Fending off Foxes: A Guide to Keeping Your Backyard Chickens Safe

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Learn how to protect your backyard chickens from fox attacks. Discover practical tips, advice, and best practices to keep your chickens safe and secure.

Seeing your free-range chickens happily pecking at the ground and chasing bugs is a truly special experience as a chicken keeper. Fending off predators can, unfortunately, come with this territory, and foxes are one of the most common animals threatening chicken coops and free-ranging chicken flocks.

In the ten years, I have kept chickens, I have had more run-ins with a hungry fox trying to help himself to my flock than I care to admit, and during that time, I have learned a few tips and tricks to help keep foxes away from your chickens.

To get you started in ensuring that your feathered friends stay safe, we’re here to provide you with some easy yet effective tips for keeping foxes away from chickens on your property!

The Sly Fox

Before we get into how to protect your flock let’s take a minute to get to know the enemy: the fox.

Foxes are clever, and they’ll strike when your guard is down. They’re smart, and they learn quickly. They will learn your daily schedule and take advantage of any opportunity to grab an easy meal. Once they’ve tasted chicken, they’ll be back, often daily, to pick off a bird until none are left.

Upstate New York is home to two main species of foxes: the red fox and the gray fox. Both are members of the canine family, and both are highly successful predators capable of killing healthy adult chickens.

The red fox is the most common and can be found in various habitats, including forests, farmland, and suburban areas. Red foxes are opportunistic hunters, preying on small mammals such as rabbits, rodents, birds, and insects. They are active both during the day and at night and are known to hunt in backyards which can lead to conflicts with backyard chicken flocks.

The gray fox is less common in Upstate New York and typically lives in wooded or hilly areas. They are also opportunistic hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. The gray fox is the only member of the dog family who will climb trees to search for prey, sleep, or escape from predators. They have strong, hooked claws that enable them to climb trees. They are also active both during the day and at night.

Both red and grey foxes may be attracted to backyard chicken flocks as a food source and may attack the birds if given the opportunity.

While foxes can be a chicken keepers worst nightmar, I would like to note that foxes are an important part of the ecosystem and their presence should be respected.

How To Tell if a Fox Is To Blame For Missing Chickens

Fox are known as stealthy hunters leaving little evidence behind. It may not be immediately obvious what is taking your chickens, but if you know what to look for, you may find evidence of what predator is to blame.

Our farm is surrounded by hay fields and protected woods, with a very large fox population. The fox pressure here is unreal. If I suddenly notice a missing chicken, it is almost always because of a fox but these are some ways I keep tabs on what is going on around my coop:

  1. Tracks: Foxes leave distinctive tracks that can be identified by their small size, pointed toes, and the presence of claws. If there is snow on the ground looking for tracks around the chicken coop and surrounding area can help confirm if you are dealing with a fox.
  2. Scat: Foxes leave small, tubular scats that may contain hair from small animals they have previously made a meal of. This scat can be found near the chicken coop or in areas where the fox is known to have passed through.
  3. Feathers at the site of the attack: Foxes typically make swift clean attacks. But fox attacks in backyards tend to be more hurried, and a little more frantic. I have noticed there are often feathers in the spot of the attack in my backyard, and they are typically from the chickens tail or back of the chicken.
  4. Bite marks: Foxes typically bite chickens with the intention of carrying them away to their den, leaving behind distinct bite marks on chickens that have survived an attack.
  5. Time of attack: Foxes are active both during the day and at night, with peak hunting times being dawn and dusk. They are most likely to attack chicken flocks and coops in backyards when food is scarce, but it will not take long for them to become habituated to hunting near residential areas and repeatedly return at all hours.

It is important to note that other animals, such as raccoons, opossums, and skunks, can also attack chickens, if you are dealing with repeated attacks on your flock, I highly recommend setting up some game or trail cameras to confirm what type of predator you are dealing with.

Once you have identified the culprit, steps can be taken to protect your flock from further attacks.

Fox tracks in mud with a quarter nearby for scale.
A close up view of a fox print, notice the claw marks. Foxes’ claws are always protruding from their paws.

Protecting Your Chicken Flock from Fox Attacks

Foxes are known to be one of the biggest predators of chickens and can cause significant stress on the flock and devastating losses for chicken keepers. Keeping your chickens safe requires proper planning and a proactive approach. Electric fences, guard dogs, and deterrents are some of the most effective methods for securing your chicken coop and preventing fox attacks. I’ll explore these different methods in detail and help you determine the best approach for keeping your chicken flock safe from foxes. I’ll also offer some advice for a fox that is repeatedly attacking chicken flock.

Protective Fencing

Protective fencing is the best precaution against fox attacks. It is one of the most effective ways to keep foxes out of your chicken coop and run. If you plan to go the route of traditional fencing, you’ll want to install a fence at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall with tight heavy-gauge wire mesh to prevent foxes from entering areas where your chickens roam. Foxes are excellent diggers, be sure to bury the fence 6 inches (15 centimeters) below the surface, or add an apron that is attached to the bottom of the fence and secured to the ground (see picture below) so that foxes won’t be able to dig under it. It’s not a bad idea to add an overhang angled 45-degrees away from the chickens also. This level of security is a big investment.

