Chicken farming provides a sustainable amount of food and income on a large scale. Unfortunately, these game birds have a handful of natural predators, especially in woodland areas.
Possums are a common pest in many suburban and rural areas of America. Do possums attack and kill chickens? While they rarely eat game birds, they can seriously harm them when startled.
In this article, I will answer some questions about possums attacking chickens. You will learn how to identify a rodent attacks and how to prevent them. Finally, I will conclude by outlining what to do if you discover a possum near your chickens.
- Will Possums Attack Chickens?
- Do Possums Kill And Eat Chickens?
- Signs of a Possum Attack
- How To Protect Your Chickens From A Possum Attack
- Avoid Attracting Possums Into Your Yard
- What If You Find A Possum In Your Chicken Coop?
- Conclusion: Do Possums Eat Chickens?
Will Possums Attack Chickens?
Opossums are usually very docile, but when startled, they are known to hiss, scratch, and bite. Occasionally they may also harm other animals unintentionally when digging for food.
In most scenarios, a threatened possum will play dead rather than attack. In this state, their saliva glands produce a white foam and they release unpleasant smells from their anal glands. After the creature stops feeling threatened, it resumes its regular food-finding lifestyle.
While biting and scratching is not their primary instinct, possums have killed chickens before. Young chicks are especially vulnerable to accidental or intended attacks. Defending your coop against possum encroachment is the best way to avoid a potentially deadly (albeit uncommon) attack.
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Do Possums Kill And Eat Chickens?
Possums are omnivores, and their diet is diverse. They eat plants, insects, small animals, garbage, and carrion. They are opportunistic animals regarding food, so they will often eat what is nearby. As a result, they have occasionally eaten chickens, turkeys, and other game birds.
Why not read What Do Possums Like To Eat.
However, possums do not often see chickens as natural prey. The creatures eat almost indiscriminately, so they may consume a dead bird that is nearby. Possums typically find food by digging, foraging for plants and fruits, and capturing small organisms like lizards and mice.
If one of your chickens dies in a possum attack, the creature may partially or completely eat it. In rare cases, predatory possums have continually sought out coops for food. While they aren’t the marsupial’s first choice meal, they will eat them if convenient.
Will Possums Eat Chicken Eggs?
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, opossums will eat bird eggs in addition to the winged animals themselves. The marsupials have a wide dietary range and are prone to eating whatever is nearby.
The easier an edible object is to eat, the more likely a possum will ingest it. Your eggs are at a higher risk of predation by possums than chickens. Many sources note that possums occasionally break into coops to eat birds or eggs if they are easily accessible. Because of this, it is best to learn to identify and defend against wild attacks.
Signs of a Possum Attack
Now that you know that possums can be dangerous for chickens, I will list some of the most obvious ways to detect signs of an attack. Since the marsupials are nocturnal creatures, many coop owners don’t catch the critters in the act of harming their flock. Keep a keen eye peeled for any of the following signs to prevent future dangers.
Opossum feet consist of the forefoot and the hindfoot.
The forefoot of a possum is easy to identify. It is hand-like with five thin toes outstretching in a typical paw shape. The hindfoot is not a standard shape and is harder to identify. Both sets of footprints will be roughly the same length, and their strides are short. The gait length between their feet is between 10 and 12 centimeters.
Raccoons are another common pest around livestock areas and woodlands. Possum paw prints can be difficult to distinguish from a raccoon’s. Pay attention to the length of the back feet compared to the front ones. If the appendages measure about the same width, they are not raccoon marks.
Where can you find possum prints? Most modern coops don’t have dirt floors for leaving prints. Instead, modern chicken houses have wooden slats or concrete flooring. The best place to find possum prints is outside the coop. However, you may also want to search areas near dumpsters, garbage cans, and woodlands if you suspect predation.
Opossum feces is easily confused with dog poop regarding color, length, and size. The droppings sometimes appear slightly curly or with tapered edges. Older samples of the feces are capable of growing mold.
Where do you find possum poop? The creatures typically excrete several times at once. You can find their droppings either in or near feeding areas. If the creatures ate anything inside your coop or near your garbage area, you will likely find feces and urine at the site.
