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How to protect your chickens from foxes

Without doubt Australia is blessed with a large number of critters that want nothing more than to make a
meal of your chooks. From pythons in Queensland to quolls in Tasmania the list of predators can feel
endless. But undoubtedly the main predator of backyard chickens in Australia is foxes.

Imported for sporting pursuits in 1855, the fox is now firmly established across most of Australia as an apex
predator. Clearly you can shoot, trap or bait foxes but all of these approaches have their drawbacks and are
best left in the hands of professionals or local authorities. By far the best form of protection that can be
used by the backyard chicken keeper is electric netting.

Whenever a person is introduced to electric netting for the first time the most common reaction is “Oh that’s
new!” Well not really, electric netting was invented in Britain back in the 1960’s and became popular
worldwide during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The concept of electric fence energisers goes back to New
Zealand in the 1930’s so the first thing you need to realise is that electric netting is not some new fad – it is
a proven technology with over 50 years of history behind it. And as such, if you ask the right questions and
get the correct set-up from the beginning then you will be able to establish an area in which your chickens
are completely safe from foxes as well as dogs, cats, quolls and anything else that wanders into your yard.
You might be wondering how a “flimsy” net can in any way protect your chickens? The answer lies in the
electrical charge running through the wires. Any potential predator is going to encounter the netting as they
approach the chicken coop and sniff it or touch it to discover what it is. At that point an electric shock is
administered to the animal and of course the animal has no idea what this shock is so they run away in fear
and confusion.

I often get asked why the fox does not simply jump over or dig under the net and the answer lies in the fact
that they do not understand the concept of netting and therefore feel no need to jump over or dig under
something which is obviously not a physical barrier for them.

So how does one choose the correct net for their chickens? Chicken netting comes in 25m and 50m
lengths so the first thing to work out is how many chickens you have (or are going to have!). Let’s say you
have 15 chickens. A 25m net will enclose approximately 36 sqm and a 50m net will enclose approximately
150 sqm. So if you have 15 chickens then a 25m net will provide approximately 2.4 sqm per chicken and a
50m net about 10 sqm per chicken. You would need to work out in this instance if you are happy with the
2.4 sqm per chicken or if you would prefer the 10 sqm per chicken. Much the same calculation can be
made for any number of chickens.

Secondly you will require an electric fence energiser. There are a huge number of models and options on
the market so determining which one suits your particular needs is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice
to say solar powered options are much more popular amongst poultry keepers than mains powered
models. Another really important thing to remember is that a solar energiser needs a minimum number of
hours of sunlight per day in order to work – so the further colder your winter the larger your energiser will
need to be in order to cope. More information on this can be found in our other articles.

And then finally the most often overlooked part of installing electric netting is the maintenance required in
order to keep it operational. If you allow the grass to grow up and through the net it will short out the
electricity and therefore the best plan is to move the net from time to time to a new patch of mowed grass.
Batteries need to be checked regularly and proper use of a fence tester can assure you that all is going
well.

Essentially there is no reason not to use electric netting to protect your flock. It is a proven technology and
is used throughout Australia and the world to protect thousands of free range egg farms. Just ensure that
you receive the correct advice before purchasing your kit and you can expect years of fox-free chicken
keeping.