On The Prowl
If you have pet rabbits living or spending time outdoors, then you may have concerns about foxes. Worrying for the safety of your bunnies is normal, but there are ways you can fox proof your garden and keep out those pesky predators.
What To Watch Out For
Although you may need see foxes during the day, there are clear signs that give away the presence of foxes. To determine if a fox has been visiting your garden, check for the following:
• Droppings with a pungent smell
• Holes in your lawn
• Trampled plants
• Upturned bins/ripped bags
• Damage to garden fencing
Foxes are attracted to gardens with food and water sources, so ensure you are not leaving your pets water bowls or food outdoors at night.
Dangers & Deterrents
Foxes have become more common in suburban neighbourhoods over the last 10 years and more recently they have been seen in busy urban areas. By fox proofing your garden, not only are you protecting your rabbit from attack, but you are also protecting them from death by fear. Small mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs can die of fright, even if a fox cannot get to them. For rabbits, even the sight of scent of a fox is enough to cause death. When it comes to deterring foxes, the most important first step is to ensure they cannot get into your garden. check along the perimeter and look for freshly dug holes or damage to fencing and make any necessary repairs. You can utilise natural deterrents such as sprays containing ammonia or citronella. These scents confuse foxes into thinking your garden has been claimed by another fox. Citronella also breaks a fox’s scent map, making it more difficult for them to follow their scent trail back to your garden.
Ways To Fox Proof Your Garden
To begin fox proofing your garden, check your rabbit hutch to ensure it is capable of keeping foxes out. They are highly intelligent and standard hutch latches may not be sufficient. Choose a hutch design that is raised off the ground, secure around the roof and door, utilises thick mesh or wiring and has hiding places for your rabbits to go unseen by any passing foxes. Your rabbit’s hiding place could be a nest box within the hutch or a screened section with an opening towards the back of the hutch. The fastening of your rabbit hutch needs to be sturdy enough to withstand a persistent fox. The best option would be a barrel bolt or a padlock. These fastenings are made of strong metal that a fox cannot chew through or manipulate with their teeth or paws. You will also need to place fastenings to the roof of your hutch if it is liftable. Foxes are capable of squeezing into very small spaces, and they are must stronger than they appear. As well as ensuring your rabbit hutch is fox proof, you will also need to take certain measure to prevent foxes from digging under the hutch.
As a precaution, position your rabbit hutch on solid ground such as concrete or a sturdy dig-proof surface. You can also sink wire mesh into the ground around the outer edges of your hutch. The ideal wire mesh would be 14 gauge or stronger (2 millimetres). Removing temptation and access will also prevent foxes from entering your garden. avoid putting out food for your pets and other animals such as squirrels and birds. This food will attract foxes and encourage them to keep coming back. Keep your bushes and flowerbeds well-trimmed. An overgrown garden provides plenty of foraging opportunity and areas for shelter which are appealing to foxes. It is also advisable to avoid using ingredients such as bone meal as the scent will attract foxes.
Finally, you will need to ensure any points of access are closed off to prevent future fox visits. First, try to determine how the foxes are gaining access to your garden. Although they are larger than a house cat, adult foxes are capable of fitting through a gap as narrow as four inches (10cm), so you may wish to replace your fencing with a something that does not have gaps between the panels. If you believe you have found a fox den, do not attempt to fence it off, as it is illegal to knowingly trap a fox with no means of escape. Instead, you should block off all but one access point using natural deterrents to encourage the foxes to leave. The best way to do this is to block any holes or gaps with soaked rags. You can use ammonia or citronella to soak the rags and plug the gaps loosely. You may notice that the foxes remove some fo the blockages. Simply replace them each day until the rags are not removed for at least 3 days. This means the foxes are not planning to return and you can finalise your plans to remove any further access points.
Your rabbits depend on you for their safety and while it can be stressful having foxes using your garden, there are ways to discourage them in a kind and risk-free manner. Foxes are becoming a more common part of neighbourhood life and while that is cause for celebration that they are thriving; we still want to protect our pets from harm. If you are struggling to remove foxes from your garden, seek advice from a reputable pest control company or speak to your local authority who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
- Hannah Elizabeth
Animal Health and Behaviour Blogger