Most poultry owners have been there at some point. You come down to your chicken coop in the morning to let them out for the day and discover that a fox has forced entry somehow and killed your animals. This can be very distressing to find, but it is important to learn lessons from it in order to prevent such a thing from happening again.
We have put together a quick and easy guide of things to be aware of when housing your poultry and security measures that you can take, in order to keep them safe and healthy whilst they are under your care.
Once you've decided on where your chicken coop and enclosure will be, walk the outside perimeter many times, in order to get an idea of where a fox may approach from and where they might gain entry.
Good fencing is a must, all the way around and with no holes that a slinky fox can fit through. This goes for underneath the fence also, as foxes are very skilled at burrowing holes for access. If you can, try to dig your wire at least 6 inches into the ground, giving a fox less scope to dig any kind of burrow. Try to make the fence at least 6 feet high too, taking away the option to climb or jump over the top. Electric fencing could be the answer for you, as a fox will often receive a shock only once, learn their lesson and move on. Most importantly, once your boundary is established, check it daily for any wear and tear, as well as for any holes that may have been started. In order for it to work as a deterrent it must be secure and well maintained.
Foxes have a reputation for being cunning for good reason! They are very bright creatures and will take their time in scoping out the area around your poultry enclosure and will take note of your routine for caring for your chickens.
Yours birds must be safely locked every evening without fail, but try to alter the times of this, as well as of any of your checks throughout the day. You could install an automatic door opener, perfect for setting up your chosen times of opening and closing the coop, a great idea if you are going to be late home for instance. Remember that foxes can hunt and feed during the day as well as at night, so don’t neglect any of your checks and always carry out a chicken count each time you visit. If a fox has figured out a way of learning your routine and gaining access, they will often pick off one chicken at a time with little evidence left behind, so that you may not immediately notice, until the day when the fox decides it's all or nothing.
Ensure that your hen house is fitted with sturdy doors that cannot be forced open, should a fox make it this far. These animals can be very strong, so don’t not leave any cracks or gaps that they can put pressure on in order to gain entry.
Keep any grass in the surrounding areas short and tidy. This takes away the foxes hiding place, where they would otherwise crouch and crawl commando style closer and closer to the enclosure to await their opportunity to enter. Dogs can offer a deterrent, as they can often smell the predator and with a swift bark can chase it away. Foxes have sensitive hearing, so a sonic repellent will work wonders in keeping them far away.
Motion sensor lights can also help in chasing away predators, scaring them off or alerting a dog or yourself to the potential danger that is facing your poultry. Do not use any kind of hazardous chemical to keep them at bay, as this can easily be ingested by other animals or children. A simple odour repellent is the perfect alternative, offering no danger, but discouraging certain animals from frequenting the area.
If you are aware of the risks and know how to combat them, there is no reason why your chickens should not live a long and happy life. Don’t become complacent with the care routine, always maintain your equipment and once your chickens are safely away at the end of the day, clear up any food remnants that may attract foxes to the area.