Foxes are one of the greatest nightmares of any chicken breeder. It almost seems like you can’t evade them no matter how much you try because of their cunningness and acute hearing skills, but you should be smarter. Your chickens can’t lay good eggs or have meaty carcasses if they aren’t safe, so you must protect them from every predator.
This article will cover:
- Why do Foxes Hunt Chickens?
- How Do Foxes Hunt?
- How To Know If A Fox Is In Your Territory?
- How To Protect Your Chickens From Foxes?
- 4 Animal Guards For Your Chickens
- 5 Other Predators You Should Keep Away From Your
Why do Foxes Hunt Chickens?
Foxes hunt chickens because chickens are an accessible, readily available prey item. They provide foxes with nutrition and energy that helps them to survive in their natural environment. Foxes will also scavenge around poultry farms or homesteads for eggs or young birds as an additional food source.
Foxes hunt chickens because they need to eat and provide food for their family, not because they hate chickens. They usually have a large family; sometimes, they have up to 13 cubs born blind and can’t fend for themselves until they’re ten weeks old.
As such, the male fox leaves the vixen to care for the cubs while hunting for food. Birthing and growing a family takes place around February and May, and this is when your chickens are most at risk.
However, foxes will eat whatever is available, whether blood or not. That’s why you’ll find them scavenging dustbins in the city, running after rodents, or stealing eggs. They adapt to their environment quickly, aided by their cunningness and creativity.
How Do Foxes Hunt?
Since they’re born blind, foxes don’t have a strong vision. They’re usually short-sighted, so the possibility of them seeing your chickens from afar is almost non-existent. Also, their sense of smell isn’t that spectacular; they fall at the bottom of mammals with a sharp sense of smell.
However, they have an acute sense of hearing. Their ears can virtually pick up any sound, even if it’s as low as leaves rustling or chickens gently cooing in their coops. They trace the source of the sounds, and if it leads them to a chicken coop, so be it. But they hunt alone, using sounds to communicate with others if need be.
Foxes can do many things to get to your chickens. They can burrow holes near the coop if they can’t eat through the fencing. They’re excellent at burrowing since they live in holes in the ground.
Once they reach your chickens, they can kill as many as possible in a “killing frenzy.” They do this by biting off your chickens’ heads and burying the bodies if there’s soil around to store for the future.
How To Know If A Fox Is In Your Territory?
Usually, foxes are territorial animals. It’s uncommon to find a territory occupied by different fox families. Check for holes near trees to know if a fox is in your region. Foxes burrow into the ground to make their houses and mark the entrance with their scent. A dog can easily pick up this scent.
Also, their excreta, called scat, shows they’re present in an environment. The scat is usually black, long, and smelly, with traces of whatever the fox has been eating. Once you know a fox is in your territory, strengthen the security of your coop.
How To Protect Your Chickens From Foxes?
Either your chickens serve as pets or a means of food supply; you don’t want to wake up one morning to find blood and their carcasses all over the floor. Foxes are intelligent predators, but you should outsmart them. Check below for ways to protect your chickens from foxes.
1. Install hard wire mesh.
If your chicken mesh isn’t strong, foxes can chew through it or squeeze themselves to enter the holes. Even though they’re similar to a dog, they can fit into smaller spaces. Therefore, you should use a hardwire mesh which is difficult for them to chew or squeeze themselves through. Here is a video on how to install the mesh:
2. Bury the fencing.
Protecting your chickens, don’t stop at installing hardwire mesh alone. Foxes are excellent borrowers and can dig holes through into your chickens’ coop. They’ll keep at it even if it means they’ve to keep coming back.
But you should outsmart them. Ensure you dig trenches and bury the fencing at least 6 inches into the ground. This way, they won’t be able to get through, no matter their burrowing skills.
3. Keep your garden “Off.”
Your garden shouldn’t attract the very foxes you want to keep out. For instance, don’t litter it with food waste, as foxes are natural scavengers. Use well-secured trash cans to store your junk.
Eliminate everything that can serve as water or food stands. Also, clear every hiding place. The grass should be well-trimmed, and no growth should be close to your chicken coop. No cover will make foxes less confident to attack your chickens.
4. Lock your chickens in every night.
Foxes are nocturnal animals that usually hunt at night or early morning. However, this doesn’t rule out daylight hunting. As such, don’t leave your chickens out all night. Whether the weather is favorable or not, lock your chicken in. Only open the door when it’s broad daylight. Also, if your chickens are free-range a lot, ensure they don’t go into exposed places.
5. Inspect the coop regularly.
Foxes won’t hesitate to capitalize on any weakness in the chicken run. You should spot the chinks in the armor before the foxes do. Don’t just sit back; inspect the coop and fencing regularly. Work on any weakness you spot as soon as possible, or else your chickens might pay for it dearly.
