Snap! Build a Weasel Trap to Protect Your Poultry

Learn to build a simple, non-toxic, and effective weasel trap – a tool that is on guard no matter the hour or weather.

By Cary Rideout

It’s another idyllic evening on your patch of rural heaven. Tired from a long day, you drop off to the Land of Nod. Not all is not peaceful in the kingdom this night, though. A feathered commotion shatters your slumber. What could it be? Grabbing the flashlight, and perhaps your trusty scattergun, you plunge into the inky darkness to defend your livestock. Needless to say, mayhem ensues and your flashlight reveals your worst fears. A weasel has been on a murderous rampage. What do you do when nature invades the coop? Bite back!

weasel trap
Simple, non-toxic, and effective weasel traps.

What Is a Weasel?

Few wild creatures have the reputation for barnyard mayhem that the tiny weasel does. A member of the mustelid family, it shares the same bloodlust as its cousins the mink and wolverine. Tipping the scales at just a few ounces and barely a foot long, this tiny hunter is well-equipped for relentless pursuit of a meal. Slim and slinky, it is astounding the cracks they can crawl through to get into a rabbit hutch. Poultry fencing is no barrier either, and they can find a way into any building.

Weasels must feed every few hours, and even the tiniest member of this tribe – those no longer than a well-fed field mouse – is a fearsome foe. The signs of a weasel attack can be bites to the back of the head or base of the neck. Blood and occasionally brains are consumed but little else. Victims are also sometimes arranged in rows — a real shocker the first time you see it. All weasels are lightning-quick, equipped with razor-sharp teeth, and fearless. Weasels have reddish-brown upper bodies, a white underbelly, and a coal-black tip of the tail. In snow, country weasels put on a white coat to blend in.

Long-tailed weasel in summer coat

It’s easy to demonize the weasel’s poultry attacks, but you must understand that in nature such behavior is a reaction to encountering a major food source. So it’s really just nature at work, unless it’s your turkeys, rabbits or Rhode Islands getting picked off. Then it’s war!

Most wild critters are fine neighbors, and a wise land owner will encourage their presence. The numbers of rodents and other crop-destroying pests weasels capture far outweigh the occasional attack against your livestock. Most of these hunters will never be a problem, but if an incursion happens it will always be the first of many unless you act quickly. Here’s where a simple homemade device, the enclosed weasel trap – a box with a rat trap – can provide both security and safety in the coop.

This is intended as a killing device, and if you are squeamish about administering a lethal end to things I respect your choice. Some folks will try using deterrents, but often this is unsuccessful. Even if driven off, the killer will search out a neighbor’s livestock.

Weasel Trap Dimensions & Design

Scrap lumber is fine, so don’t fret over mismatched pieces. Even plywood will suffice. Once you gather up a few old boards, lay the spring rat trap on a board and mark the width about an inch wider. Then outline a section 15 inches long (you need to have a box that fits the trap closely so the weasel is forced over the trap with no way around). Cut out two 15-inch-long boards for the top and bottom.

Next work on the sides. Lay your spring trap on one of the pieces you have cut out, raise the strike bar (the wire square that hits the rat) up to its height, and measure. A weasel box must have enough inside clearance that the striker bar can smoothly come up without interference.

Outline your dimensions and cut out two more 15-inch pieces. Next work on the ends; tack the bottom and two sides together with whatever old nails you have. Set the three-sided piece up on the bench and lay the top on. Use another scrap board to outline the ends so they’re closed tight. Make sure to not give the weasel any access except where you want him to go. Cut out two pieces — one for each end. Tack one in place and make the other your “door.” Grab a power drill and a hole saw attachment and drill a 2-inch round hole slightly below center (a large wood bit will also work).

After you tack the door in place, set the lid on and switch the drill to a slim 1/8-inch bit. Drill a hole in one of the lid corners and do the same opposite in the back. Drive a nail loosely in the rear hole so the lid will swing open. The front drill hole gets a nail to keep things shut tight. To access the box, remove the front nail and swing the lid. There’s your weasel trap. Now how do you get the bugger inside?

