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Chickens 'gang up' to kill intruder fox on French farm (bbc.com)
150 points by howard941 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 115 comments





The community I live in has a chicken coop - our first small batch was decimated by a single fox, one a single night, when the door was left open. It took only one chicken back to eat but it killed 6 others - 6 docile, happy chickens. That's what foxes (normally) do to chicken coops.

Standard frenzy behaviour for a fox. It's pointless to anthropomorphize them, as it's just natural for them to kill now with the intent of coming back to collect the bodies for later consumption.

Just like your average labrador will inhale food until it's too large to walk. Binging is a natural instinct in feast or famine capable animals.


my labrador would HAPPILY eat himself into a coma. They are bred to not have the genes that regulate satiety making them super food motivated.

Can attest to that. My lab recently stole three pizzas(placed on a raised table twice his height) when we left the room, sicked it all up from the sheer volume, then lapped it all up again; all in the 5 minutes we were out. Their hunger can truly not be sated.

My lab recently stole three pizzas

Working in 'a lab' i.e. laboratory I'm so used to that meaning of the word it took me a few seconds to understand this sentence :P


I imagine the folks in your lab could decimate three pizzas, too.

I could decimate three pizzas and still fight to not have to share that third piece, unless these three pizzas were merely the sacrificial portion of a larger cohort of thirty pizzas.

This is relevant and just came up when I googled Labrador retriever hungry. http://mentalfloss.com/article/79446/science-explains-why-yo...

I don’t know that they are bred for this?

I assumed it was natural dog / fox/ wolf / canine behaviour. Probably most wild hunters / scavengers?

Either way, dogs are particularly suited to gorging and fasting. And I was under the impression that’s why dogs shouldn’t have free access to food, and why so many pet dogs are overweight.


My other dog which is a mutt, mix of small/medium dog has total hunger control. He will eat til he is full, then we have to move his leftover food away otherwise the Lab will eat his food too.


Thanks for the link.

> as it's just natural for them to kill now with the intent of coming back to collect the bodies for later consumption.

Do they actually ever come back for more corpses? Or are these, like the article might suggest, actually cases of the fox defending itself from the chicken's ganging up?


Hens are usually easily frightened especially by a fox. Maybe in the case of 6,000 hens being in one area as article suggested, they can easily swarm a fox...but your average neighborhood coop with less than a dozen...no way.

They return which is sometimes the source of their undoing - should someone set a trap at the scene of the original crime.

Based on my experience cats tend to overeat a lot more than dogs.

It really depends on the specific animal, but common wisdom is that you can't just leave a bowl of food out for a dog. Cats on the other hand often are free-feeders (leave out a big bowl of food and refill it on a schedule). Of our 2 cats, one will eat until she vomits and one will barely touch food if it's out at the wrong time.

It depends a lot on the dog— what I've seen with dogs is similar to what you describe with your cats.

There are 4 dogs in my house, one belonging to me and three belonging to my roommate.

Mine won't really overeat unless she's offered a lot of something extremely appealing (like human food). At least 2 of my roommate's dogs will eat until they make themselves sick, though. The last one, I'm not sure.


This is going to depend on all sorts of things, especially how the animal was raised from a bit.

In the dozens of cats and dogs we've owned over the decades, we've always kept bowls out for them stocked with food.

What I often hear from friends when they discover this is that they'll try to move from their scheduled feeding to free feeding, realize their animal is engorging itself, and then assert "see? doesn't work" or "nope, {cats,dogs} can't do that."


My anecdotal experience agrees with this assessment. My family has always been free feeders and it hasn't been a problem for our dogs.

I've had 7 cats at various times in my life and of those only one would eat too much if food was always available.

Cats overeating is 100% genetic. I've raised 12 cats in my life, all fed the same way. Only 2 ever got fat.

This is a news story because your experience is the typical experience. I've lost one flock to a baby bear (unusual) and one to a wild mink. The mink put on its own horror movie production in which it played the Jason role, killing them one by one by ambush during the day when they were ranging, and then managed to sneak in through a crack to murder the last one, leaving behind its carcass.

Yup, seen the same thing before. One fox killing all but one chicken during the night. Same conditions as you describe, but no door was open and instead the fox dug a hole under the fence.

