When Do Foxes Hunt Chickens? Keeping Your Chickens Safe

Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, playing with a hen in front of white background

Foxes can be very tricky pests to have around the house. Not only can they be destructive to livestock such as chickens, but they are also often cunning and sly, making them hard to catch and stop.

In general, foxes tend to hunt prey such as chickens in the early morning or late night. You can keep foxes away from your chickens by installing mesh wire fencing thats 6-10 feet high, 3 feet deep, with a top slope of 2 feet. This prevents foxes from being able to climb and scale the fence.

If you are interested in when foxes will be hunting your chickens, and how to stop them from doing so, read on to learn more!

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Why Should You Keep Foxes Away?

We think that keeping your chickens safe from these foxy, clever predators is enough, there are many other reasons to keep them off the property altogether. 

The bad news is, once the fox is done marauding your chicken coop without prevention they’ll confidently explore your smorgasbord of treats! 

The first problem is livestock loss. The livestock can include your pets and barn animals.

 Below are other issues foxes can cause:

  • Foxes Go Through Your Compost Heap: The compost heap is a big attractor to a fox. Oh boy! If you have meat byproducts and dairy in there, they’ve hit the jackpot. However, even if it’s just vegetation, remember they’re omnivores. They’ll eat virtually anything.
  • Foxes Dig Up Your Plants: The aforementioned point brings us to plant life. They start digging and you’ve got a property full of holes with a salad of sliced, diced, and peeled plant remnants. 
  • Foxes Eat Your Fruit: After feasting on the main delights, a dessert of fruits, nuts, and berries could be on the horizon. If you’ve tended a bounty of fruits and veg; and the engraved invitation isn’t necessary. The fox is already there at the table awaiting your arrival.

Understanding What Time Foxes Hunt Chickens

Close up of a Red fox on a wooden fence

Once the fox has a bead on its prey it’ll begin to stalk the area. Remember that they are cunning and prefer the nighttime. 

There’s a caveat though. If the fox has a family to feed or they haven’t eaten well in a while, they’ll come out at any time. 

So, are there any ways to prevent these cunning animals from raiding the hen pen? Yes, there are. We can’t guarantee success every time. At all. But, we can advise you to do what’s worked for others. 

To understand the fox you have to accept that they’re very adaptable and well-trained wild animals. You see, foxes have found quite a treat with humans around. They’ve adapted to finding the easy food we leave behind for them. 

They love it when we raise their favorite meals, package them in little cages and keep them laying eggs as a side dish. At least this is the way the fox would see the situation. 

Think about it, when the fox can return to the same place, where the food can’t run far if at all, it will be determined. When you become the fox and gain its perspective, you can plan a bit better. 

You must have a strong deterrent to stop a fox from ravaging easy prey. When your chickens are penned in one place–that’s a wrap! Unless they feel their life is threatened or the yield isn’t worth their effort; they’ll be back.

The first thing you should take notice of is your area. Is it full of easy-to-get morsels for foxes? Are foxes rare in your area, but you’re suddenly seeing them? 

Find out why the fox is there and if your neighborhood has that issue, even if the closest people are a mile or two away, ask them anyway. 

Finding out what the actual attraction is will start painting a picture as to why this is happening. 

Foxes, as with most wild animals, are opportunistic. They won’t pass up on a ready-made buffet. That’s where your creativity comes in. 

The key is to do this in several small steps so you don’t waste money or resources. Staking out the “enemy”  and learning the strategy of your particular fox is the first suggested move. 

Today, technology gives us the upper hand. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Wireless security cameras with a surveillance app would help to catch a bead on the culprit. One great example is the All-New Blink Outdoor Camera Surveillance Mount. With this, you’ll get the chance to observe its behavior and the time of day it likes to hunt your chickens. 

Your fox is special. They have a strategy for your chickens on your land–unlike anyone else. This is where you have to strategize and keep your eye on them.

Another thing to know is the mother fox will hunt with her pups and then in August, the pup leaves the mother to begin the hunt on their own. 

If you have a family of foxes nearby, you have two or three different sizes and a variety of experiences to deal with. Tag teams are always better than one. 

How To Keep Your Chickens Safe From Foxes

close up on chicken in side coop in back yard

If you opted in for the security cameras, you’re one step ahead of the fox. You can view the app and see what, how, and when they hunt your chickens.

