Foxes in Garden – What You Need to Know

Last update: 4 days ago

13 min read

garden foxes

As cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University” Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989

The humble and cunning fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a common sight in towns, cities, and gardens throughout the UK. Sadly, many have come to view foxes as dangerous animals whose only thought is to kill. While it is important to keep in mind that wild animals can be dangerous, foxes are generally quite docile. They will avoid confrontations unless provoked, threatened, or cornered. But that doesn’t mean that they can be treated like our other domesticated four-legged friends.

Despite there being a seemingly unending stream of fox horror stories they actually do very little damage to our gardens. There may be signs of some digging, a pungent smell, and a bin on its side with trash spread across the lawn. In most cases though, foxes will run from people and household pets instead of savagely attacking. Even garden pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are safe as long as the hutch is well-built and secured. Foxes may be cunning, but they also know when to give up if the effort outweighs the reward.

Reasons why foxes make it into your garden

foxes and tree icon

Foxes are intelligent animals. They have been able to continuously adapt to our ever-changing landscape and are just as happy living in a sprawling urban environment as they are in the countryside. Our gardens often create a wonderland full of interesting and tasty things which are irresistible for the ever curious fox.

If you have spotted foxes or signs of fox activity in your garden but can’t figure out why they like your garden, check the list of some common fox attractants below:

  • There is a water source. If you have a pond, fountain, or swimming pool in your garden don’t be surprised if you get some thirsty night-time visitors. Foxes, like most animals, are drawn to safe sources of water and will return time and time again.
  • You feed other wildlife. If you leave food in your garden for other wildlife, such as birds or hedgehogs, you are most likely also being visited by at least one fox. Providing a wildlife-friendly environment is commendable but if you do not want foxes in your garden you should consider changing the way you feed other animals. Use specialised feeders where possible and place loose food in places which are easy to reach if you are small, like a hedgehog, but difficult to access if you are as large as a fox.
  • You feed your cat or dog outside. While the smell of leftover pet food may be repulsive to us it is a difficult meal to ignore for scavengers such as foxes.
  • Your garden is messy, overgrown, has a shed, or decking. Foxes are quite skittish and prefer to run and hide at the first hint of danger. Don’t be surprised to find that foxes are calling your garden home if it is overgrown, full of trash and discarded appliances. Or if you have decking or a shed with empty space underneath.
  • You keep birds or other small animals in your garden. Although foxes do not kill as many animals as you may think, that does not mean that they have no interest at all in these critters. If you do keep small animals or chickens in your garden and don’t want them to be eaten, you will have to make sure that their hutches are secure and not made of flimsy materials.
  • You have flowerbeds or freshly turned soil. The reason why foxes like to dig up our gardens may surprise some. Adult foxes like to dig up worms and grubs for a quick and nutritious snack On the other hand, fox pups just like to dig for practice and for the sake of digging.
  • You use natural fertilisers containing bonemeal, blood, or fish. As previously mentioned, foxes don’t need much of a reason to dig up your garden. However, using any of the fertilisers mentioned above is a guaranteed method of attracting foxes to your garden.
  • You routinely leave gardening tools, wellingtons, shoes, or toys outside overnight. Leaving items such as shoes and children’s toys in the garden overnight may save you a few minutes in the evening but it will attract foxes, especially cubs. Pups view our discarded garden belongings as chew toys or the perfect thing to practice hunting on, whereas adult foxes mostly defecate on them to mark their territory. No-one wants to put their wellingtons on only to step in fox poop, tidy your garden up.

Symptoms of foxes in the garden

foxes trails

If you are unsure as to whether or not your garden is receiving nightly fox visits, these are the signs to look out for:

  • A pungent, musky smell.
  • A fox smell in your garden.
  • Droppings in prominent places.
  • Trampled plants.
  • Dug up flowerbeds.
  • Holes in the lawn.
  • Chewed up shoes or toys.
  • Half-eaten fruit (if you have fruit trees or bushes).
  • Damage to fences, wire mesh, hose pipes, polythene tunnels.
  • Trash was strewn across your garden.
  • Your garden looking like a freshly ploughed field, foxes will dig up entire gardens if there is an abundance of beetle grubs.

What to do with foxes in your garden

fox head icon

As foxes are not the violent monsters they are made out to be, the best answer to the question “what to do if you have a fox in your garden?” is to learn to co-exist with the furry visitors. Doing so gives you a front row seat to witness fox pups joyfully playing, to watch the antics of adult foxes, and your garden will be kept rodent free.

