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Keeping Chickens Safe from Predators [Video Included]

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Keeping Chickens Safe from Predators [Video Included]

There are a number of predators in Australia that are keen on eating backyard chickens. Keeping chickens safe from these predators is an important part of learning to care for a happy backyard flock but it’s vital that you fully understand the threats.

The following information is based on my, monthly “Eggucational” presentation on different problems and issues that can arise when keeping backyard chickens. I have included a shortened, edited video of the presentation at the end of this post for those that wish to gain a deeper understanding of how to keep chickens safe.

Predators to watch-out for when keeping chickens

Dogs, Feral Cats, Eagles, and Hawks are all predators of chickens but none are as efficient or effective in killing as the fox. It is a very rare thing for me to ever hear of any predator other than a fox that has killed our customer’s chickens and often the entire flock!


Dogs are everywhere in suburbia and among the most common of pets. Fortunately, most dogs won’t be at all interested in your chickens and pose no threat. However, some dogs may take a keen interest in your chickens and you will need to have a safe enclosure to keep them separate from your flock at all times.

Domestic cats

Domestic cats pose little threat to chickens and you won’t have to keep chickens separated from them as a rule. We have a number of farm cats who are definitely noticed by the chooks. However, the cats are only interested in catching mice, sunbathing and sleeping.

Feral cats

Feral cats aren’t so common in suburbia and can be large and aggressive to chickens. As for the protection of your chooks from aggressive dogs, a secure enclosure will reduce the possibility of a feral cat attack if you live closer to rural areas or have seen feral cats roaming.

Eagles and Hawks

Both Eagles and Hawks normally spend more time on the fringes and on farm land so are unlikely to get anywhere near your suburban chickens. Like the other non-fox predators, Eagles and Hawks are far less able to quickly kill your entire flock and of minimal threat.


The European fox was introduced into Australia in the early 1870’s for the purpose of fox hunting. Not surprisingly, the fox population exploded since that time and now numbers around eight million. Weighing between five and seven kilos and with no noticeable differences between the sexes, the adult fox has become one of the most adaptable and successful predators of Australian native wildlife and backyard chickens.

How foxes move around suburbia

Foxes are highly mobile and are happy to travel relatively large distances in order to get their meal. It’s not unusual for a fox to travel up to 15 kilometers from its den and utilise existing infrastructure such as railway lines and waterways as easy ways to access the city’s suburbs.

Why foxes thrive in the city

Foxes thrive more in the city than on farms and rural areas due to the low risks to their survival and plentiful food sources. There’s an abundance of food for the fox with the huge amount of waste that is produced from cafes and restaurants and of course household waste. It’s often much harder for a fox to safely earn a meal in the country.

Pets such as chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs are also popular meal choices for the fox when keepers don’t have robust enclosures and coops to contain their pets in at night. Other live meals come in the form of rodents, birds and native animals including Wallabies, lizards and frogs etc.

Foxes are actually omnivorous so can eat plant matter as well as meat but their preference is always meat. They will also stockpile surplus meat by burying it in the ground for when food is less plentiful and eat insects, fruit and berries when they have to.

Why foxes are so difficult to catch and see

Foxes are primarily nocturnal although they are becoming increasingly active during the daytime. Part of the reason is the lower risk of them living in the city. They won’t get shot at, baited or trapped within urban areas of a city so feel a lot less threatened.

They also have plenty of good hiding places such as underneath buildings and bridges, beside waterways, in parks and on golf courses. Their superior sense of smell and keen powers of observation means that they can usually “outfox” most other animals and humans.

Keeping chickens safe from fox attacks

Keeping chickens safe from foxes is not difficult but does require a good coop set-up and being wary of the fox threat when allowing them to roam outside. You’ll need to pay attention to the signs that a fox is visiting at night to avoid a potential break-in such as scratching or digging around the coop or being woken by frightened chickens.

A fully enclosed coop with a mesh floor is the simplest way to keep chickens safe but you will need to allow enough space for all the chooks to be happy for extended periods of time such as when you are away on holiday. Of course, your chickens are only safe while they’re inside with the door closed. The most common story that I hear is the one time that the door wasn’t closed and a fox noticed the fact.