You may see exactly the way it all goes down so you can now plan where the weakness is. Where do they enter the area from? What do they attack first? Do they dig or jump or what? 

We want you to be aware of the whole strategy because this saves time and money in construction and possible deconstruction of costly equipment. For instance, why get a new lock on the fence if they’re chewing through the chicken wire or digging under it? 

Once you’ve got the crafty fox figured out you can take the proper steps. Next, we’ll suggest some generic things you can do. Choose the one that reflects your discovery. 

Install Mesh Wired Fence To Keep Foxes Away From Chickens

Nobody said the foxes weren’t lazy. They’re motivated and take the path of least resistance. It’s a survival instinct and makes them very efficient. 

Inspect your structure for weaknesses. Chicken wire is the most economical and commonly used for chickens. However, it won’t do for protection. 

We suggest not using chicken wire for any of your livestock. It’s just too malleable. Think of it this way: if you can bend it, they can bite it. 

Hardwire mesh such as this Tenax Hardware Mesh, is the most effective against the fox. But there’s more to know. 

Installing hardwire mesh fencing is a start, but if the rest of the structure is left open to the fox, it’ll be a waste. 

Here’s our suggestion. The fencing should be 6-10 feet high. The top should have a slope of 1-2 feet so that the fox can’t climb over it. Digging the hole in the bottom of the fence will also prevent foxes from digging. 

So, you’ve covered every angle so far. No digging—climbing— breaking in through weak fencing. Now, let’s look at the lock

Don’t use latches. We tend to design things with people in mind. Meaning, why would an animal use the latch. They would. And a fox is clever enough to figure out how any mechanism works.

Most foxes tend to think in ways such as:

  • Can I easily open this?
  • How does it work?
  • If I open it, will it lead me directly to my dinner?
  • Is it worth continuing to try? 

They can answer all their curious questions in minutes. If you make the lock hard for them, they’ll try something else. If everything else is secured too tightly too, they eventually leave. 

Understand that survival and the expenditure of energy are much like the term, “Time is Money” to humans. They could be killed or injured if they stay distracted too long.

Maintain Your Fencing To Prevent Fox Attacks

A chink in your armor spells doom for your chickens. A thorough daily inspection is warranted. If the coop is brand new you might be able to leave it for a month, maybe two, but your livelihood is at stake here.

One wrong move and you’ve lost life, money, or your food security. Regardless of what you use your livestock for, it’s a painful loss. 

Once the fox can create a weakness in the fencing, they’ll be back time and again. If they succeed once, they feel confident in future successes. 

To prevent this from happening create an inspection point system for yourself that won’t take long. If you have a large enough farm, allow a trusted farm hand to do it for you. 

Get a clipboard and write or print out a list and check it off each day. It’s the same as inspection of a rental car when you bring it back to the lot. 

Repair any damage you see immediately. Don’t ever rig something unprofessionally. That spells trouble because it’s likely not secure enough to ward off a fox. 

Same principle as before. When they succeed once, they’re back. You gotta set an example of firm boundaries. 

You want the fox community talking smack about you back at the den-like you have Fort Knox at your farm!

Use Moving Lights To Deter Foxes

This one is a bit weak but can work. If you can’t afford much else right now and you have an ongoing issue, lights may work. 

Specifically, flashing lights. The issue with this is twofold. First, if you have neighbors, they may not take kindly to big flashing lights in their windows. Second, foxes are smart. They’ll figure it out if the lights are in the same place. 

There are two ways around this, but one is a bit expensive and the other time-consuming. 

You could move the lights around. Find some portable clip-on lights that are motion-sensitive. 

Secondly, you could have the lights set on timers so that one or two of them flash in different areas in rotation. It can be done but could turn out to be a feat in engineering. 

Start Raising Llamas To Keep Foxes Away From Chickens

Yeah, you read exactly what you thought you read–llamas. They’re adorable and fun, but foxes hate them due to their smell. 

So, why not a dog? Aren’t dogs a bit easier to raise and to come by? Less expensive too? Yes, yes, and yes. However, if a fox is really hungry, the dog won’t be a deterrent.

If they aren’t that bothered about your property, they won’t come near once they smell the presence of a dog. 

