We lost 20 Birds today to foxes.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Maikan, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. Maikan

    Maikan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well its sure not been a great day today,and it wasn't for trying on our part to protect these birds because despite a very well built run with a 7ft high wire fence and 4 foot of wire dug down into the ground, one of the packs of fox's that roam around on the neighboring farms dug down several feet and through the buried wire of our Chicken run.

    I'm thankful that I've got 35 young breeding birds locked into several of the very large stables due to the weather n constant storms a rain we've had. But the remaining 20 older birds who were mostly my kids pets and my whole flock of Specked Sussex and all the remaining ducks were all killed and most of them carried away. These included my young daughters fave pet birds.

    The foxes have also killed all the birds that ranged free on the farms next door , hence my free range birds being locked into large runs. The storms here didn't help because the noise of Hurricane Frank meant I never heard what was going on and the wind rattling the door to the coop rattled the doors latch loose so the door was opened sometime just before dawn after my last check at 3am.

    It really wasn't a good end to 2015 here. Needless to say we've now agreed with the neighbors its time to cull some foxes, one of the neighbors also lost there Xmas goose the night before he was ready to be dispatched. It seems that due to Myxomatosis earlier this autumn taking out most of the rabbit population the foxes have pretty much run outta food. So all our birds became far more interesting. There seems to be about 20 to 30 foxes over these 3 small mountain farms. Normally they have enough wild food so they stay away but now they don't so anything is free game.

    My remaining birds will be staying in the stables until spring, when we will redesign n dig in the new chicken run and place boards at least 4ft high along the inside of the wire then move and redesign the coops and make smaller runs around them. The birds can't free range totally any more which is a great shame as they used to come to the back door n ask for bread and treats.

    Any idea's for new run and coop designs please feel free to share as I want to try and build all this with as much in mind as possible. I'm also looking at putting electric fencing / hot wire around the outside of the large run as well. We run it already for the horses and livestock with solar power batteries so its not much more to extend it for the birds.

    Maikan
     
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I'm so sorry for your loss, and for your pet birds. Electric poultry netting has worked very well for many people here, from Premier1supplies.com. They are very helpful, and have good information on their website. My coop and small run are on a concrete foundation, roofed, and hardware cloth everywhere, with 2"x4" woven wire fencing also. When my birds free range, they are at risk, and three years ago a mangy fox killed 1/3 of my flock one afternoon. That was a very bad day too, and a neighbor killed that fox the following week. We alerted all the neighbors, especially any that had birds, and it paid off. Total lockdown sounds like the best plan for you, at least for now. Mary
     
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Do you have a yard that would work for a guard dog! If the birds are in pens, and the area can be fenced, maybe with electric, or Invisible Fencing, a good dog would really be helpful. Mary
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Red Fox form packs in Ireland? Is it possible they did their business over multiple days before losses detected?
     
  5. Maikan

    Maikan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes they have been forming packs this year mostly due to the sever flooding we've had here and it seems to be happening in a lot of places.

    Though my lands on the side of a mountain the mountain top is level and due to the farm there being in a messy probate battle its been unworked and the drains haven't been cleared so the land has reverted back to a bog and flooded. Our ditches carry the water down around us so the land on my farm drains. This is the farm where from talking with the neighbors the fox's have been breeding unchecked. The flooding though has now pushed them on to the farms either side of me and mine.

    Down in the valley below us is where all the water flows to and that's been flooded now for months so the fox's have been pushed into smaller n smaller areas n formed themselves family packs.It's apparently something they have also been known to do in prolonged ext rem cold here. Though the cold here is sure not like the cold back home in Canada which is dry, here its a damp cold that gets into your bones. The plan now is that there will be a cull because its causing us all to loose way to many birds which is partly how we all feed ourselves and bring in some income. ( I only cull aggressive Roosters and the odd hen for the freezer here, the older guys normally end up either sold on to places they become pets and lay a few eggs for people with small flocks or they end up as pets here due to the kids as they get to know them over time.)

    The dog idea is def something I'm looking into, getting one that's bird friendly so it can live in the run and keep patrolling around it. The chooks when they go back out will be kept in smaller pens in a very large fenced run, particular to there breeds as I sell rare breed eggs n young birds and these smaller pens will be rotated so that they keep getting fresh grass etc.

