When you have your chickens and a chicken coop, one of the most important issues is securing it and ensuring it is predator-proof!
Many animals, such as dogs, hawks, owls, wolves, and raccoons, see your chicks as an easy-to catch-meal, which brings us to two crucial questions “Are possums one of those animals, or do possums eat chickens?”
The answer is yes! As a matter of fact, they are known to invade chicken coops and attack chicks more frequently than chickens, probably due to their size. So, let’s check some general information about possums, how to keep your chickens safe, and much more!
General Information About Possums
Although we tend to call them possums, their actual name is opossums, and they are members of the marsupial infraclass. The word “marsupial” refers to “pouched” mammals, and possums are, therefore, relatives of koalas and kangaroos.
Interestingly, there is an animal called the common brushtail possum, which is native to Australia and invasive in New Zealand.
Some people tend to mix them due to the name. The possums and the brushtail possum come from the same infraclass (Marsupialia), but they are not the same animal and do not look alike.
So, now that we have cleared that out of the way, let’s check some other interesting information about possums.
Did you know that possums are North America’s only marsupials? Yes! The possum comes from the Didelphimorphia order that is endemic to North America, or more precisely, Virginia. Today, you can find them in most parts of the US, Canada, and even Mexico.
These animals have a short life span of around one to two years due to their various predators, including dogs, cats, bigger birds, and people. Although possums’ hairless tail makes some people think they are related to rats, they are not.
Possums have 50 teeth, more than any other land mammal in North America.
What Do Possums Eat?
Interestingly, possums are considered a benefit to any area they inhabit, contrary to common opinion. The reason for this is their versatile diet, which includes many bugs, snails, insects, cockroaches, beetles, mosquitoes, and others,
They also like to eat small rodents, such as mice and rats, which are common pests to humans and often cause various damages.
Besides rodents, opossums are also attracted to areas inhabited by humans due to water and food availability, including pet food, food scraps, or even chicken feed. They are also scavengers and will gladly eat carrion.
When it comes to chickens, if given the opportunity, they will attack and eat chicken, although they rarely eat the whole chicken. As mentioned, they are more comfortable attacking chicks and eating chicken eggs.
What Are The Signs that a Possum Attacked My Flock?
Sometimes your chickens can suffer an attack without you being alert or even aware that it happened, so certain signs indicate that an opossum has visited your coop.
- Possum, Feces, or Urine
- Possum Bite Marks
- Missing or Injured Chicks
- Possum Footprints
Possum feces are often mistaken for dog poop due to their size and shape. So, how to recognize it? If you see a large pile of feces resembling dog poop, but you know you have no dogs in your coop, that is your clue.
Possums tend to excrete several times at once, and their feces are in the form of smaller droplets.
Their footprints are easily identified; their forefoot resembles a hand with five thin fingers, while the situation is a bit complicated regarding their hind feet.
The best way to detect their footprints is to check the lengths of the back feet compared to the forefeet. Also, if a chicken detects the presence of a predator in the coop, it will refuse to enter it.
How to Protect Chickens from Possums and Other Predators?
1. Latching and Locking Your Coop
Interestingly, opossums are often compared to raccoons because these animals like to go through garbage bins and are known as the “Nature’s Disposal Team.” However, unlike raccoons, opossums are not very good at “picking a lock.”
Actually, they cannot open latches or locks. However, they can climb fences, dig beneath the fence or coop, and even tear the wire mesh.
In most cases, they cannot break enough wire mesh to fit their whole body and enter the coop, but they will reach out their hand and grab your birds to the best of their abilities.
Therefore, latching and locking your coop is the first step to protecting your birds against numerous nocturnal animals. Also, it would help to consider this problem when building or buying a coop, so you would not have to think about it later.
It is good to check on them occasionally, just to ensure that everything is fine. However, opossums are nocturnal animals and do not attack during the day when chicken keepers are on the clock.
2. Buying Coops with a Wire Mesh Floor
Buying coops with a wire mesh floor is the best solution because opossums generally like to dig. If you plan to place the hen house on grass, we suggest installing a wire mesh floor to prevent them and other predators from digging.
Most people use wire to enclose the chickens and protect against predators, but unfortunately, it is not designed to protect only to enclose. Also, even though opossums cannot open the lock, they have opposable thumbs and can easily bend or twist the wire.
The best option is to use hardware cloth with a fine mesh. You will probably have to pay extra bucks to ensure maximum protection, but ultimately, it is worth the price! A piece of good advice is never to keep chicken feed or any other type of food in the open.
How to Deter Possums?
If you read somewhere that the best idea to deter possums is to avoid attracting them, that is more complicated than it sounds.
As noted earlier, the possums are attracted to our living areas for several reasons, including water availability, and there is nothing you can do about this particular factor.
However, there are other steps that you can take, such as keeping the chicken feed or bird feeders out of the possum’s reach and never in an open space.
1. Bright Lights and Motion Sensor Lighting
Interestingly, possums do not like bright and shiny lights, such as Christmas decorations, and will avoid them unless they are extremely hungry and desperate. The reason: they are startled by the flashes and bright lights.
Furthermore, motion sensor lighting is a very effective way to scare and confuse them. So, the best measure to protect your flock and deter opossums is to place the motion sensor near the coop.
That way, you will know that if you see the light go off, you most likely have an unwanted guest!
2. Rodent Repellent Spray or Ammonia-Soaked Rags
As the name implies, rodent repellent spray is mainly used to deter rodents, but it can also be very effective against opossums. These sprays are scent-based solutions or concoctions that consist of various chemicals.
Different types of these sprays are on the market with different ingredients, but some can contain the urine of other predators, such as wolves, to trick opossums. However, keep in mind that some of these sprays may not be very effective or reliable.
On the other hand, some sprays need to be applied consistently for a certain period to work. Look for sprays that contain very pungent ingredients, such as tobacco or garlic.
You can apply this spray on your garbage tin or other areas these nocturnal thieves visit.
The same goes for ammonia-soaked rags, great allies that successfully deter opossums. You can place them in garbage cans or the corners of the chicken coops.
3. Buy a Rooster
Chickens are mainly grown for meat or eggs, while roosters are mainly kept to fertilize the eggs. However, roosters can be an excellent deterrent against predators. Why? Roosters react to danger differently than hens.
They are very aggressive and territorial and will try to defend themselves and attack the impostor. But most importantly, they will make a lot of noise, so if you live near the coop, you can hear the commotion and save the day!
4. Place Traps for Opossums
Another way to deter them and protect your chickens is to place opossum traps, mainly small metal cages that close shut when triggered. Putting a trap with some delicious food inside can be a good way to trick them into entering the cage.
They mainly prefer fruits and sweets so you can place candy or apples inside the cage.
So, we have answered the most important question in this article: whether opossums eat chicken. Now that you know they do, it would be best to protect your coop!
We have also elaborated on the signs that your chickens are attacked, what opossums like to eat, how to deter them, and how to protect your coop! Feel free to ask or comment if you have any questions or want to share your experience with opossums!