Setting Up the Weasel Trap

If not needed right away, I like to season weasel traps. Set them in the grass and toss some grain inside to get the mice interested. After a few mouse visits, the box will smell like a weasel’s buffet fantasy. Baiting up a rat trap is just like a mouse trap, but in this case we are after bigger quarry. Bait the trap with bloody liver or thick white fat from pork or beef (don’t use the remains of any previous attack, as this encourages more trouble). Offer the weasel an interesting scent, and his natural reaction will be to investigate the tasty-smelling box. Place boxes on the inside of the livestock area along the wall. You can also set weasel traps up near the roost or beside individual cages in the barn.

Make sure the bait pan is set up to work with nothing under it that might interfere. Another method is to place a billiard ball-sized piece of fat at the rear of the wooden box and set the trap pan right next to it. As the weasel approaches, he naturally jumps onto the pan or will fire it as he eats the fat bait. Either method will work. A few drops of inexpensive ladies’ cologne is a sure-fire attracter. Lastly, set a brick or block of wood on the box.

A weasel trap can be left in place and ready for days. I generally check once a day if combating an intruder, but keeping it set for weeks is no problem — just freshen up the bait often. The spring bar traps keep its tension fine, and if you let them down occasionally they will last for years. Weasels seem more inclined to cause problems in the late summer or early fall. I’ve never had winter attacks. The beauty of this device is that it is enclosed and poses no danger to people or other animals like an exposed trap does. Weasels explore tiny caves all the time, so they are not scared to enter a hole in a box.

Simple, non-toxic and effective, the enclosed weasel trap is a tool that is on guard no matter the hour or weather. Put out a few and rest easy, knowing they will be ready to snap at a moment’s notice.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Common Causes of Chicken Stress

By James Arpin, Sponsored by Eden Blue Gold

Before the early 1900s, experts could identify fewer than 10 known problematic avian diseases. Today, we have more resources and knowledge, yet still a significant continuous increase in poultry-related problematic conditions. For example, the Poultry Site’s Quick Diseases Guide ( lists 140-plus avian diseases and counting.

Chicken and baby chicks

Pastured chickens can live 12 years or more and lay on average 0.891 +/- eggs per day. Their commercialized counterparts, on average, live 1.55 years and lay 0.825 +/- eggs per day. The main difference? Stress.

Manifestations of stress in poultry

Stress in poultry manifests in three forms: physical, emotional and psychological. Stress stems from single elements: toxins, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, dyes, antibiotics and basic synthetic chemicals in the air, feeds, water and cleaning agents.

Most U.S. groundwater tests positive for glyphosate, fluoride, bromide, atrazine, chlorides, biocides and Bisphenol A (BPA). Combine those with A/C electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), vaccines, reduced or eliminated natural lighting, ventilation issues, population density, high NH3 conditions, minimal animal grounding, lack of proper water filtration, etc. and the stress/inflammation factors compound.

All, or some, of these stressors are found in almost all organic and non-organic commercial poultry operations today. This compounding stress leads to unbalanced birds, parasite, disease and reproductive problems, which in turn leads to profit and production loss.

Common causes of stress in chickens and other poultry

Poultry growers can associate with high mortality, poor feed conversation, high feed intake, lower production, floor eggs, thin shells, low/slow weight gain, cannibalism, feather loss, pest, disease, etc.

Free range chickens

We suggest these, among others, are common causes of stress in poultry:

Incorrect fat consumption

Pastured chickens mainly consume more than 80 percent of omega-3 fats high in vitamin K, however, conventionally raised birds consume more than 80 percent of omega-6 fats.

When birds do not obtain adequate amounts of beneficial cholesterol fats at critical times and gain the wrong fats the majority of the time their hormonal production becomes unbalanced. This is detrimental to young birds at chick and pullet age that get their developmental hormones from the fatty acids. Only certain fatty acids optimally operate endocrine adrenals (hormonal central) and contribute to other hormonal production glands. This commercial consumption of incorrect fatty acids imbalances the thyroid, stresses the adrenals’ hormonal production immensely and causes a chain reaction down to the liver and other endrocine organs.

