Foxes

Foxes are the number one predator of our chickens in the U.K (unless of course you live on the Isle of Man where there are no foxes!)

Fox-looking-for-chickens

Foxes usually rip the heads off chickens and will kill as many birds as they can in a frenzy if they manage to get into a run or coop. Foxes usually get into a run by digging and squeezing under a fence or by going over the top of a fence. Fences need to be buried at least 8 inches deep with the wire then curled flat outwards by another 8 inches. They can clear a 5 foot fence with ease. Remember foxes are more like cats than dogs and can jump!

Foxes can also tear rabbit wire fences with their teeth – it is best to keep fences taught and ideally use the I inch rectangular wire as this is thicker, stronger and they can’t get their teeth into it.

They will squeeze through the smallest of gaps… but don’t take my word for it, this short clip shows him in action!

Foxes usually work alone but towards the end of summer, sometimes the Vixen will hunt with her cubs to teach them.

When are your chickens at risk?

Foxes are generally nocturnal creatures, hunting under the cover of darkness; however when there is a large population of foxes or a shortage of food as is often found in the urban environment, they can start to become a pest during the daytime. Young cubs that are just finding their own food often stay out until mid morning, I frequently see them playing on the bales of hay in the fields near my home in late June and July and from time to time they will come into my garden.

The winter is obviously a dangerous time for chickens when food is short, however the time when most of us get caught out is June to August. Cubs are learning to hunt on their own, will often come early evening or morning when it is light and don’t have the fear to stay away from us.

If your chickens free range, a fox may make a dash, grab a chicken and run off. During these risky times, you may need a small secure run to house them when you are out but there are other options. Electrified poultry netting works wonders at keeping them safe in a large area and you may be able to speak to your local game keeper if you have a problem fox that is very determined.

Do you have any advice on Foxes? Please leave a comment below if you do.

151 Responses to Foxes

  1. Get says:

    We have suffered our third fox attack within two months. We lost two in the first whilst free ranging. The second time they were all in their pen with 6′ fences and it got it and injured a hen but the two cockerels got the better of him clearly and put up a massive fight judging by the feathers blood and debris. Unfortunately this last attack has seen all dead including one cockerel. My veteran is badly injured and for a buff Orpington pretty much feather free around the neck and back with puncture wounds. This is the third fox attack he has survived. If he gets through this I will count myself very lucky. I have hatched 10 offspring after the first attack so have some solace. The devastation of coming home to this with my children is awful. I have never experienced this before and it is the most tenacious fox ever. I have come face to face with it 5 times in one night. Unfortunately without my husband and shot gun I was limited. We are now nursing big bad bill and praying he recovers. The off spring will be going into a large pen with a roof and concrete base around the perimeter fence and electric fencing. Hate me or not fox tails will hang from my pen as we shoot the vermin. We have pheasants to protect also so the war has begun.

    • Harry says:

      Build a fence that is around 7ft tall maybe 8 depending on you yard restrictions, lay the chicken mesh below the ground too, therefore the fox is unable to dig into the pen, buy your self a gun or use a friends and kill this fox…

    • kim says:

      If you build a defence appropriate for actually looking after your flock properly then the foxes would look elsewhere. Spend time on this rather than being reactive and then having to resort to shooting foxes. Why had you not sorted this out after your second finding of a fox encounter is beyond comprehension.

      • Stuart says:

        I find your comments although not directed at me incomprehensible. I lost 16 chickens and 3 ducks this morning. If I built a fence around my plot with your specifications it would cost 20k. Shoot the bloody foxes!

        • Keeping Chickens says:

          Sorry to hear you lost birds. Wire fences are really for smaller runs – for large areas, an electric fence (with at least 3 wires) will keep foxes out and cost you less than £150 to cover a large area. This is far cheaper than replacing hens for sure.

      • crbcorg says:

        We call it shoot, shovel, and shut up….no more fox. He just met the alpha predator. No chicken tonight!

  2. Jenny Yeandle says:

    Would a fox try to eat duck& chicken eggs?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Oh yes, they will eat them if they have the chance, together with any other old rotting road kill, worms, mice, berries (I’ve watched them picking blackberries very carefully!) and any other food they can scavenge.

    • tony says:

      Yes they love eggs, but hard boiled is their preference.

  3. Linda says:

    I am a first time chicken keeper. I have had my girls now for about six months and in all that time they have been free range. Today was my first fox attack! Luckily my dog was going crazy at the door and alerted me to the attack. I only have three hens and two escaped unharmed but my poor Doris did not fare so well. She is missing all her feathers on her back and has two or three puncture wounds. I have her in my shed, on her own with food and water. I do not want the other two to pick on her. Although she is eating and drinking when I give it to her she will not stand up and is just sitting in the straw filled box I have placed her in! My question is, what else can I do for her? Do I need to bathe her wounds? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Yes, the bacteria in the wounds will normally cause the wound to go bad and this infection causes the chicken to die. Secondary to this is the stress of the attack which can cause the bird to stop eating and drinking, causing further weakness.

      As soon as you can after the attack, I would visit the vet and get antibiotics for her to stop the infection and something like Metacam to ease the pain / stress to get her eating again. You should also be given a pack of fluid (used for drips) that you can suck up with a syringe and squirt into the wound a couple of times per day to clean it out.