Wow, that's a clever way to deal with fences! Wouldn't have expected they'd do that.

Generally, fences should be extended 8-12 inches into the ground to prevent this. Some animals can also climb fences so a completely secure installation has wire or boarding over the top too.

Maybe 7 sad chickens are worth one happy fox?

...because chicken coops are badly designed.

This is called mobbing and birds are most famously known to do it, I'm kind of surprised they don't mention the behavior by name.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobbing_(animal_behavior)


Anyone who's attacked a chicken in The Legend of Zelda can attest to this behaviour.


After reading many of the comments here, I sort of understand the need to make chickens seem like monsters. Sometimes they can be quite mean. However, I've known many chickens and their personalities are really quite diverse. Most chickens, when raised humanely, as pets, are quite docile and friendly, even some of the roosters I've known.

In my mind I replaced "chicken" with "developer" and had a good chuckle.

Reminds me of this developer we were interviewing once. He asked if we treat our developers like mushrooms. I asked what he meant by that. He said do you keep them in the dark and feed them sh*t?

He didn't get the job.


Funny enough, that statement would have won points with me. The first time I heard that phrase was in "Soul of a New Machine", and it would have been a good ice breaker :). That being said... definitely not something I would personally drop in an interview.

Edit: also, there's a final piece of that that's critical:

> Tom West practices the "Mushroom Theory of Management" – "keeping them in the dark, feeding them shit, and watch them grow."

Many companies stop after the first two parts and miss the third.


So the answer was yes?

TBF I interviewed companies where floors were mildy dark, people packed, and the air moisty.

That was just not a place to keep workers 8 hours a day. If I was more witty I’d precisely ask that question at the end of the interview.


Either he's socially handicapped, or the company really needs to improve it's working environment.

Fifty fifty really.


Also, replace “fox” with “product manager”

And "rooster" with sys admin.

As someone who really likes foxes, I don't like hearing about them dying, but I can understand the chickens' perspective.

If chickens or geese could be taught to use a litter tray, they'd actually make quite cool indoor pets. Especially after a few generations of breeding for friendliness.

(I know some people claim to have house trained chickens, but I'm not super convinced it's a repeatable process.


We had geese and ducks when I was a kid, and can attest that Chinese geese[0] make wonderful pets (and can even roam through the house if you have tile floors :)). We also had Tolouse geese who were absolute monsters, and mallard and Peking ducks that never really demonstrated any affection for humans outside of a food supply.

We could pick up, pet and carry our Chinese geese, and they came when you called. They even used to wait at the end of the street and fly along with my father as he drove home.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_goose


We have West of England and a variety similar to Embden. They are funny animals - very curious. My wife is clearly their favourite. They will come right up to her when she calls.

Yeah....chickens are assholes. They'll come at you. They'll tear each other up pretty good too. I've seen them go after dogs before. They really are like watching little dinosaurs.

My first thought was that they had no idea it was a fox and were just trying to kill something. The reason poultry feed has to be scattered over a wide area is that they will peck through other chickens, killing them in the process, before turning and eating from an open spot if they feel they need to compete for food. Turkeys are worse than chickens. An amish turkey farmer once told me that if you leave a bucket of feed with the turkeys you’ll end up with a bucket of dead, half-eaten turkeys and all of the feed you started with.

I understand that they'd kill each other, but why would they all kill each other, who eats them, and who puts the carcasses in the bucket?

So many questions this raises...


They get into the bucket to get the food and are pecked to death by the one that climbs in on top of them, and so on.

Oh wow, that's brutal. Thanks for explaining.

Yes it’s common to clip their beaks when they’re young to prevent nipping at each other.

When I was two, my family took me to my grandma's farm, where she had all kinds of animals, including chickens. As a curious two-year-old, I ran up to the chicken pen to take a look, and a rooster lunged at me aggressively. Luckily there was wire between us, so no harm done, but it scared me so much that I had nightmares about that rooster for the next ten years.

We had that rooster for dinner that night, so he got what he deserved. :)


Ouch! Sounds more like you had him for dinner and he got his revenge by haunting you for 10 years...

