Some Common Misconceptions
Why do foxes kill for pleasure?
However, when the opportunity arises, foxes kill surplus prey even if they are not hungry and cache (bury) it for later use. This is a very sensible strategy in the wild, since there are likely to be some days when hunting is a lot less successful, and so the fox can eat the prey killed earlier.
Foxes are spiteful. They don't just take one chicken, they kill the whole lot!
If only I received a pound for every time I have heard that! Foxes are not spiteful. Spite is a human trait. However, in an unnatural situation such as in a hen house, where the prey cannot escape, this behaviour, called 'surplus killing' leads to the fox killing far more prey than it could ever consume. It can't help itself - It does it purely by instinct.
The vast majority of chickens in Britain are kept inside in battery units where they never see the light of day. Foxes are the least of their problems.
Losses of free-range hens are generally low, and protective measures such as electric fencing further reduce these losses. People who keep a few chickens for their personal use suffer no losses from foxes if they are securely housed and not left out at night.
Foxes kill lambs!
Sometimes yes, but research has shown that on the whole the number of lambs killed by foxes is generally low and simple measures can be employed to minimise this risk.
What also needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that rabbits, which cause an estimated £120 million of damage to agriculture, are the main prey of foxes in rural areas. By keeping the number of rabbits down the fox is surely more of a friend than a foe to most farmers.
Foxes, like every other living creature, have to eat. Its unfortunate that sometimes this puts them in direct conflict with humans who usually get the upper hand. They are doing exactly the same as many domestic cats and dogs would do in the same situation. We've all seen cats 'play' with mice and birds and dogs chase after rabbits. The poor fox, however, is given a particularly hard time for behaviour that just comes naturally.
Although it must be distressing to lose a pet rabbit or chickens this way we need to do our best to make sure that it doesn't happen in the first place by making sure our pets are kept in safe and secure shelters which the fox cannot get into. Foxes are doing their bit to survive, thats all!