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!)
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.
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
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.
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.
If you don’t eat the part that the fox bit, you should be OK.
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
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.
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?
You can buy electric fencing kits online. For more information on how they work see my page here:
Our cats don’t touch it – they can hear it clicking but if it does, it will soon learn not to touch it again, just like the fox.
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.