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Doghouse RileyDoghouse Riley Posts: 347
edited October 2021 in Wildlife gardening
As my mention of "our" fox on another thread promoted some interest I thought this might have a wider appeal.
I took all the photos through the glass of our French windows with a little Lumix camera on "zoom." As some were taken at dusk the quality of those isn't good.

This is "Fiona" as we called her having a drink from our, "frog pond."

We've always had foxes in our garden from time to time. But this one started visiting our garden in February 2017.
She'd come and sit on the patio about fifteen feet away from the French windows and stare at us for a few minutes and then leave. She'd come back the next day and then every few days and do the same thing. I think she was just "sussing us out," looking for a reaction.

We then hardly ever saw her. But then at the end of March I looked out of the kitchen window one day and saw this. Fiona with three cubs, one under the tea-house  steps.
I wasn't aware they'd been listening to Motown from the jukebox over their heads since they were born. "They never complained."

She'd obviously had a litter under the building.

I built the teahouse in 1987 and put it up on low brick piers.
There are Victorian style skirting boards attached to the base on three sides but finish a couple of inches above the path. But I didn't put a skirt on the back so as to provide good ventilation under it and prevent damp, so that's where she'd got under it.

Once the cubs had left home I put a sand and cement screed down between the back fence and the building and made a sturdy wooden frame covered in double layered chicken wire and attached it to the base to prevent further "occupation" and preserve the ventilation.

Over the next few days we found that she actually had six cubs.

She'd often feed them in front of the tea-house during the day.

They only came out at around dusk  on their own,  if she wasn't there and  at first kept to the bottom of the garden.

Before they came out I used to leave a bowl with some cat food and some dry stuff for them outside the tea-house and a bowl of water each night.

They were quite endearing

As they got older, they got braver and would come down to the French windows to eat the birds dried meal worms I left out for them..

"Is it alright for me to have some of these?"

"You know what will happen if you say no, don't you!"

They played "chase" running up the two tea-house steps and jumping off the veranda.
The dirty paw marks on the windows of the doors got progressively higher as they grew, but they always looked clean.

I provided them with a sturdy upturned box to practice their "pouncing."

Though they preferred jumping off the big tub as it was higher.

Fiona didn't like them being out in the day and if one was out when she got home it'd get a telling off.

Sometimes motherhood was a bit wearing and she'd relax under one of the acers.

She stole kids soft toys from other gardens and brought them home for them  to play "chase" with. They'd all chase after the one with the toy, round and round the garden. I put a net over the koi pool in case any fell in.

One day my wife called out to me in the other room "Quick! One's got a blackbird in its mouth and the others are chasing it!"

I explained there was nothing I could do, as it was "nature."

The following day I went out in the garden and found the "blackbird" on the lawn. It was the small black triangular nozzle from  a vacuum cleaner their mother had found.

They grew up very quickly and eventually she took them out of the garden over three days, two at a time.
I'd seen her the previous week  teaching them to jump up on top of the Japanese lantern at the top of the pool waterfall,  from where they'd be able to scrabble over the fence. The only way they could get out of our garden.
We never saw them again once they left as they don't return, though we did hear one or two caused a bit of  damage in other neighbours' gardens.
Ours quicky recovered, just one or two small holes in the lawn and they'd flattened most of the end bed.

We didn't see Fiona for two years. We could recognise her, we'd seen her so often.  She returned just once at the beginning of 2019, probably to check out her old den, but of course it was now inaccessible.

These are our last photos of her on that day as she made her way out over the lamp.

I've a lot more photos and several videos like this one.

We enjoyed the experience and felt we'd done our bit without interacting with them, but it's not an experience we'd like to repeat... I dunno though.....



  • What an absolutely wonderful post! Much "ahhing" and laughing from me. Unbelievably cute photos of the cubs. I can relate to the soft toys - in my old house there used to be a fox which looked like an old cub or young adult and I would regularly catch him in my garden circa 5am playing on his own with a dog's squeaky toy he had stolen from somewhere. It was really a surprise to me how dog-like their behaviour can be. I then had to make sure I didn't leave anything out because gardening gloves or tools or anything really would become toys! I don't really get foxes in this garden now sadly. What a privilege to watch a mother raising her cubs like that. Wonderful!
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,836
    Thank you @Doghouse Riley for sharing your fox family with us. Gorgeous photos and I really enjoyed reading your fox story.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • Doghouse RileyDoghouse Riley Posts: 347
    edited October 2021
    Thank you @Doghouse Riley for sharing your fox family with us. Gorgeous photos and I really enjoyed reading your fox story.

