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?