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Weasel
updated: Feb 10, 2013, 8:25 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

Has anyone had their chickens attacked by a weasel in Santa Barbara? Last night we had our five pet chickens killed in their pen :( we know there is no way a coyote or bobcat could have gotten into the pen. We live on the top of the riviera not far from Franceschi park and know there lots of potential chicken killers about so we are careful about their safety. We had already lost a beautiful much loved maltese dog to a coyote in our backyard in the middle of the afternoon! Your help in solving this mystery is much appreciated and may help others protect their chickens.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 372996 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-10 08:39 PM

Were the chickens all decapitated? If so, it is the work of raccoons. Weasels certainly can kill chickens, but probably wouldn't kill them all, and much would be eaten of the one it would have killed.

 

 COMMENT 372997 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-10 08:41 PM

What makes you think weasel? (sorry about your chicks)

How did it get in?

We have had raccoon and opossum kill chickens in the past. A couple of things to do:

Use hardward cloth (1/2" squares) on your run and coop (chicken wire is used to keep chickens in not varmints out)

Use an apron of hardware cloth 18-24" out from the bottom of the run/coop (bury it a little or cover with pavers) to discourage digging.

And use locking clips to close doors on the coop (raccoon can figure out some latches)

 

 COMMENT 373010P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-10 09:27 PM

It's been a long time since my chickens were killed by a weasel. Bummer!

 

 COMMENT 373028P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 12:09 AM

As I have posted before, keeping chickens is not for the faint of heart. They are a prey species and whatever can get at them to eat them, will.

That said, I doubt a weasel would kill so many at one go. You really have to make your coop fortress-like, follow 997's instructions and also be vigilant. Poor chickens. Everybody loves to eat them.

I once saw a possum running around (if you'd call it "running") in my neighbor's coop, with a chicken in its mouth. When I yelled at the possum (this was around 1am, so it wasn't a booming yell), the possum dropped the chicken and then "hid" under a small shelf.

The possum's tail was sticking out. I had to laugh, although the chicken was pretty shook up. After scaling my neighbor's fence, I opened the coop, "rescued" the chicken, and shooed away the possum. (He had sense enough not to play dead.)

There are a few more stories I could tell about various neighbors "feeding" the wildlife with their badly protected chickens, but, suffice it to say, and it bears repeating, chickens are a prey species.

 

 COMMENT 373029P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 12:11 AM

Why weasel? Something got in without opening the door? I think a raccoon could reach in.
Weasels are rare here. Most likely another mammal who reached in.
Sorry for your looss.

 

 LALALALA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:08 AM

Wow, all 5 chickens, bummer! Maybe it was a family of Weasels? Sorry for your loss

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 07:15 AM

So very sad to find your pets that way. I love chickens and had them most of my life; my deepest sympathy. Seems to me I remember when growing up (very long ago) that the weasels punctured a hole in the neck and sucked out the blood. In the 1960s we had homing pigeons and the skunks bit the heads off the squabs, left the poor things sitting in their nest, just headless. Two years ago a racoon reached through the wire and pulled feathers out of my hen, traumatized her (I'd forgotten to lock the hen house). Depending on the clues, a wildlife expert could likely tell you what animal(s) killed your poor hens.

 

 COMMENT 373054 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 07:29 AM

The only reason we suspected a weasel because there was not any apparent way into the pen large enough for a raccoon or bigger predator. We are out of town so we have not seen exactly how they were killed - our daughter was too traumatized to further investigate. But it is odd all of them were killed. BTW thanks for the protection ideas!

 

 COMMENT 373059 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 07:48 AM

Skunks love chickens too!

 

 COMMENT 373085P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:30 AM

We have raccoons and we had to make a cube, of five sides of 1/2" wire screening attached to a concrete floor, with plastic corrugated roofing over part of the cube to create some shade. We had just four wire sides with the plastic roof but the rats ate right through the roof quickly. The cube keeps out raccoons, and also the local arboreal rats which don't hurt or even pay attention to the chickens but whose droppings can contaminate the eggs with salmonella.