    Thanks for that.

    I've found a few more photos to share.

    Here's one of the "blackbird" It was a relief to find it as we've had at least one pair visit our  our garden daily for decades. Presently there's two. I've a lot of videos of our garden and my jukeboxes on YouTube I've uploaded over several years and you can hear blackbirds singing on all of them!

    We worked out that there were four males and two females. The males were more competetive, while the females were happy to share.

    As we never went into the garden when they were out, instead of constantly tearing around the felt it quite safe enough to relax in the sun.

    It wasn't all "beer and skittles" being a fox mum. She'd obviously been in a fight with another fox or a dog and had a poorly eye, fortunately although it looks very serious here it got better.

    Every year when it gets hot during the day I always open one of the tea-house doors as I don't like it to get too hot in there. It'd  make my old Budweiser beer fridge work too hard. But with the fox cubs I couldn't take that risk, so I fitted this fan in the ceiling and put it on a timer so I could keep the door closed.

    The fox cubs left three days later!

  • I absolutely love these photos! What a lovely story. And an absolute classic about the foxes leaving 3 days later. Those cubs are absolutely adorable. I wonder if Fiona will ever come back?
  • Doghouse RileyDoghouse Riley Posts: 347
    edited October 2021
    I absolutely love these photos! What a lovely story. And an absolute classic about the foxes leaving 3 days later. Those cubs are absolutely adorable. I wonder if Fiona will ever come back?

    As I  understand it, they find a safe place to leave some whilst they go back for the others. She would have expected those left behind to be OK, while she kept an eye on the ones she'd taken out, to stop them leaving where she was keeping them during the night, when they would be most active.

    But by the time we heard they were seen in neighbour's gardens, they would have been pretty much on their own. It was remarkable how quickly they grew. I guess they would have been on the teat for a long while. They seemed to drink very little water I provided for them and a can of cat food a night couldn't have gone very far.

    She did come back at the begining of 2019, to suss out her old den, but would have found it in accessible.

    There's a gap of about 16" between the right hand side of the tea-house  and the fence
    But I've  as line of flags on the ground forming a path. There's   4" between the flags and the tea-house skirt.

    It's a bit sad as  the following day I could see she'd attempted to scrape out a bit of the soil under the skirt next to the path, but there's no way she could have got under, so must have given up trying.

    We still get foxes coming into the garden occasionally, we always have. My trail camera picked up a young one  several weeks ago, but it wasn't Fiona and looked to be too old to be one of her cubs, which would now be over four years old.

  • @Doghouse Riley What a lovely story and photos. Fiona obviously felt very safe living in your garden (no hunts hopefully in your area) how fascinating it mustve been for you to see them in broad daylight.
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • @Doghouse Riley What a lovely story and photos. Fiona obviously felt very safe living in your garden (no hunts hopefully in your area) how fascinating it mustve been for you to see them in broad daylight.

    Thanks for that.
    It amazed me how intelligent and caring she was.

    Foxes are given a bad reputation by the media. Given the number of animals there are particularly  now with "urban foxes," the number of incidents where they harm people are a tiny fraction of those caused by dogs, most of which don't get reported.
    The woman in the house  behind us told my wife she  was concerned for the safety of her children. They'd have been about eight and nine at the time I guess.
    She replied  that they were unlikely to see any fox if they were in their garden, as the first instinct of a fox in that situation is to run away.
  • It's a beautiful  story, @Doghouse Riley.  And superb pics and videos.  Thank you so much for sharing it  all with us.
    Thanks to you and everyone else for your kind words.
    There must be lots of stories out there that many have that they might care to share.

  • GwenrGwenr Posts: 150
    How wonderful, what a pleasure to read and how kind you are.
    Our poor foxes need our help, they are losing their habitat and homes to concrete houses or being killed on the roads, humans have a lot to answer for. It gave us so much pleasure to read this 😊 and reminded us of our neighbour who had a vixen and her cubs behind his shed. He fell out with his neighbour who said all foxes were vermin and should be destroyed, I heard a threat of violence would happen if anything happened to the fox and her cubs. How happy I would be if a fox found a home with us, but I don't think our hedgehogs would be impressed.
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