Prized for its luxurious, chocolate-brown fur, the American mink occupies semi-aquatic habitats across most of North America. Like its relatives the otter, fisher and wolverine, the roughly cat-sized mink is a member of the weasel family. Strictly carnivorous, mink feed on a variety of terrestrial and aquatic animals, primarily small mammals, fish and crayfish. Ferocious predators, mink will not shy away from attacking animals larger than themselves, occasionally raiding farms for domestic poultry. Mink kill by biting their prey through the neck or skull. A chicken bearing the marks of small, closely-spaced canine teeth -- particularly on the sides of the head or neck -- often signifies mink predation.
Physically exclude mink from poultry housing by utilising a coop built on a cement pad, with a roof and lockable door or latch. Cover the lower interior walls with metal flashing or tin to prevent entry from mink chewing through soft wood. Similarly, cover any holes or openings larger than one inch.
Protect poultry behind a perimeter fence or within an outdoor pen during the day. Utilise small gauge (less than 1 inch) fencing, approximately 5 feet in height. Bury the fencing a foot underground or fold outward to prevent tunnelling under.
Secure chickens in their coop before dusk, releasing them well after dawn, to minimise encounters during the mink's peak hunting times.
Feed chickens only in their outdoor pen, not their coop. Mink often use burrows or gnawed openings created by rats and mice seeking leftover feed. Keep rodents away from the chicken coop.
Mink can seldom outrun an adult chicken or rooster, but they can corner and kill them in a roost. Preventing access to the coop -- and secondarily to the outdoor pen -- is key to reducing predation. Make certain to confirm the identity of the predator, as different species require different deterrent methods. Mink often only consume the head and neck of domestic poultry. Small, closely-spaced bite wounds are generally seen on the side of the head. If the mink kills multiple chickens, they often neatly pile their bodies in the corner. If exclusion and prevention techniques fail, trap the offending mink using a double-door live trap. Set the trap near a dirt bank or rock wall, covering the interior with old rodent bedding. Use sardines for bait. Check the trap frequently. Mink have a large home range, so to prevent return, release the animal in a semi-aquatic habitat at least 10 miles from the point of capture.
Never attempt to handle a live mink. Mink are protected in most states, restricting when and how they can be lethally removed. Always employ non-lethal methods first. If all else fails, check with your state wildlife agency before resorting to lethal removal.