough time to set up camp in there. And, surprisingly, raw food can be safely left out for several hours at a time, depending on the ambient temperature:
“Soups” - 6-8 hours (for soup recipe, see below) Grinds - 8-12 hours Chunks - 10-24 hours depending on the size (larger chunks last longer) Bone-in meats - 12-24 hours, again depending on the size Whole prey - up to 48 hours
With soups and grinds, in general, trust your nose - if it smells off, it likely is and should be tossed. You will find that the bigger chunks of meat typically go through a few stages. During the ‘safe’ hours it will dry up and the surface may feel tough or leathery; it is still safe to eat at this point. Then it goes through a stinky, greasy phase during which most ferrets will not touch it. This is usually when it gets tossed because it smells awful, but occasionally a piece or two will get stashed well enough and missed. These pieces continue to dry out and become fairly odorless, making what we call ‘ferret jerky’. Most ferrets can’t resist this and will eat really nasty looking stuff with relish. If they’re eating it, it’s either not too far gone, or it has been successfully stashed and jerkified.
Raw soup recipe
8 oz raw skinless/boneless chicken 1 oz raw chicken liver (about half a liver) 1 oz raw chicken heart (about 2 hearts) ½ tsp. eggshell powder Water to thin Blend all ingredients until soupy. Freeze in ice cube trays (rubbed with olive oil for easy removal) to make easy-to-serve portions and reduce waste. Chicken is the most common protein to start a switch with, but any protein can be used.
The amount of food your individual ferret eats will depend on gender, age, season of the year, and his general mood. It can differ dramatically sometimes and until you become familiar with his eating habits, you will have some waste. In general (and with ferrets and their food, we ALWAYS speak in generalities), adult males eat 2-4 ounces per day, adult females 1-3 ounces per day. Kits of either gender eat 2-3 times MORE food than an adult. They all eat more when they are in the fall and winter mode, less in the spring and summer mode. In fact, ferrets can lose up to 40% of their body weight in the spring. Other factors can play a role in their eating habits also, such as stress, excitement, temperature, or attitude (“I just don’t feel like eating chicken today, mom”). Being familiar with your ferret’s eating habits at any given time of the year is important in keeping track of their health. This is one of the reasons we always recommend that you keep a food journal to track appetite, poops, activity, and weights. MOST ferrets are self-regulating and will eat only what they need. This is not to say that there are NO obese ferrets, but as a rule, they eat what they need to survive and no more. A good guideline when feeding is to try to make sure there is always a bite or two left over when you feed the next meal.
Ferrets, whether they are fed whole prey, grinds, or frankenprey, or some combination of the three, must have a minimum of 3 DIFFERENT PROTEINS in their diet, preferably including at least one red meat. Examples of different proteins are chicken, turkey, quail, beef, rabbit, pork, venison, lamb, goat, frog, fish, etc. Some common red meats are beef, bison, venison, goat, and lamb.
Taurine is an amino acid necessary for heart, brain, and eye health. Taurine is found in muscles that are used A LOT. This is why heart is a required part of the diet. The heart is constantly working, therefore it is very high in taurine. Heart can be ordered online if you cannot find a local supplier. Other good sources of taurine if you cannot find heart are brain and tongue. Brain is VERY difficult for some of us to find, but cow tongue can sometimes be found in grocery stores in locations with a large Asian or Hispanic population. If for some reason, you absolutely cannot get any of these sources of taurine, you can use a taurine supplement (500 mg per ferret per day). The NOW brand is a good one to use because it has no fillers in it. You can get taurine in capsule form, which you can break open and empty onto a meal, or pure powder form. (500mg of taurine is equivalent to ⅛ teaspoon.)
Eggs are a very healthy addition to a ferret’s diet and help in the prevention of hairballs. Generally speaking, a ferret can have the equivalent of one chicken egg per week. (I say the equivalent of a chicken egg because quail eggs, for example, are very small and it takes 4 or 5 of them to equal one chicken egg.) A whole egg is basically a completely balanced meal, designed to provide complete nutrition and waste removal for a baby bird. Therefore, ferrets can be fed the entire egg, shell and all. Whether you want to serve the egg all at once or spread it out (a little bit several times a week) is up to you. Some ferrents choose to only serve part of the egg. In this case, it MUST be the yolk - do not feed egg whites without the yolk. During shedding season, eggs can be fed 2-3 times per week to help prevent hairballs from forming. One thing to be aware of when feeding eggs is that they can create slimy, stinky poops.
And speaking of poop, poop patrol is going to become a fact of your life. A raw fed ferret’s poop is NOTHING like a kibble poop. Their poops change from meal to meal depending on what they last ate. Here is a link to the ‘poop chart’ for reference. poop chart You will likely become a little (or a lot) obsessed with your fuzzy’s litter box for the next few weeks at least, and very likely you will soon be able to tell what your ferret ate for dinner just by looking in the litter box. (You can brag about this talent to your friends if you want, lol.) In addition to his activity level, a ferret’s output is the best indicator of his health. It is also how we determine if your fuzzy needs more or less bone in his diet. As mentioned earlier, the diet should include 10-15% bone. Sometimes they need a little more bone, sometimes a little less, depending on the poops. If the poops are loose, they need more bone. If the fuzzy is constipated, or poops look dry and hard or chalky, they need less bone. Blood-rich meats (hearts, organs) will cause dark, looser poops; heavy bone meals (like chicken necks) will cause drier, more formed poops that often have tiny bits of partially digested bone in them. Another thing to expect during the first few weeks is STINKY poops! Your ferret is basically on a detox from the nasty things that are in kibble. While his digestive tract gets used to processing the raw, his stools will be stinky and odd looking most days. This will all clear up and you will have smaller, less stinky raw poops before you know it!
