It’s devastating when you go to see your beloved chickens only to find their dead carcasses spread around. Foxes, beautiful creatures though they are, can be very determined predators. On several occasions, I have lost my entire free-range flock to foxes and not because I didn’t shut them away at night, but because the foxes came on the rampage in the middle of the day. So just how do you keep foxes away from chickens?
What You'll Learn Today
- How Do You Keep Foxes From Killing Chickens?
- What Smell Do Foxes Hate?
- What Animals Protect Chickens From Foxes?
- Will a Fox Keep Coming Back for Chickens?
- How to Catch a Fox That is Eating My Chickens?
How Do You Keep Foxes From Killing Chickens?
If you ever read the Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr. Fox or seen the movie made from the book, then you can be assured that the cunning and scheming depicted by that fox really isn’t far from the truth with the real deal.
They are very determined predators who learn quickly and don’t give up easily. This means that you need to be just as clever as they are when defending your flock.
The first line of defense is, well, defense! Ensure that your chicken coop and run are impenetrable. To achieve this, there are a few things you’ll need to remember foxes can do:
- Fit through much smaller gaps than you may expect
Foxes dig dens to keep themselves and their family protected from the elements. A fox den is typically 8 feet deep and can be pretty immense. Thinking that a fox won’t dig its way under a fence to get at your chickens is a mistake.
The best way to avoid the problem is to bury strong, rustproof wire or plastic coated fence wire at least one and a half feet below the level of your fence or to bury it a few inches below the soil but spread it out away from the fence by about 3 to 4 feet. This will avoid a fox trying to dig its way in overnight. It is still safest to check around your fence line every day.
Jumping and Climbing
Keeping in mind that foxes, although more closely related to dogs, have a lot of cat-like features. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that they are incredibly agile and can jump three feet or more easily scaling a fence of at least six feet plus.
What this means is that your chicken run really needs a roof. This can be provided by using strong chicken wire or similar.
Only using chicken wire at ground level may not be enough to stop a determined fox though. They have very strong teeth that can chew through wire, particularly as it weakens with age. A stronger type of fencing is needed for at least the first three feet.
One excellent way to protect your chickens from foxes is by setting up electric fencing as an additional element around your run. You can do this even if you are nowhere near an electrical supply by using a solar-powered electric fence unit.
Remembering that foxes can easily jump three feet, I’ve found it most effective to put three strands of wire around the outside of my runs rather than just one. The first is at a high of 10 inches, the second 8 inches above that, and the third another 8 inches above that.
For the wire to have any effect, some part of the animal must be in contact with the ground or be touching something that is conductive and in contact with the ground. This is why birds can sit on high-power electricity cables with no ill effect.
The electric wire must be held away from anything that will earth it using a non-conductive material. Special holders that you run the wire through called isolators will also be available from the retailer you buy your electrification unit from.
Never wire an electric fence directly to the mains. This could obviously prove fatal to anyone or anything that touches it. Mains-powered units can be purchased that you plug in, and these downgrade the power strength produced to a non-lethal but still very uncomfortable level.
One thing that is often overlooked with electric fencing is the earthing. The way these fences work is that the live wire is connected to the fence, then the earth wire is connected to the power unit, NOT the fence.
The earth wire should then be attached to non-corrosive, metal earthing rods which go into the ground. The more earthing rods and the deeper into the ground they go, the more effective your fence will be. They will need to be daisy-chained together with an earth wire.
During long periods of sunny weather, when the soil dries out, the earthing rods become less effective. To help improve this, you can water the ground around them.
In this video, you will see how an eclectic fence system works so you can better understand how it should be set up:
A fox can fit through a gap that is only 4 inches square. If a fox finds a small gap that it can fit just its nose through, then, it will often try to make the hole bigger by pushing or chewing around it. This is why eliminating even small gaps is important.
A fox’s sharp teeth can chew through materials like wood and chicken wire, so make sure you really secure the lower two to three feet of your run with something that will withstand them.
One thing that often causes holes at the bottom of your chicken run is using devices such as weed whackers that destroy the wire. You can prevent this by fitting a kickboard at the bottom of your fence.
What Smell Do Foxes Hate?
So you’ve fox proofed your run and chicken house but are there any other deterrents that may help put off a hungry fox?
Like dogs and cats, foxes have an incredible sense of smell, and there are aromas that they take a definite dislike to. Luckily, we can use this to our advantage.
The smells foxes hate include:
- White vinegar
You can make up solutions of these things and pour them around your coop. It’s also possible to buy ready-made fox deterrent sprays. The problem is the same with whichever one you choose, the smell soon wears off, or it will be diluted and washed away by rain meaning regular re-application is needed.
It isn’t just strong smells that foxes hate. You can also try some other tactics to keep them away too.
