Hen House: No Foxes Allowed!

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keep foxes out of the hen houseI enjoy my backyard chickens.  They entertain us with their antics, provide great material for the compost bin, eat bugs, plus they provide eggs.  I can’t imagine a day without them since they are part of our daily routine.  But as every chicken keeper knows, it can be over in a moment if a fox gets in the hen house.

young foxes playing in our yard

young foxes playing in our yard

As an urban homesteader, you may think that I would not have to worry about this issue; in reality, I do.  There are plenty of foxes in our urban setting.  They hunt birds, squirrels, mice, rabbits, and the occasional house pet.  In fact, there is a fox den just two houses down the street from us.  Each spring, we are greeted with kits playing tag.  Our yard is a fox hang out.  They nap under our trees, snack on the raspberries, and spend time either sitting on top of the chicken run looking down or sitting outside of the run attempting to dig a hole.

Now, we were well aware of our neighborhood foxes shortly after we moved into our home.  At that time, they were scenic wildlife that we considered ourselves fortunate to have in our backyard.  However, all of that changed once we decided to get chickens.

In order to keep chickens, our city ordinance has a statement that calls out to have a “predator proof” coop.  We did not need convincing, we had already seen the foxes and knew that a fox-proof hen house and attached run were a necessity if we intended to keep our chickens safe.

2" x 4" wood frame hen house

2 x 4 wood frame hen house

Once we settled on a coop design, the structure began to take shape.  We went with a sturdy 2 x 4 frame, knowing that the foxes would not be able to push over the coop.  Unfortunately, we had seen some coops that made use of lapboard siding and lathing strips.  One good blow, and the structure would be breached.  This solidified our choice of 2 x 4 materials.

This frame was built on top of a wooden sub-floor made with 2 x 4s and 1/2″ lumber boards (leftover from a previous project).  We knew that foxes would try to dig under the coop if they could.   If they were lucky enough to burrow under the coop, we wanted them to face the challenge of encountering a wooden floor instead of dirt.  No amount of digging would get them through that floor!

Once we completed our all wood chicken house, it was time to move onto the chicken run.  For the chickens safety and convenience of letting them out of the coop each day, the run was attached to the coop.  We again went with 2 x 4s for the framing of the run.  Our next move was to cover the run frame with woven wire.  We deemed that chicken wire was too flimsy to withstand the rigors of a determined fox.  Instead, we went with 1/4″ grid woven wire.  It was sturdy and there was no way that a fox could slip a snout or paw between the wires, the grid was too small.

To increase the security of the run, we used the woven wire in creative ways.  Since foxes dig, we too, dug.  We dug down 12″ with the wire and then made a 90 degree bend and took the wire in 18″ from the wall of the run.  If any fox was going to get into the run, he would have to dig and dig, then dig some more.

Lastly, we covered the top of the run with the same 2 x 4s of the frame (to give strength) and topped it off with more of the woven wire.  We have seen the foxes climb fences in our neighborhood. They can scale just about anything.  If we left the run uncovered, it would be an open invitation to every fox that our ‘chicken buffet’ was open.

Fox in the backyard

Fox in the backyard

With the coop and run completed, we moved our chickens into the their new home.  The following morning, a fox was sitting on top of the run looking down, but he couldn’t get in.  Good thing we used 2 x 4s and a tight woven wire!

Over the months, foxes have tried their luck at digging.  We find their attempts at the edge of coop as well as the run.  Most of the holes are between 3″ – 5″ deep.  (We refill the holes to discourage continued digging.)   They are thwarted by the buried woven wire as well as the wood floor.

So far, our chickens are safe and sound inside their coop and run.  The enjoy fresh air, good food, the occasional dust bath, and a mayhem-free enclosure.  We get to enjoy our chickens and the foxes are once again wildlife we are privileged to see on our homestead.