The goal with frankenprey is to mimic what a ferret would eat in the wild, with the correct balance of organs, muscle meats, and bones, using foods that you can find at your grocery store. Each part of a prey animal has a unique combination of vitamins and minerals that are essential to the health of your ferret. A long term imbalance in their diet can and will cause serious health issues, so it is critical that you plan your meals in advance to ensure that your little friends get the nutrition they need for a long and happy life.
When feeding frankenprey, there are 4 main PARTS of an animal that we need to feed to meet the diet requirements: muscle meat, heart, organs,and edible bones. Remember that at least 3 proteins are required for complete nutrition. Those 3 proteins should be in the meaty part of the diet, not in the organs. However, you should also have a good variety of sources for organs, not all chicken organs, or all beef organs.
1) Muscle meat is fairly self-explanatory. It is any kind of meat that is NOT an organ, including hearts and gizzards. When discussing muscle meat, however, we are typically referring to skeletal muscle.
2) While heart IS a muscle meat, it is a cardiac muscle rather than a skeletal muscle, and it is in a category by itself because it is a vital source of taurine in a raw diet.
3) Nutritional organs are considered to be any part of the body that SECRETES a hormone. Examples are liver, kidney, thymus, pancreas, reproductive organs, lungs, brains. Liver is the easiest organ to find and should make up at least half of the organ requirement. Other organs can be very difficult to find except directly from a butcher, cultural markets, or online sources. Neither hearts nor gizzards are organs. This is a very common misconception, so be aware of it when shopping for organs. Many meat department personnel and butchers commonly call hearts and gizzards organs, but they are NOT. They are muscle meats, AND heart is a separate requirement in a ferret’s diet (see above).
4) Edible bone is any bone small enough for a ferret to eat. Generally, these are non-weight bearing bones of poultry or small animals. Because we do not feed a bare bone, but rather one with plenty of meat attached, we sort of combine this category with muscle meat and call it “edible bone-in meat”. When I (or others) refer to “bone-in”, this is what we are talking about. If we refer to “muscle meat”, we mean meat that has no bone included (chicken breast, beef roast, etc.) Examples of edible bone-in meats are poultry wings, necks, backs, ribs, sometimes thighs, whole quail, whole Cornish game hen, rabbit, mouse, guinea pig. Sometimes you can find smallish bones from a larger animal that are small enough for a ferret to eat. One example is pork button bones, or pork riblets. Some of those bones are too dense, but occasionally you can find some small enough. Although the bone requirement is only 10-15% of the total diet (remember that we use the poops to determine the bone content), because the bone is attached to muscle meat, edible bone-in meat makes up the majority of a ferret’s diet. It is critical that your fuzzy learn to eat and enjoy bones, for healthy teeth as well as to meet the calcium requirements.
Now, moving on to the basic frankenprey menu: Raw fed ferrets are generally fed twice a day, 12 hours apart, making a total of 14 meals per week. The basic weekly menu should include:
1 ½ meals of heart (~10% of the total diet) 1 ½ meals of organ, at least half of which must be liver (~5% liver, 5% other organ) 7-9 meals of edible bone-in meat (~50-60%) 2-4 meals of muscle meat with no bone (~15-30%)
When building your menu, you want to consider the effect a particular meal will have on the poops. For example, remember that blood rich meals (liver, other organs, hearts) cause looser poops, so to combat that issue, you want to feed at least one bone-in meal between them. It is best to spread organ/heart meals out as much as possible throughout the week.
This is easier than it sounds. Below is a sample menu (in the format I will want yours to be, when we get to the menu making part, once your ferret is eating all kinds of yummy stuff).
Sun AM: organ meal (½ liver, ½ other organ) Sun PM: edible bone-in meat
You will take this basic menu and rearrange it to suit your needs, making sure to include at least 3 different proteins, and adjusting the bone-in meals depending on the poops. It is important to be flexible with your feedings. If you notice runny poops and have hearts planned for that meal, you can give a bone-in meal instead, and save the hearts for the following meal if their poops have firmed up. Don’t worry about not having something defrosted if you have to make a last minute change. Ferrets are perfectly content with ‘meat-sicles’. Some ferrets will require the full 9 meals of bone-in, while others only need 7, and this can vary from week to week depending on different factors. It won’t take long for you to figure out what YOUR ferrets need.
The easiest way to prepare meals is to have your meat separated into serving size portions (once you learn the correct amount for your business) in your freezer. Once you have your menu planned, it’s easy to grab one bag or container per meal. When you serve one meal, you can put the next meal into the refrigerator to thaw. It’s good to keep an extra bag or container of bone-in and muscle meat available in case you need to make a substitution, or your fuzzies beg for a snack.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this mini-book, lol! If you waded through all that information, you can do this switch! I have faith in you, so don’t feel overwhelmed by this information overload and get discouraged. We’ll do this in baby steps, and we’ll go over all this information again as it becomes necessary.
Last Edit: Jul 27, 2015 10:20:40 GMT -5 by gfountain