Motion-activated lights, water sprays, and sound can all be good deterrents, and by using a mixture of all of them is likely to have the best effect.
Lights that are activated by movement aren’t exactly new, but you can now get ones that work from solar power and use bright LED lamps, so you don’t need to be close to a power source.
There are also water spray units that are tripped with movement. They work best if connected to mains pressure to give a strong and sudden shower of water.
You can also have loud sounds that blast out for a few seconds that work in a similar way.
Ultrasonics have been popular for keeping noisy dogs from barking for quite a while, but they also seem to work on foxes. Devices created to keep animals away may work and can be powered from batteries or from being plugged into an electrical outlet.
As great as they may sound, there are inevitably downsides to these electronic wonders. If you have close neighbors having lights that keep flashing on or loud sounds which keep blasting out could make them really annoyed.
Ultrasonics are OK if you don’t have pets, but your beloved animals might not take too kindly to having such a horrid noise in their yard.
In water shortage areas, water jets aren’t really a great idea, so you’ll need to choose your weapons carefully!
What Animals Protect Chickens From Foxes?
Would it surprise you to learn that Donkeys are known to kill foxes? Wow, that’s great, you may be thinking, I’d love a Donkey.
But hold up just one minute there. As wonderful as this may sound, those seemingly gentle donkeys are also a bit notorious for chasing, biting, and kicking other things too, which could include your dog, cat, goat, chicken, and even you or your kids.
Hmm, maybe they aren’t the solution after all… So, what animals do protect chickens from foxes?
Dogs have long been heralded as “man’s best friend,” and for a good reason. Dogs will often guard their owners while also providing great loyalty and companionship.
If you’re looking for a dog that will actively guard and protect your chickens, then you need to take a few things into account first:
- The type of dog
- The nature of the animal
- Age when introduced to chickens
- The trainability of the dog
There are definitely some breeds of dogs that are better for protecting your hens than others. You need an animal that is alert, athletic, big enough to take down a fox, easy to train, and won’t decide to make a snack of your birds itself.
For this reason, terriers are a really, really bad idea. Dogs that are used for herding sheep are a better choice, but keep in mind that this type of dog is very active and highly intelligent.
They require a lot of daily exercise and stimulation to stop them from getting bored and potentially becoming destructive.
That takes us onto the next item, the nature of the dog. You need one that is level-headed and not overly excitable and enjoys pleasing you.
Almost all puppies are excitable, and although a puppy isn’t suitable for taking care of your flock, he will be the perfect age to introduce to your chickens. If your pup is used to chickens running around from an early age, then it is far less likely to attack them.
Some types of dogs are hands down, easier to train than others. As I already indicated, terriers are the worst, and obviously, your typical lapdog won’t have the inclination, stamina, or often the size to take on a fox.
That said, a lap dog is very capable of killing your chickens. I had a very unfortunate experience of this when our Bichon Frise thought she was oh so clever to have killed all of my young pullets when I let them out to free-range for the very first time.
Labradors, retrievers, sheepdogs, and even spaniels or other gun dogs tend to be better choices.
Llamas / Alpacas
Perhaps surprisingly, Llamas, which are part of the Camel family, are known to be exceptionally good fox deterrents.
A llama will sound an alarm when seeing a fox, chase it down, and even kill it if they get close enough.
It is noted that they work best in pairs and two llamas can patrol a large acreage effectively.
They have very protective temperaments and will also get rid of coyotes and other predators. They are often used to protect sheep and their lambs during lambing season.
If you have a lot of chickens running free-range, then a couple of llamas could be a good investment as they will live for around 20 years and eat much the same diet as sheep, mainly grass with perhaps a little hard feed over winter.
Alpacas are closely related to llamas. They are smaller and have more wool around their heads. They will also attack foxes, but they are not as efficient as llamas.
The only real downside to keeping a couple of llamas is that they can be a bit expensive, starting at around $2,000 for a young female. They will also chase anything else they believe to be a predator, including dogs and cats.
Will a Fox Keep Coming Back for Chickens?
Once a fox has discovered you have chickens, especially if they were lucky enough to bag one for supper, then yes, they will keep coming back frequently.
This can be a huge problem if you keep free-range poultry, as often this is just too irresistible to a fox.
The fox is undoubtedly a clever animal, it will work things out and shy away from danger. It is that element we can utilize against them.
A fox likes certain conditions. These include:
- Good food sources
- Somewhere with access to water for drinking
- Places where there is plenty of cover to hide
- As little sound as possible because they rely on their hearing to listen for danger
- The cover of darkness
You can also use the things they don’t like to discourage them from coming onto your property. These include:
- Bright and flashing lights
- Loud noises
- Sudden movement
- Water sprays
- Ultrasonic sounds of a particular frequency
This means that to keep them away, you need to:
- Remove their easy access to food (your chickens) if at all possible.