Ha! I never thought of it that way! Yes maybe it was karma but not against the rooster.

They can get really savage if they see blood. Watching someone in jandals with red nail polish go near some was quite the scene.

Confused at why comments like this get downvoted. What does that signify?

Chickens have this weird "IT'S BLEEDING. MURDER IT!" kinda vibe.

There's literally rose-tinted glasses you can glue onto their beaks so they can't really perceive red. This prevents them from pecking each-other to death.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_eyeglasses


If you've ever watched a chicken hunt mice, you know what mammals went through the last 200 million years.

I have seen a chicken hunting mice. It's absolutely astounding. Before seeing it in action I had no idea chickens would go after such large prey, or that they would be such efficient hunters. They must have amazing eyesight, or some other ability to detect prey, because they appear to be able to detect hiding rodents from a long way away.

This was a local wild chicken that had presumably escaped from a coop, and it appeared to sustain itself on mice all summer.



Here's this hen strolling through the backyard, humming her tune and tentatively pecking at things. You're watching her, contemplating how dinosaurs might have looked the same and how they must have moved in those alien ways. One second later she's raced into a shrub and plucked a mouse from between the leaves on the ground.

And you can't help but feel a pang of regret for the vermin. You lost many of your ancestors in just this way. You're a survivor. Tomorrow you're going to eat that egg. In revenge.


The worst that I ever saw was one chicken deliberately scaring another chicken into an oncoming car, then rushing in to eat the victim's guts.

I saw this 2 months ago in Thailand.


How do you know it was deliberate?

I couldn't read the chicken's mind. But it waited a good long time for a car to come down that road before doing its thing. I would have had trouble believing it to be a lucky (for it) accident.

Crows are known to drop nuts on highways for cars to crack em up. They've also learned to read traffic lights to know when it's safe to pick up their bounty.

However, chickens aren't known to be planners.


That's a pretty good strat, I guess.

Geese will do a pretty good number on a kid. 'Biting', honking, my grandmother had a few geese when we were growing up and I got attacked a few times coming in the drive, and my younger brother was absolutely terrified of them

Also, geese hiss....there's something about things that hiss at you.

One of the more harrowing things i've done was a day addling geese eggs on a lake where they're overpopulated. There was two of us.in the canoe. Whenever we found a nest we'd switch duties between sneaking up to the nest to do the egg addling, while the other stood guard with a paddle to ward off the attacking geese.


When we bought our first four geese, we had one gander that was just mean like you occasionally get with a rooster. He managed to chase my daughter's friend and scratch the back of her leg with his claws. (Geese have surprisingly sharp claws at the end of their webbed feet).

Speaking of them being assholes, won't they also pick at their _own_ eggs?

They do. That's why collection is done early and throughout the day.

Battery cages are slightly sloped so that eggs roll out of the cage, out of reach of the birds and for easy egg collection by workers.


To be clear, this was one young fox vs. 3,000 chickens, trapped with them in a coop due to an auto-closing door. There was no way that fox was getting out alive.

I always find it interesting that a lot of prey animals sometimes fight back with success but they don’t seem to repeat that behavior next time. I have seen videos of zebras going after a lion without problem but next time they will just run away again and the slowest will get killed.

I suspect it very much depends on the initial conditions. A Zebra that decides to try to scare off the Lion, but isn't backed up by the rest of the herd, or isn't backed up by enough of them quickly enough, is dead meat. The problem is their ability to communicate with each other and co-ordinate is too limited.

" A Zebra that decides to try to scare off the Lion, but isn't backed up by the rest of the herd, or isn't backed up by enough of them quickly enough, is dead meat. "

Not necessarily true. An injury by a kick is a huge problem for the predator so they often shy away if the animal fights back. I have seen plenty of videos where single zebras or deer chased a predator away. Obviously this changes if there are several predators.


The trouble is Lions generally hunt as a pack.

Some kind of result of co-evolving? Predators thinning out weaker members of the herd keeps the overall health of the herd up.

Just some quick speculation.


Reminds me of the Battle at Kruger:

https://youtu.be/LU8DDYz68kM


maybe a hormonal variable at play, anybody can fight when enraged, even if on average they might flee

For social animals like chicken, sheep, even humans the action of the group is often determined by a few - the leaders or the first to act.