 

 COMMENT 373090P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:35 AM

I once had chickens. Was losing one or two every other day. I never saw the culprit. I did see a skunk once in the hen house but he left the chickens alone. He was a civit cat (Small Skunk) and appeared too small to reach the birds in their roost.They are also a danger. I once saw a fox with a duck in his mouth crossing Cliff Drive. I discovered that by not letting the chickens out every day I was frustrating whatever was stealing them. I finally gave them away because their food was attracting too many rats. The person to whom I gave them to eventually lost them all to Bob Cats. As long as I did not see them die I was fine.

 

 COMMENT 373094 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:40 AM

Get a trail camera and set it up outside near the hen house.

 

 COMMENT 373096P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:45 AM

OP, sorry about your chickens.

Could posters who are successfully keeping chickens please comment on tactics to avoid attracting rodents? Will the 1/2" hardware cloth keep the rodents out of the enclosure?

 

 COMMENT 373102 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:53 AM

No, but we had one killed by a hawk during the day! However, we think she was sick anyway - we were pretty sure she wasn't laying and she hadn't been hanging out with the other 3 - so I think the hawk did us a favor!

 

 COMMENT 373116 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:05 AM

Hardware cloth (1/2 inch ), but use U-nails to attach it, as staples can be pulled out by a dedicated raccoon. Dig in the extra, and cover the floor (buried) with it too, to discourage digging predators. The 1/2 hardware cloth will keep everything out.
Sorry for your loss. I think your most likely culprit was a raccoon, skunk, or possum, but without details we can't tell you exactly what did the deed. Weasels and foxes live around in the more isolated parks, but they are so shy that I am unlikely to deem them as the predator responsible. I've seen raccoons fruitlessly spend a long time around our coop unable to get in. Invest in some hardware cloth and safety latches and you're good to go.

 

 COMMENT 373126 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:09 AM

We live in Ellwood Canyon and have racoons, bobcats, coyotes, possums and skunks- you name it. We lost several hens prior to building our fortress- 12 x 9 x 12 and fenced all around, plus a roof. Poor girls would love to run around outside but they would all be dead in hours. One thing we did that has discouraged predators is to install 1) a solar motion detector light and 2) a "Scarecrow" water sprinkler that detects motion outside the coop and sprays water suddenly. Only problem is I have been sprayed on many an occasion when I forgot to turn it off! We had a bobcat that scaled a 10 foot fence, killed several hens and took one back over the fence with it. Sorry to hear about your- it's a major sadness when that happens. Mother Nature is no lady!

 

 COMMENT 373136 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:22 AM

997 here

Keeping rodents out is harder than raccoons, but the half inch heavy square hardware cloth is working for us. I only feed inside the coop (house) and not in the run. We shut the pop doors at night, the coop is raised and the roosts are not with in raccoon arm distance from the vents. That way the food source is sealed up at night and our barrels of feed are tin with tight sealing lids. Since replacing the old coop and going to the new one we have stopped rats from visiting our chickens.

We secured the hardware cloth with beer caps as a washer and 1.25" screws every 4"

 

 COMMENT 373141 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:27 AM

Weasels are making a come back I've seen a few out by the park in Winchester canyon. They're (note the spelling) feisty lil guys one came towards to me grabbed a walnut from by my feet hissed at me and ran back in the bushes. At first I thought someone's pet ferret escaped but when I went to the natural history museum a saw one on display in the mammal section.

 

 COMMENT 373145 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:29 AM

Sorry to bring it up, and I may be way off, but is it possible a house cat got inside? Smaller than bobcats, but can be pretty deadly. I hate to think someone else's pet killed yours, but it's a possibility. Weasel could have done it, but unless whatever got in was trapped in there with the chickens, I doubt they'd all be dead. I'm guessing whatever got in because trapped & freaked out, killing the chickens (that's what happened to my boss - bobcat got in, attacked & killed a dozen birds). I assume after he killed the birds he was able to find a way out. very sorry you lost your feathered friends. Hope you reinforce the coop & get more, they are a joy to have.

