Foxes can be a problem. If they have prowled around your property and have found an area for easy prey, then they will return. They are nocturnal hunters and are very elusive. By the morning hours, they have already made their presence, hunted, and have gone back to their den.
How To Get Rid Of Foxes Without Killing Them In Winter
Signs that you may have foxes on your property include: Paw prints around your chicken coop or vegetable garden, unexplained holes in the ground (their possible den), missing garden vegetables, and/or missing chickens.
Foxes are pretty active in the winter months – more active than you may realize. Just how active are they in December, January, and February? Let’s go over their behaviors and activity throughout the winter months.
Fox Activities in December
With the mating season approaching, foxes will now be actively defending their territories. The triple bark often followed by a scream can be heard frequently. It’s this call that leads many to believe the foxes are killing cats. Often the police will also be called out in the belief that someone is being attacked. The territory borders are now showing increasing evidence of fox activity, and the musky smell of foxes is evident.
Fox Activities in January
January is usually the month of unrest within the fox family – not only is it the peak of the mating season, but also the peak dispersal season as well. Cubs that were born last year, now adults, will be seen as a threat to the breeding rights and the available food supply of their parents. Any sub-adults who have failed to disperse will usually be continually chased away. Many of the sub-adults will actually leave of their own accord in search of a territory and a mate of their own. The resident dog fox and vixen will be actively defending the territory against intruders, both physically and vocally. They do this by barking and urinating and defecating along the borders of their territory.
Fox Activities in February
Quite the opposite of January, February is usually a relatively stable month for the fox family. The dispersal season is over and the fights over who breeds with whom have now stopped. While many of the litters born over the years disperse when old enough, some of the foxes, usually the females, may be allowed to stay on within their parent’s territory. Although they will have given up their right to breed, some of the benefits outweigh such as a secure territory, a regular supply of food, and also knowledge of the area.
The dominant vixen is usually the only vixen allowed to mate, but females from previous litters will play their part in actually looking after and rearing the young when they are born. They act as ‘aunties’ looking after the cubs while the vixen is away hunting, and will also bring food back for the cubs. In February, the vixen, during the day, will be denned down in the earth she has prepared.
If the presence of foxes is getting to be a problem, then there are ways to deter them from your property. Just know, that there’s no guarantee so you may have to try different methods until you find one that is successful. Here are a few ideas.
Make Your Property Less Attractive
- Clear all food scraps and enclose all compost bins.
- Cover standing water at night to prevent drinking.
- Stop using fertilizers made from blood, bone, or fish.
- Gather excess fruit and vegetables instead of leaving it on the plant.
- Keep shoes and other small objects inside. Foxes like to use these as playthings.
- Block access to enclosed spaces that foxes could turn into a den. Check first to make sure there are no animals already living there.
Most commercial repellents are scent-based, which confuses the fox and prevents it from marking your land as its own territory. If you can’t find a fox repellent, look for one targeted at dogs. You may need to try a few repellents before you find one that works on your foxes.
- Aluminum ammonium sulphate – a scent-based repellent
- Methyl nonyl ketone – also scent-based
- Capsicum (pepper spray) – extra-spicy taste. Typically less effective.
Where to Apply the Repellent
Apply repellent strategically. Repellent usually can’t discourage a fox when it’s already next to the hen house or your prize vegetables. Spray the repellent in the following locations instead, or mix with sand and sawdust and sprinkle it.
- Apply directly to scat, without removing it. Foxes leave scat in the open to mark territory, and may return to the same spot if it is cleared. (If children play in the area, apply fox scat disinfectant as well to protect them from diseases.)
- Apply to soil above buried food, compost, or deceased pets that may be buried on your property.
- Apply to suspected entry points on your land, or along the tops of walls and fences.
Consider Electric Fencing
This is one of the most effective ways to deter foxes. Foxes usually examine the fence before trying to climb or jump. If they come into contact with an electric wire, the painful shock will usually discourage them from trying. Run three wires for best results: one at fox head height, one along the top, and one in the middle. You’ll also need an energizer that produces about 5,000–7,000 volts. The fox must make a connection between the electric wire and the ground to get a shock. If your fence isn’t grounded, run a ground wire about an inch (2.5 cm) apart from the middle and upper wires.
If there are hedgehogs in your area, the lowest electric wire should be at least 6 inches (15 cm) off the ground to prevent accidental death. Other small mammals are usually fine.
Electric fences are not recommended in areas with young children!
Other Repellents Options
- Leave out bad-tasting food. A fox that has an unpleasant experience eating something in your yard may not want to visit again. Try leaving out food scraps covered in hot sauce or bittering agents.
- Add male urine around the perimeter. You may use human urine or male predator urine from a garden store. This generally works best for deterring prey animals, not predators, but some people have reported success. As with any deterrent, results will vary based on individual foxes and how desirable your land appears.
- Try commercial ‘scare’ products such as devices that squirt water when an animal approaches, ultrasonic devices that make a high-pitched noise, or devices that flash light at the fox.
How To Protect and Secure Your Chicken Coop
Secure the floor. Foxes are excellent diggers and can tear or squeeze through relatively small holes. Use one of these flooring designs to protect your animals.
- Wooden floor: use thick wood and place a layer of hardware cloth underneath it.
- Dirt floor: Sink a wall of ½” (1.25cm) or smaller wire mesh or hardware cloth 12 in (30cm) deep around the perimeter. Extend the wall horizontally, 8–12 in (20–30cm) outward, so the fox can’t dig underneath it.
Cover chicken wire and holes with hardware cloth. Foxes can chew through chicken wire. Cover it with galvanized steel hardware cloth, or mesh with holes no larger than ½” (1.25cm). Check regularly for holes in the walls and floor, and cover these as well. Secure with construction staples. Even a small hole could be torn to make a larger one, or could be the entry point for a smaller predator.
Install multiple bolts. Foxes can operate a twist catch and other simple locks. Use bolts instead, with a latch to secure them. Ideally, install two or more locks to protect your animals if one breaks or if someone makes a mistake while locking it.
Give birds a high roost. If you’re protecting birds, give them a perch at the top of the coop to reach in times of danger. This may not stop a fox indefinitely, but it could give you time to respond to a commotion.
If you have a fox repellent or deterrent tip that you would like to share, please tell us in the comment section below.
Looking for some products to help deter foxes on your homestead? Check out these options!
- Give sound waves a try with this Seicosy (TM) Multifuctional Animal Pest Repellent
- Protecting your chickens? Give this Premier 42″ PoultryNet Electric Fence a try and rest easy knowing your animals are safe from foxes and other predators.