My sister’s free-range chickens are locked up each night, but the other evening a weasel got into the coop and killed several chickens. Many of you have had a similar problem. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to protect your chickens from weasels.
How To Protect Chickens From Weasels.
1. Take preventative measures
Weasels don’t usually attach chickens as their first choice. However, there are several things that can lead a weasel to a chicken coop and once it’s been found, your chickens are no longer safe.
You can take preventative measures by keeping the chicken coop clean. Don’t leave rotting food or smelly stuff in your coop. If a chicken dies, remove it and clean up.
Another way to keep from attracting weasels is to keep the areas around your coop cleaned up. If you have a garden close by, then keep the fruit picked and cleaned up. Garden produce tends to attract mice, rodents, rabbits, snakes and other predators that weasels love to feast on. In this way, weasels can be beneficial by eating all the rodents and small animals that munch on your garden.
You can also keep your lawn mowed and bushes trimmed. Clean up any piles of wood or debris close to your coop. This eliminates the areas that attract weasels and hiding spots.
- Clean up trash and waste around the coop
- Trim bushes and mow grass
- Clear away piles of branches, wood, and other items
2. Lock up free-ranging chickens in a coop overnight
Another step you can take is to lock your chickens up in the chicken coop, or hen house overnight. Even free-range chickens can be gathered or called and locked into a chicken coop. This will help to protect them from predators, including weasels because it keeps them out of sight. Chickens left in the chicken run or free-ranging are at a much greater risk of being attacked and killed.
Predators have a harder time getting into the chicken coop and will usually go after easier food.
However, just like my sister’s chickens, a chicken coop may still have weaknesses that allow weasels into the coop.
3. Seal off all holes in the floor or fence
Weasels have an amazing ability to get through small openings. Even larger weasels can even get through a hole the size of a quarter. This is one of the things that makes them such a good predator. They are able to follow mice, lizards, rabbits, voles, and other small animals into their burrows to capture them.
When a weasel does sneak into your chicken coop, it was probably following other smaller prey when it discovered your chickens. Weasels can follow mice through the tunnels and get into your coop.
You should make sure that all the holes are covered. Even thin sheets of metal or tin can be used to cover holes in your coop. Check your fencing around your chicken run and coop and make sure that there aren’t any tears or holes in the fencing. You will also want to check the walls of your hen house. Make sure there aren’t gaps or holes. Rodents will also chew through the wood of a chicken coop and this creates an opening for weasels.
Next, takes some preventative measures to keep weasels from digging under the walls or fence of the hen house. Bury your fencing or hardware cloth 12 inches deep. If your chicken coop is built in such a way that you can’t feasibly dig down, you can also extend protection out from the walls of your coop. Lay or bury cloth parallel along the ground. It should go out from your walls 12 inches. This makes it more difficult for animals to tunnel under the walls of your coop.
- Cover and seal off all holes in and around your chicken coop.
- Fill and cover all ground holes
- Make sure that fences are repaired and coop walls don’t have holes or gaps
- Make sure that the walls of the chicken coop go at least a few inches underground
- Ensure the fencing around the chicken run is buried at least 12 inches underground
- Extend buried hardware cloth 12 inches out from the hen house to prevent animals from digging holes to get into the coop.
4. Use hardware cloth, not chicken wire
It is important to use hardware cloth or other stronger fencing to protect your chickens. Chicken wire does not protect chickens. It has regular gaps that are much larger than is needed for weasels to gain access.
It is also very feeble. Weasels have sharp teeth and claws and can tear through the chicken wire as easily as paper. You will need a stronger fence to keep weasels out. You can choose a hardier, welded fence or hardware cloth.
If you choose a stronger fence, make sure that it doesn’t have any gaps larger than 1 inch. ½ inch gaps would be better because weasels can shrink themselves so small and will likely get through a 1-inch gap.
Hardware cloth is popular fencing to use because it is strong and won’t rip or tear from a weasels claws. It is easy for people to use and will cut, mold, and bend around whatever you need. It is also cheaper than many other fences that are strong enough to withstand predators.
5. Raise the floor of the chicken coop off the ground
Raising the floor of your chicken coop will add extra security to your chickens. This will keep the mice and rats from burrowing into your chicken coop and leading weasels into it. Adding a floor a few inches up creates one more barrier between your chickens and their predators.
If you have a portable hen house, then a raised floor is a must because you won’t be able to dig down around your chicken coop to keep predators out.
If your chicken coop is a floorless model that you move around, then you may need to build a second peripheral fence around it to create an added barrier against weasels.
6. Use motion activated sprinklers to scare weasels away
Motion activated sprinklers turn on when any animal, or person, walks by. They can be useful to keep weasels and other predators away from your chickens. (They can also be useful for keeping your chickens away from your deck).
7. Trap weasels if necessary
If weasels are still staking your chickens, then you may have to trap them. Yet, you should be aware of the type of trap you use. Some traps kill weasels when they trap and others don’t.
In many states, weasels are considered a nuisance animal. Those states allow the killing of weasels. However, other states require permission to kill a weasel. You may need to check with the Fish and Wildlife Department, local state departments or organizations to make sure.
