Life & Foxes

jwfox2JanetWright

Foxes are tenacious animals.  They will check their territory, and the prey within it, daily if possible.  If a chook pen (or a duck pen) is within their territory they will check it out for any weaknesses, for any way possible to get in probably everytime they are able to get near.  They don’t give up.  Now that we longer have any alpacas guarding the place, and only a Jack Russell who prefers to sleep in the laundry, we’ve had a number of fox attacks.  Everytime, we try to figure out how it happens and we fix it: once the gate was left open a wee bit, once the trampoline had been moved too close to the walls of the run, and once (and only once) we forgot to lock the birds in their shed. 

Once on a Sunday morning I walked out to the chook-run I noticed the gate had banged itself open only a wee bit in the windy night and the shed was still closed, but there were feathers everywhere.  My heart sank.  Before I opened the shed I walked around it, and found about 4 different attempts to dig under…all thwarted by an iron tent peg, a brick or stone.  But there was one gap about 6 inches long that missed a peg, between two bricks…and that is where they had dug in and dragged out every chicken I had except for a badly shocked Orpington.  Dragging her out would have been like trying to get your head into a sock!

At the time I was home alone, and I felt broken and weary.  I checked forums and read about the same pain felt by other poultry owners, the same hatred of foxes.  Pretty animals that they are, I am not saddened to see them squashed on the road because their ability to randomly infiltrate and destroy.  And it’s not like they are limited to the rural areas either (or four legs for that matter: I seem to have two legged foxes doing what they can to bring me undone in insidious ways also)…I recall a night in the city when a chooky screech got me up and outside still asleep, only to see a fox scale an 8 foot fence with absolute ease and grace.  He had killed every single hen I had, and then he returned the next night and tried to get the cat and the rabbit!

Reading those forums, I had some comfort that UK poultry owners had exactly the same feelings I was having, but in the UK foxes are protected animals.  Over there foxes are as likely to strike during the day, and are unafraid and cunning enough to attack even with people about.  Many people as a result have electric fencing around their backyard birds…the kids get used to it after a while.

So, I have bought concrete blocks and filled the floor of the shed in, I am buying a better latch for the gate, and I will be netting the roof of the run…somehow.  It’s all I can do, but I won’t give up.  What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger…and hopefully smarter.

23/10/09

It’s three and a half weeks later, I just went to let the chooks out and found that foxes AGAIN have attempted to dig under…there were 5 different attempts that I could find…the biggest hole was in the same spot as the one last time that they’d dragged the chooks out of.  They had even managed to dig a brick out!  Happy to report, the concrete block floor did its job, and all five hens were safe and hungry!  The blocks didn’t even move, or fall in!  A success!  Now to figure out how the blighters are getting into the run…I’m thinking netting the top of the run will be this weekend’s job.

But just to point out: foxes never tried to dig under in the four years we’ve been here…and then did it with great success three weeks ago…now they’ve tried it a second time, so now I need to expect that digging will always be a part of their M.O.

11 thoughts on “Life & Foxes

  1. Foxes are definitely a big concern for me now – I am hoping to get some chookies in the next month or so and we are only 4 houses from the edge of town. The other side of the road is all paddocks and apparently the fox population around here in the last couple of years has gotten VERY high. I was planning on a chook dome but am now considering building fort knox for the girls. Pity our block is too small to let us use firearms on it hehe. Then again…I DO have a bow which I can use here…hmmmmmm 😀

    • The chook dome had me entranced too…but I’ve only seen them in Tassie, where the predators are more like possums. Good luck with your bow…now there’s a story I’d like to read!

    • Em, I’ve also been researching the practicality of using a bow for pest control, and would love to hear your views.

      We are moving to an acre shortly, and I don’t have/need/want guns and all that entails here in Australia. I don’t actually know if I’d be allowed to shoot a gun on my property, and I don’t want to annoy neighbours with gunshots anyway.

      However, bows do not require a license here. I’d be allowed to shoot a bow on my acre, it’d be quiet so as not to annoy anyone else, and no permission is required to shoot ferals like foxes and rabbits. From what I’ve read on bowhunting websites etc, plenty of people have success hunting foxes and rabbits, so it at least seems practical. I just have to get a decent starter bow and learn to use it properly!

      • Darren, we are very familiar with the hassles of being gun owners in Aus! They certainly make us do enough paperwork that only the REALLY determined ones end up getting legally owned guns.

        There is a lot of info ‘out there’ about bow hunting. In reality I wouldnt use my current bow for vermin as it is only a 30lb recurve. I would want to use something heavier with of course, proper hunting arrows, to ensure a fast kill. I am also a newbie to this. We bought the bow a while ago but living in an apartment in Sydney, didnt really have much of a chance to practice with it!

        Also re shooting on 1 acre, that wouldnt be legal. There is a minimum size requirement – from memory about 5 acres but dont quote me on that. Plus of course you have to ensure adequate backstop.

        Em

      • Thanks for the info, Em. I already know one of our future neighbours who has 6 acres. They have sheep/lambs, so hopefully they’d be on board with some fox control, and maybe some of the others would be too. Anyway, it’s just a thought at this stage until we get out there.

  2. Alison–I like any entry that inludes the phrase, “Now that we longer have any alpacas guarding the place” LOVE it. You go, you chook-lover. I seriously think I’m going to have them in my backyard before it’s all over. Good luck with the socially-acceptable fox-hating. Bunch a little Chook Suckers.

    • I’ll have to tell you about those alpacas sometime…they were a riot. I can see you with backyard chooks Ginger, you’d love them. You have the same sense of humour!

  3. Hi Alyson,

    According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal, urinating into a container and then squirting it around the property or around the chook pen is apparently an effective way of ‘marking’ your territory and dissuading the foxes from entering.

    I am in the process of building my chook pen right now and expect my ladies to arrive in about 2 weeks. Intrigued by the prospect of ‘marking’ my territory, I will be giving this a go (using a CLEARLY labeled drinking bottle).

    When I started digging the holes for the fence posts, I found lots of stones (turns out the green grassy area I selected for my chooks used to be an old milking shed and where I’m digging used to be a road). The digging was hard going and cause for me to use the emergency word on more than one occasion. But I think this 2 inch thick coarse gravel road might just be an effective barrier against fox digging.

    Will keep you posted (that’s a fencing pun).

    • I saw that episode Mark, as did my two boys who offered very enthusiastically to ‘help’…I gather the problem is it must be kept fresh…and the novelty wore off!

      I figure the thing is not lose heart, after all, despite the best laid plans a simple accident (such as a bottle of wine too many, or ‘I thought YOU locked them up’ ‘No, I thought YOU did,’) and an unlocked door and it can all be brought undone.

      I read recently of an Aussie farmer who has invented a fox-light that simulates a person walking around the paddock with a torch at night! So simple, but it could be very effective.

      In the meantime, I’m with you, I’ll try anything to slow them down or provide difficulties and barriers…the gravelling ground sounds perfect! I certainly look forward to hearing of your successes…please keep in touch!

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