Have you ever heard the call of a fox at night? It can be bone-chilling. It’s a little more disturbing when these calls come from right outside your window! What exactly attracts foxes to your yard, and how can you stop it?
Garbage cans, compost, left-out dog or cat food, chickens, and rodents all attract foxes to your yard. Foxes are also attracted to shelter such as the space under your porch or shed and seek out any water sources within your yard. Removing or limiting these attractants can keep foxes away for good.
Below, we’ll go over everything that attracts foxes to your yard and how you can fix these problems. Don’t worry, you’ll be rid of your fox issues in no time!
Unsecured Garbage Will Attract Foxes
Garbage that is either unsecured or can be easily tipped over is like a big blinking sign to wildlife saying ‘free food here!’
Foxes are omnivores and somewhat opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat what’s available and what is easy to find.
According to the University of Michigan, foxes have an excellent sense of smell. They will use their keen sense of smell to sniff out garbage that hasn’t been secured.
If the lid is off, the bag is slightly torn or not tied correctly, or if another critter has already spilled it, foxes will pick up on the scent and come running from all directions.
A study published in the European Journal of Ecology done in western Poland took a look at the garbage intake of a few different animals: raccoon dog, red fox, marten, polecat, stoat, American mink, and Eurasian otter. They found that of all those animals, the red fox (along with the polecat) had the highest rate of consumption of garbage.
As you can imagine, unsecured garbage is a huge fox attractant! The good news is that this is an easy fix.
How To Fix It
Depending on your specific situation, there are a few ways you can fix unsecured garbage to make sure foxes stay away from your yard.
- Store cans inside until garbage day: If you have the space in your garage or a shed, you can store your garbage cans indoors until garbage day arrives (here’s where foxes go during the day for a better idea of when they’ll come out.) This is the BEST option.
- Use a garbage can lid lock: If you don’t have space to put your cans inside, you can use a lid lock such as the Doggy Dare Trash Can Lock. This product fits on 45-gallon cans and will fit both square and circular-shaped cans. The best part? No tools required!
- Use scented trash bags: Mint is a powerful smell that many animals can’t stand the scent or taste of. Using a mint-scented trash bag like Mint-X MintFlex Rodent Repellent Trash Bag will help keep the rodents away from your trash cans.
- Put your garbage near motion-sensor lights: As a last resort, you can place your garbage cans where a motion sensor light will flick on if a fox comes near. Foxes will eventually get accustomed to the light and will keep returning, but combined with other deterrent methods listed above, it can be a useful tool.
Foxes Are Attracted To Ponds and Streams In Your Yard
It’s no surprise that foxes are always on the lookout for the three necessities: food, water, and shelter.
If you have a pond or a stream that runs through your yard, you’re far more likely to attract foxes, along with a host of other critters.
Ponds are especially attractive to foxes because it provides them not only with a source of water but also a source of food. Turtles and waterfowl that lay eggs near your pond will attract foxes.
According to the Adirondack Ecological Center, foxes primarily occupy a variety of habitats, including woodland and forest edges.
If your pond or stream is located near an edging like this, it’s even more likely to attract foxes because they can dart in, grab a drink, and dart back into the cover of the forest.
How To Fix It
Fixing a water source on your property isn’t as easy as securing your garbage cans. But, you still have a few options to make your pond and stream less attractive to foxes.
First, make sure the grass around your pond or stream is mowed. Tall grass, bushes, and bushy trees are all going to provide foxes with cover while they are grabbing a drink. Keeping the space around it trimmed is a great way to deter foxes from your water source.
Now, we realize this isn’t always possible. Many homeowners have landscaping and ornamental trees around their ponds and don’t want to chop them down just because of some fox intruders.
We totally get it.
In this situation, you may be better off using a scent deterrent or scare tactic to keep foxes away from your water source.
The Havahart Critter Ridder is a motion-activated sprinkler that is designed to scare away animals using a harmless stream of water. It has multiple settings so that you can adjust it to your specific situation.
Foxes Are Attracted To Compost
Compost bins are a wonderful way of recycling food materials and using them to fertilize your garden or flowerbed.
One downside to composting is the possibility of attracting foxes to your yard because of the smell. After all, compost is just decomposing food. And any food source in your yard is going to attract foxes.
