When keeping chickens, you want to do everything in your power to keep them safe. You made your fence nice and high, secured the posts, and even put your chickens into a secure coop. This keeps away the wild dogs, foxes, cats, and raccoons. You also thought about putting mesh over the windows of the coop and patched up holes, preventing rats, snakes, and other small dangers from attacking overnight. What you may not have thought about, however, are possums. But do possums eat chickens?
Should you be concerned? The answer is yes.
What is a Possum?
The possum — also spelled opossum — is originally native to South America but made its way to North America during the 1920s. How the possum got to the US and Canada is not yet understood, but there are theories suggesting that possums were either brought for sport or they naturally spread north.
Opossums (Didelphis Virginiana) is the only marsupial in North America. These mammals store their young in a pouch. They have long, pointed faces, black eyes, hairless tails, and are about the size of a house cat (21-36 inches long).
Interestingly, the North American possum is not related to the Australian possum. Although they share the same name, the species are completely different.
Being that possums prefer forests and trees, they are rarely seen in more urban settings. That said, they will make their way into suburban communities when the food and cover is plentiful enough.
Do Possums Eat Chickens?
The answer is yes. Possums will kill and eat your chickens. However, it is worth noting that these creatures are primarily nocturnal scavengers. They prey on smaller mammals and insects, including ticks and cockroaches, as well as fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is estimated that a single possum can eat around 5,000 ticks a year!
When the preferred resources are available, you do not have to worry so much about possums attacking and killing your chickens. It is a rare occurrence. Possums usually kill and eat chickens when they have no other choice — or when the chicken is sick and dying.
Small chicks, unprotected eggs, and scattered chicken feed are more likely to draw a possums attention.
So while possums do eat chickens, you will more likely encounter raccoons and foxes.
Signs a Possum Has Killed and Eaten a Chicken
Have you found a dead chicken in the yard and wonder which creature was the culprit? Take a moment to examine the chicken and the surroundings. If you notice the following signs, a possum killed and ate your chicken:
- Wounds: If the crop and abdomen are the most widely affected areas of the dead chicken, it was most likely a possum. A possum uses its long jaw and teeth to bite into the neck, thigh, and breast. You will see bite marks in these areas.
- Feces: Possum poo looks a lot like dog poo (but smaller), and you will see it around the coop.
- Tracks: One of the best clues is footprints. A possum’s tracks looks a bit like a hand pint with four fingers and a thumb. You can also see nail marks. It may look a bit like a raccoon’s and is around 2 inches wide.
- Eggs: Look for eggshells scattered on the ground. Possums will crack open the egg, eating the inside, and leave the shells behind.
- Garbage: If there are any garbage bins or sacks of food in the area, the possums will also get into these things. Look for scattered trash or torn bags.
Signs of Possums Nearby
When chicks go missing, there are bite wounds on the birds, and you have a lot of distressed hens, it can be difficult to determine what is going on. There is a vast number of predators that could be harassing your flock, including cats, dogs, skunks, foxes, and raccoons.
If you believe a possum has been coming around, the best thing to do is look for their scat (droppings). Also, sprinkle some flour on the ground around the chicken coop. In the morning, anything that has walked through the flour will leave a more visible trail. You can compare the tracks left behind to a reference picture on Google. Another option is to set up a security camera with night vision.
Possums do not cause much damage to the chicken run. They prefer easy meals, so they will not struggle with opening a hole in the fence to get at a chicken. What they may try for is leftover feed and treats on the ground — which is why you need to clean the coop and run regularly.
How Do I Keep Possums From Eating My Chickens?
The best way to protect your chickens from a possum to two is security! As mentioned earlier, possums are lazy opportunists. They will not work out complex puzzles to get to food. They much prefer dumpster diving for an easy meal. As such, if you keep your coop and run secure, they will leave your chickens alone.
Here are some ideas that others have used to keep possums away:
- Playing music around the clock. Possums do not like noise, so if you have soft music coming from inside the coop overnight, it will deter them from getting too close. Try to choose music that will not frighten your chickens!
- Run a hot wire around the perimeter of the chicken run (if it does not have a roof). A system that shocks predators will keep possums from ever returning.
- Hang lights (or install motion sensor lights) on the coop. A popular option is Christmas lights, since they both look nice and keep all kinds of predators away.
- Ensure all holes in the coop have been patched or covered in mesh. Don’t forget to close the pop door at night.
- Have a dog guard the coop.
- Collect any laid eggs from the nesting boxes before retiring for the night.
What Should I Do If I See a Possum Near The Coop?
Possums, being that they are in every US state — except for Canada — tend to pop up when you least expect it. You head outside to give the friendly stray cat a bowl of dry food only to find a possum sniffing around Fluffy’s bed. Some people panic, chasing the possum away. That is fine if you do not have chickens locked in a coop.
If you see a possum, you have two choices. Yes, only two.
You can either:
- Distract the possum with food and let them stay in your yard
- Humanely trap and move them somewhere else
Possums are generally harmless. They also assist with pest control, which can be useful when you are on a farm or have animals roaming around. Furthermore, the presence of possums discourages the appearance of far more dangerous predators, including snakes.
Watch this video to see how people tried option 2:
While you may not like the idea of feeding a possum, ensuring it has a full belly means that it won’t go after anything else. Your possum-friend will eat and sleep — and leave the chickens alone at night.
Should the possum get too close to the coop, you can always poke them with a long stick to steer them elsewhere. You may notice the possum tense up, play dead, snarl, and even start drooling. The drool and bared teeth is a defensive act that is meant to make them look more frightening than they truly are. Once you have pushed the possum from the coop, they may just leave.
Few possums will stay in a place that they think is dangerous.
The other option is to call Animal Control and have them safely remove the animal from your property.
Final Thoughts on Possums Eating Chickens
Although possums do eat chickens, they can be transformed into an asset quickly. The possum is not a foe, but a friend. They will eat all kinds of pests, including mice, ticks, slugs, beetles, and snails. If they attack your chickens or filch eggs, it is not because they are bloodthirsty and vicious. Chances are that they are starving and desperately needed food. If you provide for the possum, the risk of them killing another chicken is dramatically reduced. Most people keep their possums, maintaining a peaceful balance that results in far less annoying bugs and vermin wandering around.
What do you think?
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.