Fox in the Hen House

In order to keep egg production up we needed to bring in younger chickens. The current ones are 3 years old and laying has dropped. We were without eggs for a couple months late last year. Unfortunately there is a capacity limit in the coop to be sure each hen has plenty of space to be happy and healthy.

Another coop would be a major expense that would perpetuate the tight margin we have on egg sales. Since we have not purchased the goats yet it was decided to move the older chickens in the barn. The corral was lined with 2X4 inch fencing and logs and blocks lined the gate opening to prevent digging. We were told a fox was picking off chickens in the neighborhood right as we completed the project.

Even though we were trying not to spend more money, we purchased a solar panel powered electric fence with 4 wires climbing up the outside of the corral. We were able to get behind the purchase as there are some future projects that the fence could be used for.

The chickens love their new spacious home. Unfortunately I met the fox multiple times over the next few days. First I caught it taking out the rabbit population in our back yard. Since it was always a love hate relationship with the bunnies I was disturbed but not emotional about it. I saw first hand how foxes hunt. They are proficient climbers and will scale a 6 foot fence with ease. They are sly, fast and quick to take their prey down. Viciously they don’t stop at one animal. If there are multiple animals to prey on they take down as many as they can, take one and then come back for the rest at their leisure.

There was one section of the chicken’s corral that a fox could get past the hot wires if it jumped rather than climbed, and we believe that’s exactly what happened. The fox killed 4 hens, injured 2 and gave 1 a heart attack. We can tell it was a heart attack due to the rigid extension of the body. We’d seen it before. The fox only took one hen away which was one with a broken toe so was clearly easy to catch. Interestingly it didn’t come back for the other hens. We wonder if the fox got shocked from the wires on the way OUT and it may have made an impact. Regardless, it still made it’s way in so the next course of action was to put a scarecrow in front of the weakest section. It was enough to make both of us do a double take thinking someone was on the property so it had to capture the foxes attention.

It was over a week after the hit that I happen to catch the fox rushing the corral gate as if it was going to make a flying leap over it. I screamed so loud it glanced over, saw the scarecrow, turned tail and ran away so fast we couldn’t find where it went. That was the last we saw of it.

The 2 injured girls luckily recovered after a week and it appears we only lost the worst of the layers so we are still getting just enough eggs to cover our current customers. Once the new chicks come of egg laying age we will be in good shape for sales again.

You can see a video of the fox on the Farm’s You Tube Channel:

Predator Proofing the Chicken Run

Chicken RunThe chicken run isn’t done yet. The attention is in the detail. We see hawks and coyotes routinely on our property so we need to predator proof the run.

We used 1/2 inch squared welded wire cloth on the sides. That will keep out almost anything, including predators, diseased wild birds and wandering dogs and cats. The wire is also stapled at the base of the coop, bent down with 6 inches extended on the ground to prevent digging under. The wire on the ground is also covered by pavers around the base of the coopfor an additional layer of protection. The 6 inches of mesh around the wood bottom of the run will eventually be covered with cardboard, dirt and will be turned into a herb garden to repel insects and pests.

The top of the run is covered by a heavy duty shade cloth that will not only provide shade and protect from hail and harsh weather, it will also keep the hawks from getting in.  You can get different weaves of shade cloth depending on how penetrable you want the fabric to be.

Have a little more work to do, but nothing it too good for our chickens’ protection.