If you have pet chickens and are aware of weasels residing in your local area, you may be concerned as to whether these pose a threat. Will a weasel attack your birds, and will they do so as a means of acquiring food? I was curious and have conducted some research to get to the bottom of this question.
You may be wondering, do weasels eat chickens? Weasels will not look at chickens as their primary source of food. Unfortunately, when weasels cannot hunt enough rodents and other small animals, they turn to chickens for sustenance. Occasionally weasels direct predators such as owls, hawks, cats, dogs, and foxes away from chickens and on to themselves.
When you hear the word “weasel,” it conjures up so many unflattering adjectives; you can’t help but think of a devious, underhanded person, or animal. Did you ever read Wind in the Willows as a child? Do you remember that gang of sneaky weasels? They do not have the best reputation.
Believe it or not, weasels can be quite advantageous in certain contexts. They keep a local rodent population down; by hunting and killing rats and mice. They also kill shrews, moles, and other small animals. Additionally, they are known to eat a lot of scraps that are left behind. In turn, this can help keep your back yard or farm free from food litter and prevent rodents from being driven onto your land.
There are many things to take into consideration on the topic of weasels and chickens, especially when it comes to protecting your birds. Let us now take a closer look at the topic so that you know what to expect and you can proactively take measures to keep your flock safe.
- 1 Do Weasels Kill Chickens?
- 2 Can Weasels Get Through Chicken Wire?
- 3 How To Protect Chickens From Weasels
- 4 Finally
Do Weasels Kill Chickens?
As stated in the introduction above, weasels are much more beneficial to have nearby than you initially might think. It’s natural to assume that weasels are bloodthirsty killers that will mercilessly attack your chickens at the very sight of them. However, this is not the case. As long as rats, mice, and other wildlife are in plentiful supply, they will not look to your chickens as a source of food.
But this does not mean that they cannot, nor will not attack your birds.
Do weasels kill chickens? Yes, they do, but only out of desperation. They only do this when there is no prey left for them to hunt, and females have young that need food. This killing instinct is driven by a need to keep their young alive.
A weasel’s hunter instincts are triggered by motion. Rodents will stop dead still at the sight of a weasel; this is what saves them. In a chicken coop, if a weasel did attempt to attack chickens for food, they will kill all around them, because of the frenzied movement of the frightened hens.
Weasels don’t suck the blood of their prey; instead, they bite the back of the animal’s neck. Their long teeth puncture the neck with just two bites. This trademark way of killing their prey has led to the false notion that they suck blood.
Weasels don’t recklessly kill chickens, but they will out of a need to survive. You may have weasels on your property and not know it. Hopefully, they are making themselves useful as rodent deterrents.
Can Weasels Get Through Chicken Wire?
Chicken wire does very little to protect chickens. The biggest problem with chicken wire is the open gaps.
While there is no way to completely predator proof the chicken coop and run, hardware cloth is much more effective at protecting your birds.
Weasels are aggressive and skillful hunters, and the gaps in regular chicken wire will only help the weasel gain access to the coop and your flock. Weasels have sharp claws and teeth and can easily tear through chicken wire.
This is the Hardware Cloth I bought for my chickens on Amazon. I would thoroughly recommend it and its a good price compared to others I have seen and researched. Plus the holes are very small, making it ideal for keeping out predator claws.
A weasel’s killing reputation precedes them. They can kill more than they and their young can eat in one sitting. You must use something that offers more protection for your hens than chicken wire.
Bear in mind, that a weasel can fit through the diameter of a gap only slightly bigger than her skull. This is why it is important to get a 1/4 Hardware cloth and no larger. A 2×4 chicken wire fence will be of little protective use to your precious birds.
It costs a lot of money to build a predator-proof run, but you can keep your chickens safe at night by ensuring that you close the door of their coop every evening.
How To Protect Chickens From Weasels
In the previous section, we discussed two ways to protect your chickens from weasels, and they were to use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire and to close the door and securely fasten the chicken coop every night.
Chickens must be brought in to the chicken coop at night because they are more likely to be killed if left out to free-range or left in the run. If you arose to dead chickens and they were free, you would not be sure if weasels were responsible.
The only real way would be to determine how your chickens died. Weasels only really use two methods to kill their prey. The most common includes biting the nape of the neck which leads to beheading or a severed head. You may notice missing parts from their neck.
Moreover, chicken entrails would be pulled out and strung, and they will pull out the intestines and other organs.
Weasels are brutal in the methods they use to kill chickens, which can make the experience all that more alarming. So it is incredibly important to set up effectively to prevent this kind of event from occurring.
So, even before you discover weasels on your property, you should take proactive and preventative measures ahead of time.
Let’s consider five ways to protect chickens from weasels:
1) Seal off All Gaps In Your Chicken Coop
Since weasels can squeeze their long bodies through the narrowest gaps, you must seal all cracks, holes, and cracks. Check the walls, floor, and roof for cracks.
While checking the coop and surroundings, inspect the state of the fencing around the coop for tears, you can use thin metal sheets to cover any rips in the coop.
Make sure that you quickly repair any damaged fencing. Make sure that you bury the fencing underground, about 12 inches is ideal.
2) Elevate The Floor Of The Chicken Coop
Elevating the floor of your coop provides extra security for your birds. Raising the level will deter rats, mice, and other small creatures from gaining access to the coop that might also lead weasels as they do so.
Those few inches up from the floor acts as a barrier between your hens and potential predators.
3) Use Motion Activated Sprinklers To Frighten Off Weasels & Other Predators
These sprinklers become activated when they detect movement. They are ideal for humanely keeping predators like weasels away from your birds.
You have the ability to move them frequently, and find a location that best serves your birds.
The Orbit Yard Enforcer Sprinklers on Amazon are a best seller. They are very economic, work both day and night and can effectively detect between trees, winds and predators.
4) Use A Hotwire Or Electrical Fence
An electric fence is very effective at keeping your hens safe from predators.
If using hotwire fencing, make sure that it’s not at a level that could kill a predator. You only want it to administer a shock to the animal.
The dead body of a weasel or other predator will only draw other predators to your chickens.
5) Set A Trap For The Weasel
If weasels are still after your chickens and you have exhausted all your efforts, consider setting a trap for weasels.
Be aware that some traps kill weasels, while others don’t. If you want to humanely trap weasels, then this the type of trap that you need to get.
It’s natural for chicken keepers to question whether weasels eat chickens. The truth is that they can, and do, in certain contexts. It’s reassuring in one sense to know that your chickens are not a weasel’s first choice on the menu.
With that said, they are still a threat to your birds and you need to be aware of the consequences if you do not predator-proof your setup. You must do everything you can to protect your chickens from predators such as weasels.
While weasels are misunderstood for the most part – they are not the bloodthirsty killers that people think they are, they do have to eat. Just make sure it is not your chickens.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.