Foxes & agriculture: Foxes and poultry

A chicken in a field
Fox predation is highest for free-range egg producers

A few studies based on questionnaire surveys have looked at fox predation on chicken and other fowl farms. These studies show that fox predation of poultry is highest for free-range egg producers and negligible for table chicken producers. As predation is more likely to take place on farms where overall bird losses are higher, it is likely that bird husbandry influences fox predation levels and that improving husbandry would reduce losses to foxes.

One study on chicken farms found that, with flocks of less than 200 birds, losses ranged from 0 to 25%; for flocks over 1000 birds, losses were between 0.1 to 1.3%.

In another study of 136 table chicken producers, free-range egg producers, turkey and geese producers, on average less than 2% of bird mortality was due to fox predation.

A flock of geese on the road
On average, less than 2% of poultry mortality is due to fox predation

The proportion of farms reporting at least some bird losses to fox predation varied with type of farm, ranging from 22.7% of table chicken producers to 77.6% of free-range egg producers. This may be due to egg producers having on average smaller flocks that spend more time outside their pens.

In general, bird mortality was higher on farms where overall bird mortality was high, suggesting that poor overall standards of bird husbandry may be associated with levels of fox predation.

Question & Answer

TopWhat is the cost of fox predation on poultry?

Stacked coinsAcross Britain, the proportion of flock losses due to fox predation and subsequent total cost per year estimated by these studies were:

  • 0.7% for table chicken producers = negligible costs
  • 24.9% for free range-egg producers = £653,000
  • 16.9% for turkey producers = £221,000
  • 35.4% for goose producers = £440,000

Thus most losses are due to factors other than fox predation.

References

  • Baker, P., Harris, S. & White, P.C.L. (2006) After the hunt - the future for foxes in Britain. International Fund for Animal Welfare, London.

Download After the hunt. (PDF file, 1.7 Mb). Available with permission from IFAW

  • Heydon, M.J. & Reynolds, J.C. (2000) Fox (Vulpes vulpes) management in three contrasting regions of Britain, in relation to agricultural and sporting interests. Journal of Zoology 251, 237-252.
  • Moberly, R.L., White, P.C.L. & Harris, S. (2002) The costs of foxes to agricultural interests in Britain. Report to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Southwater, West Sussex.
  • Moberly, R.L., White, P.C.L. & Harris, S. (2004) Mortality due to fox predation in free-range poultry flocks in Britain. Veterinary Record 155, 48-52.