battle of wits with a chicken predator

Matching wits with a chicken predator is not a contest I chose.  But I have no option but to contend, as best I can.

Some 3 weeks ago on a Saturday evening as I readied to close up the chicken coop I did my count and noticed that Goldie 2 was missing.  We searched the three paddocks and then the perimeter zone without result.  It was only when I went 50 yards into the woods that I noticed one of her feathers.  Golden Comets have distinctive gold colored feathers.  Goldie 2 was my favorite chicken – intelligent, trusting, inquisitive – and probably with less honed survival skills.  A few paces further I saw more feathers and then a bundle of feathers where she must have made her last struggle, and then no more feathers.  I suspected the culprit was a fox, probably a red fox I had spotted in the past.

Since foxes are supposed to be active early morning and late afternoon, I decided to reset the automatic coop door opener from 7.30am to 9am and I hoped the chicken would be safe until 5.30pm to 6pm when I typically coop them.  A week passed without incident.  Then I spotted the fox again one evening.  Then some more time passed.  Last Thursday at 4.30pm the rooster gave his serious distress call – four distress calls in quick succession.  Onto the deck I stumbled and I heard some commotion at the bottom gate and then I saw this lithe attractive fox head down the hill into the woods, alone.  Then two days later, Saturday afternoon at 4.15pm, we happened to glance outside and saw the red fox heading for the chicken paddocks.  Upon seeing us it swiftly turned around and moved quickly up the hill and, without seeming to slow down, under a gate where the space between the gate and the ground was approximately 5.5″ and then up the hill and it was gone.  Pity, a really good looking animal.

I decided to engage.  First make it more difficult to get past the field gate by blocking the space under the gate.

gate to #3 chicken paddock with 4 by 4 post blocking access between ground and gate

This quick fix will not discourage him/her, just motivate it to find another route and at least foster the realization that my holding is not a cafetaria where you can just saunter up for your next meal.

Then I turned my attention to the paddocks – some of the fences are 4 ft high and some 5 ft.  I laid one or more strands of barbed wire above all the exterior 4 ft fences.

gate to chicken area
barbed wire strands above 4 ft horse fence which surrounds some of the chicken paddock

Then I tried plugging gaps beneath the fences with large stones/boulders.  The next area of weakness was the gates – one is 7ft high, the other 3 about 4 ft high.  I encircled the top rail of all 3 gates with barbed wire to discourage climbing activities.

chicken paddock gate
4 ft gate to chicken paddock with barbed wire on top rail and interstices blocked with fencing material

Sundry other improvements were made including clearing the growth on the paddocks’ west exterior so that I and the rooster could more readily spot a stealthy intruder.

fence on west side of chicken paddock
west side of chicken paddock before clearing
west side of chicken paddock
west side of chicken paddock after clearing

My next steps will be to resort to technology and install motion sensors which may alert me to the fox’s approach.  I believe the coop will withstand a predator so my concern is about day attacks when I am deep in the woods or temporarily away from the property.  I have considered and rejected traps – would hate to ensnare my Trudy or a neighbor’s dog.  But there are other options and so I have cleared surrounding brush and obstacles for a clear line of sight.

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