The chicken and the fox: unpredictable nature


Warning! The wildlife connection in this post may be a bit tenuous… but please bear with me. Sometimes you just need to vent.

We’ve had the chickens a couple of months now. Four ex battery hens that, after a rocky start, have settled in to their new life of free-range roaming, and have been laying an average of three eggs a day for the last few weeks. All was well with their little chicken world.

Until yesterday, when disaster struck! A fox paid us a visit in broad daylight, took one hen and injured another.

It was late Sunday afternoon, and with nothing much planned I decided to head out for a stroll to see what wildlife was around my local patch. Little did I suspect that the local wildlife would be doing house-calls in my absence.

A fox doing what foxes do

It was always going to happen keeping chickens in the country, but knowing that doesn’t make the reality any easier to stomach. It’s amazing how quickly you become attached to a bag of feather-covered-bones.

Yes, I know the fox is only doing what comes naturally. I know that at this time of year they are weaning cubs onto solid food, and that chickens are easy prey for a wily predator.

I know all of these things, but when a fox attacks your poultry logic goes out the window. The response is, by and large, an emotional one. There’s anger and vitriol – tempered with disbelief, a twinge of regret and an underlying wave of guilt that you’ve failed to protect your hapless avian charges.

You take it as a personal affront, although of course it’s nothing of the sort.

Foxes need to learn what “crepuscular” means!

Foxes are meant to be crepuscular – I know, I Googled it. But this fox, it seems, had failed to read its own press. I was ten minutes from home when the phone call came. A neighbour had called to the door to tell my wife he had just scared off a fox that was attacking a chicken by the side of the house. I rushed back to be greeted by distraught children and general scenes of mayhem. There were feathers and tears everywhere!

It was a telling reminder that nature doesn’t always play by our rules… an that when it comes to wildlife the widely accepted norm isn’t always an accurate guide.

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success


  1. Lucy Greenfield says:

    Sorry about your poor hens. We live in the sticks, in Kilgarvan, Kerry, and our land back onto Killarney National Park, so it’s very wild. We did our level best to keep the foxes out of the ‘haggard’ and succeeded for a couple of years, but then trouble started. We had rats! they gnawed through the wooden posts that were part of the structure of the henhouse and this allowed the dreaded mink to get in. In one night the mink killed 7 out of 9 chickens, including our dashing French Rooster. The remaining 2 hens were moved into a much smaller, and I had hoped better protected area, but a very determined vixen killed them! It’s almost impossible to keep hens, in a really free-range fashion in these here parts! *sigh*

    • John Fogarty says:

      We have kept freerange poultry for years and foxes are problematic at times.Firstly agood dog around the yard helps, needs to be collie size at least.Foxes are also predictable if he came at 3pm he,ll be back around same time every day unless hes distracted or disturbed.He will be back until hens are all gone or securely fenced where its not worth the effort,6ft fence minimum,extending underground to 18 inches.Ive seen 36 hens dead in yard and Ive seen a fox sitting in the middle of poultry ignoring them or making up his mind.
      Ultimatley you have to decide if you have the time and resources to protect the hens or house them. The fox as you say is doing what comes naturally,I did shoot one particularly persistant individual,over a 30 year period,the farm dogs ran off the rest or we kept watch and rehoused the hens if going out.

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