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Three Chickens, Two Cats, a Fox and a Baseball Bat!

Updated on September 5, 2013
Fox Training - know your enemy!
Fox Training - know your enemy!

How to deter Mr. Fox?

One night whilst watching TV hubby and I noticed a shadow move across the garden, a large dog like form with a big bushy tail - Mr. Fox!

He seemed to ignore the coop, he'd walked right past it and didn't pay it much attention, but I suppose the girls don't make much of a fuss and attract attention at 2am. I flicked the garden lights on, opened the door and yelled at the fox to spook it away, but it just stared at me, held its position in defiance and then some time later sauntered off. We have a ramp in the corner of the garden to help our cats out when they want and this was what the fox was using to gain entry, our garden is surrounded by 6ft fences and walls and this is the only way in.

I see a lot of urban foxes in Tottenham, some even brazenly walk through the local pub garden in the summer and think nothing of making a path between unsuspecting customers legs. It is a family pub and I am concerned that a child may mistake the fox for a dog and try to stroke it, and we do not know how the fox will react. Sadly these foxes are manky cocky urban animals used to rummaging through bins for food, they can be a scourge of the city, a nuisance and a predator to not only backyard chickens but also attack cats, small dogs and even humans. I can imagine after a lifetime diet of bin bags and the odd squirrel my hens may look like an emperors feast to the fox. Of course, the fox is a chickens natural predator and I understand that where there are chickens foxes will be too, but this does not mean that I should just accept that and let the fox have its way. I got my chickens in May and the first direct approach by the fox was in September. My chickens came with a cautionary tale from the farmer about foxes and how to deter them, he suggested an electric fence as that is how he protects his farm from the country fox. Many of my friends have lost chickens to foxes and their description of the carnage left behind is horrific. If a fox were to get into my coop it wouldn't just take one chicken, it wouldn't be quick or humane and it would tear them to pieces and leave most of the carcass behind. A fox has no idea about boundaries, the whole city is its playground and it will roam wherever it wants, unless you make an effort to stop it and I believe that as a responsible pet owner you should do everything you can to protect the animals that you care for.

A few nights later, Mr. Fox pressed his nose against the patio door, I am sure he would have come in had it been open. He had something fluffy and grey in his mouth which I found the next day under our tree - exactly half a squirrel as though chopped in two with a cleaver. He was a bit erratic that night, braver and ready to be a royal pain in the backside. I ran into the garden to find him turning on my unsuspecting cat Millie, which to me is unacceptable. I have recently read in the press of an urban fox who went into a house and not only attacked the resident cat but also its owner. Hubby tossed to me one of his crutches and, shouting and screaming, I waved the crutch at the fox to drive it away, he ran down the side of our property and turned and bared his teeth at me. It wasn't until afterwards that I realised what danger I'd been in. Foxes are big and strong with sharp teeth and capable of causing a human a lot of damage and so I did the only thing I could think of and hit the fox with hubby's crutch to get it away from me. The fox ran away and jumped out of the garden. I was left red faced and shaking but glad to have defended my small garden and my beloved animals.

The third incident was early one morning. I woke up to the distressed clucking of the hens and manic flapping of wings and so I jumped out of bed and tore the curtains open to see the fox manically jumping at the coop barking and desperately trying to get through the mesh. The birds unsurprisingly were going mental, they were safe enough in their locked up coop, but the fox didn't know that and he continued his campaign to enter. This time I had left a baseball bat near the door as I knew the fox would return. I ran out in my pajama's and slippers brandishing the bat like a sword and swung at the fox knocking it away from the coop. After a bit of chasing about and more screaming from me, he eventually made his escape and I near collapsed in a heap on the grass. I inspected the coop and found that in the mayhem he had managed to tear a chunk of timber from the door frame, whether he did it with claws or teeth it didn't really matter, I couldn't let this happen again.

So, how to deter the fox? I researched a few exterminator companies but its an expensive affair and doesn't sit well with me. I was very naïve, I thought that a specilist in the field of trapping foxes will take the animal to a country location or rescue centre and free it. Sadly that is not the case, the trap must be checked daily by 7am and if a fox has been trapped you must call the company immediately and they will come out and dispatch the fox there and then. It is legal in the UK to trap and kill a fox yourself but the law says you must do it humanely, there are lots of rules to protect the animal down to the caliber of bullet that you must use, the time of day you check the trap and keeping the snare out of inclement weather. I am not willing to kill a fox myself or pay to have an animal dispatched and be just as responsible for it's death as if I'd pulled the trigger. At £195 per fox dispatch by a pro and an unwillingness to be the cause of death to an animal I looked at alternatives. After a lot of research, including fox specific laws and other online testimonials from chicken keepers I took a simpler approach.

At the point of entry I mounted a detector called a Foxwatch, costs around £50 online. It is a small PIR unit that detects the movement of any animal and emits a high frequency noise that foxes and dogs find uncomfortable and this makes them run in the opposite direction. Similar devices with different frequencies can be used against cats and rodents. The idea being that the fox learns that his movement has triggered this noise and will avoid the area. I was skeptical as the online testimonials about the effectiveness of this device were mixed and some claimed that it had an adverse effect on cats, but for £50 it was so far the cheapest and most humane option and I felt worth a try. I then erected a chicken wire fence near the ramp that would make entry to our garden more difficult for the fox but still allow the cats access in and out of the garden. After checking that the fox detector didn't effect my cats I mounted it on the roof and waited.

I did this in October and so far it has worked and we have had no further late night or early morning visits. I still see as many foxes in the neighborhood as before but they are staying away from my garden and that's good enough for me. Maybe they are scarred by the memory of a screaming pyjama clad banshee woman, or maybe it's the Foxwatch and extra fence, but I am just happy not to be brandishing the baseball bat again and my birds and cats can live without fear - for now.

© 2011 mooboomoo


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