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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 diet. 

Ferrets who are not eating should be fed around 80-90cc's per pound of ferret per day.  Divide into 4 to 6 individual feedings.

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 purpose)

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 done.

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 intestinal diseases.

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.