Weasels are mammals of the genus Mustela, family Mustelidae, which is often aptly referred to as the “weasel family”. They are small, but active predators that have been known to eat eggs, poultry, and rabbits from farms. From this point of view, one can understand why they are sometimes considered to be pests. If you are a homeowner with poultry on your property or an actual poultry farmer, in particular, you will find that weasels can become real headaches. Once they find a food source, weasels are persistent, and tend to remain in the area until the source is no longer available.
Sometimes, a weasel’s mere presence may upset and scare hens enough that they stop laying eggs. Moreover, a concern that is always present when there is wildlife around your house, is that weasels can carry diseases such as rabies. Their faeces, thus, pose threats to farm animals, as well as pets and children. If cornered, weasels can also become aggressive, biting people, which once again brings up concerns regarding the possible diseases they may carry. On the other hand, weasels also eat large number of rodents, which are pests themselves, so having one around the house might prove helpful.
Signs of infestation
You can notice a weasel presence on your property due to several factors. Alongside the usual sightings, an infestation can be recognised by finding raided chicken coops with killed poultry. They will often have their head or neck bitten off, eggs will be stolen and small footprints with five toes and visible claw marks can be found. The same as skunks, weasels release foul-smelling secretions as a defence mechanism and to mark their territory. So, feeling a musky smell can also be a sign of their presence.
Chicken can also alert you of a weasel presence near their coop, with frantic clucking. If can often be too late to save them, even so, as weasels often kill more chickens than they can eat, due to their savage nature.
Getting rid of weasels
Weasels found in the yard or garden are normally searching for a source of food or for shelter. They prey on rats and other type of rodents, as well as birds, chickens, rabbits and insects. Controlling a weasel infestation is difficult, because these animals are voracious, persistent and clever. Destroying their burrows or flooding their tunnels, although an easy and possibly effective option, often also kills the weasels. Not only is this unnecessary, but weasels are protected by law in many areas, which may cause you more problems.
There are plenty methods of control that allow you to deal with a weasel infestation without harming the animals, but the easiest and most common one involves trapping the critters. Before you do this, though, you should check that your local laws allow trapping and relocating wild animals.
Beside using exclusion methods, prevention ones should be applied as well, as these also help in avoiding future infestations, or the growth of the current one. Make sure you do not offer them an easy to reach food source or the possibility of shelter. You can avoid doing this by:
- mowing your lawn regularly;
- trimming low boshes and shrubs;
- keep vulnerable spaces clear of vegetation;
- limit access to barns, sheds and coops;
- repair any structural damage around the property;
- fortify the chicken coops in order to block access to them.
Traps are usually much more effective if they are buried, as least partially, in the ground. Dig a small hole, place the trap with some bait inside, and camouflage it using some foliage. This will ensure that the weasels will not be scared and will at least approach the place where you left the trap. For the same reason, you should use gloves and try not to handle the trap too much, so that your scent does not remain on it. Check the traps a couple of times a day, to avoid keeping the scared animal contained for longer than needed. Once trapped, simply release them outside of your territory (near a water source, but not near other homes), but do so carefully, so that you are not bitten.
When choosing baits to use, you can keep in mind that weasels like raw meat, especially chicken and rabbit, but they can also be lured with liver or fish. You can also use grains, to attracts rodents to the trap. This way, when the weasel eats the rodent, but remains trapped itself, you will get rid of two problems in one go. Position your bait in such a way that the weasel is forced to fully enter the trap and trigger it.
Placing the trap in the right location is also very important, as you want to target an area where they have been already causing damage. Weasels are known to return to their food source, until it’s over, so you can place the trap inside a barn or poultry house, near the chicken coops, but also alongside a stream or creek, as weasels can also be found in such areas. Monitor the trap so that you can dispose of the pest immediately after it is captured, so that it does not become more anxious and dangerous. As they are known to bite, make sure you wear gloves when handling the trap and approach it in a calmly manner. Release it at least 15 km away from your property, if local laws permit it.
However, this trapping method will be ineffective in the long run, if you do not take at least some prevention measures as well. As long as there will be a food source available for the weasels, they will continue to come, so deterring them and avoiding a future infestation is also important.
Traps for Weasels control:
Traps are used to monitor or reduce the population of insects or other pests. They can be used against crawling, flying insects, mice, rats, cats, dogs, snakes or other pests. Glue traps are ideal for catching cockroaches, as they can also help in monitoring their population.
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As weasels do not really eat anything else than small live-stock and chicken eggs, there’s not really a lot of places where you could use natural repellents based on smell or taste, that would keep them away. The best repellent that can make a difference in protecting your chicken coops from being attacked, are motion activated devices. Electronic sprinklers that release a burst of water when sensing movement, can frighten the pests away and protect your poultry. You can position these repellents in multiple areas where you want to halt the access of the weasels. These sprinklers can be installed in front of entryways into the barn or shed, as a protective barrier around coops, at the base of trees or fences, and all around the perimeter of your property.
Make sure you keep your property as uninviting as possible, as this will also make the weasels feel less inclined to tackle the bursts of water in order to reach the chickens. If the lawn if mowed and the bushes are trimmed, they will lack places to hide and relocate to find an easier to reach target.
The last method of exclusion is installing a fence around your property, or at least, around the area that you want to protect. If you have a poultry house that can become a food source for the weasels, you need to reinforce every entryway and make sure it has weasel proof barriers, as they are voracious creatures, that continue to return until they manage to finish all their food source.
Build weasel-proof fences and make sure they are at least 1,5m tall. Use gauge wire and sheeting, as chicken wire does its job at keeping poultry in, but it is too flimsy to deter a predator. Sink the fence in the ground for around 1m, since weasels are also very much capable of digging. Making an ‘L’ shaped bottom of the fence, covered under the ground, can also help in keeping them away, if they try to dig their way past the fence. You can also hang gasoline covered rags on the fences, seeing as the smell repels weasels.
If you already have fences build on or around your property, make sure to seal all possible openings, as weasels can fit through and in very tight spaces. If you want your chicken house to have windows, cover them with gauge wire, as well and build cages around “tempting” animals, such as rabbits, chickens, or other type of poultry, while they are outside.
Keep in mind that in order to achieve a successful result in protecting your property and poultry from the attack of weasels, you need to find ways of preventing their presence as well, not only deter it. Use more methods of control, not just one, as they will prove to be more efficient against weasels if used together, and keep applying preventive measures even if the infestation has been dealt with, to make sure another one does not occur. For more details on ways in which you can ‘Prevent infestation with Weasels’, visit our relevant article.