    Maikan
     
  6. hayley3

    hayley3 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So sorry about your chickens..I know it's devastating. I free ranged mine for 7 years or so til 6 of my hens were killed by a fox. Sadly they can't ever free range again, so I feel your pain all around. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I suspect a combination of electrified poultry netting and dogs are in order. Note I said dogs. For me Red Foxes are handily the most difficult predator to deal with because they are small fast, and smart. They will attempt to hunt even with a dog present if the fox can snatch a birds without being caught by dog. A single dog will have a hard time catching a fox when the fox has a head start and obstacles to block pursuing dogs progress. Here a fox will thread through a fence line which the dog can not do as easily because of size limitation. My first poultry guardian that had to deal with actively hunting foxes could not repel foxes even though he killed them on occasion. The second dog made so fox could no longer out maneuver pursuer resulting in foxes no longer visiting even though dogs did not kill any.

    I opted for speed and smarts in my dogs so they could patrol and defend several acres which required a compromise on size. My dogs weighed 50 to 65 lbs. Area they protect effectively is about 6 acres.

    Perimeter fencing itself (3 strands of hotwire) does not stop foxes but slows them down and lets them know they are in a high risk area. Dogs also can beat fence in part because they are around it all the time and will run through it to get at a predator. Inside that perimeter I have paddocks surrounded by electrified poultry netting lengths. Foxes seldom challenge even the short (42" tall) stuff and the dogs work to prevent them from trying. I also worked to train dogs to clear poultry netting themselves as sometimes that I needed with raptors, especially Great-horned Owls (smaller than your Eagle Owl).

    Dogs take a good 2 years to break in and best I have had killed a few chickens before maturing. They are expensive even when starting with free pups. You want dogs that can handle cold-wet conditions and they must alert at all times and not confined to house. Activity centered on house OK but they must be able to monitor area to be defended and here alarms produced by chickens.

    Defending any number of chickens kept free-range is expensive. I would have to have a few thousand laying hens to justify cost and they good free-range nutrition not realized for chickens. Dogs for me have to have additional uses.
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I keep at most 300 birds and that drops to less than 100 hundred during the winter.
     
  9. Maikan

    Maikan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for that info regarding dogs, its sure given me some food for thought. I know what great Horned owls are as we had them back home, n thankfully there are none here and no Eagle owls, just a few Sea Eagles up on the mountain who aren't interested in the Chickens as they want the fish. I've had birds here for years and never really had any major fox problems.

    Sure over the yrs we've lost the odd bird once in a while to a fox but this years just been crazy with foxes. So far as the high fence is in place and its a large area I'm kind of thinking of securing the base of it again and laying some stone either side of it. Also around the outside putting a few strands of hot wire. Then inside the fence about 4ft back put a lower electric fence which is a mesh n designed for chickens n birds. inside of these I'll split into smaller runs with a coup adjoined to 2 runs. This way the birds can remain in the coup but I can change them between the smaller runs as need be.

    If birds of prey ever become a problem I'll just put netting over the while are so for now its more a case of sorting out the foxes, Thankfully there not like the Wolves, Coyotes, wolverines n bears back home. The track around the birds I'm thinking is where I'd keep a dog or 2, That way the fox has to pass them to get to the chickens. The dogs would run loose in here and have a Kennel for bad weather.

    Birds number wise at most I go about 125 during the summer, winter its around 50. As much as I loved to see them free range realistically now the free range days have gone, the most I can do is have a largish fenced n dog patrolled area that they can mix in together out of breeding season.

    Thanks for all your reply and thoughts there much appreciated.

    Maikan
     
  10. varidgerunner

    varidgerunner Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have followed the fox hunting legislation in your country for a while. Traditionally, people used to keep the fox population in check by sport hunting there. Countless breeds of dogs were developed there, over hundreds or possibly thousands of years, both hound and terrier, specifically for controlling your apex predator. Now, it would seem that with all of the laws in place to protect the foxes, they have formed roving bands of ravaging hordes.. Don't worry, they will get a disease and die off in a couple years, and then it will take a few years for them to reach plague levels again. This will repeat itself over and over, unless of course they can restock wolves in Ireland, (that were wiped out with the help of Irish Wolfhounds) to keep the foxes in balance.

    Usually fences buried that turn outward are more effective than fences buried straight down. But with that many hungry foxes they will explore every opportunity to enter.
     

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