Having your pet ferrets living outside isn’t controversial. Many people choose this option, particularly due to the smell involved in keeping this pet. If you do decide to keep your ferrets outside, you need to think about how to make the best ferret outdoor enclosure (or buy the right one).
This guide gives you all the details about how ferrets can live in outdoor enclosures, and how to make it comfortable and safe for them.
But before you consider creating (or buying) a ferret outdoor enclosure, it’s important to understand more about ferrets living outside, particularly in winter.
Can ferrets live outside? Ferrets can live outside, even in winter. However, if ferrets are outside in winter you need to ensure they are warm enough. This will mean buying items like a heat lamp. You can read more about that in my guide to keeping ferrets warm in winter months.
Creating the best ferret outdoor enclosure
A trip to the great outdoors is a tonic for most souls. Similarly, if you simulate a natural environment outside for your ferrets, it will greatly enrich their lives.
Depending on the space you have available, and the means at your disposal, your ferret’s outdoor enclosure could be the size of an indoor cage or the envy of zoo keepers around the world.
Care needs to be taken that the ferrets’ safety, security and hygiene needs are met. However, a successful outdoor enclosure could provide you and your pets with hours of fun and entertainment.
My friend uses an indoor cage like this one on Amazon. But, he’s made sure it’s under shelter outdoors, and secured to the wall to make sure it doesn’t topple over.
Why would you want an outdoor enclosure for your ferret?
Although ferrets have been domesticated for millennia, they enjoy the outdoors just as much as their wild cousins, weasels and minks, do. Being outdoors will give them access to fresh air, more space to run around and something novel to experience.
A sizeable outdoor ferret enclosure with a range of activities for them to figure out will also give them plenty of physical and mental exercise, with little effort required of you.
Walking one ferret is character building. When you have two or more independent-thinking critters, all tethered but wanting to go their own way, walking them can become a real challenge.
Ferrets are most active at the beginning of the day and near nightfall. It will be restful for you, if you create a viewing spot, to watch over them at play, first thing in the morning and during sundowners. It is advisable to monitor your ferrets in the enclosure until you are absolutely certain that these Houdinis are safe and secure.
If you have the space and expertise in which to simulate their natural habitat, their lives will be enriched immeasurably.
Where should you put the ferret enclosure?
The smallest outdoor apparatus could be a cage, much like a rabbit hutch (view on Amazon), attached to the outside of your dwelling, at window level. This concept has been used by cat owners who live in apartment blocks or who are concerned that their pets might be in danger if they roam away from home.
Similar apparatuses were also used in high rise apartments in the 1930s, to give babies access to fresh air and sunshine.
These are made from light weight mesh. Add a carpet or rubber matting to the floor of the cage so that the ferrets do not hurt their feet when moving about.
If you have access to a garden, another option would be an enclosed area, attached to the house. This could be about the size of a garden shed or larger, depending on the space available. It could house a cage and toys, in an environment similar to the one the ferrets enjoy inside, with feeding bowls, litter boxes and hammocks in which to sleep.
If feasible, give the ferrets access to the enclosure, at their own discretion, by creating a ferret-sized door flap to the interior of your home.
If you are willing and able to share more of your garden with your ferrets, you could create a free standing enclosure away from the house. Be careful when placing the structure too close to the periphery of your property as your ferret may escape under fences or be harassed by your neighbours’ pets.
What environmental factors should you be considering?
Safety is of paramount importance. Ferrets have no respect for boundaries so ensure that the entire structure is escape proof. Ferrets will dig, scratch and climb in order to find out what is on the other side of a fence or wall.
The sides of the best outdoor ferret enclosure need to be secure. Use wood or strong diamond mesh, that does not bend easily or give them a foothold. Preferably the fence should be up to roof height, with no means by which they can climb over the top.
Use bricks or concrete on the base of your fencing to prevent the ferrets from digging their way out, and anti-climbing barriers to foil vertical escape bids. It is advisable to lay a strong rubber matting beneath the floor of the enclosure to prevent them from tunnelling to freedom.
Ferrets are ground dwelling animals and are not skilled climbers. If they fall from any significant height, they do not have the skills of a cat to land safely. Avoid installing any apparatus inside the enclosure that could lead to a fall of more than two to three foot.
Ferrets feel exposed in wide open spaces. They prefer hidey holes, crevices and tunnels. Create a space that makes them feel secure by providing these.
The area should be cool, with plenty of shade, as ferrets overheat easily in warm weather. They will enjoy playing in snow but overhead shelter should be provided to keep them out of the rain.
They will need fresh water to drink, in a structure that is not too deep. The water needs to be changed regularly so that it does not become stagnant or contaminated.
A pond with running water, that is filtered continuously, will simulate a stream or brook that they would expect to find in nature. It will also create a soothing sound for you to enjoy as you sit nearby to watch the ferrets play.
When designing the ferret’s outdoor enclosure, think of how easy it will be to keep clean. Ideally, you will want enough head room and space in which to move so that you can do this chore with the minimum of discomfort.
How do you enrich the environment in the outdoor ferret enclosure?
You need to think like a ferret in order to create an enriched ferret outdoor enclosure that these active furry creatures will enjoy. They love to dig, and run through tunnels with openings in them, where they can pop their heads up from time to time.
They also like crevices in which to hide treasures and dark places to curl up and sleep. An added bonus would be if you could help them to act like the predators they would be in the wild.
Use sturdy but flexible pipes between 5-10 inches in diameter to create tunnels. These could be buried under mounds of earth to give the enclosure a more authentic look.
Ensure that the soil on top of the pipes does not collapse and trap your ferrets in the tunnel system. Create access points from above, in case you need to flush one or more of them out. Disguise these with coverings, for example, plant pots.
Above ground you can create an obstacle course of bridges, ramps and ladders for them to hone their agility. A sandpit, sand pile or loose soil will satisfy their need to dig.
If the soil becomes too dry and dusty, spray it down with water to prevent your ferrets from sneezing or getting dust allergies.
Ferrets usually dig in a bid to escape, so one suggestion would be to let them dig their way into a tunnel system that brings them back into the centre of the enclosure.
Create a woodland effect by growing long grass and shrubs that they can move through. Deciduous shrubs will lose their leaves in winter and create a different experience for your ferrets to enjoy. Choose non-toxic plants that are safe for pets.
Provide texture to open spaces by adding logs, hollowed out tree stumps, wood chips, moss and leaf detritus. The ferrets will enjoy the sensation of chasing each other to the sound of scattering plant matter.
If your ferrets are on a raw diet, make them work for their food by dangling pieces of meat just out of reach so that they have to jump for it. This will simulate the predatory action required to catch their dinner in the wild.
Allow enough space for them to pick up speed when chasing each, or to do their characteristic ferret dances. They might even enjoy sharing the space with you.
Ferrets are perfectly happy living outdoors in enclosures. As long as they are warm and protected from the wind, there’s no reason why you can’t make them the best enclosure (or buy something similar) to keep them happy.
You might also like…
- The truth about descenting ferrets
- Why ferrets don’t always make for good pets
- How to calm down a ferret quickly
Image in header of a cosy ferret in an outdoor enclosure via https://pixabay.com/photos/huron-hurolates-pets-ferrets-1120505/