Protecting your hens against Foxes
Every day 'think fox' and fence your chickens well
You walk up the garden. There's an unusual quietness and stillness as you approach the chicken shed. You don't see the normal site of chickens standing outside the gate waiting for their breakfast.
The closer you get, the more obvious it becomes, feathers forming a trail into the overgrowth and surrounding hedge. You open the door and the draught lift's feathers into the air like the after effects of a cushion fight of old.
One or two, or three, or four chickens sit nervously on their perches making a nervous whimper of a sound.
The eye's roll downward and you see carcases everywhere, no blood, just fully bodied birds left as they were killed.
Then you head count, maybe six carcases but only two missing, usually then noticing the one's who had their own little personality which you got to like so much. You look around to find out where they got in. Sometimes a tiny gap, sometimes you're left with no idea atall.
Finally, the guilt hits you. You built it, you brought them, you protected them.
The fox is without a doubt a beautiful creature and I for one do not like fox hunting as a sport. But I do feel the farmer / smallholder / garden farmer has the right to protect his or her property from predators, even if this means shooting them.
The larger farm is another matter and I do not purport to knowing enough about large farm life to put forward any thought's or idea's. It seems the best way forward for the Garden Farmer is in protection.
For two years the fox only attacked us twice. The chickens were then left to wander completely free range up and down the lane and I guess that when fox came, they could escape more easily.
By fencing them in (new neighbours have a free range retriever dog !), I was 100% keeping the chickens in but not 100% at keeping things out. For the chickens there was no hiding place.
In 2003 I started with seven chickens and by September had 11. But between times I had lost a total of 20 birds in about four 'hits'.
I made a good job of securing entry to the shed and surrounding cage. The last 4 visits by the fox were in the daytime and although fairly well fenced in, he still got in and treated the place like a fast food restaurant.
Finally I resorted to a 32' x 24' fencing of corrugated iron shets and jagged wiring around the top, a height of about 5' 6". Around the bottom I have put heavy planks of wood 8" wide and an assortant of other things to stop him digging underneath.
Since doing this, they have got in twice. Once as per photograph and the second time by climbing a tree and jumping in. The silly so and so badly injured itself doing so. I couldn't get the RSPCA quick enough and had to kill it myself, something which haunts me to this day.
When at home through the winter (and the dog isn't here), I'll let them out for an hour before sunset to enable them to have a run round the garden and do some weeding for me.
Here are some 'tips' I've picked up from TV or other sites / forums etc............
Make the entrance to a shed with sharp zig zags which only a chicken can manouver around. Bare in mind the length of a fox and fix angles of 180 degrees that a fox can't contort his body to.
Hang human hair around the pen at six feet intervals. They don't like the smell apparently. Use ladies tight's or fine netting.
Urinate at regular intervals around the pen. This is you marking your territory. (Watch the stinging nettles - I found this out to my cost !!!)
Walk around the pen a few times every night, again leaving your smell.
How can I get in ?, how can I get out ?, Look for all possiblities.
Get a dog and keep it in a kennel outside (although something I wouldn't do).
A good guideline is 'if a squirrel could get in, so could a fox'