Foxe’s sense of smell is a great lead to our next topic of using scents to repel foxes.

Use Scents That Foxes Hate

Cute Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, fall forest. Beautiful animal in the nature habitat. Orange fox, detail portrait, Czech. Wildlife scene from the wild nature. Red fox running in orange autumn leaves.

Foxes have a strong sense of smell. They hate surprises of any kind. We know they also hate flashing lights, abrupt movements, and loud noises. This study published in Hands-On Chemical Ecology pp 59-61 on capsaicin helps with all mammals.

Here’s a news flash: they hate strong scents too and that’s what we’re gonna give them!

Some common scents that foxes hate include:

  • Chili Pepper 
  • Capsaicin 
  • Garlic

Just these three ingredients are enough. They’re cheaply acquired and made. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water that you’ve boiled the chili pepper in and vegetable oil for 25% then, capsaicin oil and garlic. Shake it up and start spraying the entire area around your coop. 

If it rains, replenish it. Make it part of your point inspection system. Put that in your belt and spray! Just not in the chicken feed or inside where their little chicken feet are exposed. 

You’re trying to repel foxes and not give your chickens a hot foot despite how funny the chicken dance would be to watch. 

One great example for a pre-made scent repellent is this Mad Dog Midnight Special Pepper Extract.

Foxes Hate The Scent Of Humans!

Another scent is humans which are impossible to replicate although we have an interesting experiment to suggest. Let us know if it worked. Hang some of your old work clothes that you’ve sweat in.  

They’ll smell the pheromones of a human and may just stay away. There’s no guarantee, but if they hate the human smell, that would do the trick.You can also use spent coffee grounds to deter foxes as that signals to them that humans are indeed, nearby.

Additionally, you can also use a radio to repel foxes! You can learn more about that method in our article, How-To Guide: Using A Radio To Deter Foxes.

White Vinegar Can Work To Repel Foxes

Not to be mistaken for apple cider vinegar or any other type. It’s the ammonia-like smell we’re after. To them, it’s snout overwhelm. 

White/other types of vinegar are so effective that they often repel most animals/bugs in a given area.

To use vinegar, you can simply spray it around the areas you want to repel the foxes. If you want a more long-lasting effect, you could also try to put vinegar on cotton balls and leave them in the areas you are trying to repel foxes from! Using this method can keep the scent around for longer in a stronger form, giving you more bang for your buck in repelling power.

If you’re interested in learning more about using scents to keep foxes away, read our piece: 4 Surprising Smells That Foxes Can’t Stand

That’s A Wrap!

Now, you understand the whole concept of what the fox is likely thinking. In fox language of course. So, let’s recap the situation.

  • The fox hunts on the path of least resistance. If you make all angles too hard for a persistent fox, you’ve won. At least for long spates at a time. Sometimes, there’s no stopping them from stopping by. 
  • Use security cameras to scope out the situation and strategy of the fox. Each fox and every property is different. 
  • Use hardwire fencing instead of wimpy chicken wire.
  • Install lights on a timer that flash and either move clip-on around or time them one or two at a time in different areas. Otherwise, they’ll figure out there’s no threat and continue happily to the next adventure on your property.
  • Use capsaicin, garlic, chili pepper, white vinegar, or a human smell on some old clothes to get them out at the snout. 

References

Kaela Hall, Patricia A. Fleming, In the spotlight: can lights be used to mitigate fox predation in a free-range piggery?, Applied Animal Behavior Science, 10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105420, (105420), (2021).

Ariel A. Arzabe, Patricio Retamal, Javier A. Simonetti, Is livestock husbandry more stressing than other anthropic activities to wild carnivores?, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105380, 241, (105380), (2021).

Bradley P. Smith, Natalie B. Jaques, Robert G. Appleby, Scott Morris, Neil R. Jordan, Automated shepherds: responses of captive dingoes to sound and an inflatable, moving effigy, Pacific Conservation Biology, 10.1071/PC20022, 27, 2, (195), (2021).

Bicknell, J.R. 2002. The need for aversion agents for managing flying foxes on crops and the difficulties in attracting research funds. Pp. 63–69 in Managing the Grey-headed Flying-fox as a threatened species in NSW, edited by P. Eby and D. Lunney. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW.

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