Mortality due to fox predation in free-range poultry flocks in Britain
Information derived from questionnaires sent to producers of free-range eggs, chickens, turkeys and geese was used to assess the extent of fox predation in terms of the density of the fox population and farm management factors. The mean reported bird mortality was less than 2 per cent for all the producers, but there were marked differences between them. Egg producers reported losing many more birds to foxes than other types of producer (up to 1000 birds in a laying cycle). On average, egg and goose producers lost the highest proportions of their total flocks (0.5 per cent). The extent of predation was not associated either with large-scale estimations of the density of the fox population or with variations in the farms' habitat. Chicken predation was not linked to differences in types of housing or fencing. However, there was a positive association between losses due to other causes and chicken predation. The results suggest that changes in farm management would be the most cost-effective means of reducing fox predation, rather than greater fox control.
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