- Clean up the area where the chickens live, so there are fewer places for a fox to hide.
- Leave a radio on in the chicken coop during the day to help prevent daytime attacks.
- At night use lights and or water sprayers that are tripped by movement sensors.
- There is a wide range of ultrasonic devices designed to deter foxes. They often run off batteries, so you can place them in areas where there is no electricity. These again work from movement and last a long time. Still, don’t forget to check the batteries regularly.
How to Catch a Fox That is Eating My Chickens?
Because wild foxes can be quite vicious and may carry a variety of diseases, including rabies, I don’t advise or encourage you to capture them yourself. If you want to get a fox trapped and taken away, then calling in an expert would be the best solution.
If you do decide to capture a nuisance fox, then you’ll need to use extreme caution. You also need to consider how you will dispose of the animal once you’ve trapped it.
First, you’re going to need a trap, and fox traps are usually long rectangular box-style ones with a door at each end.
The way the trap works is by luring the fox inside with bait. As the fox enters, he steps on a pedal that triggers the trap’s spring closure mechanism shutting the fox securely inside.
Traps like these can usually be purchased online, and you will need one of a medium to large size for a fox. They can also be found at hunting goods stores where you may also be able to rent them.
Once you’ve got your trap, next, you’ll need some bait. You want something that is going to have an inviting aroma for a fox. Fishy-smelling things seem to work well, so using wet cat food that is fish-flavored will give you a good chance.
Other bait options include meat or fish as well as other types of wet cat food. It’s really all about how good it smells to the fox, so a bait with a strong, appealing aroma tends to work best.
Before using your trap, you’ll first have to choose a good location for it. If you have night cameras that are tripped on by motion, then place the trap where you most often see the foxes on camera.
If you’re less high-tech, then simply use common sense. Remember foxes like somewhere quiet that feels safe and has plenty of cover for them to hide. They definitely don’t like being out in the open.
Once you’ve found your ideal spot, place your trap, trying not to get too much of your scent on it. Leave the doors open, and don’t arm it. Cover it with branches or something that makes it less intimidating, making sure the doors are free from obstacles.
Leaving the trap in the same place for a few days will give the fox time to get used to it and not see it as something dangerous.
Baiting the Trap
Because foxes are clever creatures, they need to be convinced that the trap is not a threat. Rather than just putting the bait straight into the trap, use a three-step approach.
On the first night, leave some bait outside of the trap about two to three feet away and see if it has been eaten in the morning. If it has, move the bait just inside the trap but leave the trap unarmed.
If the bait has been eaten again, you’re ready to set the bait inside the trap behind the pedal and arm it.
If the bait you’re laying down is not being eaten, you can try a couple of things. Firstly, you need to completely remove your scent from the trap by using boiling water and pouring it over the trap. Secondly, get some fox urine from your local hunting store and sprinkle it around the trap to encourage the fox to investigate more.
If you still have no luck, then perhaps the trap is in the wrong location, so try placing it somewhere else.
When you do catch something, don’t be too surprised if it isn’t the fox but instead a hungry raccoon, possum, skunk, rat, or another animal, including your cat.
Some people advocate placing a snap trap inside, but this is a really bad idea for a variety of reasons. It may not be a fox that goes into that trap. It could be your cat or a curious child. Also, they are very, very cruel devices and cause great suffering.
Check your trap daily and change the bait every couple of days, or flies will start laying eggs in it.
Got the Fox! But Now What?
If you do capture a fox in the trap, you must handle it with extreme caution. Wear thick protective gloves and keep yourself away from the trap as you don’t want the fox to bite or scratch you.
Don’t purposefully upset the animal by poking at it or shaking the cage. Remember, they are potential disease carriers and can transmit rabies.
The best way of getting rid of the animal is by calling animal control services or the ASPCA, who will take the fox away and dispatch it humanely. Trying to do this yourself could result in you or the fox becoming seriously injured.
Even if you do capture one fox, the chances are that there are more, so you may not have resolved your problem.
Always wash yourself and the trap very thoroughly. Even if you didn’t touch the fox at all, you should clean yourself and your clothing.
Scrub the trap in hot water combined with a good detergent and ensure all of the surfaces are completely clean. Rise it and allow it to air dry, or use a clean, dry rag.
Foxes make quite difficult adversaries. They are cunning, efficient, killing machines with an acute sense of hearing, sight, and smell.
Getting rid of foxes can be more complicated than you think, as they soon adapt to changes and figure out what is and is not a real danger to them.
I hope the information given here helps protect your chickens from the jaws of a hungry fox. To read more of our articles, please browse the areas of interest to you on our website.