Biofilm creates leaky gut

The brain talks to the gut system 10 percent of the time. The gut system talks to the brain 90 percent of the time. The gut system is critical. Period! Common poultry feed’s mycotoxin metabolite contents and synthetic chemical onslaught set up anaerobic biofilms in the bird’s crop, proventriculus, gizzard, duodenal loop, and small/large intestines.

Biofilms in these areas contribute immensely to inferior digestive power and leaky gut. Couple the wrong fat, salt, and resistance (pH) on top of low levels of beneficial biological and fats with leaky gut, and the birds overeat to compensate for the additional stress of nutritional shortages as their immune system breaks down.

Immune system attacks lead to polypeptide allergies

A chicken’s small intestine is about 4.5 feet in length. A human has about 9 to 10 feet. A bird has on average 95% +/- more digestive and nutrient transfer power than we do (per body weight).

The small intestine is where large particles of undigested foods (polypeptides) enter – through punctures created by biofilm – and past the guarded immune system. When the immune system tries to stop these large undigested ‘foreign’ particles but fails to do so, it produces antibodies against them. This leads to polypeptide feed allergies.

Wrong salts

The gut runs at a 1.2 resistance (pH) or lower. The correct ratio and materials of salt, calcium, biological and resistance (pH) balance is the basis of this low-resistance operating level. Salt is the precursor of hydrochloric acid production. A higher resistance (alkali) above 1.2 causes acid reflux, food allergies, unsterile gut system, gluten amino buildup and low pepsin enzyme production — all hinder protein breakdown to amino acids. Allergies stem from partially digested proteins to create polypeptides, which enter the bloodstream through leaky gut small intestine penetrations. Aminos and cholesterol fats are the adrenal/pituitary glands’ fuel to make hormones. Your feed additive of ‘flow salt(s)’ (YPS/SPF) contain cyanide and or anti-caking agent(s) like E554 (sodium aluminum silicate). These disrupt the correct gut system resistance that properly digests feeds into water-soluble nutritionals. These toxins can/are labeled on feeds as “naturally evaporated” products.

Pushing these ‘high-stressers’ on a repetitive cycle causes problematic avian disease. This lowers production and profit. Recognizing and understanding causes of these stress-induced problems is key to solving them.

For more information about causes of chicken stress, visit or contact Eden Solutions, 877-732-5360.

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Treating Parasites in Poultry

By Kelly Klober

Parasite control does much to keep birds both comfortable and in a thrifty, productive condition. The birds can be affected by a number of different internal and external parasites. Fortunately, the options for their treatment and control have broadened dramatically in recent years. Still, the first step to good parasite control begins with basic sanitation.

As a note, birds held in elevated pens, with no direct ground contact, will remain largely free of a number of internal parasites. This was one of the primary reasons for the early use of “sun porches” for growing out young turkeys for slaughter.

Early treatments for internal parasites involved putting some very potent household and plant products in drinking water or adding these products to rations. For example, pepper and garlic do have some curative properties, but are not good anthelmintics (or de-worming products). The first widely used wormer product was Piperazine added to the drinking water. It is still used to control round worms.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) has been fed as a wormer, but there is very little beyond anecdotal reports of success with using it. It is a contact killer and does its work by scouring soft tissue. Dane Hobbs of Brenham, Texas has developed a number of drinking water additives for additional poultry nutrition and support therapy. His organic Immuno-Boost product has some DE and I like to use it ahead of worming with other products. It seems to increase the knock down rate and overall effectiveness. The oral Ivomec product for cattle is now being used fairly widely with chickens. However it must be the oral and not the pour-on form of the product because the pour-on is not soluble in water. To use, add 11/cc’s of the product per gallon of drinking water and offer as the only source of drinking water to the birds for a twenty-four hour period.

Some do use the pour-on form of this product in a different manner, placing one or two drops of it to the back of the adult bird’s head or to another spot on the body, inaccessible to the bird. These products will control all parasites that feed upon bodily fluids. Do consult with your veterinarian before using any of these newer generation wormer products and administer them only to otherwise healthy birds. Consult your organic certifier to get a list of certified products before beginning treatment.

There are other worming products that can be used with poultry, but you must follow all label directions carefully. Any off-label use of a product should be done only under the direction of a veterinarian. It is also best to regularly rotate worming products to prevent the chance of any product immunity developing.

