You may have mysterious experiences when some of your chickens are missing. Perhaps you have seen leftovers and know immediately they have been eaten but cannot pinpoint who’s the culprit. One creature should be in your mind, but the uncertainties make you doubt them. And so, you may keep on asking, “Do possums eat chickens?”
Well, possums (Didelphis Virginiana) or sometimes termed as opossums, are marsupial animals. This means they carry their babies in a bit of pocket or pouch. Possums are scavengers, and they go all out hunting for food.
These creatures are scavengers that take any opportunity they have to get their hands on something edible. It’s their nature to take advantage of the various sources of food around them. Unfortunately, your coop could be on their radar.
They could be lurking every now and then around your coop, waiting to strike. As your coop can be one of their potential targets, there is a large tendency for possums to raid your coop and snatch some of the chickens away. While smaller chickens or smaller bantams are usually the most susceptible, possums can also attack larger chickens like hens every once in a while.
You might wonder what these creatures look like and how big they are, as they can snatch up small and occasionally large chickens as meals. They can be 21-36 inches long and can weigh up to 15lb, generally the size of a regular house cat.
Therefore, it’s physically possible for them to overpower chickens, especially the small ones. These creatures have grey fur and have a distinct white face that’s all pointy, like a cone. Possums have black ears and usually pink feet and tails.
These creatures have quite the breeding energy. So, if you happen to see one in your backyard or somewhere near your place, it is most probably not alone. They are most likely in sets of groups and families, making it even harder to eradicate them.
However, possums’ diet is not strictly limited to chicken. In fact, chicken may be a feast to their usually basic diet of small rodents, insects, bugs, snails, and frogs. Curious about the sound they make? They’re generally very quiet, especially if they stay a distance.
However, when threatened or provoked, they usually release hisses, growls, and show their teeth. While they’re unlikely to attack humans, they will fight back pets and other animals when pushed to the edge.
Protecting Your Chickens From Possum Attacks
Possums are usually associated and compared to raccoons as they share some similar qualities. However, possums are not as shrewd as raccoons, so it is naturally easier to keep them away from your chickens. Unlike raccoons, they cannot navigate through locks and latches.
They possess a couple of valuable qualities for deceit and strategy, like climbing fences and digging beneath the fence. While you can feel secure knowing you’ve installed latches and locks on your fences, it’s always best to check now and then.
This is especially vital when your fence is not secured like for example, and it may have huge holes where possums can pass through. It would be best for you to install a fence with smaller holes for extra security, just enough for them not to invade anything.
To avoid your chickens dying, you need to avoid attracting possums in your yard or wherever you keep your chickens. Possums are attracted to a lot of things because of their omnivorous nature. It’s best not to leave any traces of food like cat food overnight.
Basically, you need to cover up any leftover food out and about; your garbage bins, edible seeds, leftovers, ripe fruits fallen down, etc. You may also be living in a dry area. In this case, it is best not to leave out water or any water sources over for them.
Making sure to lock all your coop’s entrances is also essential. While this is a very common task, the majority still tend to downplay this importance and regret it the following day. It’s necessary to close latches and entrances because even though the day is unexpected, the night is when possums are usually out and about foraging for food to eat.
If you are thinking of attaching wires for extra protection, make sure to leave the chicken wire option out. Chicken wires do not help much since they can easily be bent and twisted. It’s advised to use hardware cloth with a fine mesh. Extra protection may cost extra, but investing in good security will be worth it.
“Did Opossums Attack My Chickens?”
While your chickens should look safe and sound, there could be possibilities of possums attempting to prey on them. As possums are nocturnal and rarely go out to hunt in the middle of the day, catching one in the act may be far-fetched and a hassle. However, if you sense that there’s something up with your chickens, here are some cues that can hint you of the culprit.
While this sounds entirely like a Sherlock Holmes aspect, it’s very much relevant. There’s no mistaking once you see their footprint. Their opposite thumbs on hind feet give them away as efficiently as possible.
While going through the possible food supplies, they may have dropped some crumbs signaling their presence during the night.
Bite marks or leftovers
While your chickens may look “still alive,” check for signs of attack on their neck or legs. Since large chickens are usually just the same size as a possum, it could be relatively complex for them to pin a chicken down, all the more eat all of them.
Check for chicken body parts as well, it may sound gore, but it’s relatively normal during a possum attack. Possums are physically incapable of finishing up a whole chicken. Thus, they may only consume the chicken’s crop and abdomen, leaving the rest behind as the possum ends his meal.
Possums are not that clean when it comes to hunting. As mentioned earlier, they leave trails behind which can easily be spotted. Feathers are one of the most common things to note. Possums usually eat where they killed their victim. So, it’s safe to assume that the location of the attack is where the detached body parts of the chicken are found.
Missing bantam birds
Since possums cannot possibly take on big chickens, they find bantams the best prey. This time, there are no leftovers as it’s just precisely what they can take on. So, if you happen to observe one or two of your bantam birds missing, it can be concluded that a possum has eaten them.
Broken eggs, eggshells, disturbed garbage bins – As they rummage through the night, they may find some eggs lying around the corner, unguarded by hens, they are also likely to consume them.
Since these animals are omnivores, they are up for anything. Leaving the garbage bin will attract possums as the smell can be more exposed and inviting. Finding a mess in the morning may indicate that some creatures were up and about playing in your backyard while you slept.
Encountering a Possum
While you can be busy protecting your coop from possums, you may be clueless about what to do when you encounter an actual possum or a group of it. Many thoughts may come to mind right now, but the panic can sink in and erase all thoughts about what to do when encountering an opossum.
There’s probably not much to worry about as possums do not attack humans. It’s nearly impossible, but there is a possibility of them fighting back as they protect their lives. Survival instincts are indeed very powerful.
When responding to threats, they hiss and release mini growls with their teeth exposed, displaying their survival weapons. Their teeth will give a clue to how vicious their bites are. If it’s possible for them to take down a chicken, they indeed hold some power on their grips and teeth.
Possums’ low body temperature prevents rabies from surviving inside them, so it’s almost impossible for them to carry rabies. While it sounds safe and free of rabies, getting bitten is still hurtful nevertheless.
It might be rare to get bitten by possums, but the possibility is not entirely closed. Thus it pays to be extra careful not to threaten them to the point of retaliation.
One unpleasantly fun thing about possums is their act of ‘playing possum.’ Playing possum surfaces as an involuntary reaction out of extreme fear brought about by a severe threat to their lives. Playing possum is composed of them laying motionless on the ground, displaying the insides of their mouth by opening it wide and lolling their tongue out.
Aside from these acts, they can also excrete a virulent and rotten-smelling green substance from its bottom/anus. This gives off the smell of a dead possum, thus, completing their act. In conclusion, these are the things to expect when you encounter possums
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken & Scratch.
5 thoughts on “Do Possums Eat Chickens?”
I have been losing members of my flocks to something. We think it may be a fox I have began keeping my dog outside who hates other rodents and predators. My friend posted the link to my page on facebook because I had lost my solid black rooster Arym Calmani
I lost four of my hens to something. Their backends were toren out and everything inside, what could have done this? Sad chicken mom in new york
I just lost a chicken today , I am not sure if it was a possum or raccoon ; how can I tell the difference ?
Have had same killing my Roosters in the Bachelor Pen.
Raccoon prints everywhere but then caught a Possum in a live trap set-up in the chickens free range area.
Lost 2 Barn cats thinking one of these predators killed them. 😓