Foxes are well known to be the top Chicken Predator
The legendary foxes are by far the top chicken predator and are easily identified by their long, pointed snouts, erect triangular ears, and a very long bushy tail. The males are called reynards and the females, vixens. There are a number of species of foxes to include desert, island and arctic foxes, and the silver domesticated fox. But the ones that bother our temperate climate hen houses most frequently are the red fox in much of the northern hemisphere and Australia, and the gray fox in the United States and northern South America.
The red fox is omnivorous. He eats many large insects like grasshoppers, also rodents, small birds, rabbits, fruits and berries. Surprisingly chicken is not first on the list. The bulk of a fox's diet is invertebrates. But like everybody else, he does like chicken. Because of a fox's contribution to keeping down the rodent population on a farm, it is possibly a good policy to come to some compromise.
The gray fox lives in the woods and is strictly nocturnal. Interestingly, the gray fox is the only type of fox capable of climbing trees. The red fox lives in a combination of woods and fields and is a bit more flexible on hunting times. If the hens free range during the day, then the fox will adapt. The red fox found in England tends to be a larger individual than those found in the US. Unlike other members of the dog family, foxes do not hunt in packs. They live in family groups and hunt solo. They also don't chase down chickens like other canines, but instead employ stealth followed by a pounce.
So if you have woods near you, or even a stand of trees, foxes can be a problem for your chickens. The first thing to insure is that your coop is sturdily built with no holes. A fox that gets into the coop will likely cause tremendous damage in the excitement of the fluttering birds.
An option for outside protection is a chicken tractor or some impressive
Chicken Wire Netting
to prevent a fox from climbing over, the fence needs to be at least 2m high. The bottom must be buried a few inches to prevent digging under.
Alternatively building a heavy duty Chicken Cage has become extremely popular protection for the backyard chicken keeper
It is a commonly reported experience with free-range chickens outside during the day that a fox at most takes a single bird, usually with minimal fuss. You may find a small pile of feathers to indicate something is amiss. If you choose not to fence your chickens in a
then you will probably lose 1-2 chickens per month. It is a tough balance between having free-ranging poultry and allowing foxes to help control the rodent population, which is also a problem on many farms.
Foxes are only one of the members of the Canidae family that can be a problem for backyard chickens. There are also wolves, coyotes and your neighbour's dog. Wolves and coyotes (native to North America) will show some reluctance in coming near civilization to hunt, but they will do it if necessary. They will also take any young livestock or pet cats. They hunt almost exclusively at night so a strong coop will protect the chickens. Keeping your own medium to large-sized dog on the property may help keep them at bay.
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