Feeding the Sick Ferret
"Duck Soup" is a catch-all name for any special
food used for supplemental feeding of a sick ferret. None have
duck as an ingredient! The term was coined years ago when
a ferret named "Lucki Duck" was fed just such a mix to help him over
an illness. There are dozens of "duck soup" recipes.
This page formerly had many different recipes but I have since eliminated
all but one because many were of questionable nutritional quality.
Chicken baby food
is probably the best thing you can feed your ferret on a temporary
basis to help during times of illness. "Bob Church's Chicken Gravy" is a nutritionally complete
Ferrets who are not eating should be fed around
80-90cc's per pound of ferret per day. Divide into 4 to 6 individual
TIP: It's a good idea to feed "duck soup" to your
ferret as a treat while the ferret is healthy. Then, when/if
they become ill and don't want to eat, it won't be as big a battle
to feed them when you give them their "treat."
Bob Church's Chicken Gravy
Here is a great trick that can be used with a ferret
with a very queasy stomach, or one just coming off a liquid diet and
not wanting to eat solid food. Because most kibbles are about 60%
grain, a lot of ferrets will accept bread because it smells like kibble.
When I have a ferret that just won't eat much, I dip a *tiny* piece
of bread into a gravy made from pureed chicken. The chicken goes in
with the bread, which they recognize. Soon, they are licking chicken
from my fingers, then sucking it out of the bowl on their own. Then
I make the chicken puree "lumpier" until I get them on solid chicken
(tuna also works). The only problem with chicken is if you don't puree
an entire chicken with its skin and fat, it is too lean to be healthy,
so you need to add an outside source of fat so the mixture is roughly
70% chicken, 30% animal fat. Here is my recipe:
- 1 whole roasting chicken (cut into pieces to fit in the blender;
do not remove skin, fat, bones or giblets - small pieces puree better)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Ferretone (or whatever vitamin supplement you use)
- 1 Cup ferret, mink or high-grade cat kibble
- 2 Tablespoons fine bran OR whole oats OR Metamucil
- 1 Tube Nutrical
- 3 or 4 Eggshells
- 4 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Cup fat trimmings (uncooked; I save trimmed fat for just this
Puree the chicken with the fat, kibble and
eggshells; add water until you make a thin gravy. Pour the mix
into a pot and cook for 30 minutes, or until it has the
consistency of cream or thick gravy. Add the rest of the
ingredients and mix well. Now, here's the hard part. Put one cup
of chicken gravy into a Ziploc, push out the air, and set aside.
Repeat this process until all the gravy has been portioned out,
then dump the Ziplocs into a container to store in the freezer.
Ha! Not hard at all, especially after all the grinding has been
Here's a link to an excellent page on how to prepare Bob's Chicken Gravy:
To serve, just allow a bag-o-chicken to thaw,
mix water or Pedialyte to the desired consistency, and nuke it for
20-30 seconds. This is a high-calorie, high fat, high protein, low
carbohydrate food that is extremely easy on a sick or injured
gastrointestinal tract (well, compared to kibble), and provides
for all the ferret's nutritional needs in excess of most
requirements. Mine eat it as a treat every couple of days or so,
and all my sick and dying eat it as a primary food.
BTW, it is very easy to digest, and it digests
well, so not a lot comes out the back end when compared to kibble.
However, if your ferret is not used to it (its on the rich side),
it can come out the waste chute somewhat runny. That is not a
problem with a hydrated ferret, so don't worry about it; there are
plenty of electrolytes and the ferret will just drink more water.
Once the digestive system figures out what is coming down the
pike, it will adjust. If not, then cut the Metamucil in half.
Also, this food has a lot of water in it compared to kibble, so
your ferret will probably not drink as much at the bottle.
Finally, it has a whole lot of really good nutritious stuff, so
your ferret might not eat as much of this as when they eat kibble.
It also has a lot of indigestible bulk (fiber, bone, shell, other
connective tissue) which helps clean out the tubes, which I am
personally convinced lessens the impact of ECE and other
Now, this is mostly chicken, and your ferret
may not want it at first, especially if raised for a long time on
a kibble diet. So load up a syringe and squirt it in their mouth.
It might take one squirt, it might take 100, but eventually your
ferret will sniff the stuff and dive in grinning. Once that
happens, it is easy to get them to accept ANY poultry, from duck
to turkey, which they will learn to eat off the stick, so to
speak. ALL my ferrets eat chicken and turkey, even those that are
shelter adoptee's raised for years on cat chow. Once they get used
to it, omit the kibble and grind the chicken so it is "lumpier."
A really fun treat for ferrets that love this
stuff is to put a tablespoon full in the bottom of an eggshell
prior to serving. That's how I give it to mine; each ferret gets a
half an eggshell containing a tablespoon full of chicken gravy.
They don't fight at the dish, they all get an equal share, and
they can carry their eggshell to their favorite eating
establishment. Now, I use a thickened gravy rather than a thin
one, so usually the only cleanup is vacuuming small pieces of
eggshell. Don't worry if they happen to eat some shell; it won't
hurt them and the minerals will actually do some good.
Now, this isn't a replacement of anything your
vet might prescribe, duck soup or any other food; its just
something I use and highly recommend. But its not etched in stone
either; if it is too rich for your ferret, take out some of the
fat or oil. If there is too much bulk, cut back on it. Make
whatever adjustments you need for your individual ferret's needs.