6. Use smell deterrents.
One can keep foxes away from their chicken flock by using scent deterrents that target the animal’s excellent sense of smell and instinctual aversion to specific odors. There are various ways in which these scent repellents work:
- Ammonia-soaked rags: By taking advantage of a fox’s strong sense of smell, one can make use of ammonia odors to create stink barriers around their coops resulting in unpleasant smells for these animals hence avoiding it at all costs.
- Predator urine:Foxes view larger predators like coyotes or wolves as threats thus, strategically placing such predator urine around your coop will give a dominant predator impression that already inhabits there. This signal creates an illusionary danger that may deter the foxes.
- Commercial repellents: These products contain natural ingredients imbued with aromas harshly unwelcoming to not only ward off but also repudiate any wildlife from coming for your flock. Follow the instructions on the packaging and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget to replace the scent deterrents often, especially when it rains or is very windy. Doing this will help ensure that foxes aren’t able to smell their way towards your chickens. To make sure you’re always one step ahead of them, switch between different types of deterrents once in a while so they won’t become familiar with any specific smell. Keeping up with these preventive techniques combined with secure fencing and being vigilant can drastically lower the chances of foxes harming your poultry.
4 Animal Guards For Your Chickens
Besides building a strong fence and clearing all covers from your garden, you need animal guards too. However, you’ve to be careful about the type of animals you choose. Below are some animal guards.
If you’re looking for animal guards, roosters should top your list. Even though they aren’t big enough to fight animals like foxes, they’re always protective of the flock. Sometimes, they’d even risk their lives to fight the predator.
They’re also very alert and can easily alarm the whole neighborhood at the sight of a predator. But for more effectiveness, use roosters that are large-sized and protective enough to serve as animal guards. Such roosters include Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, Sumatra, etc. However, don’t be surprised when you lose the roosters in extreme cases of attacks.
Dogs are one of the best animal guards for your chickens as they’re fiercely loyal and protective. However, you have to train them to protect your chickens from puppies so that they won’t hurt them later.
Also, not all dog breeds are good as animal guards. Go for breeds like Tibetan Mastiff, Kangals, Pyrenean Mastiff, etc. Ensure you feed your dogs regularly so that they won’t turn on the chickens they’re meant to protect.
Guinea fowls are naturally territorial and will fight anything that tries to challenge their authority. They also make loud sounds that can warn other birds in cases of danger.
However, they can try to mate with your hens, which is dangerous as their parts aren’t compatible, or disturb your neighbors with their loud screeches. If you’re using guinea fowls as your animal guards, you’ve to watch them to ensure they don’t try to mate with your hens.
Another effective animal guard you can use is a donkey. Donkeys are big enough to fight any four-legged animals, including foxes, especially with their powerful kicks. They also bray loudly at the sight of any predator.
However, female donkeys are best suited as animal guards. But whether you use male or female donkeys, don’t pair them with a dog. Dogs and donkeys don’t relate well and might cause a distraction if you pair them together.
5 Other Predators You Should Keep Away From Your Chickens
Foxes aren’t the only chicken predators you should be on the lookout for. Other animals, like snakes, wild dogs, raccoons, hawks, etc., should be considered. Here are some chicken predators and how to protect your chickens from them.
Raccoons are one of the most popular chicken predators. They mainly hunt at night and can get into a killing frenzy like foxes. They’re likely to kill an entire flock even though they can’t eat all the chickens at once and eat their eggs in the nest.
Their killings are usually brutal, as chickens rarely survive it. Protect your chickens from raccoons by using coops and runs with strong latches and hard wire mesh.
In the twinkling of an eye, hawks would swoop down from the sky and grab one of the chicks with their beaks. Chickens that free-range a lot are at risk of being attacked by hawks. As such, you can protect your chickens by netting your backyard above and on the sides.
Also, you can provide some coverage, such as trees, bushes, etc., that your chickens can hide under or on when they see hawks coming. Read more about how to protect chickens from hawks.
Snakes don’t need much space to enter the coop and eat the eggs or chicks. Just a small hole beneath the fencing or in the mesh is enough for them to pass through. Block every hole in the run with an impenetrable material such as a big piece of cloth, cement, etc. Also, don’t situate your coop in a place where snakes are easily frequent. Clear all surrounding bushes around the pen too.
If wild dogs are in your neighborhood, you need to always look for them, as their hunting instincts will lead them to your chickens. Protect your chickens from them by securing the run and checking on your chickens regularly. If you are not available most of the time, you can deputize someone else to watch over your chickens.
The Great Horned Owl is especially notorious for attacking chickens. Owls are nocturnal, so they hunt at night. Ensure your chickens are locked in every night and only let out when there’s enough light in the day. Also, keep off birds of any kind from your garden by eliminating possible food and water sources.
Keeping foxes away from your chickens requires planning and taking action before the foxes attack. Even though foxes are more intelligent, you can outsmart them if you make the first moves. However, foxes aren’t the only predator you should keep away from your chickens. Other animals, like raccoons, snakes, wild dogs, etc., are formidable enemies too.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch.