I’ve kept chickens for quite some time and living in a rural area means that the threat of the fox is pretty much something I have to live with.
I have a railway not too far from the property which provides a perfect “motorway” for them and on the opposite side is a large estate where game birds are reared. In between are various copses and fields with hedgerows and rabbits. Foxes are simply a fact of life.
I’ve had day time attacks from foxes. Sometimes they have struck when I’ve been away from the property. I’ve had other instances where a fox has been waiting for me to open the coop door in the morning and no sooner had I turned my back it ran out and grabbed the first thing it could. I’ve had foxes run through a flock of 20 free range birds, clear a fence and grab a bantam Orpington from the lawn where it was preening no more than 6 foot from where I was sat reading the paper.
Given the freedom I give most of my chickens it means these sorts of attacks I can do little about in the first instance. A fox that bold is either very hungry, fearless or inexperienced. Such encounters that involve the risk of close contact with humans are infrequent in a rural environment and not as regular as the urban situation. Note that I stated “I can do little about in the first instance”. A fox that attacks during the day will invariably return in the day again. Its predictability is frequently its downfall.
Night time however is a different story, foxes can and do wander around my place every night. I see evidence of their footprints (sometimes on top of coops!) and they are simply doing what is natural, they are looking for food, they can smell it’s there and so they are looking for a way in, just as I would try the door of the local fish and chip shop if I could smell the fried food inside.
It’s my job to make sure they don’t get a meal and so without fail I lock my birds away every night. Any fox visiting overnight will find nothing out and they will just have to rattle the doors of the chippy so to speak.
There is however one factor that has resulted in a fox killing birds overnight and that’s the weather. Some years back I had a very promising flock of Araucana. I had a down selected a suitable breeding group from the birds I’d hatched that year and brought them together in a pen in the December. It snowed. It started around 3pm and it was heavy. We had quite a job locking up at dusk, the snow was deep by that time and snowballs needed to be thrown. Come the morning there was a beautiful white covering of crisp snow…. spattered in blood and feathers. The Araucanas had not encountered snow before and unbeknownst to me they took shelter under the coop at 3pm. I didn’t check they had gone in when I dropped the door. My failing and the opportunity handed to the fox.
Yesterday morning I took this photograph. These are retired and random chickens that happily wander around freely in the field having their feed. It made me smile.
We had some rather stormy weather last night, the wind was gusting and it whipped the door open on the front of the coop during the night, this is a photo of the same birds 24hrs later once I’d found (most of) them
Which force of nature is to blame? The fox or the weather, or do I just accept that these things happen? It’s a tough one to answer sometimes.