The red fox is a quick, skillful hunter, feeding on a wide variety of foods. Mice are often eaten, especially during the winter months and cottontail rabbits are also an important part of their diet. They remain active throughout the year but are primarily nocturnal, only occasionally coming out during the daylight hours. Red foxes seem to prefer somewhat open habitats and are not creatures of dense forests. They are found mostly in areas with interspersed croplands, old fields, and woodlots, especially along the edges formed by these habitats.
The red fox resembles a bushy-tailed, medium-sized dog. The usual coloration is a bright rusty-red with black feet and legs and a whitish belly. A good identifying feature is the long tail which is tipped with white. Other color varieties of the red fox also occur including a black, a silver, and a cross phase in which a dark area crosses over the shoulders and down the middle of the back. Red foxes measure in total length from about 39 to 41 inches and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.
Red foxes are found throughout much of North America. They occur throughout most of the Carolina mountains and Piedmont but are rare to absent in the eastern coastal plain. The red fox is one of two fox species found in the southern mountains. The other, the grey fox, is sometimes mistaken for the red fox, but is somewhat different in appearance and frequents slightly different habitats.
Method of kill
The fox tends to strike fear into the hearts of chicken owners. The fox is prone to hunt 2 hours after sundown and 2 hours before sunrise. Foxes take their prey some distance (miles even) from the sight of the kill. Usually, the only sign of a fox raid is scattered feathers. Although most active at twilight they are also sometimes seen during the day. They are known for their raids on poultry, particularly during the spring when there is a need to provide food for their growing litters. Red foxes do not chew their food, they tend to swallow it whole. This accounts for the abundance of fur and crushed bones found in fox droppings. They commonly kill more food that they eat at once and bury the extra food in caches.
Prevention / Treatment
A red fox is an intelligent predator that will not hesitate to go after your chickens for its next meal. Springtime presents the highest number of chicken casualties because it is this time that red foxes need to gather more food to sustain their offspring. A single red fox has been known to wipe out entire chicken flocks in a single raid. These killers are not just relentless, but they are also patient and very smart. They will find all the cracks, openings, and weak points in your chicken runs and use those as entry points. If you have cats, small dogs, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs, then you will find that the red fox will have more reason to stalk your property.
Make sure that it is not illegal to shot or trap red foxes in your state. Chicken farmers often shoot at red foxes, because they know it takes a lot of energy to scare these brave predators. The red fox is accustomed to raiding houses and farms that they have gotten used to dealing with the human element. Live baits and traps can be used to get rid of that pesky red fox, but after capturing one, make sure to call Animal Control as relocating red foxes are not allowed in many states. If you do install traps, ensure that the red fox will not see them as they are smart enough to know objects that are meant to harm them. Just like cats, red foxes will not go into a particular area twice if they know that there is a trap there.
For those who have free range chickens and animals roaming around their gardens, yards and farm area, the best thing to do is to keep your poultry and livestock safe at night. These hunters can jump over a 6-foot high fence and they can dig their way underground as well. You can extend the level of protection by burying strong chicken wire several inches underground. Electric fencing is also recommended. If you want an all-around method to scare away red foxes, however, get a guarding dog that can act as your alarm and guard whenever you are not there to watch over your chickens. Foxes will rarely fight a bigger animal especially if they know that they need to be able to survive so that they can feed their young.
The Fox ranked number 4 in our Worst Predator Poll! Take a look at the results here!
For more discussions on other predators and how to deal with and deter them see the Predators and Pests section of the forum.