Foxes are a formidable foe. They are cunning, smart, and incredibly persistent. Once they know there are chickens in your coop, they will not rest until they find a way to get in there and cause mayhem. And if your coop has ever been attacked by a fox, you will know that it really is mayhem.
Foxes are mostly nocturnal, which means that they are more likely to strike at night. This is especially true because it is when there is less noise and fewer distractions, giving the fox the chance to work out a way to get into the coop.
However, with that said, foxes can and do kill during the day, too, so even when the sun is up, your coop is not necessarily free from danger.
Below are seven steps that you should take to help minimize the chance of losing any of your chickens to local foxes, but the most important tip is to always be on your guard.
1. Install Secure Fencing
The single most effective way of stopping a fox from getting in amongst your flock is to erect a secure fence. The fence needs to be 6 feet high and should slope outwards. This slope prevents the fox from being able to climb in, while the height means that even the most determined foxes will be prevented from getting on top.
No matter how tall the fence, you have to consider the surroundings. If there is a shorter fence, wall, or an item like a water butt right next to the fence, a fox will use this as a step to get up. If possible, ensure that your coop is away from such crutches. If it is next to other items, ensure that they do not present a simple way for a determined and athletic fox to clamber up and on top of your chicken house.
It is also worth remembering that foxes can chew through some fences, and they can sneak through gaps. Foxes can also dig, so you should bury the base of the fence at least half a foot down to prevent predators from getting in this way.
- Related: Do Foxes Attack and Eat Rabbits?
2. Check for Holes and Other Breaches
Check around the fence to look for areas of weakness, because this is exactly what your foxy visitor will do.
Check the corners and areas where the fence connects to the posts. Look for gaps. Even if a gap is currently too small for a fox to get through, if it can get its nose through, it will continue to pry the gap larger and larger.
This is especially true if your coop has suffered an unwanted guest already. The fox must have found a way in, and you will need to identify this entrance and plug it quickly and effectively. Look for holes under the fence, holes in the roof of the coop, and gaps in the walls.
Although chicken wire is the obvious choice for a chicken coop fence, consider a hard mesh instead if you are unsure or if you have already had a breach.
3. Conduct Regular Maintenance
Coops and fences should not be set and left. They require regular maintenance, whether this is in the repair of damage or the shoring up of walls and other segments. If any area starts to corrode or erode, a fox might spot this as an opportunity and start to gnaw or otherwise breakthrough. Double up the fencing around this area, replace that section, or look for ways to repair the mesh.
For wooden sections of the coop, treat it with proper wood treatment. If the wood starts to break away when it gets wet, this presents a good entry point for would-be attackers. Check how often the treatment needs applying and stick to this schedule.
Set aside time every month, at least, to properly check the coop and the fence. By setting up a regular schedule, you will spot any potential problems before they become a major concern. By performing this check every month, at the same time, means that you should not be in any doubt as to whether you have checked the structure or not.
4. Lock Your Chickens Up
No matter how much your chickens enjoy free-ranging at night, if it leaves them in danger of being caught and killed by foxes, you should lock them up in their coop until morning. You can ensure that they have a generous size coop with plenty of comfort and lots of space, but locking them inside is the safest way to ensure a good night’s sleep and prevent one of your flock from going missing.
5. Install Lighting
Foxes can be deterred by noise and by lighting. Put up a security light that will go off when it detects movement, or use some other method of lighting the area, but remember that if you do have close neighbors they probably won’t appreciate flashing lights in the middle of the night either.
If you do install lighting, try to ensure that it does not shine at the neighbor’s property, and also make sure that it doesn’t keep going off through the night and alarming the chickens. If your chickens get stressed and don’t get decent sleep, they can become depressed, stop laying, and may suffer illness.
6. Get A Dog
Dogs are a great deterrent. Foxes can smell them, so even the presence of a dog may be enough to prevent these wily hunters from visiting your property. The dog doesn’t necessarily need to be out guarding its flock, and it doesn’t even need to be a skilled guard dog. The scent alone should be enough to deter all but the hungriest predators.
Another option is a llama. They are highly skilled livestock guardians and have a reputation for being especially effective at chasing foxes away. Also, they look great and will prove a real attention grabber with the kids.
7. Prepare for an Attack
Complacency is your greatest enemy in any battle with foxes. Just because a fox has not visited your coop yet, does not mean that one will not visit you. What’s more, a single fox can cause untold devastation in a single night, so it only takes you letting your guard down for the briefest of moments and you could lose your entire flock.
Speak to other chicken-owning neighbors to determine the level of the threat but always assume that there are foxes nearby and that they will visit your garden at some point.
Keep Foxes Out of Your Chicken Coop
Foxes are skilled adversaries and can cause devastation amongst a flock of chickens in a very short space of time. They can also find their way through the smallest gap, and even create their own gap if the conditions are right. Install lighting, where practical, and consider getting a dog or even a llama to help ward off this unwanted predator from your home coop. Ensure the coop is in good condition and free from damage, your fence is well maintained, and that you lock your flock up every night, no matter what.
Featured Image Credit: Ruibento, Shutterstock