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Q: What do I need to know about foxes if I keep chickens?

A:

Name:
Fox
Vulpes spp.

Description:
*Many different species of reddish or greyish, dog-like mammals with long bushy tails
*Up to 3 feet long (excluding tails, which may add another 2 feet), and weighing up to 22 lbs average (record is 26.5 pounds)

Fox

Distribution/Habitat:
Various species are found throughout the world

Hunting Behavior:
Foxes will not appear in suburban settings as often as raccoons or opossums, but they are still a danger. They will normally stake out your coop beforehand so they know when to strike, grab a bird, and how to get away fast. If they get inside an enclosed coop or run, though, it's possible that many or all your chickens will be killed, usually with broken necks, and as many as possible will be carried away. Occasionally there will be only parts of birds missing if the fox can't get the whole bird out of the coop. Foxes may also get into your feed if it is not protected adequately.

When foxes are the predators of your chickens, you will find bunches of feathers pulled out and strewn about. Often you will find feathers outside the coop and run, along the fox's escape route, too. Injured survivors may have clumps of feathers missing near the neck (a close call!), wounded necks and occasionally wounds near the vent that they received as they fled.

Protecting Your Flock
To keep your flock safe, make sure any wire mesh on your coop is securely attached, because foxes can force themselves through areas that are not firmly attached. Foxes can jump very high fences, and dig beneath enclosures.

Don't use chicken wire for your coop or run: chicken wire is not a barrier to predators. Foxes and other predators can tear right through it like tissue paper. (Chicken wire should only be used to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out.) Instead, use hardware cloth.

Foxes can stick their faces through fence openings and pull parts of your chickens out, so be sure to provide a small mesh for best protection (1/2" or 1/4").