Three species of weasels inhabit North America: the long-tailed weasel (Neogale frenata), the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), and the least weasel (Mustela nivalis). These sinewy critters, with their slender bodies and short legs, tend to inhabit areas near streams or other water sources, and their diet consists mainly of meat.
Weasels found in the home garden are searching for a source of food. They prey on rats and other rodents, as well as birds, chickens, rabbits, and insects. Weasel control is difficult because these animals are voracious, persistent, and clever.
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Weasel Control and Chickens
If you have chickens, they will alert you to the arrival of a weasel with frantic clucking and activity, but by the time you hear the commotion, it is usually too late. Weasels go for both the chickens and the eggs, and they often kill more chickens than they can eat. To protect your poultry from a second attack — which is sure to come if you don't do anything — you need to build a weasel-proof fence, and if you don't have one, you should also build a coop in which the chickens can spend the night.
Weasel-Proof Your Fence and Coop
For a fence to be weasel-proof, it must be made of 1/4-inch hardware cloth. Don't use chicken wire — its purpose is to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out, and it's too flimsy to deter a weasel. The fence should be at least 5 feet tall around the entire perimeter of the area you are trying to protect and be dug into the ground 2 to 4 feet to deter burrowing. If the fence encloses only the area in front of the chicken coop, cover the windows of the coop with the same hardware cloth.
Leave Trapping to the Pros
Weasels are resourceful and can often find a way through the most carefully deployed barriers, so if one is marauding around your garden, shed, or chicken coop, you might be tempted to trap it. Keep in mind that weasels can carry various diseases like rabies. Cornering a weasel is never a good idea because they fight ferociously and bite, which can lead to an infection in both humans and pets. Their feces also carry disease. Trapping is best handled by a wildlife-removal professional. Some states prohibit live trapping and relocation of wildlife, so check with your local authorities before setting up a live weasel trap.
Try a Deterrence Strategy
Instead of resorting to trapping, it's better to discourage weasels from getting too close to your chickens or invading your garden. Keep feed in sealed containers, stored indoors, and don't leave garbage lying around. If you have a bird feeder, stop feeding the birds for a week or two and clean up dropped feed from the ground. The weasel is likely to move from your garden and search elsewhere for food. Clean up thick shrubs, wood piles, and other areas of clutter where weasels like to hide.
A motion-activated system that flashes bright lights and sets off an alarm can not only discourage a weasel from trying to dig or claw its way inside, but it can also alert you to the animal's presence. Moreover, you can enlist certain other animals, such as geese, guard dogs, or even roosters, to take on the job of guarding your property — and your chickens — from weasels.