Home » Keeping Animals

Fox In The Henhouse!

10 May 2011 10 Comments

Some rather sad news today, I’m afraid. A fox got into our chicken run early this morning, digging under the fence and chewing through the buried wire that was supposed to stop invaders.

Fox In A Chicken Yard, oil painting by Jean-Baptiste Huet 1766 – photo by Mary Harrsch

From the looks of the chicken pen this morning, Barney the Barnevelder rooster and Sir Francis the muscovy drake put up a pretty good fight and drove the fox off. Unfortunately Barney is gone, as are the three half-grown pullets. Sir Francis was injured, but I think he’ll pull through.

Luckily, the rest of the chickens escaped unharmed (although a little traumatised).

It looks like my weekend project is going to be fortifying the chicken run some more. I have a friend with a fox trap, too, which I’ll try to borrow and see if we can’t even up the score. I’m thinking I might even run the electric fence I bought for the pigs around the chicken pen as further discouragement to inquisitive predators.

It’s disheartening and frustrating, but unfortunately that’s life on the homestead. There are predators around, and we have to find a balance between giving our animals some freedom to roam, and protecting them from danger. In this case, the protection wasn’t enough and I need to upgrade it.

Do you have any good ways you protect your chicken run from dogs and foxes? Any tips on how to catch the fox?

Build your own chicken coop.

10 Comments »

  • Frogdancer said:

    How awful for you. (And the chickens.)

    My mother’s Cavalier was staying with us last year and he killed two of my chickens. It was horrible. My gerls are now in a fortified chook run that they stay in all day whenever he comes to stay.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Frogdancer: I hate it when you do someone a favour and something like that happens! They feel bad, you feel bad – it’s just crappy. Oh, and thanks for including your blog link – I just checked it out and added it to my RSS reader. Your sons’ experience with America was almost exactly the same as mine, although I went 20 years ago :-).

  • Jason said:

    Hey Darren. When the fox hit our chickens I felt like I had been burgled. Not a nice feeling. We are pretty lax about not locking the chooks into the house these days, but the yard is reasonably fortified and our soil contains heaps of clay (thus it is hard for a fox to dig through. However it is worth noting a few of our security points:

    • The chook house when locked up, is pretty much predator proof. Perhaps a python could get in, but it would really have to be trying.

    • Around the chook house I dug into the deco and buried chain-link fence about 30 cm. I would have gone deeper, but into was into deco and there is no way a fox could dig through that stuff (its hard enough with a mattock).

    • Along the part of the chicken run which is outside of the main house area, I have put chicken wire over top of the dog wire and left the top of it unattached (thus it would flop over if something tried to climb it).

    • I allow grasses to grow quite tall around the fence area as their roots help secure the soil.

    • Finally our neighbours dog patrols their yard which the chook run is next to.

    Given the way that the fox got into your yard, I would recommend the burying chain-link fence around the chook enclosure as a minimum. Roofing iron can work as well, but chain-link should last longer under the ground. I have got all of mine from the local transfer station.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jason: Yep, that’s the feeling. We also lost a couple of chicks to a hawk last week. I don’t know what to do about that without just leaving them all locked up all the time, but that’s not a great option. I’m thinking there might be a dog in our future :-).

    I have some chain-link fence leftovers, so great idea there. It’s a lot stronger than chicken wire and should last a long time. I’ll also check out the garbage tip recycling shop for more, as I want to build a few new pens for isolating chickens for breeding. I’ve planted raspberries (yours, in fact!) along one side of the chicken run, hoping the prickles will keep curious animals away. I’m waiting for them to grow so I can propagate them for the rest of the fence. Good idea about grasses too. Thanks!

  • Linda Woodrow said:

    I so feel for you. When we moved here it was an overworked cattle property with very little wildlife, and protecting and nurturing the wildlife populations back to health was one of my goals.

