I 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.
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.
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.
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.