If you don’t have a fully enclosed run area for your chickens to roam around in, make sure that mesh at the bottom perimeter is dug-in at least 100mm or extends out 200mm from the perimeter. This will stop foxes from digging under the fence.

To protect your chickens from a climbing fox, and they are adept climbers, it’s a good idea to have a floppy top to the fence so that any climbing fox won’t be able to gain purchase and fall off (on the outside!). Another option for areas with a high density of foxes is electric poultry netting which is moveable and sends a short, sharp shock to any animal that touches it. 

Ways to catch foxes

If you know that you have a fox lurking around or have lost chickens to a fox already, it may be time to catch it. Living in urban areas, chicken keepers are limited to the methods they can use for fox control.

The most effective and humane way to catch a fox is by using a cage trap purpose-built to contain a fox. The good thing about a cage trap is that it’s safe and easy to release a non-targeted animal such as your pet cat or dog. I’ve caught a number of our hens in our fox trap but always find an egg inside so they make good use of their short imprisonment.

Luring foxes into your trap

Foxes are extremely smart and can detect the faintest of human smells. The more “earthy” and natural the smell of a trap the better. Fresh chicken pieces or tinned tuna are ideal to use as bait to attract foxes and leaving a trail of “breadcrumbs” for foxes will help lead them into the cage. The way to do this is to place very small amounts of the bait as the “breadcrumbs” or tie a piece of string around a fresh chicken drumstick and drag it from the edge of your property to the front of the trap.

Removing foxes from your property

There are a number of ways that you can remove a fox that you’ve been able to trap. You may even be lucky enough to find a service that will collect and dispose of the fox for you.

The first is to contact your local Council to see if they have a fox removal and disposal service in your area. You might also have a local Vet who can accept foxes for disposal or a local branch of the RSPCA that may be able to help. Lastly, you may have an Animal Shelter or Animal Pound in your area that will dispose of foxes for you.

So, in the end, you can’t completely remove the danger of predators when keeping chickens but you can go a long way in reducing the risks. Most predators are relatively harmless when compared with the fox and you must make certain that your flock is kept as safe as possible from these intelligent and highly skilled killers.

22 thoughts on “Keeping Chickens Safe from Predators [Video Included]

  1. Hi. This morning I found my chickens clearing in a corner, one had lost a few feathers. I spent the day cleaning the coop and they ventured out more confidently. I left the coop for one hour this afternoon and came back to find one of my silkies beheaded. No body part taken. Do you know what may have attacked? Must have been the same predator that tried in the morning. There is a cat that visits from the back fence but not sure if it’s aggressive. I have been reading about predators, mainly American sites. I thought a fox would have been likely to kill all chickens if it attacked….

    1. Hi Kate,

      Sorry to hear about that. It sounds very much like the work of a fox as the classic sign is a missing head. It may have sneaked-in and become scared after killing the Silkie. They are very cunning but a bit paranoid as well and if they have made a kill, will tend to scurry-off for fear of being caught themselves.


      1. Thanks for your reply Jason. Is the fox likely to return? It seems as though it tried to attack one in the morning then returned in the afternoon to actually attack and kill. It is likely we have disturbed it both times. Do you have any recommendations to deter foxes? Thanks again

        1. Hi Kate,

          There should be a few ideas in the blog post and video. It’s really keeping them in a safe enclosure and having good boundary fencing. Foxes hate the smell of male urine and hair too so that could be worth a try as a deterrent.

          You will have to be very aware of any weak spots on your property where a fox could gain entrance and do what you can to make it difficult if he or she decides to visit.

      2. Kate I found a beheaded silkie about 2 weeks ago and was curious about what killed it No body part taken just head.
        I know I have foxes around but they seem to gut the chickens not just take head so I wasn’t positive it was a fox.
        My other chooks have been nervy and have been hiding under the hedge frequently. Toady I saw a big hawk attacking another silkie with the same result beheaded it!!!! If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would not have believed it – any ideas on how to stop this hungry hawk attacking the other hens

        1. Hi Chris,

          Sorry to hear that and beheading is normally a fox rather than a hawk or eagle. The Hawk may have come down to get the spoils left by the fox more than likely.