If you find possum poop near your chickens, dispose of it immediately. Ingesting it could cause serious health risks for your birds. An opossum’s feces can carry bacteria that cause diseases like salmonella and leptospirosis.
Visible Signs of Injured Chickens
Various pests can injure chickens, and the signs don’t always allude to a specific predator. However, most possum attacks only wound the birds rather than kill them. Look for claw or tooth marks on the breast or legs of the chickens. In many cases, the pests have only mauled one bird per attack.
You may also see small amounts of blood or feather reddening after a possum attack. While they have an unlikely chance of transmitting rabies to your chickens, you should still see a veterinary specialist if you find bruises, gashes, or slash marks on your birds.
If you can’t find visible signs of a struggle in your coop, look carefully at your chickens’ behavior. Stress caused by predation is common among game birds in captivity, so take note if they seem more agitated, skittish, or afraid than usual.
Possums scarcely eat adult chickens whole, usually preferring to maul them. Young birds and chicks, however, may disappear after an attack. Opossums can eat them whole, leaving behind only a handful of wet or dry feathers as debris. You may also be missing whole eggs.
Chickens and other captive birds are highly social animals. If one of their flock comes to harm or suddenly disappears, they may exhibit symptoms of stress. If the condition is severe enough, additional chickens can die. Securing their environment will help to prevent this chain of events.
Debris or Feathers
Possums attack, burrow, and eat somewhat indiscriminately, usually leaving behind debris or signs of their presence.
If a marsupial burrows under the walls of your coop, you will notice irregular dirt clumps and damage to the coop itself such as scratches.
Due to how possums eat eggs, you will almost certainly find eggshell remnants at the site if they devoured one. They tend to mash and chew eggshells into smaller pieces before spitting them out. Look for them near your chickens’ nesting area.
Outside of molting seasons, chickens usually do not shed feathers. This process usually lasts a few months beginning in late summer or fall. If your chickens aren’t in a molting season, missing feathers and downy buildup in the coop could mean a pest attack.
Possums can devour entire young chickens, but they typically leave behind clumps of wet feathers. Alternatively, maulings may strip some birds of their feathers.
How To Protect Your Chickens From A Possum Attack
Possum attacks can claim your chickens’ lives or cause them potentially fatal stresses. The best defense against this tragedy is securing your coop against vermin invasions. Here are some of the most effective ways of preventing possum attacks.
Secure Your Chicken Coop
A tightly-locked chicken coop is the best solution for preventing unwanted damages. Since possums are nocturnal creatures, the keep needs to be secured at night. Fortunately, possums aren’t capable of much structural damage to a well-built coop.
The most critical defense against possums is a solid floor. The marsupials are burrowing animals capable of digging underneath the walls of a coop. Avoid saving money with a basic dirt floor. In the long run, your chickens will be more secure with concrete or wood planks.
Some softer materials like plywood may show wear over time on the walls or floor. Take note if you see scratch marks and replace these parts as you need. Always have a functional roof for your coop, not just a tarp or cover.
Chain-link and wire are not always predator-proof. Some animals can move them out of the way. Similarly, avoid cheap, simple latches. Using a secure padlock or locking mechanism will keep pests from entering the coop.
Motion Sensor Lighting
Possums and other nocturnal creatures are often startled by sudden light flashes. As a result, motion-sensing lighting fixtures are an effective measure against them. You can find them at retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot as well as online vendors like Amazon.
The best place to put motion-sensor lights is on the outside of the coop. If your chickens are stationed close to your house, putting them just beneath your roof or gutter may also illuminate the area.
If you put the lights in these places, they will only shine when there is an intrusive animal or person nearby. If the coop is close by, you can even fix the bulbs near a bedroom window to alert you about pests at night. Possums will usually flee or become stunned when the lights turn on.
Ultrasonic Rodent Deterrent
An ultrasonic deterrent device is any emitter that produces volumes at around 20 kHz or higher. Chickens and humans aren’t sensitive to sound levels that high, and only young children are known to be able to hear them. However, rodents have far more complex auditory structures for interpreting high-pitched noises.
An ultrasonic rodent deterrent is often a small radio-like transmitter. Placing one near your chicken coop will scare pests like possums and rats away without inconveniencing your birds. Stats vary by product, but these machines tend to cover several thousand square-foot areas. There are battery-powered and outlet versions.
