If you’ve ever had a fox attack your chickens before, I know you'll understand how important it is to make sure your chicken coop is fox proof. It is absolutely devastating to find your pet chickens after a fox or a dog has ransacked your coop. Unfortunately, many people think that foxes only live in rural areas and are unlikely to be a problem in urban areas. This may be the case in your area, but don’t be too sure. Take steps now to protect your chickens, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs from these predators.
Increased Foxes in Metro Areas
There have been recent reports that numbers of foxes have significantly increased in some metro areas in Australia. Twice as many foxes have been trapped in the Perth area during 2016 compared with the past year. Increased urban development means that bushland areas are reduced which leaves foxes no choice but to head closer to the suburbs and houses.
As manufacturers of chicken coops, we’ve had many customers tell us about the brazen foxes in their area and the devastating results. Some have come as close as a back porch in the early morning, and that’s in a metropolitan area! Others have reported that foxes are game enough to even eat the food that is left out for dogs and cats. I would strongly suggest that all owners of backyard chickens safeguard their chickens, before, not after a fox is noticed in the area.
Predator Proofing a Chicken Coop
The best way to keep foxes out of your chicken coop depends largely on the style of coop and run that you have. If you have a mobile chicken coop that has a run attached to a housing section, it’s important to make sure that foxes can’t tunnel underneath the outer edges of your coop. Even if you’re on reasonably hard soil, foxes can be quite determined to access your coop.
One of the best things to do in this case is to wire a large mesh floor to the base of your coop. If it’s attached to the base itself, it will be able to be moved along with your coop when you move your chickens to a fresh area of your backyard. Chickens love to have area to scratch, so you want to make sure that this mesh floor has large enough squares to still allow your chickens to scratch, but small enough that a fox won’t be able to enter. We’ve found that mesh with 10cm x 15cm rectangles is ideal. If you stood this mesh upright, a fox may actually fit through, but when it’s wired to the base of your coop, a fox will not be able enter the coop due to the angle of their burrowing.
The other option is to create a mesh ‘skirt’ around the edge of your coop. This allows your chickens more room to scratch, as there’s no need to have the mesh under the coop as well, but makes moving your coop a little harder. We’ve tried both methods and the skirt is very cumbersome, but may be the preferred option by some.
It’s also important to make sure that your mobile chicken coop is made from strong enough mesh. Unfortunately, some of the imported coops that we've seen on the market are made using very light ‘aviary’ style mesh. We’ve been told about foxes that have chewed through this thin mesh to gain access to the chicken coop. So just make sure that the coop you purchase, or make, has strong enough mesh. I would suggest mesh that is 2.5mm thick. We’ve found that this cannot be damaged by foxes trying to chew through, or children who love chickens and clamber all over the chicken coop!
Fox Proofing a Fixed Chicken House
If you’ve got a chicken house that stays in a fixed position, the main issue is making sure that the run area is fox proof. Most people with a traditional chicken shed and run erect a permitter of high chicken wire to form the run. This wire should have holes no larger than 80mm in diameter. As this style of run generally has no ‘roof’, it’s important that the walls are high enough to prevent a chicken from flying over as well as to prevent a fox from entering (around 1.8m high is generally adequate).
The other important consideration is that the chicken wire at the bottom of the fence is dug into the ground, not far below the surface to a distance of about 50 or 60cm. As mentioned, foxes will dig to gain access to your chicken house. If the wire is dug into the ground, the foxes will hit the wire when they start to burrow and eventually stop trying to get inside your coop when they realise that they keep hitting the wire barrier. Another way of achieving this barrier is to but something heavy like wood or concrete sleepers on top of the mesh at the bottom of your fence.
For more reading, from the perspective of humanly controlling foxes, Brisbane City Council's article explains that a fox-proof poultry pen is the best way to keep your chickens safe. An article from Unley City Council about foxes in Urban and Urban Fringe areas is also helpful to understand the fox problem and how it affects our pets.
If you're concerned about foxes, be sure to purchase the ‘fox proof floor’ upgrade with your Royal Rooster chicken coop to keep your chickens safe!
(Article Updated November 2016)