          I’m sure that a hawk is probably quite capable of pulling the head of a hen but the razor-sharp teeth of the fox will snap-off a head with ease. Foxes won’t often take their kill away with them as get spooked very easily so will get away quickly following a kill to avoid detection.

          A narrow run area can deter birds of prey as they will be concerned with catching their wings and being trapped. If hens are out free-ranging in a larger area though, they can easily be seen and attacked.

          I hope that has helped shed some light and sorry again for the loss of your two silkies!

  2. hi, l am responsibley new at having chickens. We started off with 6 hens and a rooster. And now we have one hen and one rooster, the hens have been taken by something, but l dont know if its a fox. There in now blood in the area they were taken only lots of feather. They roam free range on the property around the house during the day when l came home yesturday there were so many feathers around the front area of the house l thought NO not another one, but found my last hen and my rooster with no tail feathers a little shaken but ok. What could be doing this, we have a lot of crows on the property. Could it be them?

    1. Hi Kym,

      The classic sign of a fox attack is a missing head. It may have been an attempt by an Eagle or Hawk if you are on a rural property or possibly a dog if in the suburbs. Feral cats aren’t common at all so it’s probably safe to say that it wasn’t cat related and crows like to steal eggs but would not attack a chicken.

      You are very fortunate that they just lost feathers and didn’t suffer any injury.

  3. HI there, thanks for having the blog. We live in inner city Sydney and have three hens. For the second time within a few months (accidentally left the door open) we have had one hen mauled on the head with the comb ripped off and died of the injuries. But whatever it was didn’t eat it. It was done in the middle of the night. Do you think it was a feral cat or a fox? cheers ochre

    1. Hi Ochre,

      Sorry to hear about your hen being attacked. 99% of the time it will be a fox and their classic sign is decapitation. They don’t often remove the carcass as a rule as get spooked easily.


      1. Hi Jason, thanks for replying. Both times the hens weren’t decapitated but just the combs ripped off. Maybe the fox got spooked?

  4. Lost a hen yesterday. Found it lying in the in the chook pen. It looked different from a fox attack, which we’ve had in the past. The head and neck had been ripped off and a wing. It didn’t look like anything was eaten.

    1. Hi Tim,

      That’s no good and sounds like a fox attack to me if the head is off and the wing. Foxes have very sharp teeth and can chop off any extensions offered to them. Typically, they won’t take any part of the bird once killed as get spooked very easily following a kill which is probably why they are so difficult to catch.


  5. Hi. We have chickens and last night they were locked up in their pen. This morning we found them quite distressed with about 4 hiding and 5 had been attacked. They were attacked on their backs right down where the tail starts. The rooster had been attacked on his wing.

    It was fresh blood so it must have happened within their coop. There are two places where there’s a 5cm gap near the ground. Doesn’t seem to be fox related because their heads weren’t attacked.

    Any ideas on what could the the culprit?

    1. Hi Leonie,

      Sorry to hear that your flock has been attacked. It could still be a fox as he may well have pushed his snout through that gap and grabbed whatever he could get hold of which wouldn’t have been any heads or necks. Panic may then have ensued with hens flying around the place and the rooster may have come to defend his hens and been bitten on the wing.

      I have lost groups of hens before to a fox who got his snout through a 3cm gap so 5cm would provide plenty of room for him to attack and kill or injure hens. Definitely, patch-up any gaps in the coop to avoid the risk of any fox attacks in the future.


  6. I had 4 chickens which got attached at night and predator cut their head off. They were in the raised coop it was raised about 3 ft and had a opening of about 4inch for ventilation at about 8ft high between roof sheet and walls of the coop. It was all closed at night with all of them fine. I am wondering which predator can do this from that hight?

    1. Hi Deep,

      Sorry to hear about the fox killing your chickens. I would almost guarantee it was a fox as snapping heads off is a classic sign for them.

      Foxes are excellent climbers and can easily scale fences and ladders etc. Somehow, it looks like a fox has managed to gain entry to kill the hens so check the coop and run thoroughly.

      The fox may have scared the hens and got them panicking until they came close enough for him/her to grab their necks which is one technique that foxes use.


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