Not all wildlife is dangerous to chickens, and some can even be helpful. So which category do possums belong to? Do they eat chickens, or are they helpful?
Possums are omnivores and eat birds, including chickens. They are lazy hunters and will preferably eat chicks, young or small breed chickens. They generally only attack large chickens that can fight back if they are very hungry in winter. Possums are beneficial in keeping pest numbers down.
There is an uneasy relationship between backyard chicken keepers and wildlife. Some keepers are intolerant of possums, and others try to form a cooperative relationship. New chicken keepers may be uncertain what to think and need more information on how to deal with possums.
Do Possums Kill And Eat Chickens?
Possums are opportunistic omnivores, eating both meat and plants. They are known to raid chicken runs if the opportunity arises. They steal eggs and will kill chickens if the opportunity presents itself.
Possums are not particularly tenacious hunters despite their fifty sharp teeth. They prefer their victims to be smaller than them and unable to fight back. Possums will choose chicks, young chickens, or small breed chickens to kill and eat.
Possums may be deterred by large chickens that fight back or roosters that defend their flock. Despite this, if food is short and the possum is hungry, it will attack and can kill a large chicken.
Possums usually attack by biting the chicken's head, neck, or breast area. They may sometimes bite the chicken on the thigh, but this is not a preferred method of attack as it leaves the chicken still fighting.
Possums generally eat the chicken's head, neck, and innards. They seldom eat the whole chicken, especially a large bird. Possums cannot consume that much meat as they are typically only the size of a small cat.
Young or small possums will be more reluctant to take on big chickens. Adult, fully grown possums are the culprits when it comes to bigger chickens.
Possums Are Sneaky & Clever
How predator-proof is your chicken coop and run?
Are you sure?
You may think you have a system that will keep possums out and your chickens safe. Possums, unfortunately, are excellent climbers. They are well equipped to climb with toes that more closely resemble fingers and an opposing thumb.
Possums can climb almost any fence you can erect. The secret to keeping your chickens safe is to have a roof or covered run.
Possums are nocturnal and generally forage for food at night. If you cannot cover your whole run, you should build a predator-proof coop for your chickens to be locked in at night. Some people prefer their chickens to free-range during the day, but to keep them safe, they should be shut in a secure coop at night.
In the winter, possums may be seen foraging or hunting during the day. If your chickens are vulnerable to attack during the day, you should be extra vigilant in winter.
How Can I Stop Possums Killing My Chickens?
Ensuring your chickens are in a predator-proof chicken coop will mean that the possum cannot attack and kill them. It is important to use the proper type and gauge hardware cloth to keep possums out and have a roof to stop them from climbing over the sides.
A dog might deter most animals that want to attack your chickens, especially one suited to the job like a livestock guardian dog.
Many chicken keepers choose to keep livestock guardians that protect their flock. These dog breeds include Pyrenean Mountain dogs (sometimes called Great Pyrenees) and Anatolian shepherds.
Livestock guardians are brought up with the animals they will protect, in this case, chickens. They form a bond with the flock and will guard them against predators.
Some backyard chicken keepers have found that a large protective rooster or two is effective against possums. The rooster may deter some possums, but if it is ravenous, it might persist in attacking the flock if the rooster is the only deterrent.
Is There Any Benefit To Having Possums?
Possums are amazingly resilient creatures. They seldom get sick and even seem immune to many diseases affecting most mammals. Possums are skilled snake killers, having developed health systems that deal effectively with most snake venom.
If snakes are a problem on your farm, you may want to consider coexisting with possums as they bring snake numbers down.
Possums effectively hunt mice and rats and often prefer this small prey to chickens. They keep rodent populations under control. Rodents can cause damage and losses in a chicken coop by stealing eggs, eating chicks, and spreading disease.
Possums eat snails, slugs, and other insects, making them useful animals in the vegetable garden. They are particularly fond of ticks, eating thousands of them every season. Ticks carry diseases to many different species, including humans.
Cooperative Living With Possums
Possums can be so beneficial that it may be better to find ways to live side-by-side with them.
- Take precautions to secure your chickens by ensuring possums cannot get into your coop.
- Leave chicken food or other seeds and greens out for the possums to prevent them from becoming too hungry.
- Some chicken keepers supply the possums with pets’ mince over winter when natural food is in short supply. This reduces the possum’s drive to attack the chickens.
What To Do If There Is A Possum In The Chicken Coop?
Possums can look very fierce if they feel threatened. They hiss, snarl and growl, showing their sharp, impressive teeth. They do not typically attack or bite humans unless they are cornered.
Another strategy possums employ when threatened is to play dead – or play possum. The little animal lies still and enters a catatonic-type state. Do not pick the possum up with your hands, as you may still get bitten. You can scoop the possum up with a net or spade and put it in a box or cage for transportation away from the chicken coop.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state concerning possums. In some states of the US, it is illegal to relocate possums. You may remove the possum from your chicken coop but must let it go in the same area.
Trapping and dispatching via a quick bullet to the head is also an option if you need to protect your chickens.
Possums sometimes eat chickens and steal eggs. They can be useful creatures, and if you can secure your chicken coop, you can live together in harmony with possums that are great for pest control.
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