Yesterday I agreed to a telephone interview with a student journalist writing for The Badger Herald. I was told that the article was about urban chickens and urban farms, but I quickly learned there was an ulterior motive. It seems the writer's mother knows urban hen keepers who are complaining about foxes. These folks have contacted the Department of Natural Resources and expect some sort of action regarding foxes in the city.
Red Bucket Farm is situated immediately adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary, part of the city parks department. Our section of the park is dense trees, brambles, and a few hiking paths. We have all kinds of predators---foxes, coyotes, hawks and a pair of great horned owls. We rely on these predators to keep the rabbit, squirrel and chipmunk population in check. Without their help, I'd have to start trapping the little critters to save my crops.
We researched our chicken coop for months before building it in 2010. Since safety was our primary concern, we covered the entire coop with half-inch hardware cloth. The hardware cloth covers the walls, windows, and ceiling; it's also sandwiched between two layers of flooring. We attached it with screws and fender washers. All doors and windows are secured with locks. It may seem extreme, but we've never lost a hen to any predator.
Remember that chickens sleep from dusk to dawn, and darkness causes them to go into "torpor," a kind of stupor or unconsciousness in which the heart rate is lowered. They can't make any effort to defend themselves. This is why chickens roost in a high place at night.
So let's be clear: protecting the urban flock from predators is a farmer's responsibility. Anyone who staples chicken wire to a wooden frame and calls it a coop is asking for trouble. Our hens provide us with fresh eggs, manure for fertilizing, and hours of entertainment. We owe it to them to care for them properly.