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12 responses »

  1. Pingback: Homestead Chicken Resources - Everything for Your Backyard Flock

  2. Good for you for being a responsible chicken keeper! As a wildlife rescuer (and a chicken keeper) I really love to hear about people making a very serious effort to predator proof their livestock. Foxes are indeed excellent climbers. They are the only K9 that climbs like a cat. I want to mention that since you have such a large population of them it is really important to make sure any outside cats or dogs be vaccinated for distemper. Foxes can get, carry and pass along both kinds of distemper, K9 and feline. They are interesting critters. : )

    • I grew up on a farm in rural Iowa and see first-hand what a fox can do to a chicken. I have also seen them climb fences…. pretty amazing. So when I moved to the city, I knew that in order to keep our flock safe, we would have to take precautions. And we knew before building the coop, that we had neighborhood foxes as they are frequent visitors to our backyard. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. Pingback: Chickenpalooza! Homestead Chicken Resources

  4. I’m new at raising chickens, but read about everything I could get my hands on. My coop is solid and I used hardware cloth to cover the windows and run. I extended the hardware cloth out from the base of the run about 2 feet because I was told that fox will dig at the base but don’t think to go back that far when they are trying to dig under the run. Sadly I was letting my chickens free range during the day under a frequent checking eye and putting them in at dusk, not knowing that the kits come out the first week in august and, unlike older fox that hunt after dusk, they hunt in daylight. I heard my husband yell fox and turned the corner to see one of my chickens running with a fox at her heels. we scared the fox enough to round up 6 out of my 7 chickens. the 7th was found neatly tucked under a tree stump just into the woods by the fox. Only one other had a large clump of feathers pulled from her back, but is healed now and doing just fine. Lessen learned. the fox comes to look in at them in the very secure run, they yell like crazy at him, but they are safe and he has to go elsewhere.

    • The foxes are daily visitors in our neighborhood. The adults don’t dig nearly as often as they used to. But they always sit outside of the run looking in at the chickens. The kits still test both the coop and run, hoping to find a way in. By now, our older hens have grown accustomed to the foxes, but still squawk. Even though I would like to let our chickens have more time to free-range, it just isn’t practical given the number of foxes. Good luck with your coop and run and I hope your girls remain safe and secure.

  5. Well done! It bothers me when I see folks who take on the responsibility of raising chickens but don’t take the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

    Here we have to deal with foxes, but also with hawks, owls, coyotes, stray dogs, snakes, opposums and raccoons. Chickens are popular with lots of predators.

    Our coop is set on blocks, to lessen the risk of anything tunneling into it. Another thing to consider for anyone builind a coop.

  6. Well done. It bothers me when folks take on the responsibility of raising chickens but don’t take the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

    We have to deal with foxes too, but also with hawks, owls, coyotes, stray dogs, snakes, opposums and raccoons. Chickens are very popular with predators.

    Our coop is up on blocks, lessening the risk that anything will be able to tunnel into it.

    • Thank you. We want to share with others about how to secure your flock. Even in an urban setting, there are still predators. There is a pair of hawks that have a nest about 75 yards from our coop and our chickens still cower in the run when they see that shadow go by overhead. Our area also has a lot of raccoons as well. I have seen growing up what a raccoon can do to a chicken and I don’t want that for my girls. Sounds like you are taking precautions as well.

  7. Love the framing on your coop. Although we don’t have foxes, we do have bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions, so we had very much the same considerations when we built our first coop. It was all about security. I can attest to the fact that the woven wire, above ground, has held up fabulously over seven years. You may find though, that much like chicken or gopher wire, that it doesn’t last as long below the soil line, and the weld points do decay, but you should get at least a few years out of it. Hopefully your sly foxes will get the message, and leave your hens in peace 🙂

    • So far so good. Our city approved backyard chickens in 2008 and we were one of the first to get our chicken license (so we were legal) and our coop went up that same year. The wire below the soil had held up so far and (knock on wood), we have not had any breaches into either the run or the coop.

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