Living With Foxes
A sobering fact for chicken keepers – a recent survey confirmed that commercial free-range egg producers could lose up to 1000 birds to foxes in a laying cycle, that is – birds between 16 and 72 weeks of age. The average loss of hens across the UK is about 2%, but as most garden chicken keepers will tell you, there are numerous occasions when a fox will either take an entire flock of back yard hens, or pick out the very best birds of the flock in what looks like a blood-thirsty orgy of killing.
In reality, this is not the case because, despite the popular misconception that foxes kill for pleasure, they often have difficulty in finding enough food and if the opportunity arises they will take additional food to store. Spare hens will be buried in the same way that a dog buries a bone, and don’t be surprised when your neighbour with the well tilled garden, comes across a carefully buried hen in amongst the potatoes!
Don’t Be Complacent
Some people are lucky, and go for several years without a fox attack, whereas others may lose a new flock within weeks of arrival. He will not only watch the hens, but he will have you in his sight too, and will soon get to know your routine, when the car leaves, how long the dog is out for, and so on. He is a great opportunist, and very patient too. He may watch you shutting the hens up at night, for months on end, before the evening when you are delayed for half an hour, by a phone call, or a visitor, only to find that he’s seized the opportunity to cause carnage in the hen house. April and May are the most dangerous months, when hungry vixens are on the prowl, but no time is really safe.