There are reasons not to kill weasels when you trap them. Weasels are great hunters of mice, rodents, and snakes. This makes them friends in your garden and can help to protect your birds of other predators.
Extra: Use an electric fence or hot wire
An electric fence is not required to keep chickens safe, but it does help a lot. It is possible to keep your chicken coop sealed up and hole-free. But, a hot wire adds increased protection against predators.
If you set up a hot wire, you have many options, including a portable solar electric fence that can be moved with your chicken coop. Make sure to set it to a level that will shock and not kill the predator. If you kill the weasel or another predator, then other predators will come. The dead body may even attract more predators. You may end up illegally killing endangered predators and birds of prey. It will also be more dangerous for humans.
But, if you set it at a setting that will shock, but not kill the predator, then they are more likely to stay away from the fence. Check out my guide on how to keep pests away with an electric fence for all the info you need on how to set one up and what level of voltage to use for each type of pest.
How Do I Identify If A Weasel Has Killed My Chickens?
The weasel family includes three types of weasels and minks. All weasels kill similarly enough that it can be simple to identify a weasel killing. The first time it happens, you may be wondering; “What kills chickens and leaves them?” Weasels’ killing instinct is activated by motion. As a result, a weasel that gets into your chicken coop will be invigorated by the squawking and flapping of your upset chickens and will go on a killing spree. Weasels usually kill far more food than they can eat. Here are a few signs that weasels are the predators that killed your chickens.
Chickens are beheaded or missing parts of their necks: Weasels attack through many small bites to the back of the neck. This often beheads chickens or nearly severs the head.
Chicken entrails are strung and bitten. Weasels often pull out chicken intestines and other organs and may string them.
Chickens are bloody but not eaten. This is a more sure sign of a weasel attack
Chickens are drug to the edges of the coop. Sometimes weasels will drag chickens to the corners of the coop or the edges to “hide” it for future feasting. Weasels may even line up the chickens in a row.
Why do weasels kill chickens?
Weasels are expert killers. They kill not only for food but also for sport. As a result, you may see a massacre in your chicken coop. Weasels will turn to chickens for food if they don’t see other better meat. Weasels usually prefer smaller animals to chickens.
However, if a weasel is more hungry than normal or is having trouble finding food, they will eat your chickens. This can happen when a mamma weasel has many babies to feed or in the winter when another game is rarer.
In other instances, weasels may find your chicken coop and the motion of your chickens activates their killer instincts. A weasel can kill adult chickens easily and will often leave the whole chicken untouched.
Weasels can kill just for sport.
What else do weasels eat?
Weasels eat primarily mice, voles, and rats. Rodents make up about 60-80% of their diet. However, weasels also eat birds, including chickens, frogs, and shrews. They will eat chipmunks, fish and even insects.
Weasels have to eat about half their body weight in meat every day. They are ferocious killers and instinct makes them kill anything that looks like prey. Most everything that moves looks like prey to a weasel. Weasels will attack animals up to 10 times its size and is often successful because of its cunning and brutal killing methods.
Because weasels evolved in colder climates, they will kill and save extra meet for another day. Sometimes, in the winter, they pull meat to little caches near their den and feast during cold weather without leaving the den.
What do weasels look like?
In North America, there are three types of weasels: the long-tailed weasel, the short-tailed weasel, and the least weasel. All weasels are long and slender. Their legs are short so it often looks like their bodies are touching the ground. Weasels have fur with red or brown upper bodies and white stomachs. Some weasels turn completely white in the winter. Weasel tails have a coal black tip of their tail.
The long-tailed weasel has a territory that spreads from Canada, across the United States, and down into the northern parts of South America. Long-tailed weasels can measure up to 24 inches long. They will molt into a white fur in the winter.
The short-tailed weasel is also called a stoat. It lives throughout New England, across the Northern Midwest, and throughout the North Western United States. It is the only weasel found in Ireland. Short-tailed weasels measure up to 13 long.
Least weasels are found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The least weasel can be as small as a mouse but is still a ruthless killer. It is seldom seen. It measures only 7 to 8 inches long. Least weasels weigh only 1 or 2 ounces. It is usually brown with a white underbelly but does change to a completely white coat in the winter.
What other predators kill chickens?
There are many other predators that you should be aware of and protect your chickens from. At least some of these predators are found everywhere. They include:
- House cats
- Other Birds of Prey
Fortunately, many of the steps that you take to protect your chickens against weasels will also be effective in protecting your flock from other predators.
Are weasels endangered?
Some weasels are endangered. The Japanese weasel and the Mountain weasel are considered endangered. Both weasels are native to Asia and parts of Europe. None of the North or South American weasels are endangered. In the United States, many areas consider weasels a pest and many state laws allow the killing of weasels without a permit.
Can weasels climb or swim?
Weasels are accomplished climbers, but they do not swim. The mink, part of the weasel family does swim. Weasels can climb very well and are not opposed to hitching a ride and flying. Some people have caught weasels captured by birds of prey and then bringing that same bird to the ground by killing it.
Are weasels dangerous to kids?
Weasels are not generally dangerous to kids. Children are too large to be considered good prey. Weasels generally avoid human contact. However, if a weasel is frightened or scared, it will attach a child or adult.
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