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I have been keeping and breeding chickens, ducks, and quails for over 20 years, and over that time, despite my best efforts, I have lost birds to foxes.
Sadly, predators are both a natural part of life and a constant battle for the homesteader.
Whether it’s snakes, hawks, rats, mink, or foxes, there are countless predators out there that are looking for an easy meal, and they have their eyes on our birds.
In this article, I will share some of the things I have learned about keeping my chickens safe from foxes and give you a number of suggestions about how you can keep your chickens safe from foxes.
If you have been keeping chickens for any length of time, there is almost no doubt you will have come up against foxes.
Hopefully, you have not lost any chickens to a fox. Sadly, over the years I have, and no matter how many times it happens, it never gets any easier. I always feel like I failed my girls and let them down.
I get that feeling deep down whereby I know I could have done more. Each time it has happened to me, I have learned from my mistakes and made my enclosures more fox-proof.
I am pleased to say, it has now been a number of years since I last lost a chicken to a fox. I hope this article can put you in a similar position.
Are Foxes Bad?
I have to be honest, I don’t blame the fox. As sad and frustrating as it is when we lose birds to the fox, he is only doing what comes naturally to him. He probably has a family to feed, and it is up to us to protect our chickens from him.
I don’t believe foxes are bad, they just happen to be higher up the food chain than our chickens. After all, we don’t feel bad if we feed live mealworms to our chickens, we just accept the food chain for what it is.
A fox is actually a fairly clever beast. In my experience at least, a fox has the ability to test different parts of the enclosure, looking for a weakness he can take advantage of.
To give ourselves the best chance of protecting our chickens from a hungry fox, we have to know a thing or two about foxes.
Firstly, we should be aware that foxes are most active a dusk and after dark. That isn’t to say you never see a fox during the day.
Certainly, in our neighborhood, we see them occasionally in broad daylight. Brasen as can be the fox just runs down the road or across one of our fields.
With this said, in the early spring, when a fox has a litter of pups (sometimes they are referred to as cubs or kits), they may well hunt during the day, taking their kill back to their den for the pups to feed on.
Believe it or not, a fox is actually cunning enough to keep an eye on you and your property and gets to know your routine. They will actually wait for you to leave your birds alone before they strike.
Chickens do not make up the bulk of a fox’s natural diet. Generally speaking, a fox will eat rodents and rabbits, along with fruit, berries, and seeds.
However, foxes are opportunistic, and when an easy meal presents itself, the fox will take advantage.
The biggest problem with a fox is it doesn’t just kill the bird it wants to eat but typically kills every bird in the coop before taking just one back to its den. Foxes never eat on-site, they always take their kill away.
Somehow I could live with losing a single chicken to a fox, and the rest of my flock being left alone.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion over the years I have returned home to find a group of dead hens, with only one missing.
It’s a devastating situation to find yourself in.
How to Protect your chickens from a fox attack?
First things first, as chicken keepers, it is 100% our responsibility to keep our chickens safe from foxes. We must do everything we can to keep our birds safe, otherwise, at some point, we will lose chickens to the fox.
In my experience, there are at least 7 things we can do to keep our birds safe. You are unlikely to need to do all seven things. In fact, any one of them can be enough to keep the fox away. But the more you do, the greater the chance your chickens will be safe.
Enclose your chickens with a good, strong fence
The first time I ever kept a flock of chickens, I had just a handful of birds, and the dream was that they would free range around my yard, scratching the ground looking for bugs, and living a chicken’s best life.
The dream became a reality, and I had the most free-range chickens a homesteader could ask for. The problem was, within a couple of months the fox had the whole flock.
From that point on, I only ever kept my chickens in runs totally enclosed with strong, fox-proof fences.
When building a fenced-in chicken run, do be aware that foxes are both excellent climbers and expert diggers. They can easily scale a 6’6″ (2.0m) fence, and they can certainly dig down under the fence. They can also squeeze through impossibly small gaps.
For total peace of mind, you should always ensure your chicken run has a roof, either made of a rigid material like polycarbonate or alternatively made of the same fencing material as the sides of the run.
It is also important you bring for fence out about 2′ (60cm) underground, as in the image below.
A fox will naturally try and dig down under the fence, right next to it. If you have buried a section of wire mesh under the dirt, the fox will not be able to dig through it.