Electric fencing, like Electric Poultry Netting, is a great alternative to a traditional fence. Contrary to popular belief, it’s neither cruel nor dangerous for a fox (or your chickens) as it provides a short, sharp, harmless shock to the curious nose of the intruder, which will deter predators and keep your chickens where you want them.

Studies have shown that a single shock is all needed for it to act as a psychological barrier and that it is very unlikely that once shocked, a fox will try to dig under or jump over a fence, even if it can easily clear the top of it. Our solar-powered electric fence is the most effective way to protect poultry on our farm. A lot of things have changed since I priced out materials for traditional fencing, but when I did I found that a solar powered fence kit was a more cost effective option. I honestly can’t recommend them enough, they are the only reason I am able to continue with my chicken keeping hobby.

Clear Brush Around the Coop that Provide Hiding Spots For Fox

Fox are sneaky hunters they use the grass or cover to conceal their approach and get as close as possible to their target before launching an ambush. Foxes have excellent hearing and a sense of smell, and they use these abilities to detect the movement and scent of their prey. Once they are close enough, they use their speed and agility to chase down the prey and capture it. The tall grass or cover provides a tactical advantage for foxes, allowing them to ambush their prey without being seen and escape other predators.

To ensure foxes don’t target our yard and pasture, we are vigilant in mowing the grass regularly and keeping back brush to limit the covert spots they use when hunting. Hedgerows, tall grasses, and other vegetation provide the perfect coverage to stalk your flock unnoticed; thus, cutting these down is essential for protecting our flocks from potential danger.

Implement Predator Deterrents

Several gadgets are available to help keep your flock safe from predators. Deterrents act as a line of defense by scaring predators away with sound, light, and motion. Most of these deterrents will work for a short period, but a determined fox will likely figure out with deterrents aren’t actually a real threat to them.

  • Playing Music or Talk Radio-The sound of the radio can disrupt the fox’s normal hunting behavior and make it more difficult for them to approach the coop undetected. By leaving a radio on at night, playing talk or music at a low volume, foxes will be less likely to feel comfortable enough to attack the coop. This is because foxes are shy and cautious animals, and the sound of a human voice or music can be enough to make them retreat. It’s important to note that while using a radio can be effective in deterring foxes, it may not be a foolproof solution. It may be necessary to use other methods, and it’s recommended to change the station or volume of the radio from time to time to prevent the foxes from becoming habituated to the sound.
  • Scent Repellants – Male human urine can be used to deter foxes from the chicken coop. Foxes have a highly developed sense of smell and are instinctively wary of the scent of their predators. By urine as a repellant, you can create a scent marked territory around your chicken coop, causing the fox to avoid the area. I have never tried this method, but have heard others have decent success with it.
  • Motion-Activated Lights Motion activated lights can be an effective tool for deterring foxes from the chicken coop. When a fox approaches the coop, the motion sensor detects their movement and triggers the light to turn on, startling the fox and causing it to retreat. The sudden brightness and movement can be enough to make the fox feel uncomfortable and discourage it from approaching the coop again.
  • Scatter Human Hair Around the Coop and Run Scattering human hair around the chicken coop and run is a common method used to deter foxes. The idea behind this method is that foxes have a strong sense of smell and are repelled by the scent of human hair. By scattering the hair, you create a barrier that the fox will associate with human presence and avoid. The hair can be collected from hair brushes or hair salons and can be scattered around the perimeter of the coop and run, or placed in mesh bags and hung from the coop’s fence or trees. It’s important to replace the hair every few weeks as it loses its scent over time. This method, along with other deterrent can be an effective way to keep foxes away from your backyard chicken flock.

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Livestock guard dogs are bred and raised to be predator-savvy and are extremely territorial regarding their charges. Foxes are known for their strategic hunting methods, focusing on finding a safe location to kill their prey rather than immediately attacking it. They are also known for being cautious and avoiding other predators while hunting.

As I mentioned earlier, foxes don’t typically eat chickens at the site of the attack. Instead, they will carry the bird away to consume it elsewhere.

Due to this hunting method, if a fox attack on a chicken is interrupted, the chicken has a higher chance of survival than attacks from predators such as coyotes and dogs, who cause instant internal injuries from shaking and piercing and crushing wounds from bites. Foxes are known to be very cunning hunters, and in most cases, survivors are only seen when their attack is interrupted by other animals like dogs.

There are several breeds of livestock guard dogs that work well around chickens. Anatolian Shepherds and Great Pyrenees are some breeds that tend to do well with chickens. These dogs deter predators and physically defend the flock if necessary.