However, it is understandable that some may not welcome such nightly visitors especially if there are young children in the home. This is not the only reason as to why you may want to keep foxes out of your garden. Constantly repairing damage and fixing your flowerbeds or filling in holes in your lawn can become frustrating.

If you find yourself asking ‘how to deter foxes from my garden?’ follow the advice below to humanely deter foxes.

  • Block all entrances to your garden. Inspect the edges to find out where foxes are gaining entry and seal those points of breach.
  • Gather all toys, shoes, or other loose items in your garden before the night falls.
  • Cover any sources of water.
  • Remove or cover any leftover pet food.
  • Block any entrances to spaces beneath your home, decking, shed, or other garden structures.
  • Secure hutches or cages of any small animals kept outdoors.
  • Remove sources of food. Make sure that all rubbish bags are tied and placed in bins with a secure lid. If you feed other animals in your garden consider purchasing specialised feeders so that others can’t get to the treats inside.
  • Use plant-based fertilisers rather than those containing blood, fish, or bonemeal.
  • Place a paving stone on top of your pet burial, if you have any. This way foxes can’t dig up the corpse.
  • Leave a radio playing in a shed to deter foxes and their cubs.
  • Use commercial repellents, they are not harmful to foxes, your garden, or any other critter.

If all else fails, there is the option of having more sophisticated fox deterrents fitted around your property. Fox deterrent systems of this type must be installed by a professional humane deterrent company.

Check also:
How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Fox Facts

We have prepared answers to some of the most common questions about having foxes in the garden. If you would like to welcome these little furry critters into your garden but have some concerns, keep reading.

Should you feed foxes and what should you feed them?

feeding foxes


There is very little harm in feeding the foxes in your garden as long as you do it sensibly. Don’t give them large amounts of food and clear away any leftovers. Giving large amounts of food to wild animals does not tame them. All it does is reduce the fear they have of humans. This leads them to get close to people with the expectation of food which may be troubling for those not confident around animals. Make sure to dispose of any uneaten food – if you don’t, you may end up attracting less wholesome pests, such as rats.

As for what to feed foxes, they are mainly carnivorous and tend to eat birds, rodents, small animals, worms, and beetle grubs. However, foxes are also quite partial to fruit and, in adapting to our environment, they have developed the ability to eat almost anything such as cheese, bread, vegetables, and table scraps. Foxes will eat whatever you leave for them, just keep in mind that other animals may get to the food first so try to avoid onions, garlic, chocolate, and the other foods you wouldn’t give a dog.

If foxes have been frequenting your garden you may have had the pleasure of uncovering a small animal corpse while gardening. Don’t worry – the foxes aren’t ‘sending a message’, foxes store food in caches throughout their territory so that they have an alternative food source should it be needed.

However, you should also be familiar with the saying “a fed animal is a dead animal”. When it comes to feeding wildlife, they become dependant on this food source. And if they become accommodated with humans, it will likely pose a threat to their survival in the future, especially if meeting people who will be not-so-friendly towards them. Your best course of action, if you want to host these furry tenants in your garden, is try and recreate natural wildlife conditions for them.

NEVER try to hand-feed a fox, while it is unlikely to bite you it is still a wild animal and is unpredictable.

Mark Clark, gardening expert

Cat Safety

cat icon


One of the biggest concerns for pet owners is whether or not their beloved animal companion is safe while there is a fox prowling around. Few people are surprised to learn that foxes will run away from a dog 99% of the time, but many are shocked to learn that foxes will also run away from cats most of the time. If they get into a fight, the fox is more likely to be injured.

 

Check also:

9 Tips for Gardening with Dogs

 

Stop foxes unearthing corpses

coffin


The death of a family pet can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved, but if you bury your pet in the garden and don’t take adequate precautions a more disturbing image of its corpse being unearthed may be awaiting you.

Foxes have a very keen sense of smell and regardless of how deep you bury your pet they will do their best to excavate it. It is unpleasant, but not the fault of the fox as it thinks this is just more food.

If you must bury your pet in the garden, dig a deep grave and place a paving stone on top of the body to keep burrowing foxes at bay.

