Sadly I recently lost three chickens to foxes. I lost one chicken four nights ago and the final two last night (14th November, 2021). Failure is a great teacher. So I have put together some notes about this latest failure in the hope that it will help others to better protect their own chickens.
In the thirty years plus of keeping chickens this is the fourth time I have lost chickens to foxes, but the last attack was over ten years ago, and I had become complacent.
I lost the first of the chickens in this latest attack four nights ago. It had been sick from Coccidiosis and had chosen to roost under the water tank rather than in the fox proof enclosure. My garden is in central Ballarat, and while foxes live in town I have known from past experience that they don’t regularly patrol the chicken run. I made the decision to treat the hen with Piperazine under the tank rather then moving her into the fox proof section (big mistake). The first two nights went by without incident, and she was showing signs of responding to the treatment, but on the third night, alas…
Unfortunately, what I think this successful attack did was encourage the foxes to come back and try their luck again. Over the next couple of days I noticed signs that a fox had been repeatedly trying to chew through chicken wire at a single point in the fence, the wire showing signs of being pushed out one night and pushed in the following night). But while the wire was old it still looked solid, so I assumed they couldn’t breach it, second big mistake! On the third night the foxes got through, and as it was a windy night I did not hear any commotion. So I lost the two remaining hens I had.
I should of known better. Ten years ago foxes chewed through an older section of chicken wire in exactly the same manner. My remedy then was to replace the breached section with stronger weld mesh, however I did not replace the then newer wire with weld mesh as well. That newer wire has now become old wire, and that’s were the breach occurred.
It could have been worse. The hens were all in their fourth year and well past their prime. Due to earlier loses from Coccidiosis I was down to just the three. They were part of an experiment that I was conducting involving recording the daily egg tally and graphing the reduction in egg production as the hens aged. The results of which I plan to write about in a later posting.
So what will I do now? In an effort to get rid of the Coccidiosis (endemic in the run for a couple of years now) I plan to give the pen a thorough clean and fallow it for at leas six weeks. And I will replace the lower sections of chicken wire with weld mesh in an attempt to avoid a repeat attack in the future!
If I was to build a new chicken run I would use weld mesh in the lower fence sections from the start. I have also heard good things about the effectiveness of electric fences for keeping foxes out. Worth considering if you have a larger chicken run.
The hole the foxes made was just eleven centimetres wide, but that was enough for them to get in. Foxes are capable of squeezing through very small gaps.
The weld mesh that I had installed after the breach ten years ago. It only goes a third of the way up the side. While foxes are good climbers I think they would need traction in order to push their way through, something they couldn’t get while hanging onto the wire halfway up the fence.
The same hens in their younger days. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being constantly vigilant for potential weaknesses in your chicken run’s defences.