Foxes and chickens

by - December 07, 2016

This is a cautionary tale about being over confident about providing a safe place in the backyard where chickens and pets live. I've always known that the most fundamental part of keeping animals is proving a safe place for them. We live in a small rural town at the end of a dead end street so we don't have a lot of passing traffic. The main threat here are the wild things that come into our yard or fly overhead.
We have a large backyard and that strip of trees along the back are growing on the side of a creek. That is where the foxes travel.  The lattice on the left, right near the house, was where Patrick was attacked.

As you know, we have a flock of chickens here that keep us in rich golden yolked eggs most of the year.  I've fallen into the habit of thinking the chooks need the most protection during the night. And we do get a lot of night visitors but most of them are harmless. I hear them out there most nights. They're looking for water, something to eat or a place to rest and I'm happy for them to find all of that here.

Patrick, our warrior chook.

A couple of days ago, Hanno and Gracie were sitting on the back verandah, I'd just let the chickens out to free range in the back yard and all was right in our world.  I came inside, Hanno yelled "FOX!" and in a few seconds, our beautiful Plymouth Rock hen, Patrick, was gone. The fox was gone too and the only thing left there was a spray of Patrick's feathers. Patrick was our fearless warrior chook. She was always the first one out the gate, she was always the first at the food trough, and she didn't flinch when I was convinced she was a he and named her Patrick.  😇


I called the local council and reported the fox attack to the Feral Animal Response Team, got some advice, requested the team visit our home to see if we could do anything else to deter foxes and started to think about living life without Patrick. The following morning, I let the chickens out later than normal to avoid having them roaming free when the fox did an early patrol. I checked the chicken run for signs of the fox and slowly opened the gate to the coop. The first chook out was Patrick!  She had a bite mark on the back, was missing a lot of feathers, but she was there, safe and almost sound. She must have escaped and run into a clump of close-growing palms and hid there until she felt safe enough to run back to the coop. Hanno didn't see her when he herded the flock in for the night.

The egg stealing goanna climbing over the old coop fence. Modifications were made after this.

That made me think about the other times we've had sudden attacks on our chooks.  One time a stray dog wandered in and because it was a very small dog, it got in through the gate. She killed three chooks.  Twice we've found pythons in the coop. Once a hen was sitting on the nest, the top of her body was wet, she was dead and we worked out that she'd been gobbled up by the snake but was too big to swallow.  Eagles have swooped in to take small chooks. We had a goanna lizard climb the coop fence to steal eggs. All day time attacks. The main threat is not at night here, it's during the day. I've stopped thinking that extra protection is necessary at night - the chooks are locked in then and they're fairly safe. No, here we have to remain on alert during the day too and now when I hear a chicken squark, I'm out there quick smart to see what's going on.

Patrick is okay at the moment but she's not out of the woods until that bite on her back heals. Chooks can die of shock a few days after a stressful event too, so I'm looking for those signs. But she seems fine this morning.

Are your chickens at risk too?

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27 comments

  1. lucky Patrick! hope that she recovers quickly.
    i've lost many chooks to wandering foxes before i moved here, then i had domestic dogs wipe my flock out twice! the last time was a quoll but nothing since & i lock my girls & boys up at night too now, even a high fence doesn't keep the quolls at bay being better climbers than the average domestic cat!
    hope the fox stays away & you have no more attacks
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  2. Awwwww, I'm sorry, Rhonda, for Patrick and her kin having to go through these things. But indeed, all of nature preys upon one another and the little fox is only trying to have dinner, too. I am a fox fan; so don't mind me. I love them, but I do know that you cannot trust them around poultry. As for the other animals, they seem to do damage as well; as you pointed out. I guess it is very hard to completely shelter your chooks from harm. I hope Patrick makes it okay, and good luck on your protection from the rest of nature. Are you going to consult a veterinarian?

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    1. Only if an infection develops. Yes, a red fox, an introduced species from the 1800s. I like foxes too but they're wiping out our wildlife. Our native animals wouldn't have evolved in the way they have had there been foxes here. It is estimated there are about 7 million foxes in Australia and most councils have a program of eradication.

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  3. I'm glad Patrick managed to escape, & hope she heals fully. We've had chickens killed by various predators... possums, raccoons, weasels & most recently (as well as in the past) a hawk. Snakes have eaten eggs, but I don't believe they've gotten any chickens. Everything loves chicken, I think!

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  4. I was not expecting that twist part way through your post. How lucky is Patrick. I really hope she's ok. She deserves to la be a very long life having escaped a fox. We don't have chooks now but people in our street lost all there chooks to a little fox terrier a few years ago after it dug under the fence. I could hear it in there but too late by the time I raised the alarm and it was awful as it wasn't killing for food. When he had acreage we lost chooks to hawks and foxes so yes you have to be vigilant.

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  5. We live next to a wild area and beaver marsh in Washington state. we have lost hens to coyotes, and eagle and mink. One brave girl, Teriaki, stood between her sisters and the mink and had a large chunk of skin missing on her neck. Peroxide and super glue and she is all healed and still a brave warrior , like your Patrick!

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  6. Pythons? OMG I would die if I came across one of those in my yard!

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  7. There not many snakes here in North Idaho. Actual our biggest trouble is white tail trees. They love to graze in garden.
    Coffee is on

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  8. Fingers crossed for Patrick. How wonderful that she escaped and what a surprise it would have been to see her come out of the coop when you'd thought the worst had happened. Sounds like she's a fighter and one smart chook and I really hope she makes a full recovery.