Garden destruction

garden destruction


The damage foxes and their cubs can do to a garden is substantial. From digging to trampling plants, their destructive capabilities know no bounds. To reduce, or stop the damage being done to your lawn and flower beds try using a commercial fox repellent in specific areas. Just know that most of the plant damage is not being done maliciously. The majority of damage comes from the joyful playing of fox cubs and it is quite difficult to stay angry at small balls of fluff.

Another way in which adult foxes can destroy your garden is by marking their territory. You may be lucky and escape with just a terrible, musky smell but then again you may also encounter fox droppings. This is a reality you will have to learn to live and deal with if you would like your garden to be fox friendly.

Additional Questions:


We receive quite a few questions about foxes, and though we encourage you to put them down in the comments below so that all of our community will be able to answer, we are going to feature some of them here.

What time of day foxes come out


You may think foxes are nightly animals and rightly so. They do tend to come out mostly at night to find food, rummage through the garden and doing their foxy things.

However, when it comes to pups, you might witness them quite often during daylight when they come out to play. There’s nothing strange about this behaviour – the fox cubs are known to do this even in the wild nature.

Do foxes like to eat vegetables from your garden?


In general, foxes are omnivores, meaning, they can eat virtually anything that is good for food. However, the main reason why they dig up plants and vegetables is not that they want to eat them, but to reach the worms beneath them. It’s also possible that you used some organic matter and bonemeal for natural fertilisers, and foxes do smell that.

My neighbour’s garden has foxes. What can I do to stop them coming over to mine?


Unfortunately, there’s very little to do when it comes to foxes in your neighbour’s garden, if the aforementioned neighbour is not cooperative. They usually burrow under overgrown bushes or under a garden shed, so those two places are pretty good spots for your neighbour garden’s fox habitat. You can either arrange a garden clearance if the vegetation also spreads out in your garden, or try and kill the grubs and worms in your garden using natural pest repellents. The latter will stop the foxes digging your plants out.[/su_note]

So there we have it, your guide to foxes in the garden. These beautiful animals are often portrayed negatively in the media with only the most extreme and rare cases being mentioned. In reality, they are mostly docile creatures that just want somewhere safe to eat, sleep, and raise their young. So long as you take the necessary precautions you and the foxes can share the garden space and co-exist.

If you do not feel comfortable having wild animals roam your garden then we urge you to first attempt the deterrence methods listed here and if that does not work to contact a professional. Do not attempt to shoot foxes as you are more likely to only wound them. This leads to a slow death brought on by an infection. Instead of trying to ‘deal with’ a fox yourself call a professional.

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Icon credits: Freepik, Smashicons, Twitter , Gregor Kresnar @ Flaticon

Header image credits: Deposit photos / leungchopan

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32 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thank you for this I feel a little better now .
    Can you just mention how we know that they have a home in our garden any tell tail (lol) signs?
    Will they get rid of other pests out of garden
    .

    • Hello Sat, so let’s see! First off, will they get rid of other pests out of garden? Well, foxes are predatory mammals and they should, in theory, attack and snack on vermins, too. However, if you provide them with a food source, knowingly or not, this might dull their hunter nature and they won’t bother getting their paws dirty (right back gotcha).

      You can also check out our symptoms section above where we’ve listed the most common signs of a fox in gardens.

      Hope it helps you!

  • Hi, really helpful article, thanks! There are 5 cubs living I think behind my shed where there is also a very overgrown part of the garden. I’d like to get the garden cleared, but don’t want to distress the cubs. Will they move away when they are adults, and how long does this take?

    • Hey Kate,

      Foxes are known to find their own territories when they grow up so there’s a pretty good chance they will move out once mature. It usually happens around the sixth month after birth.

  • Everything I needed to know about the beautiful fox cubs in our garden shed, 3 or 4 of them. Very informative, thank you.

  • Hello! Yep, we’ve got a fox with 3 cubs living under our shed at the bottom of the garden. Whilst it’s great seeing them out and playing in the evenings, they are now doing a fine job of digging up the garden!
    I guess they’ve been there for about 6 weeks now.. we don’t really want to have to remove them now.. how do do you think they might be intending to stay??

    • Hello Richard,

      Cubs stay with their mother (vixen) fox, until they come out of age. It usually takes several months (between 4 and 6, but you could check with professional wildlife control specialists) until they fully grow and are able to find their own territory. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about stopping foxes damaging your garden, and still make it fox-friendly – those two things don’t go hand-in-hand together. You could still try a fox repellent or a dig stopper – the fox and the cubs might still stay around if they find other sources of food.