Early in the breeding year our vet recommends that we treat the breeding groups with a course of the product Corid (amprolium) in their drinking water. He sells us a few ounces as a prescription product and we administer it through the drinking water over a period of days. It is a coccidiostat, but seems to have some sort of residual effect on other parasites and the birds emerge in a more vigorous state. Check with your organic regulators about the use of coccidiostats before administering.

fowl mite
Northern Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) is a common external parasite of both domestic fowl and wild birds

Chickens can have a number of external parasites including several types of mites. There are a number of control products available and they too should be rotated often in their use. The long time practice for mite prevention was simply to provide the birds with an area or box of wood ashes in which to dust themselves. Do not use the ash from treated lumber for this.

In my youth a whitewash made with lime would often be applied to roosts and interior walls of poultry buildings that provided some residual parasite control. With a heavy mite infestation we will dust the birds with that old garden standby, Sevin dust. It is an off-label use, but Adams Flea Spray has often been used as a spot treatment for mites, too. Any off-label use of a product should be done only under the direction of a veterinarian. Another spot treatment is a cloth dampened with Dawn dish soap, squeezed dry, and then applied to mite-infested areas with a dabbing action.

Remember–each producer must work out his or her own approach to health matters, just be sure to move quickly when health problems are encountered.

Source: Talking Chicken

Boosting Breeding Bird Protein Levels

By Kelly Klober

There are a number of other ways to boost the protein levels going into the birds in your breeding pens.

The concept of feeding animal-based protein is somewhat controversial right now, but no other protein and mineral source is more nutritionally dense and easily digested. I have to believe that there are few real health risks if the protein is of high quality and from other, very distinct species.

Some pet foods such as cat food that is rich in fish protein or the moist dog foods that resemble hamburger, or even some small particle catfish feeds can be offered to breeding birds. Offer them in small quantities two to four times each week in amounts the birds will clear up quickly. For example, form the burger type dog food into pea-sized balls and give each bird one or two per feeding.

chicken eating
Also possible is to use actual hamburger. This is a good way to use up hamburger with freezer burn or which has been stored too long.

Milk or even yogurt can be offered to the birds in a trough or small pan a time or two each week. Figure about a teaspoon of yogurt per bird or offer only the amount of milk they will clean up in an hour or so. Make your own yogurt or contact local stores to see what they do with dairy products that are near or past their expiration dates.

Most modern laying crumbles and pellets are quite good complete feeds and contain everything in them right down to a grit source. I like the pellets as there is less waste with them. They do not even need to be supplemented with scratch grains.

Many like to feed scratch grains to increase energy levels going into the birds during cold and inclement weather. With deep litter systems in loose bird houses a bit of grain is often tossed atop the floor litter to encourage the birds to scratch in it and turn it for better decomposition.

organic chicken feed
If grain is being offered as an energy booster in cold weather, offer it later in the day.

The birds actually seem to favor the grains over their layer rations. Unless it is offered in a very controlled manner the birds will overconsume the grain, eat less layer rations, and the resulting egg production will suffer.

The old timers had a trick or two up their sleeves for boosting winter egg production that will work in other seasons of the year, too. It was their common practice to topdress the hens’ feed with a healthy drizzle of wheat germ or cod liver oil. This measure adds a great many nutrients to the birds’ ration.

A variation of this practice is to take a gallon of oats and mix into it a quarter cup of wheat germ oil. Each breeder would then get a teaspoon of this two or three times a week. It may take some time for your birds to readily accept oats. The following week mix a quarter cup of cod liver oil into the same amount of oats and feed as above. Do not use the flavored varieties of cod liver oil.

To either of the above blends, a cup of yogurt can be added to further increase its nutrient content. This is also good feedstuff for birds that have been on a treatment course with an antibiotic product. It can help to restore valuable bacteria to the bird’s system. Bacteria are needed in the gut for the digestive process in birds as well as humans.

Source: Talking Chicken

Caring for Ailing Chickens

By Kelly Klober

Simple Poultry First Aid

Consider having a few of the more common first aid and medical treatments for your poultry. The following are from our playbook.

