Here we explore some temporary and more permanent solutions to the problem of foxes.
Foxes are undoubtedly controversial animals, on the one hand they are beautiful, dog-like and a natural part of the rural (and of course, latterly urban) environment, but although part of the canine family, they are shrewd and opportunistic predators, and are wild, largely active at dusk and at night, with a voracious appetite for small animals.
Foxes are also smart and quickly adapt to any environment, as any farmer or urban keeper of chickens or rabbits will tell you. Whilst they are omnivores that will eat almost anything (hence you might find them rummaging amongst your refuse bins) they prefer rabbits, chickens, voles as well as berries and fruit. Foxes hide themselves away in secretive places (dens) that afford them sufficient protection and cover and the size of their territory can range from 50 to 900 hectares, depending on the amount of available food and the man-made obstacles imposed on their activities.
So, if you need to keep foxes at bay from your small livestock, how should you go about it?
The traditional methods
First stop for most people when confronted with a fox issue is to consider traditional fencing options with wire mesh. And there are special types of wire netting and mesh designed specifically for keeping foxes out. However, these methods alone are often inadequate as foxes are really clever and when they are driven by hunger can go to amazing lengths to ensure they secure their next meal, at your expense!
Foxes are competent climbers and exceptional diggers and can intelligently adapt to any target with a strong determination to get what they want and are not easily deterred. This is why many farmers and keepers of livestock resort to some sort of electric fencing setup. Once shocked, a fox is smart enough to not go near that section of fencing again and will tend to give it a wide berth. Electric fencing, properly installed, will also provide an effective barrier between your animals and the fox.
There are lots of relatively simple and easily adaptable electric fencing systems for keeping foxes at bay that in most cases can be fitted by yourself, quite cost effectively. Some of these also involve two layers of fencing for extra security, comprising an internal and external layer of fence. There are also temporary as well as more full-time solutions depending on what you want to achieve.
Temporary electric fencing solutions
If you need to protect your animals or land against foxes for a limited period of time,
portable fencing is probably the most suitable option. The right system should be easy to erect and dismantle but be just as effective at deterring foxes as more permanent options. Even with temporary systems, it is a good idea to consider double fencing, comprising an inner and outer layer of electric fence. There are even simple, out of the box solutions for this including everything you need – posts, reels and wires.
The external, outer fence needs to be positioned around 2m from the internal fencing and consist of short, say around 75cm, fencing posts with two wires. The wires should be fitted at 20 and 45 cm. Portable posts for this purpose might have a simple twist and lock type mechanic to keep wire tensioned and in place much more easily than via traditional fixing and tensioning methods. The wire also needs to have optimum conductivity, to ensure that the fox will receive a shock from any part of the fencing and be permanently deterred.
Permanent electric fencing solutions
If you need to provide your animals with permanent protection against fox attacks,
a high-tensile system might be ideal for used in combination with insulated timber posts.
Again, for the ultimate in fox protection, consider a system comprising lines of internal and external fencing.
The internal set up might typically include both permanent and floating posts. The purpose of the floating posts being to keep the fencing properly tensioned. Using this system also means you don’t need to situate so many posts actually in the ground. Typical wire heights would be 90cm, 65cm, 45m, 30cm and 15cm to provide full cover. The bottom wire will obviously be close to the ground, and it is easy for grass to grow up to it so you will need to make sure you have a powerful enough energizer to make sure that any grass is burned away and that conductivity remains at its best.
As for the external fencing, this again should be a high-tensile fence with a short post of 1 m, set at about 50 cm into the ground. A typical distance between posts would be 10m with wires fitted at 10 and 45cm. This external fence provides an additional barrier against fox intrusion and is usually positioned around 35cm away from the internal fencing.
If foxes threaten the well-being of your small animals and chickens, make sure you do your research before you install any preventative systems, better still speak to a fencing expert to ensure you get the right setup for your environment.