  • Great info , thanks. I don’t mind the fox sun bathing on the lawn but I worry it will come inside if I leave the doors open. Is it likely to come in?

    • Hello Fluz,

      To be completely honest, yes, it is likely to come in, if it’s tame enough. That means if foxes have been regularly fed by humans, they are not afraid to enter houses, to try and find more food. If you have a cat-flap, consider installing a special sensor, connected with your pet’s collar, that will only activate and open when your pet is passing through.

  • I have a vixen and her four kits living in my large yard and garden, and especially under a section of shrubs near my house. Overall, I’m enjoying their visit (the pups have actually been spotted playing with two tiny fawns!) However, this area has become flea infested. I’m worried the fleas will spread and gradually make their way into the house. Is there anything I can do? Thank you for such an informative blog about foxes! I learned a lot.

    • Hello Judith,

      Fleas are a big nuisance to chase away, especially if there is a constant source, such as the foxes. To be extra safe you can call a professional exterminator to deal with the problem temporarily (we offer flea pest control too, but only for inside the house) and restrict the spreading of fleas around the garden. Mind that fleas won’t stray away and search another source of food, unless you have a pet or someone stays near the infested spot.

      In order to completely remove the infestation threat, you will have to unfortunately chase away the foxes humanely or wait until they leave the garden and treat it afterwards.

  • Thank you for this very informative article and associated comments. Very reassuring given our new house by the sea comes with a family of cute and playful cubs in the garden.

  • Over the past month, on 2 occasions, I’ve found the remains of dead birds in my garden. The first was a pigeon – just the feathers. But a couple of days ago I found the remains of what looked like a pheasant and that was not pleasant – looked like a satanic sacrifice and was horrible to clean up. I know there’s a den in a garden close by and I have seen 2 foxes playing in the garden next to mine.
    I’m getting a little fed up with clearing up the mess – can I assume it’s the foxes causing it?

    I only have a chicken wire fence at the top hence difficult to prevent them coming in – I assume they’re getting in easily and are using my lawn as a table 🙁

  • HI! there is a fox hidden under a tree in a pathway outside my house. It has been here all day, sleeping and looking at me scared. What can I do? I don’t want to hurt it, I only fear it needs help.

    • Hello there,

      Wild animals rarely need help in an environment they have gotten used to living. Unless it’s injured, though it’s not advisable to approach the animal or feed it. A wild animal is pretty much self-manageable. If you don’t want the fox in your property, or you notice it’s injured, you can always rely on the services of a certified humane pest control company.

      Regards,
      Fantastic Gardeners

  • For the past couple of years I’ve had 5-6 foxes coming into my garden & they often sleep on my garden chairs. They obviously regard it as their territory but the fighting & screaming is becoming a nuisance to the neighbours. They should’ve moved by now. I am guilty of leaving out scraps. If I completely stop, will they move on? I don’t want them to be a source of discord in the neighbourhood.

    • Hello Alison,

      Foxes won’t leave until you stop feeding them. Then depending on your garden situation, they may try to find other sources of food (i.e. manure, if you use it as an organic soil feeder).

      Other factors we’ve already may have mentioned above include:

      – garbage disposal containers must be airtight and tightly locked;
      – garbage bins must be cleaned from time to time;
      – any pet food you might have outside, must be gone. Any feeders, anything;
      – never leave unharvested fruits (provided you have a fruit garden);
      – clear up your garden if you don’t want them to have a safe haven cover;
      – if you have a conservatory, shed or anything else with a broken door, screen or window, repair it, as it is a place foxes use for hiding or storing food;

      Cutting them out of the easy food source is a step in the right direction in any case. Our advice has and always been to never feed a wild animal. Their years of evolution have accustomed them to find their own sources of food with ease.

      Check our other methods of getting rid of foxes above. You can check out our article on how to get rid of cats in the garden – as the methods here oftentimes work for foxes as well (motion-activated sprinklers, and lion dung repellents particularly);

      In any case, we also advise using the services of a professional wildlife removal company as they do offer humane wildlife removal. We are not affiliated with any of the sort though, so we cannot provide recommendations as to which one exactly should you pick.

      Best regards,
      Fantastic Team

  • Thank you for your suggestions. They have given me some options. It breaks my heart to have to be so strict but needs must.
    Thank you.

