Want to know how to keep possums away from chickens? The good news is, it’s not that difficult to protect your chickens from opossums by tightening up your coop security. The bad news is, opossums will kill chickens if they do find a way to get at them.
In this article, I’m going to give you a better understanding of the why’s and how’s behind opossum behavior. As well as all the tips you need to keep your flock nice and safe!
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What Is a Possum or Opossum?
I thought I’d give you a little more information on these creatures so you know what you’re dealing with.
Although commonly called possums, the correct name is actually opossum. Another interesting fact is that these little creates are actually marsupials, not rodents as a lot of people assume.
They do resemble rodents with their long tails, pointy faces, and little claws, I’ll be the first to agree. But the opossum and the Virginia opossum, the two main species in the U.S. which are commonly found across central and south America are not related to rodents in any way.
Adult opossums can be pretty big and actually look fairly scary (to me at least). They can weigh anything up to 15 lbs, have a mouth full of sharp teeth, and are pretty nimble and agile.
All of these attributes make them pretty craft and dangerous to chickens.
Will a Possum Kill a Full Grown Chicken?
Yes, opossums will kill adult fully-grown chickens. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with the aftermath myself, but I’ve read or heard about it enough times to be aware of the dangers.
It does take a large opossum to take down a large chicken, like a plump Sussex, for example. But never underestimate nature. If desperate for food, opossums will enter a coop or run and cause havoc.
If you have bantams, small chickens, or pullets, etc. They are almost certainly at risk and will not be able to defend themselves against an opossum.
Opossums tend to kill chickens where they find them, they don’t drag them away like some larger predators. This means you’re going to be faced with the aftermath!
They also tend to kill chickens and eat the contents of a chicken’s crop more so than eating a lot of their meat. This is one way you can tell if an opossum is a culprit, although raccoons leave very similar evidence behind.
How To Keep Possums Away From Chickens
Light up the Area
Light and noise are two of the first things people turn to when it comes to spooking and deterring pests.
Lighting up an area is a lot easier than creating a noise though. Plus, it tends to be less disruptive to you and your neighbors.
I read some accounts that adding lights is an effective opossum deterrent. You may have to add some around the coop, run, and any areas where you think an opossum would sneak under the cover of darkness, but it’s worth it.
Looking for a positive, this actually gives you the opportunity to ‘pretty’ up your yard a little. Who doesn’t like having some soft night lighting? It’s nice and festive (even when it’s not the festive period).
Don't Leave Any Food Out
Opossums are very motivated by the need for food. If you leave out anything that is edible, and this includes table scraps and other leftovers, it’s going to attract predators to your yard.
Make sure your chicken feeders are securely locked up overnight. They don’t need to be outdoors anyway, right?
It’s an added layer of security against all kinds of unwanted visitors. It’s best if you use a simple catch to make sure no crafty rodents with nimble claws can get inside your feeders.
Secure the Run and Coop With Chicken Mesh
This is probably the most important and effective way to stop opossums from actually getting to your chickens - which is the surest way of protecting your flock.
The only way to really know that your chickens are safe is to make sure their enclosure and coop are fortified with a nice strong, tight wire mesh.
Remember, opossums have small, sharp claws. Like most small animals they can fit through gaps that you never would have thought possible.
They are able to reach through most standard chicken wire, and can actually harm a chicken this way.
Smaller opossums may be able to actually squeeze through and start attacking them. If you have opossums in your area you have to use a mesh over the standard wire.
Consider a Guard Dog
This isn’t ideal for most people, but I had to mention it as I know someone who did exactly this. He bought a guard dog to warn off all types of predators, and it worked a treat.
He was being bothered by what he assumed were opossums and some other similar predators of a similar size. He wasn’t sure exactly what was digging under his chicken wire, but something was.
After getting a Maremma Sheepdog and giving it access to roam outdoors, however, there was a new sheriff in town.
Knowing When Opossums Are Most Active
Opossums are nocturnal animals. This means they are most active at night, which accounts for why most people rarely actually see them.
They’re pretty hard to find in the day, too. They tend to make pretty big nests in trees or out of piles of leaves, brush, and other debris. But they don’t hang around long before moving on to another area to nest.
For this reason, you’re going to do your prep work in the day and check the results over the following days. It’s pretty worrying honesty, I know how it feels. Just err on the side of caution and go over the top so you can sleep easy knowing your flock and nice and secure!
Do Possums Eat Chicken Heads?
If you’re trying to identify which predators have been killing chickens in your flock, as disturbing as it is, seeing how they were killed is one of the best ways to narrow down the possible culprits.
Some predators will remove or eat the heads of chickens, and opossums are one of the predators that do this sometimes.
I think it’s because they are smaller than chickens and often bite or scratch at their neck and head area as a way of killing them.
Related - Do owls kill and eat chickens?
Some people think opossums are cute, most people think they’re a nuisance. Whatever your stance, one thing we know for sure is that opossums will kill chickens if they get the chance, so you have to take steps to protect your flock.
If you follow one or more of the precautionary steps above, I’m sure you’ll be able to create a safe, fortified, (and maybe well-lit) safe haven for your flock.
Image credits - Header photo by jennifer Uppendahl on Unsplash
Opossum Facts - Havahart.com