Buff Orpington Hen that was attacked by a fox. The attack was interrupted by our dog and the fox dropped her as it ran away. She has bite marks at the base of her tail and is missing large amounts of feathers. She was brought inside and treated with Vetricyn spray, a higher protein diet, and electrolytes in her drinking water. She made a full recovery.
Buff Orpington Hen that was attacked by a fox. The attack was interrupted by our dog and the fox dropped her as it ran away. She has bite marks at the base of her tail and is missing large amounts of feathers. She was brought inside and treated with Vetricyn spray, a higher protein diet, and electrolytes in her drinking water. She made a full recovery.

If you are getting a guardian dog, it is worth noting that foxes can carry distemper, parvo, and rabies, so it is important to ensure that your livestock guard dog is up to date on all its vaccines.

If you are getting a guardian dog, it is worth noting that foxes can carry distemper, parvo, and rabies, so it is important to ensure that your livestock guard dog is up to date on all its vaccines.

Call in a Nuisance Wildlife Professional

If a fox is already causing problems and has successfully infiltrated your coop, the best option is to call a nuisance wildlife professional for help, because the fox will be back. Professionals can use humane methods to remove it from your property and relocate it to an area that is hopefully far away from any other chicken flocks! Nuisance Wildlife will use live traps, usually foot traps.

A foot trap, also known as a foothold trap, is a type of trap that is used to capture wild animals such as foxes who are leery of entering a cage trap. The trap consists of a metal frame with a spring-loaded jaw that snaps shut when triggered. The traps are typically scent baited, and the trigger mechanism is activated by the fox stepping on a plate or pan, which releases the spring and closes the jaws around the animal’s foot. The trap is anchored to the ground, which prevents the animal from escaping. Foot traps are commonly used by fur trappers, wildlife control specialists, and hunters.

When we have issues, the removal of foxes is best left to the professionals. We work with Frogger Wildlife Consultants, a local, family-owned, operated wildlife removal service. Based outside Rochester, they have been serving the Rochester area and The Finger Lakes Region since 2005.

Take the Fox Yourself

When foxes become a nuisance in New York State, you can legally “take” the animal without a permit or special license. To be considered a nuisance, the fox must damage your property or threaten your safety.

“Take” or “taking” a nuisance animal means to pursue, shoot, hunt, kill, capture, trap, snare, or perform acts that disturb or worry wildlife. I consider this a last resort, but when a fox becomes emboldened and is relentlessly stalking our yard, even in broad daylight, it is in your best interest as a steward of your flock to remove this threat.

Keeping backyard chickens safe from foxes is a crucial aspect of raising chickens. By taking the necessary precautions such as fencing, coop security, and deterrents, you can ensure the safety and well-being of your feathered friends. Remember to also stay vigilant and educate yourself on the behavior and habits of foxes in your area.

I hope this post has been informative and useful in your chicken-keeping journey. Don’t forget to leave a comment below and share your tips and experiences on keeping chickens safe from foxes.

Protecting Your Chickens from Fox Predation FAQs

  • Build a secure chicken coop with a sturdy fence and roof.
  • Install an electric fence around the coop and run to keep foxes at bay.
  • Keep chickens in their coop at night when foxes are most active.
  • Remove any potential hiding places for foxes near the coop, such as piles of wood or dense vegetation.
  • Consider a livestock guardian dog.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your chickens and the surrounding area. Trail cameras are a great way to monitor for predators who have developed an interest in your flock.

Yes, there are humane ways to manage or remove foxes from an area. It is always best to seek the advice of a wildlife expert before attempting to manage foxes on your property to minimize the stress on the fox and ensure the proper handling and relocation.

Live trapping with a foot trap can be an effective method of capturing a fox, but they are incredibly intelligent and leery of traps and it may take patience and proper placement of the trap for this method to work.

If you suspect a fox has attacked your chickens, it is important to take immediate action to protect the remaining birds and prevent further attacks. If your chickens were free-ranging plan on keeping them in their run when you can’t be out in the yard with them.

If the fox was able to gain access into the coop, make repairs immediately, and consider investing in an electric poultry netting fence.

You can contact local  nuisance wildlife professional  or a pest control specialist for assistance, and make sure to properly dispose of any dead birds to prevent the spread of disease and attract other predators such as raccoons.

If you are dealing with an injured bird,  it is important to provide proper care to help it recover. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Clean the wounds: Clean the chicken’s wounds thoroughly with antiseptic solution or warm water to prevent infection.
  2. Provide first aid: If the wounds are deep, you may need to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. If necessary, you can use adhesive strips or sterile bandages to cover the wounds. You can find my favorite first aid product for chickens here
  3. Isolate the chicken: To prevent the spread of any diseases, it is best to isolate the injured chicken from the rest of your flock.
  4. Monitor the chicken’s condition: Observe the chicken for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or discharge. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary advice.
  5. Offer nourishment: Offer the chicken food and water to help it recover. You can also provide additional nutrients by offering scrambled eggs, yogurt, or other high-protein foods.
  6. Provide a safe and secure environment: Fox attacks can be traumatic for chickens, so it is important to provide a safe and secure environment for the injured chicken to recover in peace.

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