For scratches, cuts, tears and fighting injuries it is hard to beat a simple cleaning of the area and regular applications of Neosporin, Triple Antibiotic or other common wound ointment. Deep wounds can be a special problem, so clean them with hydrogen peroxide and then use a good ointment. These ointments seem to promote healing from the inside out.

Respiratory ills may appear after sudden cold snaps, in very damp weather, following transport, and may even be triggered by heat stress. They can be accompanied by nasal discharge, swelling of the face and around the eyes, gaping of the mouth, and gurgling breath sounds. In treating these symptoms an inexpensive product called VetRX has done a good job for us. We open the bird’s beak and send a few drops down its throat, apply a coat of it around the beak and eyes, and then drizzle a few drops to form a reinforcing film atop the bird’s drinking water.

There should be results seen in one to three days. We also apply Vicks or Mentholatum to the bird’s face and around the eyes being careful not to clog the nostril openings.

ill cockerel
Organic farmers need to be sure to check if products are certified organic before use.

Quickly launch support therapy with sugar and vitamin/electrolyte in the drinking water. Use cage covers to keep chilling drafts off of the birds. Old feed sacks can be stapled to cage fronts for this purpose and then be pulled down and burned for sanitary purposes when no longer needed.

There are a number of oral antibiotic products that can be mixed with drinking water. Their drawback is that most are created for large group treatment and must be used quickly after opening. Placing them in a sealable plastic bag and storing them in a refrigerator may prolong their shelf life a bit.

Do not change rations on an ailing bird.

Most have done an off-label use of a health product or even tried a human health product on a sick bird at one time or another. This cannot be recommended and all health product labels should be followed scrupulously. Especially note and follow all withdrawal recommendations. Some health products must not be used with birds producing table eggs.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect the isolation pen with a strong chlorine bleach solution between uses.

In no way can all of the ins-and-outs of detailed poultry health care be outlined here, but the following are some measures and practices that have worked for us.

Basic Poultry Health Care Tips

  • Have a pen or cage at least several hundred feet away from other birds in which to quarantine ill appearing or injured birds.
  • Care for them last each and every time you tend your birds. Remove any birds from the group at the earliest sign of problems. Others in the group may turn on them.
  • Applying supplemental heat will do much to make birds feel better. I’ve seen chilled chicks bounce back from a near flat state when their body heat is restored. Heat will help birds that aren’t eating well to maintain some condition.
  • Give birds full attention while working around them. Listen for sounds arising from respiratory ills, watch for unusual behavior like gaping, check for blood or injury, look for fecal irregularities, and be alert for anything that just doesn’t seem right.
  • Oral antibiotics and their use and storage were discussed earlier. There are also injectable products that can be used with chickens and homeopathic remedies. Yes, you can give a chicken an injection, generally in the breast muscle. Follow all instructions fully, store properly, fill syringes through a separate needle than the one used to give injections, and note that products in dark colored bottles are light sensitive.
  • Don’t wear chore clothes and footwear off the farm or around other birds and livestock or to areas where other producers may be encountered.

The birds that survive stressful times in the best condition, that grow well despite being a part of a late-hatch, that reach maturity with the least amount of tweaking are the birds from which producers should be breeding. Death is nature’s way of removing the poor performers from the flock before they can draw down the overall health and well being of the group.

It is our consensus that flock health is sometimes built by the subtraction process. Death loss can have a plus side. It is how Mother Nature manages her herds and flocks for improved vigor and the will to thrive.

Upon occasion some birds appear to come undone for no real reason. They go light, fall behind the group or just fail to thrive. Some even seem to defy medical and health treatments. Those given a treatment with antibiotics may need to rebuild the good flora in the gut with a probiotic product. Still, it must be accepted that some losses will occur and in the long run, some of those may be for the best in the endeavor to improve hardiness and durability in an heirloom breed flock.

There are no magic bullet health cures and part of your task as an heirloom breeder will be to become a discerning user of the products that come available. Do not invest heavily in anything until proven that it will really work in your pens. Run your own trials and do so only on very small numbers at first.

Source: Talking Chicken