Use a sturdy chicken coop
If for some reason you are not able to enclose your chickens in a fox-proof run, then you must consider providing your chickens with a sturdy coop. The coop should be sufficiently strong that the fox can not just bite his way into it.
Foxes have incredibly strong jaws and they will quickly chew a hole in a thin, flimsy coop.
The coop should also have a door with a secure lock, or at least a fastener that the fox can not just rip off.
One section of the coop that is often overlooked when it comes to fox-proofing is the lid to the nestbox. Most chicken coops have an easy-to-lift nestbox lid, making picking the eggs out super easy.
The problem is a fox can easily lift that lid too and use the nestbox as a way into the coop, so make sure the nestbox lid is well secured, ideal with a bolt or two.
Your chickens will be at their most vulnerable at night when they are all locked in their coop. Equally, this is when the fox is at his most active. Don’t give him an easy meal by keeping your chickens in a poor-quality coop, or one with a flimsy door that the fox can simply pull open.
Always lock your chickens up at night
Sadly, this was another lesson I had to learn the hard way.
We had a small flock of chickens in our backyard. We lived in a built-up neighborhood and we didn’t think foxes would be within 20 miles of our home.
We became very relaxed about locking our girls up at night, and although they always returned to their coop every night, we didn’t worry too much about shutting the coop door. That way they could just come out in the morning when they were ready.
Unfortunately, we woke one morning to find the entire back lawn covered in feathers. There was not a chicken to be found.
It seems the fox had paid us a visit in the night and taken all 3 birds.
I now tell any new chicken keepers that it is utterly imperative your secure your chickens at night. Shutting the coop door and fastening it with a strong catch is the only way to keep out predators like foxes, snakes, rats, and bobcats.
Add an electric fence
If your circumstance allows for it, adding an electric fence can be a great way to keep foxes out. An electric fence is usually either a single wire or a trio of wires, each set at a different height.
An electric fence gives the fox a mild electric shock that will deter him from trying to get to your chickens.
In my experience, one of the best ways to protect your chickens is to use an electric poultry net.
The Starkline Electric Poultry Netting Solar Kit provides a 42″ (106cm) high electric net fence that stretches for up to 164′ (50m). You can check the current price on Amazon.com here.
Spending $400 to protect your flock from being eaten is, in my opinion, a price worth paying. Plus a kit like the Starkline mentioned above is solar powered, so does not need connecting to a mains power source.
Keep a yard dog
Providing you choose the right breed, adding a dog to your homestead can be a great way to deter foxes from coming near your chickens.
Foxes are naturally wary of dogs, and a large dog will leave its scent all over your homestead, deterring foxes.
Larger breeds such as the Great Pyrenees, Mastiff, and Anatolian Shepherd make excellent livestock guard dogs.
When you welcome a livestock guard dog into your home, you will find they quickly become protective of you, your family, and the animals you keep. A large dog will not only keep foxes away but also reduce the number of unwelcome visitors that turn up on your land.
Add a goose to your flock
Ok, so I realize this sounds odd, but adding a goose to your flock of chickens will work wonders when it comes to keeping foxes away.
Geese are naturally both brave and aggressive and they will see off many would-be predators, including foxes.
A single goose added to a flock of chickens will soon make itself at home, becoming just another member of the flock. We keep a number of geese in with our chickens, and they don’t stand for any messing.
Geese also make an excellent alarm for your flock. If something is out of the ordinary they will honk like there is no tomorrow, creating a racket and altering you into a potential problem.
Keep predator hiding places to a minimum
Many predators, including foxes, like to sneak up on their potential prey.
Foxes are cunning, and they often lurk behind barns, under bushes, or in long grass, edging ever closer to the chickens.
By keeping the area around your chicken run free from overgrown foliage and clear of debris, you reduce the chances the fox will be able to sneak up on your flock.
By making your homestead difficult for the fox to hunt on, you will certainly reduce the chances he will be able to take one of your chickens.
Foxes and other predators are a constant problem for homesteaders. Given half a chance, a fox will not only take one of your chickens but will kill the entire flock.
It is essential that we, the chicken keepers, take steps to keep our chickens safe.
Keeping our chickens in a fox-proof run will reduce the chances the fox can take one of our birds, and adding an electric fence will reduce the chances further.
Over the years I have lost a number of chickens to foxes, and these days I take fox-proofing my chicken runs seriously.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Why is my Chicken Run a Mud Bath?’.