 

 COMMENT 373149 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 09:35 AM

I live in Mission Canyon and had all of my chickens killed. My coop was 20 years old and I had never had a problem. I checked and could not find an opening big enough for a raccoon, possum, skunk, fox, bob cat or ring-tailed cat. I suspected a weasel but thought they did not live on this side of the Santa Ynez Mountains. To quote an online site: Chickens with the back of their necks and heads missing, with its intestines out and bitten at the rear are most likely victims of a weasel. What’s interesting is that weasels kill not only for food, but also for sport. In fact, they are known to keep killing until there is nothing left to kill. Due to its slender body, these animals can easily wiggle through chicken wires, small runways, and narrow holes—making them the bane of poultry owners.
I have torn down the old coop and I'm building a chicken fort.

 

 ANIMALLISTNER agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 10:26 AM

OP, please call Animal Rescue Team, Inc for more info. We have a few questions so we can ID the wild animal or you.

805 896-1859

 

 COMMENT 373232 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 11:34 AM

Just want to say thanks again for all the stories and information. It seems that others have had the same experience. Interestingly we had these chickens for close to ten years (I didn't even think they lived that long)! And had not lost any to predators in that time. We had seen a rat in the pen on occasion but apparently it just wanted to steal food. So it was shocking to find them all dead. We will probably reinforce the pen and get some more chickens. I was wondering if anyone knows a good place to get some young chickens (hopefully past the chick stage)??

 

 COMMENT 373303 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 01:41 PM

232-Island seed and feed have their newest day old chicks shipments coming in starting march 1st or 2nd. Sometimes they will keep them for longer, if claimed but not picked up. For additional fees past the initial $4 a chick, they may be willing to keep them til they're fledged enough to live outside, but I don't know as I don't work for them, you would have to call them to find out for sure. In April-May you can often find young chickens or half grown chicks fairly cheap on the SB Craigslist, under farm and garden. I like having a mixed flock of unusual breeds so I usually go the mail order chick route, myself. Good luck!

 

 KIANA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 02:53 PM

I have been thinking of getting about 3-4 chickens, but I
Know I Couldn't handle discovering something like that.
The visual I mean. Oh boy.

 

 COMMENT 373359P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 03:50 PM

It always amazes me the compassion Edhatters have for animals (sometimes more than people). This is Edhat at its best. So much good and positive advice!

 

 COMMENT 373443 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:17 PM

Where is Ellwood canyon?

 

 COMMENT 373453 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:40 PM

Raccoons are very proficient at pulling any part of an animal through the wire and gnawing off the parts they can. They just excite the chickens until they're running into the wire, then nibble them to death. It isn't unusual to find the victim's body without head or appendages. Best solution is to use strong hardware cloth with small openings (not large), and build a second cage around the first with at least 12 inches between the two wire sides. There should be double caging on all sides - top included.

 

 COMMENT 373587 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 07:46 AM

Re: whoever said "civet" - civets do not live here. They are found in Asia and Africa. Yes, weasels are common here. You need much more information on how things looked in order to get any useful information on what happened. This is just kind of stabbing in the dark. Were the bodies up against the wire with feathers pulled through? If so, think raccoon. Anyway, provide more information than "chickens killed".

 

 COMMENT 373746 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 01:22 PM

Thanks for all the great stories and tips!! We found the culprit is most likely to be a raccoon that pulled away the wire on top of the pen enough to slip in - thus all the recommendations about having very secure hardware wire cloth nailed down with no more 4" between fasteners is the way to go if you want to protect your chickens and egg supply!

 

 COMMENT 438599 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-08-03 12:45 PM

8/2013 I live in the Santa Ynez Valley and just had the exact same thing happen to my chickens. Four killed, one spared because I heard the ruckus in the middle of the night and ran in to rescue her. Did not see the culprit except for a quick flash of movement. Absolutely had to have been a weasle. Have seen the long skinny red weasles in the SY Valley a couple of times over the years. The only gap it could have used to enter was about one inch wide between the gate and the post so I know it could not have been a raccoon or possum. I have since reconfigured the gate and also... duh.... moved the ladder to the roosting boxes up so that the chickens can jump up into the roosts, but weasles can't reach. I have heard that weasles can squeeze into extremely tiny holes, but never would have thought they could get into this one. Sadly, I learned too late.

 

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