Unfortunately, there are many chicken predators in Australia. Here’s how to best fox proof your chicken coop.
The European fox was introduced into Australia in the early 1870’s for the purpose of fox hunting. Not surprisingly, the fox population exploded since that time and now numbers around eight million. Weighing between five and seven kilos and with no noticeable differences between the sexes, the adult fox has become one of the most adaptable and successful predators of Australian native wildlife and backyard chickens. Some urban areas of Melbourne are home to up to 16 foxes per square kilometre!
Although you may typically picture foxes in wooded areas, many live in urban settings where there are suitable hiding places and an abundance of food. Bushlands and parks provide ideal daytime hiding places but these mammals will also seek refuge under railway platforms, under houses, behind sheds, or in quiet gardens.
Foxes are territorial, have routines, are highly intelligent, and can learn from their observations. They will change routines and adapt their behaviours to suit their personal goals; stay alive, eat and breed. They are often not seen because they don’t want to be seen, but once they learn an area is safe or there is no imminent threat, they will take risks that very confronting for the people that see them. They will travel 10-20kms each night, and quickly learn when you are home or not home. When the dog is in the yard and when it isn’t. They are known to jump on coops to ‘test’ their build and look for areas of weakness. Scratches and teeth marks on wooden coops, pulled wire, and scats are commonly seen but many don’t realise the potential significance of these markings.
Foxes generally hunt at night (although not always), so it’s important to have your chickens in a fox-proof enclosure from late afternoon, until morning.
- The coop will need a large fence or roof – as foxes are good climbers. Fox-proof fence heights need to be considerably higher than 900mm because foxes can easily jump a 900mm fence. To be safe you probably need to make your fence 2m high. You should also add an outwardly curving top to the fence or add a full roof. A floppy top to the fence discourages climbing.
- Foxes are also extremely good diggers. It is important to have either a wire floor or deep footings (around 400-500mm) right around the coop.
- Foxes will also chew through the wire mesh. Make sure your wire is at least 1.8mm thick. You may even want to include two layers of wire for extra security that includes both a large and small grid mesh.
- Make sure the structure is solid and strong, as foxes are cunning and will look for any weaknesses
- Foxes are clever and will easily knock open simple twist catches so it’s important to check that your coop has latching bolts on any openings. The absolute best investment you can make is a locking automatic door. These can be set to open and close at suitable times for your environment and schedule.
Sensor lights are often recommended as a deterrent to keep foxes away. When a fox triggers the motion sensor, the light will go off and startle them. The fact that they are exposed to such a bright light should prevent them from trying to gain access to the coop.
A dog is also a great way to keep foxes away from your coop. Foxes are very territorial and the smell of a dog can keep them away. If, however, the fox is very hungry they may still try to enter the garden.
Keeping your compost bins covered and removing any old pet food or food scraps around the property will also help to reduce the attractive smells that draw the foxes to your backyard.
It’s also a good idea to keep the backyard clear of any rubbish or objects that might give the foxes a place to hide or allow them to approach your chickens under cover.