  • We have enjoyed watching three or four foxes eating peanuts we put out each evening. They usually come separately but sometimes two will arrive within a few minutes, although there is a dominant one who will not allow the other to feed. They do occasionally groom each other though. Sadly they have not appeared over the last few days. Any idea why this might be?

    • Hello Russell,

      Oftentimes it’s difficult to predict a wild animal’s behaviour. We wouldn’t call ourselves experts on the topic of foxes, we just do our research, but from the looks of it, it’s either possible that they have taken a rest from the peanuts diet for a few days and they will come back sooner than later, or they have reached a point (age-wise) in which they have started exploring different areals.

      Except the food source you provide, do you have any other favourable conditions in your garden, such as deep vegetation or an old shed, that attracts foxes? We do have some tips on how to grow a wildlife-friendly garden, which you can take into account.

      Regards,
      Fantastic Gardeners Team

  • We love feeding the foxes. But the cat then goes to the same spot, she starts eating their food. Will my cat catch any illness or diseases?

    • Hello Rosanne,

      Foxes are wild animals and you cannot be sure what parasites and diseases they might be spreading, and if you do suspect your pets have come in close contact with a fox, make sure that you follow up if everything is taken care of, regarding proper health measures – vaccinations, flea treatment and worms treatment.

  • Very interesting! We live in the countryside and a fox has started coming to our garden every day but as we live near fields of sheep I am worried it will get shot by the farmer. Should I consider contacting the RSPCA to ask if they can trap it and release it elsewhere? I have no problem with him visiting us at all but worry the farmer may think otherwise if he sees it!

  • I myself felt unsafe with foxes in Australia (they don’t look like British foxes), I’ll keep in mind not to leave any food outdoors or any dog doors on my doors for foxes to get in or any inorganic substance that’s non-vegan (if there’s honey a fox will smell it) outdoors and I’ll keep the doors closed at night, and make the henhouses secure so foxes don’t get in there to eat them, keeping the chickens inside and safe (if I want chickens including roosters), I’ll keep them inside at all times and I won’t grow any flowers or fruits in my garden, I’ll keep that in mind when it comes to attracting wildlife and I’ll keep anything with the slightest amount of sugar either packed away or put in the bin so as to not attract unwanted insects such as ants and bees (they bite), and I’ll put my empty bins back in the carport and full bins near the road with secure lids to deter foxes the vegetarian way (without using repellents), I’m very watchful and attentive and I’ll be especially careful when going near houses in Great Britain, Australia is no different, however if you do your work and not interfere with foxes as they look at you, act like you’re OK and then scurry off then they’re unlikely to hurt you, just don’t go near them unless you know how to tame wild animals like foxes. They tend to be awake at night and poultry birds of any kind, including parrots and pigeons are likely to make a tasty meal for foxes. So for all the vegetarians repel foxes the natural way witout those repellents for animals, the poor foxes, it’s now an endangered species, think about the environment!

  • We have a rather flimsy wire mesh fence on one side of our property and foxes are constantly bending the wire out of shape to pass through to our neighbour’s yard, which then allows our dog through (she won’t damage the fencing on her own but will squeeze through any gap already created by the foxes). Rather than constantly trying to patch it up, only to find the foxes had created a new gap, we were thinking of creating a sort of hard sided tunnel that was big enough for the foxes to get through but not our dog. Do you think that would work? Will foxes go through a tunnel (such as a short length of hard plastic tubing)?

    • Hello Phoebe,

      We don’t call ourselves experts on foxes, however, it won’t hurt to try. Foxes are used with tunnels as their dens look quite similar. The more costly option but also probably effective enough is to reinforce the fence (if the said fence’s not too big and impractical to repair from scratch).

      Your case reminded us of this fun video, though.

      Good luck and keep us posted!

  • Hi we are very lucky to have today one has visited our garden 4times with in 2hours we treat the mange, if they have it also we treat for worms in total we have upto5 fox’s all of which have names

    • Christine, I have a large garden and several foxes. I name them all and observe where they are in the family hierarchy. I have found that if you give them regular small amounts of good suitable food they will develop glosssy coats and be a credit to your garden. Do not ever touch them but keep still when you see them and they gradually will not be frightened of you. When I sit on a garden seat they sit by my feet and smile up at me. Get dog or cat worming pills if you see them scratching their bottoms. They sometimes go lame for a while and then cannot hunt so then make sure you give them regular but small amounts of food and water..

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