After Red Mite, the Fox is the next big killer of Chickens, all poultry keepers should be aware and try to protect your hens against this predator. Always always lock your hens away at night, most foxes take the same route every night and all it takes is one night of not shutting up the hens and he will be in. From past experience it is not a very nice sight to see first thing in the morning. Of course be aware foxes are around in the day as well as in the evening, but most daytime foxes will take easy pickings.
Most will say a fence of 6ft will keep a fox at bay but we always say 7ft to be on the safe side, most foxes will go for easy targets, however there is always the exception to the rule. If possible try to angle the last foot at 45 deg, which will also hinder the fox. Also remember that foxes can dig and can and will dig under runs to get to the hens, however if you can put a mesh skirt of around 3ft around the outside perimiter of the run this can help to stop the fox from digging under.
Another option is electric fencing, this is by far the best way to keep hens safe, we have kept around 800 hens in electric fencing and never lost a single hen. You will still need to shut your hens up at night and fencing must be switched on at all times. DO NOT switch off electric fencing at night when you hens have been shut up, foxes can bite through the netting when switched off and although your hens are safely away he has now ruined your netting.
There are a number of suggestions of trying to fool foxes and keep them at bay, some say human hair put into little stocking pouches tied to the fence will deter the fox, or male urine sprayed around the fenceline, hubby swears by this one, but i think it may be he cant be bothered to go back up the fields to the house to use the loo !!!
A dogs presence can also help deter the fox, try walking your dog around the perimiter of the fence in the evening to leave your dogs smell.
An ordinary flashing light can be a deterrent as long as its position is moved fairly frequently as once the fox gets used to it, it will no longer be a deterrent.
Regulary check your run for small holes etc just the smallest of hole or weakpoint is enough for a fox to get through.
Dogs can be trained to leave chickens alone, if your hens are in a run then this generally isnt a problem, however if you would like to free range your hens around the garden some gentle introductions are needed. When we bought our last German Shepherd we took her down on the lead to introduce her to the hens, in my hand I had a plastic bottle 1/4 filled with stones, everytime she lunged at the hens I would shake the bottle and sternly say NO and pull back on the lead. This is not an overnight success and you will have to do this many times but it does work, I can walk through our fields with the hens and the dogs although I would never leave them unsupervised with the hens. Sometimes though it is not always your dog that is the problem, but other peoples.
Cats dont tend to bother hens, they may well sit and watch them, but I have never known a cat to attack a chicken, and lets be honest chickens are slightly larger than your average sparrow or mouse.
Got any tips or tricks for keeping Foxes etc at bay ? Let us know