      If you don’t visit the vet then salted water can be useful for rinsing and ideally wipe the wound with an iodine mixture.

    • Laura Byant says:

      We had a fox attack which left chickens dead and one of them had a puncture wound on her neck, she was unable to look upwards and I still fed her water and the food I gave was mulched by putting hot water on it and waiting to cool then gave what she would take. I also gave her a few drops of metcalm which can be got from the vet or online. This helped with inflammation and shock I am sure. She survived, another fox attack has killed one of our baby birds which we hatched and injured two others. We are now thinking electric fencing or as advised 8 foot fencing with the the bottom 8 inches being buried underground so that the fox cant dig it up. Got to do something, it is too sad for the chickens and we hate finding them, it has been 3 am twice over that the fox has visited, I hard a strange noise coming from the coop and that is when I realize they had been under attack as one of them was screaming. Awful. Now is time to fight back, however as much as I hate what the fox has done, I don’t want to kill it. Would the RSPCA help us to catch this fox.

      • Keeping Chickens says:

        There isn’t a lot of point in killing the fox unless it’s a particular problem fox that has learned how to get into your poultry run where others can’t. Foxes are territorial and if you kill one, another will move into that territory.

        There was a study done in Bristol once where they tried to kill all of the urban foxes in a large area. The result was a failure, as they killed them, the territory and food available to the remaining foxes in neighbouring territories increased and they had more cubs and the numbers went back up…

        The RSPCA won’t help with matters like this. It is your responsibility to make sure your chickens are safe from the fox and the best way to do this is with a secure fence or an electric fence.

  4. Shireen says:

    A fox got all 3 of my pet ducks and killed them and the next day the fox brought one of my ducks body part back to my garden and left it there, why did the fox do this.

    Thank you shireen…

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      They don’t really bring food back – but they do bury what they kill for later so it’s possible he buried this nearby and came back, collected it and was passing through when you saw him? If he left it with you, chances are he put it down to sniff around and got disturbed, leaving it with you.

  5. Jane Roberts says:

    Hi Linda, i work in the veterinary industry and would recommend you get Doris checked by your vet. Birds can get very stressed and this alone can cause them to deteriorate. Antibiotics and analgesics would be the best plan of treatment. Bathing the wounds with a dilute chlorhex or iodine solution twice aday will help too. I would leave her in with the other chickens unless they do pick on her. Trying to keep things normal and a may be a comfort for her. I know my girls are pretty banded together. Good luck jane

  6. David Anderson says:

    I am building a chicken run and am intending to use 50mm x 50mm x 1.6mm welded galvanised wire. I am happy with the strength this will provide but can anyone advise if this mesh size is ok? Any advice much appreciated! David

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      50mm is quite large so it won’t keep vermin out – but then there aren’t many runs that will anyway (rats will usually burrow anyway) so it seems feasible to me.

  7. PeterL says:

    I have lost my hens to a fox which left one lying. I was wondering if it would be safe to eat or does the fox carry disease which could be passed to humans via the meat? The fox left the hen with an open wound on its neck.

  8. alex says:

    We thinking of getting chucks and although we live in a built up area there is a wood behind us, and I’ve never seen but smelt the foxes before. We want our chucks to be free to roam our front garden. We’ll shut them in at night but I’m just wondering if the foxes will make an attempt during the day? We have a 5 ft hawthorn hedge that’s about 2 to 3 ft wide. It’s a concrete path outside so digging isn’t an issue but would they be able to jump the hedge? Thanks

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Impossible to say really. If there are foxes in the area, they will usually try to get chickens before too long but it does depend on how brave they are, how hungry and how easy it is for them to get to the hens…

      An electric fence would be the safest to be honest.

  9. clare says:

    Hi we will be getting hens soon but have a problem with foxes as there is a long term empty house at the back of us overrun with them. They come in our garden day and nite every single nite. We have a rabbit which thumps every time they come in. So think we will be needing an electric fence where do you get these and we also have a cat so would this be possible without hurting the cat?

  10. julie says:

    I have been very lucky in that I’ve only had the fox attack my birds twice in 3yrs of keeping chickens and ducks. The first time was my fault and I still feel bad about it. 3 of my ducks were in a separate enclosure that wasn’t secure, fox was just passing early in the morning and saw an opportunity. Took 2 out of 3 ducks.

    Second time I had all my birds out free ranging in our very big garden (which is right next to a wood and field with easy access to the fox), fox was actually chasing after a wild rabbit and then saw our chickens so took one instead, ran off with it, but dropped it at the last minute when i let all our dogs out. I was watching the chickens from the house. Chickens were fine on that occasion not harmed.

    I think we have been so lucky because we are overrun with wild rabbits so the foxes have plenty of food. They certainly know our chickens are there but have never tried to get into the pen. Chickens are safe at night as are in a concrete house. Only let my chickens free range in our garden when i am out there with them as it is so open, they have a big pen and the fox could get in there no problem if he wanted to but has never tried to go in.

    I only believe in killing any animal as an absolute last resort, as already mentioned if you kill one another one will just take over it’s territory. If I ever had a big fox attack I would either give up chicken keeping or build a fox-proof pen, I would not go around killing them all.

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