Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chicken Predators

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.


  1. Arg! I'd be happy to join you in representing chicken owners who are happy to have foxes in their neighborhood. We've had our flock for 10 years in an area with tons of predators and zero problems. In the winter there are fresh fox tracks around our house almost every time it snows and they've never bothered our girls--I'm more than happy to share my bounty of chipmunks and rabbits! I'm by no means perfect at guarding my flock but i agree that the basics of protection and maintenance go a long way to keeping them safe.

    I know it would be upsetting to lose an animal to a hawk or fox, but I've also lost a hen to my own inexperience and many to old age and it's part of the challenges of raising backyard livestock. To me it's worth it to live somewhere where I get to see wildlife on a daily basis.

    I believe one reason fox are doing so well in Madison (and other more urban areas) is they are filling a niche in the ecosystem--as other predators such as coyote are not tolerated. A chicken flock is certainly a novelty to them, but they have plenty to eat if we leave them alone.

  2. Thanks for your support, Sara. I don't know if this will go anywhere, but if I need help, I'll reach out to you! :-)

  3. I will join your ranks in standing up for the foxes! I live near Huegel School where foxes are well known to inhabit the school prairie. They are gorgeous creatures and very welcome - the rabbit and chipmunk population is rampant! I have never lost a chicken to a predator, but you do have to take precautions as you have mentioned on your blog post. It is so rewarding to live in a diverse urban environment - including foxes.