But decomposing food isn’t the only reason foxes are attracted to compost. Some folks use nitrogen sources to speed up the decomposition process in their compost bins. One of the most popular products is blood meal.
Blood meal is just powdered blood, and because foxes eat meat, the scent of blood will attract them to the source – aka your compost bin!
How To Fix It
If you have a compost bin in your yard, there are a few things you can do to make sure foxes stay away from it and your yard.
- Avoid blood meal: Nitrogen sources like blood meal are used to speed up the decomposing process. Instead, Iowa State University suggests using natural nitrogen sources like grass clippings or other green materials to help speed up the process.
- Use a secure compost bin: Some compost bins are open at the top or have an easily removable lid. If you already have an unsecured compost bin, consider placing something over the top to make it more secure. Get creative! Use wood pallets, bricks, plywood, whatever will get the job done.
- Avoid anything with oil: There’s a saying with composting: ‘if there’s oil it will spoil.’ Avoid any food items that contain oil or grease, including meat and fish.
- Avoid putting bones in your compost pile: bones contain marrow, which is where blood cells are produced. The scent will attract foxes.
Cat And Dog Food Will Attract Foxes To Your Yard
Foxes aren’t very picky when it comes to the type of food they eat. This diversity has allowed their populations to expand despite us encroaching on their space.
Dog and cat food left outside overnight is a fast way to attract foxes to your yard. They will be able to sniff out the food and will use the cover of darkness to grab a few mouthfuls. (You can learn more about what time foxes come out at night here.)
Once a fox has established a food source, they are likely to keep returning, especially if that food source is easy to access such as a food dish set out on the porch.
How To Fix It
Luckily, this type of issue is easy to fix, even easier than securing your garbage cans! It’s as simple as changing your routine.
Instead of feeding your dogs or cats outdoors, consider feeding them inside the house. This is the best option for this particular issue.
But we get it, some pets like livestock guardians are strictly outdoor pets. Or, if you feed the local stray cats, you can’t bring them inside to feed them. If feeding your pets indoors isn’t an option, then consider feeding them in the garage or in an outbuilding where the door can be secured at night.
If you don’t have an outbuilding or garage to feed your pets, then make sure to pick up the food after your pet is finished eating.
And remember, water bowls are a source of water that will attract foxes! Empty any outdoor water dishes before going to bed and simply fill them back up the next day.
Your Shed Could Be Attracting Foxes To Your Yard
Who would have thought that a storage shed could be bringing foxes to your yard? But it’s true! And it doesn’t have to be a shed, it could be your porch, a pool deck, or any outbuilding that has space beneath it.
Foxes use the space beneath sheds, porches, and other buildings to rear their pups in the spring. Depending on what region you live in, this can happen anytime from March through May. However, the actual breeding season starts much earlier.
Once a fox has moved in under your shed or porch, they’ll likely return year after year. Most foxes are monogamous and will use the same den, which they share with the male if they are mated for life.
You may not notice when a fox moves in under your shed until the pups are born. Foxes are nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), so they are typically not seen by us humans because we’re asleep when foxes are most active.
How To Fix It
Similar to having water sources on your property, you can’t just tear down your shed or porch because you have a fox problem.
But there are easy ways that you can keep foxes out of the spaces under your outbuildings and porches without having to physically remove them.
The best way to deter foxes from denning under your porch or shed is to close off the space underneath it. You can accomplish this in a few different ways:
- Board up the space: You can use plywood, extra siding, or even scrap pieces of wood you have to physically seal the area under your shed. This option may not look the best, but it will get the job done.
- Use hardware cloth: A better option is to use hardware cloth to completely seal up the area under your shed or porch. Lan Jia’s Galvanized Hardware Cloth contains ½-inch holes and comes in a 2’ x 50’ roll. You also have the 100’ option if 50’ will not cover the area.
- Use scent deterrents: You can try to use scent deterrents to keep foxes away from your shed and porch. However, just be aware that these types of scents will have to be reapplied often to be effective.
- Plant unfriendly plants: You can try to build a natural barrier around your shed by planting non-fox-friendly plants. Things like mint and onion have a strong scent that can deter foxes. You can also plant brambles that will act as a physical barrier.
If you decide to go with the hardware cloth option, make sure you bury the cloth at least 6 inches into the ground, as foxes have no problem burrowing under things to get around them.
