Unlike predators that take one bird at a time, weasels tend to kill or injure several birds during one attack, if not the whole flock. They also prefer to suck the blood of the prey animal, rather than consume large amounts of flesh. A weasel may be the culprit if you see some of the following after an attack:
- chickens killed and collected in small piles;
- bites on the back of the head and neck;
- only the head or neck eaten or bitten off;
- bites around the vent, and/or intestines removed or visible;
- bodies are tucked away to return to later;
- small birds, such as chicks and bantams, entirely missing;
- lingering odor.
Preventive measures against weasels and their attacks
In order to protect your flock against weasels, make sure your chicken coops are durable and sturdy. Fit coop windows with hardware cloth, not chicken wire, as this is stronger. The chicken wire will keep the chickens inside, but is no match for keeping the weasels outside of the coop. these predators are very agile and can squeeze in through surprisingly small openings so make sure you cover any access points. Thoroughly examine all possible back entrances inside your chicken coop that the weasel can exploit.
They can be very cunning and agile predators, as they also kill for sport, not only to feed. This is why they normally injure all the birds, not just one.
Keep the area around the coop clean in order to prevent any other type of rodents to appear. If rats or mice come to feed and create holes inside the chicken coop, this will open the way for the weasels to enter as well.
As is the case with most infestations, you can prevent a weasel problem by ensuring that your property is either unattractive or unavailable to them. Some possible preventive measures include:
- weasel-proof your fences by making sure they are at least 1,5m tall;
- use gauge wire and sheeting; chicken wire does its job at keeping poultry in, but it is too flimsy to deter a predator;
- sink the fence for around 1m, since weasels are also very much capable of digging;
- you can also hang gasoline covered rags on the fences, seeing as the smell repels weasels; if you decide to do this, however, you should make sure that you do not hang them in areas where people often build fires;
- seal all possible openings in fences, barns, chicken houses, etc.; remember that 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;
- build cages around “tempting” animals, such as chickens, rabbits, etc., while they are outside;
- do not build the coop directly on the ground; put a floor in it or make sure it is raised up in some way;
- be aware of holes that may be caused by rodents and repair them quickly;
- if fences are not an option, you can repel weasels by installing a motion-activated sprinkler; for added efficiency, choose one that uses a combination of water, sound, and motion;
- do not leave food or water out;
- ensure that all bin bags are tied securely and kept out of reach;
- since weasels also eat small rodents that you might consider pests, effective pest control in such areas is also important and might go a long way towards not attracting weasels;
- clean up any shrubs, piles of wood, or generally any clutter that weasels may use to hide in.
When it comes to their activity around your farm, weasels do not only feed on chickens or their eggs, but they can also cause a lot of distress around your flock. Their very presence can disrupt normally active laying hens and cause them not to lay eggs for fear of danger. They will get in feed bins and can cause the spread of disease among creating a terrible mess. They can make nests out of different items in the barn, destroying them along the way and disturb all of your livestock. As they cause a real nuisance around your home, the best solution is to prevent them from making way to their desired food source.
A concern you should have any time that you have wildlife in or around your home, is the threat of possible disease. Weasels do carry diseases that you should take note of, and although getting those diseases is rare you should keep them in mind. As they can bite when feeling threatened, it is good to know that they carry bacteria in their mouth, which means that they can give you a serious infection. Weasels, like most other land mammals can get rabies. This disease is recognized on these animals when they act aggressive towards humans or other animals.
You can use a motion-activated sprinkler that seeks out approaching weasels and releases startling bursts of water, which effectively deters them and conditions them to avoid most vulnerable areas. Position each repellent to deter approaching weasels from reaching the vulnerable areas. For example, you might position sprinklers in front of a potential entryway into your barn, around the perimeter of your property, as a protective barrier around coops, cages or pens or at the base of a tree or fence.
Make your yard even less welcoming to weasels by eliminating attractive sources of food and cover, which help them to successfully sneak up on prey and hide from their own predators. Some steps you can take include regularly mowing your lawn; trimming or removing low-lying bushes or shrubs; keeping the area around vulnerable spaces clear of vegetation or debris where weasels may hide and limiting access to barns, coops and cages.
Due to their strength, tenacity and small size, weasels are quite unique amongst farm predators. By securing your chicken coop, keeping it clean and locking up your free-ranging chickens at dusk, you will have a chance of protecting them against these predators. Do not store food near the coop and also make sure trash or food scraps are not close, as they will also attract rodents and other predators, which in turn will make way for weasels to visit. Make sure you constantly apply these preventive measures, as you can never know when such a predator might find its way on your property. And should you already be dealing with a weasel problem, and you want to know ‘How to get rid of Weasels‘ infestation, visit our relevant article for more details on how to bait and trap these predators.