For the record, I'm not interested in shooting the fox, or catching it in any sort of trap. I believe in a healthy predator population and I don't like trapping in general unless it's live trapping without injury to the animal. However, even if I had a live trap that would accommodate a fox, in this case, when it likely has young ones, I think it would be inappropriate to try to relocate it.
Today, I heard a big commotion from the chickens and rushed to see what was going on. Having had this happen a number of times now, I was quick enough to grab the camera on my way to check it out. My fence worked effectively, keeping the fox at bay. The fox didn't appear to make any attempt to go over the fence, nor to dig under it. When I saw the fox head around to the back where the barn is, I quickly went to check out whether it would enter the barn.
The goats and sheep were in the barn, because it's a pretty warm day, and they tend to stay inside and go out to eat for short periods of time. Lucky Nickel was adamant that I should NOT go out the door of the barn. I had to climb over her to get out. She wasn't letting anyone else out either. Sure enough, the fox was out there. Nickel was staring at it intently and did not want to move at all.
Nickel was a very good guard goat, although I don't think the fox is really a threat to the sheep or goats. It's a small fox and they don't usually take down large size prey.
When I finally got past Nickel, here's what I saw.
I feel rather sad and sorry for this fox. Its face looks like it might be a bit injured or unwell.
It's also missing a lot of tail fur.
From some quick reading, I think it might be sarcoptic mange, which means that eventually this fox is likely to die. That is a difficult situation for me. I don't like the fox eating my hens, but I don't like the fox suffering either. I might try to put some dog food out for it, laced with ivermectin, which is apparently effective in treating the mite that causes sarcoptic mange.
I know that seems counter-intuitive. Why would I want to help a fox that has already eaten 6 of my hens. Admittedly, the fox does actually eat the birds in their entirety, unlike the raccoons, who just bite off the head and leave the rest (that makes me really angry). I know that nature is harsh, it's an eat-and-be-eaten kind of world. I will do my best to protect my hens, but I also do my best to promote a healthy ecosystem and I am really distressed by the thought of this fox suffering a slow decline as a result of a skin infection.
The fox ran away after seeing me...beating a hasty retreat into the woods. Lucky Nickel stayed on "door duty" for quite a while afterwards though. She may be a nuisance sometimes, but she's also a good herd queen and she seems to keep the group protected.
I hope the fox gets the idea that it can't get to the chickens, and finds some other prey for its young. I don't like my chickens to suffer, but I don't like the fox to suffer either. What a conundrum.