Foxes Are Attracted To Gardens
When you think of the critters that invade your garden, you may be thinking of deer, rabbits, ants, and slugs. But you can throw foxes on that list as well!
Surprisingly, foxes aren’t invading your garden for vegetables or fruit. Foxes may eat berries on occasion, but they’re not big on garden vegetables. The reason is much, much weirder.
Foxes are attracted to gardens for one main reason: worms! Yep, foxes LOVE searching for earthworms.
An article in the Journal of Animal Psychology studied this behavior and found that there are a few factors affecting success rates such as weather and soil conditions. The softer the earth, the higher the success rate for getting a worm.
So, a few key points to takeaway here. Gardens are typically tilled, meaning there is nothing but bare soil between garden plants. This makes it easier for foxes to snag earthworms that come to the surface after a rainstorm.
When it rains, water enters the ground and fills underground worm burrows. As a result, earthworms will push to the surface where they can obtain oxygen. As they move to the surface, foxes go on the prowl for an easy-to-grab dinner from the surface of your garden soil.
How To Fix It
When it comes to keeping foxes out of your garden, you have a few options. Some are more effective than others, but also more expensive, so you can choose the option that fits your situation and budget!
Some of the ways to keep foxes out of your garden include:
- Building a garden fence
- Use scare tactics
- Use deterrents
The first and best option is to build a fence around your garden. According to the University of Maryland, foxes can jump up to 6 feet high. They will also burrow underneath fences if they are desperate to get inside (or out).
You can use stakes and plastic netting or mesh to construct a suitable fence. Whichever material you decide to use, be sure to bury it at least 6 inches into the soil (12 inches is better), and shape the last 4 inches outward into an ‘L’ shape.
To further discourage foxes, you can hang disposable pie pans or soup cans with pennies in them that will make noise in the wind.
Fences will help deter not only foxes but other destructive animals like deer and rabbits as well. The only downside to building a fence is that it is the most expensive option.
Your second option would be to use some of the scare tactics we already mentioned like a motion-sensor light or a motion-activated sprinkler.
A motion-activated sprinkler may be your best bet in a garden because you will already have the garden located within a short distance of your garden hose, making it easy to hook up a sprinkler.
Another scare tactic for foxes would be to hang up streamers or pinwheels – anything that moves in the wind. Foxes are naturally curious, but they are also timid around novel items.
The third and final option is to use deterrents. This may be the weakest approach to keeping foxes out of your garden, but it can be effective if used correctly.
Scent deterrents such as mint, capsaicin (hot sauce), and even the scent of humans can sometimes be enough to keep curious foxes out of your garden. Be sure to reapply the scent often for it to remain effective.
Although they may seem somewhat weak, using scents can be effective. In fact, there is a long history of using smells that foxes can’t stand as repellent.
Your Dog’s Toys Can Attract Foxes To Your Yard
Most of us have seen those adorable videos where foxes are caught on camera playing with dog toys that are left outside overnight.
Foxes are part of the same family as dogs: Canidae. But it can be hard to believe that Fido’s chew bone could attract a fox to your yard.
A study in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science took a look at fox’s responses to a few different oral enrichment objects. They were given the choice between a cow femur bone, rawhide bone, pulling device (rope), straw, and a plastic cube.
The top three toys that the foxes played with were the femur bone, rawhide, and the pulling device.
The study confirms that foxes are similar to dogs in their need for oral enrichment (chew toys) and that they enjoy playing with them.
But dog toys aren’t the only item that can attract foxes to your yard. Left out toys, shoes, and gardening tools will also attract foxes, especially pups. Pups like to play with chew toys, shoes, and other left-out items more so than adults, but the adults are likely nearby.
How To Fix It
This one is probably the easiest to fix.
Take a few minutes each evening to make sure your yard is free of dog toys, shoes, garden tools, and other dropped items.
Foxes are naturally curious and they will inspect anything new in their territory. Fox territories are surprisingly small, encompassing just 3 to 7 square miles according to the University of Michigan.
If a fox continually runs through your yard and finds something to chew on, play with, or practice chasing, it’s likely to keep coming back.
Now, if you actually spot a fox, you can read our step-by-step on what to do if you see a fox in your yard.
Chickens Will Attract Foxes To Your Yard
This is a tale as old as time. Foxes getting into hen houses has been a problem for farmers for centuries.