    After nearly 30 years, we have succeeded a bit too well. Last year after a python got my last chook, for the first time in my adult life I gave up on trying to keep chooks safe from predators while I rethought the system. I can’t bear keeping chooks in a bare, fortified run. While goannas and wedge-tailed eagles can get them in the daytime, they are most vulnerable to our main predators – foxes, wild dogs, pythons, powerful owls, quolls – at night.

    This is the new system. It works by using the permaculture principle to look for all the yields or characteristics of a species – chooks can fly, higher in a single bound than foxes can leap or snakes can rear. I have fairly canny, flighty bantam chooks, and rotate them around my netted garden beds, so they always have greens and new ground to pick over for insects etc (and they fertilize and clear at the same time.) They have a roost that they can fly up to but a fox or snake can’t climb. It’s worked so far. Fingers crossed.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Linda: Thanks for the link – that definitely looks like a great roost! Mine won’t go inside their lockable coop at night – they stay outside in the trees that are inside their run. Even in the rain, they won’t go inside!

    I had always wanted to make a chook dome like those in your book, but our land slopes and is uneven so I didn’t think they’d work too well. I also need to fence and net the gardens to keep out rabbits and bower birds, making domes a little hard to manage. I’ll be going through your past posts to read about your fortifications!

  • Mrs Cackle said:

    Just a word of warning regarding fox numbers. Do not think there is just one lone fox. Foxes live in family groups. Up our way at the moment they are breeding or have pups and are very hungry. It’s been a wet winter so far on the NSW coast and this means that small native creatures are holed up in dry places (like my roof space!)and last year rabbits were targeted for control = less rabbits makes my chooks more attractive Studies of fox numbers estimate that for every one fox that you see there are 3 other per square kilometre! Think of the math on that, in a 2 km radius from your house there could be 50 foxes. It is estimated that in Victoria alone there could be 2.5 million foxes, and densities increase close to towns as food is more available. Remember foxes are excellent scavengers at sites like the local tip.

    The fox holes cause erosion in streambanks, they carry a virus that can cause cattle to abort, they are usually alive with 2 types of mange that is transferable to dogs and VERY difficult to treat. They are a very vicious feral predetor that needs to be controlled.

    I have had no end of trouble this year – lost 23 young pullets to 3 foxes working in a pack one afternoon – we saw them in the paddock. Managed to shoot only one. If they don’t break in to the pen they just continually circle, stressing the birds till they stick their heads out thro the wire – headless pullets in the morning – or the birds freak out so much that they suffocate one or two in an attempt to hide. After several other events of losing ones and twos we managed to shoot 5 foxes in one night and a neighbour shot 2, however we are still being harassed and kept awake by the dogs going berko chasing them through the night.

    Controlling foxes that destroy native wildlife (just think no-one provides a cage to protect them) and occasionally enjoy takeaway diversions of chicken is a whole of neighbourhood problem. Control programs must involve your neighbours and the wider community. Contact your local RLPB for info on baiting programs that they have running at the moment. If they don’t have one, pressure them to start one up. Like most environmental issues a multifaceted approach is needed.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Mrs Cackle: A very good point about foxes not just running solo. I expect there were a few involved, as 4 chickens were taken – I don’t think one fox could have carried them all. And a good point about this being a neighbourhood problem. My rear neighbour lost some lambs to foxes earlier this year.

    In the short term, I’ll need to beef up the pen and borrow that fox trap. In the medium term, I think a dog is in order. I’ll contact RLPB and see if they’re doing anything locally. Maybe they wait until a few people report problems in an area before acting, so at least I can add my “incident” to their database.

    Thanks for all your info.

  • Podcast Interview With Gavin From “The Greening of Gavin” said:

    […] My article about our recent fox attack. […]

  • Chicken Massacre said:

    […] They dug underneath the gate to gain access, despite the fact that I’d laid chicken wire under it to prevent digging. They simply tore through the chicken wire, just like they did a few weeks ago when we lost four chooks. […]