Predator vs the Poultry Keeper

Nope, it’s not another spin off horror movie or a new video game, it’s a sad truth faced by many poultry keepers…chicken predation, and particularly during the winter months. Many folks ask me for advice on how to deal with various forms of predation but by far the most common is the fox. To lose one bird is sickening, to lose your entire flock to a fox attack is soul destroying, and has in my experience led to some people giving up their poultry keeping rather than continue to struggle with persistent predation.

Whether your birds are pets, or a functional part of your food supply, to find them slaughtered en masse from a fox attack is not a something you’d wish on anyone who keeps birds. More often than not you will find carcasses strewn across the garden with bits missing (the fox can be a picky feeder when food is a plenty) and in other cases you’ll simply find a mass of feathers. Either way it can be distressing.

Equally whether you live in a rural or urban environment, these cunning and effective predators can turn up at anytime and pick off a bird, or wipe out your flock in a frenzy of surplus killing.

 

I’ve seen many ways of mitigating the risk of a fox attack, everything from fencing techniques, to mannequins carrying movement sensitive lighting. In most cases these additional measures can avoid a clash between the predator and poultry keeper, but on occasions the boundary is crossed, and co-existence is compromised. Pragmatism in these situations is called for, and whilst the current legislation does provide for lethal and non-lethal management techniques these are not that easily executed by the backyard poultry keeper.

This information pamphlet from Natural England does however offer some excellent insight and guidance on how to best manage your stock but also what can and cannot be done in terms of management of the problem.

Poultry keepers over the centuries have always had to struggle with a level of predation, particularly if you elect to totally free range your stock.but by deploying clever management techniques to protect your stock it is possible to minimise their risk of encounter with predators such as the fox, and by the same measure reduce the need for you to have to manage the predator.

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6 thoughts on “Predator vs the Poultry Keeper

  1. ..I worry about this all the time..but still have not done anything about it..and still have not had trouble..2 years now with not a predator in sight..but some nights I can hear coyote calls so I might just be pushing my luck!

  2. as an edge-of-city poultry keeper the big risk is fox and badger at night, and the kind folk who try to lock up the birds if I’m out but don’t quite manage it correctly. After losing the last lot I’m giving up till I move to smallholding in the countryside where the risks will be quite different but I will be doing it all myself. (BTW I think foxes eat ‘hung’ meat and therefore kill to take away and bury for the future… or is that hopelessly romantic?)

    • The rural environment does present its own challenges too yes. The lack of disturbance can mean an increased daytime presence from hunting foxes. There is some truth in that foxes will remove and ‘stash’ carcasses but in my experience there is certainly two types of scenario. Free rangers can be picked off one at a time when a fox needs to eat, but if the fox gets into a pen of birds the stimulus is too great and the ‘kill switch’ remains on until the stimulus subsides. This is when you get the surplus kill situation which some people, I consider inaccurately, anthropomorphise into the fox doing it for ‘fun’ or ‘pleasure’

  3. My three beautiful and young bantams have been taken by a fox last night… It was my first attempt at keeping these lovely birds, I now feel angry at both myself for allowing this to happen, and angry at the fox for being so greedy. I live in s small village with chicken keepers all around us, we are not the first to have this happen.
    I am not sure if I can go through this again, keeping chickens is a wonderful thing to do, however finding the chicken coup empty in the morning is simply awful. I had built up a relationship with the girls, they each had their own personalities, I will miss them…

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