Unfortunately, foxes are known for being cunning animals and can use the most unique path to get inside a chicken pen.
If you have chickens on your property, it’s very likely going to attract foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and many other predators. But even if you have free-range chickens, there are ways to fix the problem to keep foxes out of your yard.
How To Fix It
Whether your chickens are free-range or simply cage-free, you have a few options to keep your chickens safe AND to deter foxes from coming around again.
- Build a fox-proof chicken coop: Chicken coops should be enclosed on all sides and on the top to prevent climbing animals from getting inside. Fencing should consist of strong galvanized metal and be buried in the ground for at least 6 inches.
Building a good chicken coop may not seem like a way to keep foxes out of your yard. Won’t they just keep coming back because of the chickens?
Foxes are opportunistic predators and will keep coming back to sites where they are rewarded with food. If they are never rewarded with food (your chickens), then they will not keep coming back.
- Consider a guardian dog: studies like the one in the Journal of Animal Production Science have confirmed that guardian dogs can protect chickens from foxes. This option is a great choice for farmers and homeowners who have free-range chickens.
- Place a radio near your chicken pen: Yes, a radio can actually deter foxes! When you have the channel set to a conversation station, it can increase the chance that a fox thinks humans are nearby and thus, will make them more hesitant to approach the area.
You can read more about how to keep your chickens safe from foxes here.
Foxes Are Attracted To Yards With A High Rodent Population
Foxes aren’t picky when it comes to their food. They’ll eat berries and seeds as readily as mice and rabbits.
If something in your yard is attracting mice, moles, rabbits, and other prey animals of foxes, you’re going to attract foxes to your yard.
As we mentioned before, if foxes are running through their territory and are rewarded with food, they’re going to keep coming back.
How To Fix It
You don’t exactly need to call an exterminator to get rid of the mice and moles in your yard. There are a few things you can do yourself before calling a professional.
- Clean up all food sources: This means following many of the same steps we outlined for foxes. Seal your compost, pick up dog and cat food, and secure your garbage cans. One other thing is to keep birdseed cleaned up from the ground, as this will attract rodents.
- Keep your lawn mowed: tall grass and untrimmed bushes will attract rodents to your yard, which will attract foxes.
- Keep your yard clean: Keep woodpiles stacked neatly, clean or burn brush piles, and stack any unused building materials neatly. These are all easy hiding places for rodents. You may also be mindful about some of the sounds and noises that foxes make so that you can properly identify a fox nearby as well.
The fewer rodents in your yard, the fewer foxes! The biggest takeaway here is to eliminate food sources and hiding places for rodents.
Wrapping Things Up!
Foxes are cunning creatures that have learned to live alongside humans despite us encroaching on their territory. If you’ve seen a fox in your yard, there are a few possible reasons why it’s there and why it keeps coming back.
For a quick recap –
The 9 things that attract foxes to your yard include:
- Unsecured garbage
- Water sources – stream or pond
- Open Compos
- Dog/cat food left out at night
- Shelter – porches/sheds/decks
- Gardens – earthworms
- Dog toys
- Presence of rodents
Foxes are generally timid around people and do not cause problems. However, that doesn’t mean we want them up close and personal in our yards.
Luckily, there are easy ways to fix the attractants in your yard to keep foxes out and deter them from coming back.
But if you can’t seem to keep foxes out of your yard, you can always use our nationwide pest control finder to get in contact with a wildlife professional near you!
Jankowiak, L., Malecha, A. W., & Krawcyzk, A. J. (2016, June 01). Garbage in the diet of carnivores in an agricultural area. European Journal of Ecology, 2(1).
Macdonald, D. W. (1980). The Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, as a Predator upon Earthworms, Lumbricus terrestris. Journal of Animal Psychology, 52(2), 171-200.
Macdonald, D. W., & Baker, S. E. (2004). Non-lethal control of fox predation: the potential of generalized aversion. Animal Welfare, 13, 77-85.
Roddick, S., Kreplins, T. L., Kobryn, H. T., & Fleming, P. A. (2022, April 26). Livestock guardian dog protection of free-range poultry from the red fox. Animal Production Science. https://www.publish.csiro.au/an/AN21229
West, B. C., Messmer, T. A., & Bachman, D. C. (2007, Spring). Using predator exclosures to protect ground nests from red fox. Human-Wildlife Conflicts, 1(1), 24-26.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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