Do Foxes Eat Chickens in Broad Daylight?

Raising Bantam Chickens and Keeping Them Safe From Predators

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Do foxes eat chickens? You bet they do. That said, I never worried about the presence of a family of red foxes in the woods next to our home until I acquired my flock of backyard chickens. We saw them frequently leaving the woods and trotting across the yards of our neighborhood. After the chickens were put out into the big run near the rear of our property, we had an occasional sighting of a fox or two. I saw one standing near the run and I chased it off. We felt that our chicken run and coop were secure and months went by without any problems with the foxes.

Then we started seeing the foxes more and more during the daylight hours in our neighborhood. They were seen laying in the street, in a group of four, very early in the morning. We saw a very scrawny, almost emaciated, mangy adult sitting in the middle of our cul-de-sac one afternoon. Neighbors had foxes terrorizing small dogs in their pens and children encountered them on the baseball field where the foxes took their baseball and ran away with it. All of this in broad daylight, not during the usual hunting schedule of dawn and twilight to which most foxes seem to adhere.

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I had been keeping three pens of chickens in our yard, the main group consisting of 10 adults, a grow-out pen containing two youth lavender Orpington chickens, and a smaller pen for two young bantam Cochins. I had them in those pens for about two months without any issues, so I was feeling rather confident that we were, at least, safe from chicken predators while the birds stayed in their pens and in the coop.

When a neighbor asked me, do foxes eat chickens? I wasn’t worried. I have a chain-link pen, a welded wire run and the bantams were in a smaller pen, also made of welded wire, but much lighter in weight and there was a door in one of the panels. Everything was covered with netting that was securely fastened. The coop is absolutely predator proof when the doors are closed.

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TC (Tiny Chicken) Blue Bantam Cochin. Photo courtesy Chris Thompson.

Do Foxes Eat Chickens In Broad Daylight?

I take a lot of photos for my blog, so one day in the late afternoon, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the area where the pens and coop are located. I could hear the adult flock clucking wildly, but I assumed that they were clucking at our cat who was standing on the rail of the deck that surrounds the pool. I could hear another noise, like fencing being shaken and I thought that it was so strange that they were having that reaction to Pandora, the cat. It never occurred to me at that moment to question, do foxes eat chickens in broad daylight?

As I rounded the corner of the pool deck, I caught sight of what was making that sound. An emaciated, sick-looking, mangy red fox had destroyed the bantam pen and had managed to get to my young bantam Cochins. It froze and stared at me for a moment, with my lemon blue female hanging from its jaws. Her feet kicked frantically. The second young bantam Cochin was nowhere to be seen. Blue and yellow feathers littered the ground.

I screamed and ran at the fox. I didn’t even think … and I should have, but all I could see was Ivy being killed before my eyes.

The fox dropped Ivy and turned to run, but he turned around and tried to grab Ivy’s still flailing body. I was almost on him, yelling things that I can’t even remember. He turned and fled, leaving Ivy convulsing on the ground. I dropped to my knees and screamed. I gently lifted her from the ground and saw the extent of her injuries. I turned away to try to stop the rising nausea but quickly turned back. She was gravely injured. Her partner, TC (Tiny Chicken), was gone. Only tufts of blue feathers were left.

I ran to get my husband and then ran back to the coop and run. The other chickens were very upset and called frantically in alarm. No one else was missing or injured. My husband arrived and I was now a sobbing mess. I asked him to end Ivy’s life humanely, as she was still moving and I was sure she was suffering. I went into the coop and collapsed into a puddle of tears and remorse. He quickly ended Ivy’s suffering and immediately buried her so that the fox would have nothing to return for, but we knew the fox would be back.

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Sweet Ivy. Photo courtesy Chris Thompson.

I was traumatized. I had seen it all happen before my eyes. The fox had mangled the pen wall in order to get to the bantams. I kicked myself over and over again for not having them in something more secure and for underestimating what a starving fox will do to get a fast meal. Do foxes eat chickens in broad daylight? Absolutely.

We had a supply of security cameras that we had used in another area, and my son quickly installed one so that we could monitor the pens from the house. My husband tried to comfort me, but all I could see were Ivy’s tiny, feathered feet kicking in terror as the fox delivered the fatal injuries. The scene plays over and over again in my mind and I can’t get it to stop. While some view their chickens as livestock and food, we are the people that are not only interested in raising chickens for eggs, but also because we appreciate their beauty, breeding, and personality that comes with each chicken. I hurt because of the way Ivy had died and I hurt because TC had been taken. I felt that it was completely my fault for not having them in a stronger pen.

As we sat near the coop, that night, trying to process what had happened and what we needed to do to prevent it in the future, I continued to cry over the loss of my sweet, young birds. I looked up at my husband and said: “TC … they just TOOK him.”

