Help---I may have a weasel killing right out of my tractor

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by gottsegnet, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Songster

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    So far I've lost five goslings and one chick. I wasn't thinking predation at first, at least not until I found the chick and had a chance conversation with a neighbor who lost a number of goslings. We have 4 hens, 11 pullets, 3 cockerels and 3 chicks that free range during the day without a problem. All the deaths have been to animals that were in a tractor covered on all sides and top with chicken wire and all have occurred during the day, in the early afternoon (between noon and twoish).

    The circumstances:

    Week before last, I lost two goslings, seemingly without cause. They were fine, happily peeping, eating and drinking. An hour later, I went to check on them and 2 were dead. It was the middle of the day, shortly after lunch, and there was no evidence of anything having attacked them, but then I didn't look very closely. They were in a pen.

    A week later, same scenario but this time it was three goslings.

    Then I found the chick. It was in the henhouse and had been partially dragged through the dog kennel we have in there for the chicks to escape to. I leave the door propped open so the chicks can easily go in and out, but the hens cannot. It was stuck tight and I think I broke its back getting it out the rest of the way. Because it had been dragged rather forcibly, I looked at it much more closely than I had the goslings and found two very small bite marks under the eye on the side that was lying on the ground.

    That was the first time I thought I might be dealing with a predator. Again, it was the middle of the day. I didn't know what could have done it.

    But then a neighbor (not close...like five miles away) said she'd lost several goslings the same way and didn't know it was a weasel until the first time she saw the bite marks. Then she started looking more carefully. She's also seen them hunting during the day quite a bit.

    Now I don't know what to do. I've never lost a bird at night and I don't really know why. The henhouse is fairly secure, but since there are mice in it, I'm fairly certain a weasel could find it's way through. But then the dog kennel is attached to the henhouse and there is usually a dog or two in there at night.

    We are in the process of building tractors for all the chickens rather than just the babies since one of our dogs is a chicken killer, but now I'm hesitant. The only predator we have seems to prefer the penned ones.

    For the moment, I'm going to pull the tractor closer to where we have the beagle tied out. He hunts up the voles all day long and I suspect the fact that we are finally getting our vole issue under control may be part of why a weasel would start to turn to other prey.

    How do you dissuade a weasel that is hunting during the day? And are the free ranging birds safer? Or is it just a matter of time (or running out of penned birds) before they start falling prey as well?
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  2. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

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    I use 1/2" hardware cloth on the coop to keep out weasels at night, as well as rats and raccoon paws. I've never had a daytime problem, but I'm sure my dogs help with that. I have a perimeter fence and they patrol the area multiple times a day. You can try trapping.

    I forgot to add that we built a tractor for a grow out pen for younger birds and we put 1/2" hardware cloth on that, too.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  3. aprophet

    aprophet Songster

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    Quote:A wooden rat trap and a bloody bait works best. Trap until you stop catching them there will be more then one
     
  4. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

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    The problem is not the time of day as is the size and type of your wire. Weasels and coon's have very dexterious little fingers that can use just 2 fingers to grab a bird and either pull it through or feed on it through the wire, most tractor design's I have seen just are not very preditor proof at all.

    AL
     
  5. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Songster

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    I can put hardware cloth around the tractor, but it is on uneven ground. It would be too easy for something that small to slip underneath. My chicks and even my goslings (when they were smaller) have even escaped before I started looking carefully at all edges before leaving them

    We have a dog that patrols, but five acres is a lot for him to notice. I'm wondering if that is why they're not consumed at all. He may be interrupting them. I think I may stop letting him in during the hottest part of the day, and also pull the tractor up closer to where our beagle is tied out.

    But if I do that, I can't set out traps. I have dogs and a cat and children running around. Not to mention the chickens. It is much easier to set traps at night and maybe I should do that anyway just to see what I can get.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  6. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Songster

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    Well, the beagle is by the geese. Anything that wants in is going to have to get by him and the dog that runs free normally hangs near him, as well. I was a little worried at first because he just ran in circles barking while the goslings hissed, but that only lasted a couple minutes. Now he's perched on top of the tractor watching the farmland to the west, his favorite occupation. Hunter's lying in the sun nearby and the goslings are happily grazing.

    Hoping this will keep them safe until I can figure out something better.
     
  7. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Songster

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    Quote:Yeah. The reason I mentioned the time of day was just because it surprised me. I had it in my head that during the day I had hawks and stray dogs to worry about, with maybe an occasional fox hunting "late."

    The hen house is much easier to predator proof since the hens and geese are content to huddle together in somewhat cramped quarters and I don't have to worry about portability.

    Though going in there at dusk tonight showed me just how many mouse sized holes there are, not counting the ones in the room I have boarded up until I can fix the door.

    Does anyone know if cats deter weasels at all? I've put our cat in the hen house before when the mice got bold enough to not run when I opened the door, and she can sleep there as well as in the garage.

    That electric poultry mesh is looking more attractive all the time!
     
  8. ravenseye57

    ravenseye57 In the Brooder

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    My cat used to kill the small (least) weasels around our place. I hate to resort to killing predators though, since they're serving an important function reducing rodent numbers. We put two feet of chickenwire on the ground & stapled it to the bottom edge of our tractor to prevent digging or getting in through small gaps due to uneven ground(tractor is made with hardware cloth), but chicks aren't going out till next week so I don't know if it will be effective.
     
  9. Timo

    Timo In the Brooder

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    Quote:Yes you can set out traps, for weasels, 24/7.

    Google Weasel Box Trap

    I haven't caught my weasel(s) yet, but nothing else that you have mentioned will trip the trap.

    tim
     
  10. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Songster

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    Nebraska
    Thanks, Timo! I forgot about those! I just had the rat traps in my head. I think they were mentioned or maybe that was from somewhere else.

    In a week or two, our garden fencing will be finished. The geese will have a home in the corner of the garden and the dogs will have a run that surrounds the garden. I'll still have to work out something with the chickens but for the moment our little weasel seems to prefer penned animals. Maybe that will change once easy targets are taken, but it doesn't look like the poor little guy has been able to actually eat any of his kills.
     

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