If the first chicken panicked and ran, the rest would. I'm guessing the fox ran into the aggressive ones first.

To put humans into context here. Once, a couple of bombs went off in an Amory. People panicked and ran. Everyone ran in the direction of those who ran first.

Long story short, a few died from the blast. But, hundreds died from falling off a cliff and drowning in a canal.


For animals where leadership is whoever happens to be in front, rather than a specific animal in their social ranking, you can get an hilarious situation where the herd has looped back on itself, so no one (or everyone, depending on how you look at it) is leading [1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJuS2ThE2q4


All those people didn't know how to swim? Or was the fall too high?

Drowning humans latch on to whatever's near out of instinct. Some portion of 100+ doing that will get a lot of good swimmers killed.

3000 chickens vs a not full grown fox.

Sounds like a zombie movie type of fight.


An Aardman zombie movie.

Someone invented red colored chicken tinted to stop chickens from killing other chickens who happen to be bleeding.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_eyeglasses


Chickens are omnivores and will kill and happily eat other animals when they can. A fact that is very clear in regard to rodents that like to steal chicken feed.

That they managed to kill a juvenile fox is a bit impressive however.


This is exactly why commercials that claim "we feed our chickens a 100% vegetarian diet" irritate the crap out of me. Chickens will eat anything that fits into their beak and sometimes things that won't. e.g., young frogs, small snakes, etc.

They didn't eat the fox (as far as I read).

This reminds me of the cat that saved the boy from the dog. https://youtu.be/ftIRIPcsqxo

I love that video. The comments are great too, and they're right: cats are much better pets than dogs. When was the last time you heard of a cat attacking and killing someone (especially a child)? It happens with dogs all the time. Dog apologists will always spout some BS about "those dogs weren't raised right", but it just doesn't happen with cats.

I'm a cats-over-dogs person, but cats can definitively attack people. Killing is probably quite rare, but then again they don't have the size and strength of a pit bull or rottweiler. Yorkshire terriers probably haven't killed many persons either.

I can't say I've ever heard of a cat attacking a person without some kind of reason. Cats, even the most ill-mannered ones, just aren't known to be aggressive towards humans the way dogs are. The only times I've heard of cats attacking people is when they've been tormented, such as by children.

I'm so cat positive, I'm like a cat lady. But sometimes cats get aggressive and attack people for sure. Even non-tormented ones. It does matter how you treat them and how much you play with them but make no mistake cats will attack, sometimes viscously.

I've had it happen to myself and a family member. If the cat was frightened, there was no obvious reason why. We didn't live there, but it wasn't the first time we visited the house. We didn't harm her, but had to close her in a room.

Domestic cats don't have the physical capacity to kill a human due to their size. Were they larger on average, say 50lb, it would be possible.

Yes, but even so, they can cause a lot of damage with their claws and teeth. But they just aren't known for being aggressive towards humans, the way some dogs are.

That's only because they're incredibly lazy. They just wait for people to die and then eat them.

What you call lazy, I call an organism that manages its resources efficiently and doesn't take unnecessary risks.

I'd heard you weren't supposed to let the fox into the henhouse, but I had envisioned a different outcome.


European honeybees do this too (source: am beekeeper)

Someone didn't play enough Zelda

I support this haha. I once lost 6 chickens and a turkey to either a bobcat or a coyote. All in one night.

I support research into re-activating latent dinosaur genes in chickens.


Am I the only one who thought of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_Run when they read this article?

Their species murder rate is 100%. Can you blame them.

Some say chickens are one of the most abundant vertebrate on the planet (20B+). Let's just hope they don't gang up on us!

I read chicken coop and chicken coup automagically until reading the comments! How much context guessing happens in our brains!

Power to the (chicken) people.

As Link has discovered time and time again, never piss off the chickens.

this reminds me out using all my SCVs to defend against Zealots in early game.

I see we have some Protoss among us here on HN :)

Sounds like a new torture method: Death by a Thousand Chickens.

A new idea for a Hitchcock film...

Aardman Animation will probably do it.

The fox should have used the master sword.



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