Rodent Repellent Spray
Unlike the ultrasonic rodent repellent, spray varieties are scent-based concoctions that ward the pests away. Many varieties of these chemicals include the urine of predators like foxes or wolves to trick opossums. While there are a handful of product choices on the market, they are not always reliable. Some sprays take several weeks of application to work consistently.
Some sprays appeal to a possum’s sense of taste instead. They contain materials like tabasco, garlic, and other strong flavors. After being applied to garbage piles and other visited areas, the critters may ingest the substance for a discomforting mouthfeel. Afterward, they usually flee.
Get A Rooster
Hens and roosters exhibit vastly different behavior patterns when threatened. While the mother bird’s instinct is to protect the young, a male isn’t afraid to get aggressive with attacks and loud clucking. Even one rooster can effectively repel pests for an entire coop.
The downside is that roosters are very territorial and possessive of the eggs in a nest, especially if they have bred with one of your hens. They are loud and may bite or scratch even familiar faces. With decent handling and care, the reliable pest protection a rooster offers is worth the risk.
Opossums traps come in many designs, but the most common types are metal cages with a door that closes shut when triggered. Placing one near your coop with an enticing piece of food will draw the marsupial’s attention and contain them.
Possums will eat anything as bait, but many sources indicate that the critters love sweets and fruit. Try using apples to rig your traps.
Avoid Attracting Possums Into Your Yard
Opossums most likely won’t stumble into your yard purely by coincidence. They may be lured by the smell of garbage, food, or other conditions. Once possums arrive, they can begin causing damage to your chickens. Not attracting the vermin is the best protection practice, so here are a few ways to avoid luring them to your yard.
Do Not Leave Pet Food Outdoors
Whether you live amongst an entire farm of animals or with a pet, feeding them outdoors is typically cleaner, quicker, and easier. However, you should refrain from leaving pet food outside at night, even if you live in a city or suburb.
Opossums are drawn to dog and cat food of all kinds. Chances are, if they find an easy source of food like a metal bowl full of kibble, they will make a return visit to your yard. This could put your entire coop of chickens in danger.
Protected animal feed left outdoors is still susceptible. Possums are notorious for persistently knocking over big tubs and automatic feeders. The best way to prevent such invasions is to bring animal feed inside a building when you aren’t using it.
Seal Trash Bins
Just like animal food, possums are infamous for digging through dumpsters and plastic cans. They can claw or chew through even the toughest garbage bags as well. Disposal that isn’t properly secured could result in a possum making frequent visits to your yard.
Thankfully, there are many ways to secure your trash bins. One of the most practical ways is to use a padlock. The creatures will still be able to knock your cans over, but they will give up after struggling with it long enough.
Bungee cords and weights can also effectively keep garbage cans shut. Alternatively, you can spray the aforementioned garlic or cayenne mixture to deter the creatures.
What If You Find A Possum In Your Chicken Coop?
If you find a possum in your chicken coop, remain calm. The creatures are likely to play dead when scared and only rarely attack humans who get close enough. Here are some suggestions for handling a possum in your coop.
First, bring the right gear. You will be glad you’re wearing heavy-duty animal handling gloves. Having a flashlight handy may serve to stun or frighten the creature into docility. If you find an opossum among your chickens, carefully move closer and shine the light on the animal.
Once it feels threatened, it will either attempt to flee or play dead. Possums are not agile creatures, so catching them is not difficult. If you prefer, use a long instrument like a broom to guide them to the exit of the coop as they flee. If you don’t mind touching the creature, merely pick it up with your gloves and set it free outside.
If handling the opossum sounds frightening, call your local animal control specialist for help. However, services like this are difficult to enlist during night hours, so shooing the creature yourself is most effective.
Conclusion: Do Possums Eat Chickens?
Do possums kill chickens? Do they eat them? The answer is yes. Although the incidents are not common, possums can cause mortal damage to young chickens and wound adults. They can mash and destroy eggs as well.
The best preventative for these pest attacks is a secure defense for your coop as well as deterrents in your yard and garbage areas. If you take the appropriate measures, your chickens will be safe and sound against a wide variety of harmful vermin.