Two weeks ago, I heard a squabbling from the direction of the chicken coop as I took the garbage cans up the hill. The roosters must be having a fight, I thought. But the noise increased and a chicken scream carried out across the yard.
Into the house I ran, slippers off, muckboots on, and back out I scurried. Then I saw him.
A red fox was standing down behind the mud oven in the backyard. A hen’s neck and head were dangling from his mouth. We stared at one another for a moment.
“HEY!” I shouted. He dropped the head in the snow. “GET OUTTA HERE! THESE AREN’T YOUR CHICKENS!!!”
(This is obviously not my picture! 🙂 Here’s the original, used with permission.)
I ran full out after him and he bolted. Across the back yard we ran, to the edge where he scrambled down our gully and across the way. I threw sticks furiously across the divide between us. Safely on the other side, he paused to stare back at me.
“Don’t come back!” I added, throwing one more stick just for good measure.
The hen had been inside her run, but the fox was on the outside. He got her head through a gap in the fence, and you can imagine how that turned out with some pulling. I came down to clean up the mess and free the hen’s body from the fence.
Since I had never butchered a bird from start to finish before (though I helped some with turkeys in the past), I decided I should take the opportunity to practice.
My husband had to be at work, so I set the kids up with a cartoon on Prime while I plucked the hen. Then, I invited them to come play downstairs nearby while I processed her near the sink in our basement. My middle daughter is always fascinated by the butchering process, and came to watch for a bit.
It wasn’t a perfect job, but I learned a lot from practicing on that hen. I couldn’t help singing while I worked:
The fox went out on a chilly night,
he prayed to the Moon to give him light,
for he’d many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,
he had many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o.
Of course, I probably sounded more like Old Mother Flipper-Flopper:
Old Mother Flipper-Flopper jumped out of bed;
out of the window she cocked her head,
Crying, “John, John! The grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o!”
Crying, “John, John, the grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o!”
That fox didn’t give up. It came around twice more- once shortly after dropping its meal in the snow, and once a few nights later with an eerie bark in the night. We kept chasing it away wildly, asserting our dominance and such, I suppose. My husband also graced our yard with a little territory marking.
Since then, we haven’t seen him come back. I imagine that asserting our dominance multiple times and a little scent-marking helped to chase him away.
But still, I can’t help but wonder if that fox is still on the town-o.
A few lessons learned out foxes from this experience:
- They’re hungry in the winter.
- Once they find out you have food, they’re fairly persistent and hard to get rid of.
- A chicken run doesn’t mean much to a fox, and they can wipe out your flock quickly if given the chance.
- They have the most eerie nighttime cries I have ever heard.
And a few tips for getting rid of a persistent fox that I learned from my homesteading friends:
- If you’ve got a man in the house, have him urinate around the perimeter of your yard and around the coop, quite literally to “mark your territory.”
- Assert dominance. Yell. Wave. Be big. Chase the fox. Tell him in fox talk that this is you right place and not his.
- Some humane societies will lend a free trap for catching and relocating a fox. Call yours to find out if this is a possibility.
Note: Shooting the fox was not a possibility for us. If you intend to kill a fox, make sure it is legal where you live and that you have all proper licences needed.
Have you ever had to ward off a fox? What tips would you share?
I too have trouble with a fox. They sure are sneaky fellows. I have only lost one chicken thus far as we put an electric fence around the top of our run. I see the fox once in a while sneaking around in the woods but, cross your fingers this is all he does. Chickens are so unaware of him, they get spooked by the silliest things, a cat, dog, tree limb falling, but don’t seem to notice mister sneaky fox. They don’t call him sly for nothing. Good luck with keeping your fox away!
We have had fox troubles, too. And that bark in the night when he comes back….I asked my husband, “What the heck is he doing? Does he want us to know he’s back after our girls? ??”
I did chase him off a few times. Interesting idea to mark our territory. We’ll have to try it!
So far we’ve caught him with one chicken, and have had two more disappear. Of course two of the three were my “fancy” hens. 🙁