The fox has to be every poultry keeper’s number one enemy. Sadly, many people have lost their chickens or other poultry to a fox, and when it happens, it can be devastating.
Foxes are careful, meticulous hunters and there isn’t usually much evidence of a visit. If birds are out in a large run or field during the day, a small patch of feathers is often all you will find. They do of course need an entry and exit point, and if the area is fenced, this is usually a small hole under a gate or fence. There will often be no signs of entry if they have managed to get over the top of a fence. If a fox gets into a small run or chicken house and there are a number of birds in there, they can get into a killing ‘frenzy’ and will kill 30 or more birds, usually taking only one bird with them. Typically, they will bite the heads off of the birds. Sometimes, they will bury the bodies if there is enough loose soil.
Foxes are generally lone hunters, except when they first leave their mother when they often hunt as a pair or a trio. They are pack animals and will keep in touch with the other members of their family by barking. You can sometimes hear this at night. Although foxes are year-round predators the time's poultry are most at risk is when foxes are feeding their cubs in the spring. Another time is towards the end of the summer when the mother leaves the cubs to go and find their food for themselves. You are more likely to have a visit from a fox during the daytime when the cubs are learning to hunt and aren’t so wary of people. There is no difference between an urban and a country fox – they are both the same species; however, the fox has adapted to many different environments. Both urban and country foxes do not know how to hunt in each of the different environments in which they live.Example of one of our fox eradication jobs
At the client's request, we were called in to observe and manage a fox problem that had got to the stage where the foxes were now causing significant damage and a risk to health. We set up surveillance to gain an understanding of the foxes habits, feeding and movement regime.
Once we knew where the main activity and at what times the damage was being caused the fox problem was dealt with quickly and humanely.How to protect poultry from foxes
Without question, the culling of foxes that are habitually attacking livestock is one of the best and most effective solutions available. It is possible to virtually negate the threat from foxes in a relatively short time. Poultry fencing or an electric fence affords excellent protection, and a good fence should be at least 6 feet high if it’s not electrified and ideally have an outward sloping top to prevent the fox from climbing over into your chicken run.
Electric fences are becoming more popular and are quite good at keeping foxes out if they are working correctly. If the battery is flat, or the fence is shorted to ground via some overgrown vegetation touching the wires, then it is a pretty pointless exercise. Electric fences come in two varieties – electric poultry netting that has electric strands running through it and the electrified ‘wire’ that is placed in front of the existing fence to stop a fox digging under or climbing over the fence, often called a tri-wire. Locking up poultry at night seems to be obvious – and of course, it won’t stop visits during the late afternoon or early morning, but you are more likely to have a fox visit during the night. So lock up those birds every night without fail!
Humane fox traps are large cages that are baited. When the fox enters, it triggers the trap, closing the door behind him. Traps need to be placed on a run known to be frequented by the fox. Traps need to be camouflaged since foxes are very intelligent creatures. Traps must be inspected frequently, and of course, the big question is what to do with it if you succeed in capturing it. A trapped fox must not be released elsewhere they must be humanely dispatched. A suitable firearm is a usual method although the person (in the UK) must hold a valid firearms certificate.
It is against the law as well as being bad practice to trap and release foxes elsewhere. Firstly, foxes are territorial animals, and other foxes in the area will attack it; secondly, it will need to eat before too long and doesn’t know where to find food in its new environment. The fox may find somebody else’s chickens but will probably starve to death. Thirdly, the local farmer will probably have to go out and shoot it. Foxes, like dogs, learn from their environment as cubs. An urban fox has mastered different methods of scavenging and hunting to foxes in the countryside so it will be a very unpleasant or slow death for the animal.