Few sounds are as upsetting as the frantic midnight call for help from the coop. Rudely roused to action, you rush barelegged and bleary eyed to your girls’ defense only to find a ruthless attacker has left a trail of carnage and sent your blood pressure sky-high.
Shaking your fists, you swear a blood oath in revenge on the culprit: the sneaky weasel!
After daylight breaks and your outrage cools, it’s time to implement what I call the “double A plan,” or “Access, then Act.”
First, check your flock’s condition, remove all casualties and attend to the injured.
Next, clean up any blood or bird remains and dispose of this far from the coop area. Don’t just toss the remains into the weeds, or you’ll have bigger problems.
Now, start to sleuth for the entry point. Check all the walls—high and low—looking for gaps. Go over the roof. Check for loose boards, tin or large knotholes. You wouldn’t believe the tiny gaps a hungry hunter can squeeze into.
If using a chicken tractor, go over the whole works plus the wire as well.
Lastly, spend some time quietly sitting with your flock. Your birds have endured a shock and will need to know they’re safe to go about their normal routines. With the poultry area tidied up, it’s time to go on the offense.
Of course, many livestock owners have dealt with marauders before with the tool of choice being a wire live trap. This old favorite is dandy for many wild-critter issues, but is it right for this weasel situation?
Unless the trap has a super-fine wire mesh, the attacker just might escape, and the trigger mechanism sometimes won’t trip with such a light weight. A wire live trap can also be problematic for the curious feathered folks that might trip the trap or get stuck in the entrance.
In this situation, I turn to a tool from my grandmothers’ time: the weasel box. Simply put, it’s an enclosure with a single entrance and a baited rattrap inside to dispatch the offender.
And yes, I wrote dispatch, not capture. Understand: This device is intended for a lethal strike resulting in a dead weasel.
If this is more then you are comfortable with, that’s OK. But know that a livestock killer seldom quits. A weasel in the wild snoops every hole encountered, especially if it smells like lunch. So this box is just the ticket.
Best of all, it’s easy to assemble and safe from unwanted targets. An ordinary rattrap is more than enough tool for quickly closing the career of coop raiders, and all farm-supply stores stock them.
For this poultry protection project, we turn to the scrap-wood pile. Most lumber will work, from old wood siding to weathered boards. But avoid pressed board or plywood.
Try to use 1-inch thickness if possible, or nail a couple thin pieces together. Light, flimsy stuff won’t stand up to rough use.
A jigsaw, measuring tape, some nails and a hammer, plus a hole saw for the power drill, will just about do it tool-wise. Most rattraps are 7 inches long by 3 to 4 inches wide, so use this for a yardstick.
Place the trap on your lumber, then measure slightly twice as long as the trap. Cut it, and this is your base. Don’t use too wide of a board. Make it a finger’s width on each side of the trap.
Now, lay the trap on the cut board at one end and raise the wire strike bale. Measure this carefully to get the correct height as it must be tall enough to work freely.
Then cut two side boards corresponding to this height. Next, cut out the top or lid. It’s OK if this is a little wider and hangs over the entrance hole a bit. Put all four boards together and lightly nail them together.
Now set the rattrap, and place it inside. Be cautious of the rattrap’s power as it can really crack a finger. (Believe me!) Reach in with a slender stick and trip it to see if it fires freely. If not, adjust your measurements.
Cut out two end pieces to fit the four walls, and make it tight so no other entrance is available to the quarry. Then, find the center of one end and mark it. Cut an entrance hole roughly 1 1⁄2 inches to 2 inches wide about 2 inches up from the base. Round is best but square will work.
Nail the base, two sides and ends together—except for the top board. Lay the top board on, and drill a hole through to the end boards. Then, drive a nail in, but leave it loose enough so the top can hinge freely. At the opposite end, use a nail to keep it closed.
Once you’re done, modify the design any way you see fit. And because the tools are out, build a few more. I like to have four or five weasel boxes on hand because once another coop owner sees it, he or she will likely ask to “borrow” yours!
No weasel is going to turn its nose up at your box, so don’t be embarrassed at your woodworking skills. Just be sure the trap fires smooth and that it only has one entrance.
Tasty Temptations on Location
Baiting up your weasel box requires special attention as the trap pan area is so small. Gently warm 4 tablespoons of lard, and stir in the same amount of fresh blood making sure it all mixes well. Use liver or fresh thawed blood drippings of any beef, pork or poultry.
Pour the bait into a container, and once it cools, smear the V-shaped bait holder with a good large gob. Wild predators crave fats, and the added scent of blood is irresistible.
A few poultry feathers under the trap add attraction as well.
Place the boxes right in the attack area, along the coop walls and inside the pen area, too. Seal up tight any suspicious entry points, and set a box beside it.
Most attackers will return soon. If they don’t, remove all traps except for the ones inside to fowl any attempts at repeat intrusions.
Some people might be tempted to place the trap right at the entrance, but this can be problematic as the target could jump onto the trap resulting in a poor dispatch. When using lethal methods, we must be certain of a killing strike, and by placing the trap well back with the bait facing the entrance, this is about perfect.
Once the set connects, remove the varmint and bury it well away from the poultry yard.
In the country, we live with wild neighbors, and most never cause any mischief. If they behave themselves, a resident weasel is actually not bad to have on the property. All those tiny troublesome rodents are regular victims, and any reduction in grain grabbers is welcome.
But for the rascals that go outlaw, the weasel box is there to keep the girls safe. Just watch those fingers!
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.