My husband was looking over my shoulder at the coop. My words had barely left my mouth when he said “No!  He’s not gone! Look!” I turned to look at where he pointed and TC, a tiny blue bantam Cochin rooster, came out from under the coop. He was alive! I scooped him up and checked him over and there was not a scratch on him. Apparently, when the fox mangled the pen and had gone for Ivy; TC had high-tailed it toward the safety of the coop and had chosen the tiny opening between the wood floor of the coop and the ground beneath it. I have to admit, I kissed the little guy. I hugged him close and told him how brave he was and what a smart thing he’d done. He peeped quietly and allowed me to hold him close. Tom finally pointed out that I was squishing him. We put him safely into a crate and took it into our secure garage. A small silver lining had appeared in the very dark cloud of Ivy’s death.

I write this not for sympathy or condolences, but because I want to warn you not to become complacent, as I had. If you have ever asked yourself, do foxes eat chickens? Yes, they do. Even in urban areas, foxes are a huge threat and they are strong and merciless. Taking steps for protecting chickens from predators is essential, no matter where you live.

We saw the foxes come back to the coop that night and attempt to get in through the padlocked front doors. My son ran out with a gun, but could not get a good shot at them. We’ve contacted our local Department of Natural Resources and Animal Control and they are unable to trap and move or kill the foxes for various legal reasons. DNR only works with public lands and Animal Control only works with domestic animals like cats and dogs. We have some other ideas that we’re pursuing to try to have the foxes taken care of.

It’s not their fault—foxes are simply doing what foxes do. But the sick one that hunts in broad daylight needs to be put down. I’ve been told that relocating them is fruitless and that they’ll return. I won’t let Ivy’s death be in vain, though. You can be sure that something will be done.

Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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Comments
  • Oh, bless your heart. I too love my chickens and worry all the time about them being safe. Foxes are a serious threat to poulty and they eat cats too! and small dogs! So never underestimate the danger of predators. Owls will also get your cats. Good luck getting rid of the foxes.

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  • I had what I believe is my first fox getting into my chicken pen. It’s 6 foot tall, with 36 inches of chicken wire all around. I have only been at this house 4 years, the pen is completely covered too. Came out to find 7 of my 11 dead actually just one missing all the others had their necks injured. I have never seen a fox but whatever found a small area that had been dug into. I have been on watch with a game camera but hasn’t returned which is good for it, very sad for my chickens.

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  • We had a horrible owl problem. Owl came in the barn over a 2 or 3 day period and killed at least a half a dozen chickens including a day old lamb. We installed the night guard solar lights and while I can hear owls off in the distance. They haven’t been back. They do have things to guard off predators during the daily hours as well. http://www.niteguard.com/

    Reply
  • A fox also will kill to kill, like many predators it becomes a game. I had one kill six of my chickens he left with only one to eat.

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  • Hopefully telling my story will help others. First, chicken wire can be torn through, a much heavier wire should be used and buried at least a foot deep to keep digging from happening. My coop,and run have been safe from animals for 8 years. Then last winter I lost 9 of my girls to a raccoon. This must have been one smart fellow. He found a way to get up under a heavy duty netting I had covering my run. I had it zip tied down maybe every foot. He climbed up the wire and through the opening over the top I think. There was a small hole in the top of the netting that either he chewed through or maybe a stick made the hole, that was the other option he had to get in. After he got into the run, we have an automatic door opener that he lifted to go in and then came back out with the chicken. He would usually kill a couple a night. We just couldn’t figure how he was getting in. So I contacted a wildlife guy that offered to come over and see what he thought. He had me zip tie every inch of that netting down to the top of the fence. He showed me how they can get through the smallest space. He also had me get a trap and set it because we knew he would be back. Sure enough the raccoon showed up the second night I had the trap out. He was huge. We took him for a long ride far away from my girls. I have since put a second layer of heavy duty netting over the top of my 25’x50′ run. I back up to the woods, so I know there are all kinds of wildlife just waiting out there. We also have foxes in our neighborhood. One comes regularly in the summer and barks just about every night under my bedroom window. I think he is mad because he hasn’t been able to get my girls.

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  • Dec/04/16
    we have moved to Tallahassee, Fla about six months ago. No chickens yet but I follow several websites as I’ll be getting them again. back on the farm in Tennessee we had a family of foxes move into a “den/ condominium” up on the hill above the hen house. They got two out of a very secure pen so I moved them into the large chain link fenced yard. That solved the fox issue even there were a couple times one would run the outside the fence screaming at the guard dogs running and barking on the inside. Quite funny as long as the chickens were safe. The foxes moved off the next spring and then a battle started with the red-tailed hawks, they really did a huge amount of damage. My flock of thirty six dwindled to about half. There was so much happening with selling the farm and moving and health issues that I couldn’t keep up. A dear friend came and helped me catch the remaining ones and took them to her farm. We live in the country down here and have the hawks, the owls, the foxes and have heard a bobcat several times. The plan is to secure the chicken house and the run way before any hens come here. I wish all of you the best with your flocks.

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