A Foxy Problem


I decided to let the chickens into the garden. They had been shut in their cage for a few weeks while the local fox had cubs, and again while we were in the Lake District, and again while some plants were being established (because chickens like to dig). But it’s much healthier for them to be roam free, to have dust-baths to clean their feathers, and to fly into the trees. I opened their door, and out they rushed.

It was hours later, as I was cooking dinner, that I realised I had never collected the eggs. I left the potatoes bubbling on the stove, and walked up the garden. As I neared the pond area, I smelt the unmistakeable whiff of fox. I started to hurry, peering into the trees for signs of feathers.

As I reached the chicken coop, I could see all the chickens, peacefully digging in the earth as they searched for tasty bugs. No casualties. But as I rounded the corner, there in the coop, just sneaking through the door, was a fox. Without thinking, I rushed up, slammed shut the door, and locked it.

The fox leapt to the corner of the cage, then turned, eyes flashing, teeth barred, fur raised. It flung itself at the locked door, then leapt for the far corner. It dug at the earth, clawed at the bars, ripped the netting from the sides of the cage. But it was trapped. Now what?

I hadn’t really thought this through. If I released the furious fox, it would almost certainly snatch a chicken or duck as it passed. But I couldn’t keep a wild animal in a cage, and soon it would be dusk and the chickens would want to roost.

I watched the fox as it flung his angry body around the cage, then I went to get reinforcements. Jay happened to be visiting, and Husband was working in his study, so I told them I had caught a fox, and asked if they could help. Both appeared amazingly quickly.

(Later, Jay informed me that this was another instance of my not being normal. Apparently normal mothers do not catch foxes, nor do they ask in very calm ‘please-can-you-empty-the-dishwasher’ type voices if their sons can help with a trapped fox. But I have given up trying to be normal.)

The fox was still angry/upset/terrified. I thought the chances of one of us being bitten was fairly high, and I wondered if foxes, like bats, have rabies. It looked healthy enough. I was impressed with the energy it was expending on trying to rip up my chicken coop, and pleased with how strong the coop was proving to be. I watched the fox as it climbed a vertical wall, traversed the roof upside-down, then dropped to the floor. Agile as a cat, vicious as a hyena.

My animals were not much help. Kia arrived, but I worried she might fight and be hurt, so I took her back to the house. Three cats arrived, and sat staring at the trapped fox. Stupid chickens arrived—it was time to roost—and lined up next to the door, ready to go inside. Did they not recognise a predator? Clearly not.

The problem was: How to remove livid fox from coop in such a way as to ensure no chickens would be hurt? Or ducks. Or cats. Or humans.

We own a couple of metal dog crates. One was inside the coop, used as a nesting box. We got the second one, checked it would fit through the door if the coop, and placed it inside a huge bag used for collecting leaves. This made a dark space, somewhere a scared fox might try to hide. We tied string to the door, so we could shut it from afar. When the fox was at the far end of the coop, we placed this wrapped cage in the coop.

We then used sticks and noise to ‘shoo’ the fox into the wrapped cage. Not as easy as it sounds, but we managed it, pulled the string to close the door, then Husband rushed into coop and closed the latch. Fox was now secure in smaller dog crate.

Jay and Husband carried the dog crate away from the coop, all the chickens went back inside, and I closed the door for the night. Disaster averted.

Note to self: Next time I trap a wild animal, it would be good to have an end-of-plan strategy in place.

Hope you don’t have any disasters this week. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x


P.S. Pleeease don’t feed foxes. They are wild animals, and when they lose their fear of humans, and their gardens, they become a problem.

Anne E. Thompson
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