We have now lost 3 of our hens in 2 weeks! It all started over Columbus Day weekend. We went away and left the Friday before, and left the care of our animals to our very good and competent friend. My husband always insists that the chickens be left outside for the day even when we are away. Well, we came back from our weekend visiting family in Virginia on Monday evening. The chickens were already in for the night. Tuesday morning, I let the chickens out and do my usual head count while they are enjoying their usual morning scratch snack. I came up 2 hens short. I looked everywhere. I called and called and called. No sign of them. They had simply vanished. Our friend said that when she did her head count on Saturday morning, while we were gone, she also came up 2 hens short. So they must have gone missing on the Friday that we left for our weekend away. We were puzzled.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday evening at approximately 5:30, I am returning with my son after retrieving him from HS soccer practice. We slow down when we approach our front yard and drive and we see something going on in our front yard. My son SCREAMS, "It's a coyote Mom! It has one of our chickens!" Only it wasn't a coyote. It was a beautiful, healthy red fox, and it had one of our Buckeye hens on the ground. I proceeded to floor it and drive straight up over our lawn toward the fox and our hen. I almost ran the thing over before it finally gave up on the hen and ran off. My son threw the car door open and dove out before I even came to a full stop and chased the fox. It didn't go far, only a little ways into the soybean field that is adjacent to our yard. My son ran and got the 22 rifle and shot it in the butt. It managed to run off into the hedgerow on the other side of the soy field. I later went in there to investigate and found a big den under the uprooted root-ball of a downed tree. I believe that is where it (and probably others) is living.
As for the hen, she was dead when we found them on the lawn. She had a broken neck, a broken wing, and bites to her legs. She was a big hen. She was a sweetheart. I cried my eyes out. My kids were upset. It was awful. I can only imagine what the other two hens that went missing over Columbus Day weekend went through. With no one there to help.
We are currently trying to trap the injured fox and any that may be living in the den, and plan on dispatching them. Although I am super angry for it/them killing our chickens, I hate to kill them, but I don't think that they could be relocated without having them come back. Plus as someone else chastised me on this site on another occasion, they could spread disease to other populations.
This is the first time in the year and a half of chicken ownership, that we have had issues with foxes. We have had hawks chase our chickens but have never had foxes here before. We want to free range our hens but I am afraid for their safety. We don't have a dog, and frankly, I don't feel like having another animal to take care of. We already have 15 chickens, a horse, 2 cats, a hermit crab and tropical fish. All of which have somehow turned into my sole responsibility. I can't handle any more! Has anyone had any success free ranging and surrounding their property with electrified poultry netting? We already have an electric fence for our horse. We could connect the poultry netting to that to charge it up.