Freeze dried meats can be really great treats for your ferrets.
They’re especially great for training and most of the time ferrets cannot resist those that are freshly made! The best thing about freeze drying is the fact you can pretty much freeze dry any meat for a treat. I don’t recommend liver because liver contains vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can become toxic to ferrets because its a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it stores itself in their bodies which can easily cause them to over dose on it. So for long term use for treats its best avoided. Try getting your hands on some fatty muscle meats, those are always best! Freeze drying can be fairly easy to do and all you need is a few simple things to get started.
Freeze drying is a process that preserves food by removing 98 percent of its water content. This prevents food from spoiling, while still maintaining most of its flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value.
A lot of people do not own an actual freeze drying machine, however, there are many ways to freeze dry food. This is a very simple method that can achieve the same result by using your freezer at home!
You will need:
- 1 x Chicken Breast Fillet (Or Other Meat, I recommend the fattier cuts like Thigh)
- A baking tray.
- Baking paper.
- An electric steamer, or pot with a steamer.
First take out a chopping board and a good knife and cut the thawed out chicken into bite size chunks. Not too small because you want them a fairly good size to steam and then after they’re steamed they are much easier to cut smaller. I suggest cutting them in strips, like how you would for a stir fry.
Turn on your stove and preheat the pot with the water. (Skip the cooking process if you aim for raw freeze dried treats, see end of article for more info) If you have an electric steamer, preheat that. When it starts steaming, place your chicken bits in and let them sit with a cover over the top for about 15-20 minutes. The reason I steam the meat is because I don’t like boiling just incase the meat becomes soggy. Steaming also maximise’s antioxidants so its always been my route when it came to cooking the treats.
When the chicken is done, place it on a cooling rack or a plate to cool. When the chicken pieces are at room temperature, cut the pieces into small chunks. The smaller, the better because I noticed with my ferrets that they tend to stash treats if they are too large in size.
When you’re finished, grab your tray and place some baking paper over it then pile on your treats. Evenly flatten the treats on the tray. Also be sure to make sure that the tray can fit in a spot in your freezer. You will then leave the meat in the freezer uncovered to dry for about a week to two weeks. For best results, leave them for two weeks. You will also have to try your best not to interrupt the freeze drying process too much by opening up the freezer. The less you interrupt, the faster it dries out.
After about a week, check the meat by letting a piece thaw out. If you see or feel any water or moisture, then it isn’t completely done and you will have to put it back or leave the rest to dry for another couple of days or week. To know for sure that the treats have become dehydrated, they must be completely dry even after you leave them out to thaw. When they’re completely dry with no moisture, you can then place them in some zip lock bags and use them when ever you need.
See? Simple. Have fun making some treats for your fuzzies!!
Note: Yes, you can easily freeze-dry raw meats as well! All you need to do is skip the cooking process. It may require more freeze drying time, just continue to check after a couple of weeks. When in doubt, a good up to 5 weeks might do the trick. 🙂
Things to keep in mind,
Different types of meat cook faster and some cook longer, google to confirm how long is the best time for the type of meat you are cooking if you aim to cook for freeze dried treats.
Store freeze dried treats in an air tight zip lock bag inside the fridge or freezer. I keep mine in the freezer. 🙂
Note: This was written by Machan originally for Hakibeferret.net. That blog is now no longer running. Machan now actively writes for this blog. 🙂