If you have a flock of chickens, you must protect them from predators, including weasels. These are very nimble, determined small mammals that can easily slip into the coop and massacre your chickens. We’ll answer the question “How to protect chickens from weasels?” and give tips, tricks, and suggestions to keep your birds safe below.
What Are Weasels?
Weasels are smaller mammals with long necks and bodies, smaller heads, and short legs. They typically come in shades of gray, brown, or black with yellow or white markings and turn white in winter. Their long, lithe body shapes make them excellent for slipping into tiny cracks or holes in fencing and attacking chickens.
The least weasel is the most common, but they come in several sizes. The least weasel is tiny at 4 to 10 inches long and weighs an ounce. However, despite their small size, weasels are vicious predators.
|Weasel Size Chart|
|Amazon Weasel||12 inches||19 ounces|
|Black-Striped Weasel||11 inches||53 ounces|
|Colombian Weasel||9 inches||4 to 5 ounces|
|Egyptian Weasel||13 to 17 inches||2 to 5 ounces|
|Japanese Weasel||14 inches||14 ounces|
|Least Weasel||4 to 10 inches||1 ounce|
|Long-Tailed Weasel||9 inches||7 ounce|
|Malayan Weasel||13 inches||20 ounces|
|Short-Tailed Weasel (Stoat)||7 to 13 inches||9 ounces|
|Siberian Weasel||12 inches||19 ounces|
|Yellow-Bellied Weasel||10 inches||9 ounces|
What Are Common Weasel Hunting Habits and Behaviors?
Weasels use sound and scent to find and hunt their prey, and they stalk their victim before attacking them quickly, biting at the base of the animal’s skull to kill them. Some weasels are active during the day but more commonly hunt at night. Weasels also have a reputation for being noisy, but this usually only happens in response to a disturbance.
Weasels can travel up to an impressive 1.5 miles when they go hunting, and they’re excellent climbers. This makes weasels adept at raiding bird nests and eating the young and the eggs. Unfortunately, they’re also disturbingly good and finding small gaps or cracks in fences to slip through to get to your chickens.
Why Are Weasels a Threat to Chickens?
One behavior that earned weasels a bad reputation with farmers is their tendency to kill more than they can eat in a single sitting. Scientists believe this impulse is due to the weasel’s high metabolism and the need to eat more frequently, and this is why they commonly slaughter every chicken in your flock once they get in. Weasels also have to eat 20 to 30% of their body weight daily to function.
It makes sense when you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, but it spells disaster for your chickens. This is why you want to take every step to secure your coop and prevent a tragedy.
How Do You Secure Your Coop? – General Tips
Securing your coop can take time, but keeping the weasels out and your chickens safe is well worth it. You can start by doing the following:
Use Hardware Cloth To Cover Gaps And Holes
Weasels are very agile and lithe, so they can get into smaller holes or gaps in the fence or coop. Find any small openings and use hardware cloth to cover them, making sure you look around the vents, doors, and windows. Secure the fabric tightly to the fence or coop wall to close any spaces or gaps.
Secure the Windows, Vents, and Doors
Weasels can slip into your chicken coop through open doors, cracked windows, or vents. Ideally, you’ll install screens over these areas to allow airflow while locking the weasels out. Ensure they have a tight and secure fit, or the weasel may chew through them or pry them open.
Install An Apron Or Fence Around The Coop
Weasels are also very good at digging, so you want to install a fence or apron around the coop to stop them from digging under it and popping up in the yard. Next, get a metal or wire mesh and dig down several inches into the ground and at least a foot from the coop. Lay this mesh in and backfill the soil so the weasel will run into it if they dig.
Why Use Electric Fencing Around the Coop?
Weasels have incredibly strong jaws, and they can tear or bite through fencing if they want to get at your chickens badly enough. This is why regular fencing may not work well to deter them. Instead, installing electric fences around your coop will ensure they get a nasty shock every time they touch it.
While many people use the one- or two-wire system, mesh fencing that you hook up to a power source is more effective for weasels. The weasel will try to pass through the holes in the fence, but each time they brush against it, they’ll get a nasty shock. Eventually, this will deter them enough that they stop trying.
How Do You Keep the Area Around Your Clean?
Chickens can be very messy, and they can leave trails of debris and chicken feed all over their yard. If you don’t clean it, these stray piles of food can attract mice and other small rodents that weasels like to eat. Remember, weasels want easy food, so they’ll come to the area to eat the mice first, and then they’ll target your flock.
So, keeping your space around the coop and yard clean should be a top priority, and you want to go out and clean up any spills or messes every few days to deter mice. If you have piles of brush, wood, or debris laying around, pick those up too because weasels see those as perfect hiding spots. The less appealing you make your area, the less likely a weasel will want to hang around.
Along with general maintenance, keep the grass and any greenery in the yard short. Remember, weasels are small, so they can easily run in long grass without anyone seeing them. They don’t like big open areas because birds of prey can get after them, so keeping these things trimmed can make the weasel move on.
How Do You Remove the Weasel’s Food Sources?
Even though weasels eat meat, they don’t necessarily like to work hard for it. So, it makes sense that a chicken coop full of birds would be a great place for a weasel to get an easy meal and shelter. So, your goal is to remove as much potential food from the area as you can so the weasels will look for other places as territory.
For starters, make sure that you lock all of your chicken food away in sealable containers, ideally ones that won’t spill or open if they tip over. If your container forms an airtight seal, the weasels may not be able to smell it, so they’ll go right by it. Also, once every other day or so, go through your chicken yard and coop and clean up any stray scraps or spilled feed you see.
Can You Use Traps to Get Rid of Weasels?
It is possible to trap weasels, but this can be challenging because weasels are generally very wary of anything new in their environment. However, you can try setting either kill or live traps, depending on if you want to eliminate the weasels or release them far away from your coop.
You should also check with your local regulations and laws before trapping or relocating the weasels. This is because, in some areas of the United States, it’s illegal for you to trap and relocate weasels, and you can face steep fines if the local agencies catch you.
Do Natural Deterrents Keep Weasels Away From the Chickens?
You can use a few natural deterrents to repel weasels from around your chicken coops and encourage them to move on. Predator decoys are one option, and you can easily set up a decoy of a coyote or fox, and birds of prey like owls and hawks also pose a threat to weasels due to their small stature. However, be aware that the weasel may become wise to this decoy over time and go right by it.
Mothballs and predator urine are also good natural deterrents you can try sprinkling around your chicken coop and yard. However, remember that mothballs and urine can have strong, unpleasant odors, so you don’t want to spill any on you. Also, you’ll have to reapply these deterrents every week or two to keep them strong enough to ward the weasels away.
Weasels are small carnivores that love areas where they can get an easy meal and shelter. However, you should now know how to protect your chickens from weasels. To do so, you want to secure and reduce potential food sources, limit coop access, and keep the area debris-free. If you’re successful, your flock will be happy and healthy for years.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.