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  9. We hear the foxes at night, and there is an eagle that often comes to visit. The biggest threat though, is our big male cat. Pam in Norway

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  10. I am so glad Miss Patrick outfoxed the fox. Here's hoping she is of a strong enough character to get through the stress this would have caused her.

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  11. Wow, that's amazing that she survived! I hope she heals well.

    We've lost several hens over the three years--nearly four now--that we've lived here and kept chickens. Most to bobcats, a couple to big hawks. One to a possum, on a night when I forgot to lock the coop, and one to a raccoon when I had a hen in quarantine in a dog crate, and the wires were far enough apart for it to reach in and kill the hen. So the night-time problems are easily dealt with, as you say, by making sure everyone is locked down tight in properly reinforced housing.

    We lost so many hens to bobcats that we actually have the girls confined in A-frame chicken tractors now--we move them around the property so they are on fresh grass, and they do okay. Our youngest flock (hatched this past spring) does the best with it, as they've grown up with this system. Our older girls, who used to have a fenced-in area to range in, are less thrilled with it, but they're alive and safe. We had a bobcat recently, so our system was tested! It managed to hook a claw in and injure one of my young hens, but she recovered. Could have been worse. The silly thing is that if the hens had simply gone upstairs into their nesting area, they would have been 100% safe, but they all went to the edge of the enclosure to squawk at the bobcat. If we hear the chickens fussing we're out the door quick!

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  12. We live in a suburb of Melbourne and had a terrible incident with a fox last year. Our three girls got taken because on that ONE fateful evening, we forgot to lock their coop. I came out the next morning to a horrible scene. Enough said.

    Even though we are in suburbia, there are foxes everywhere! I've seen them at the end of our street when driving to work early in the morning.

    We have four gorgeous new girls now and we are both a bit paranoid to make sure they're locked in each night.

    I hope Patrick is OK and gets over the trauma.

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  13. I was so happy to read that Patrick was not eaten by the fox and is back home. Our son had a fox get into his home and what a mess it made. Try active manuka honey ( 10+) on Patricks back to heal the wound.

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  14. Like Melbourne Girl, we have a suburban fox story. We live in suburbia on the Central Coast, just north of Sydney. It is a "true" suburban block - colour bond fences and no immediate bushland. Despite my gripes about living in suburbia, I was thankful of the positives - that nothing seemed to know the chickens were here! For years they roamed in and out of their coop at will, we didn't shut the door. Until about a month ago - I can only assume it was a fox, I don't think even a cat would be that quick and efficient and thorough! We all remember to shut them in now!

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  15. Hi Rhonda
    Have been reading your blog for years and love it. I am a herbalist of some 50 years, with an intense passion for animals, especially chickens. May I suggest a plantain infused oil or a salve made from it, have used this for many horrible wounds on chickens and it works wonders. All the best with your girl Patrick.
    Donna Lee

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    1. Thanks Donna Lee. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. The wound has been cleaned with diluted peroxide and there is no sign of infection at the moment.

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  16. That was a happy ending for Patrick! I thought you were going to write that she was never seen again. She was so brave to escape the fox. I hope her wound heals and she recovers from the stress of her attack.

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  17. Thank goodness Patrick found her way back! I hope she remains okay! We have coyotes here. Our only real defense is a livestock guard dog. I have five acres and part of the "fencing" could only big the gigantic blackberry bushes in the front of the property. The chickens never go there and the horses are interested in the bushes themselves so everyone stays in. But the coyotes have neat little tunnels going through. One day a coyote grabbed one of my chickens, but my german shepherd was over the gate on the patio and chased that coyote off before I even knew there was a problem. The chicken lost a few feathers, but she is just fine. (She is the head chick in my coop)

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  18. Oh wow! I think I would have gone to pieces after finding her there! I hope she heals quickly and that wily old fox stays away.

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  19. Oh poor Patrick!
    This is why my chickens are now in thin back yard with the dogs. They are well protected even if we are not home.
    I don't know what i will do once the dogs go over the rainbow bridge. Molly the main protector of the flock is getting on in years

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  20. Awwwe, the poor thing !! What a fighter !! So glad she won the battle and hope she gets all better.. This Summer we had a fox come and take the heads off of two of our meat king chickens that we were trying to let free range.. We were so upset and we both sat up most of the night for two nights with a gun... The fox was so smart and would only show himself for a second and then disappear into the shadows.. We gave up and decided to just keep a much better watch and thankfully he didn't get anymore and they ended up in our freezer..The farm is way up in the hills with no close neighbors so we are allowed to try and get him.. They are a pretty animal, though..All is well that ends well.. smile... So nice to visit as always, my dear..

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  21. Oh poor little Patrick. She sounds like a real little trooper and i'm sure she will be ok. I can just hear her telling the other ladies about her close call with the fox and how she escaped and giving them the heads up on how to not get caught. We live in the suburbs at the moment and miss having hens. They are such lovely things to have around, just to hear them talking to each other is such a delight. Hopefully we will move within the next year and once again can enjoy hearing happy clucking around our garden.

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  22. Wow .... lucky and clever Patrick, I'm glad she's okay. I used to find a radio left on near the chooks kept foxes away, it's just the sound of human voices that deters them, but I have never had to contend with snakes, lizards etc so I'm of no help there, sorry.

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  23. I love foxes but they are not the best of friends with live stock! My biggest problem is snails. no idea where they hide during the day but they can destroy my whole vegie patch in a single night. Glad to hear partick is ok (swesome name)

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