Do Opossums Eat Chickens? Here’s How to Protect Your Flock!
The joy of having chickens around is growing more popular. People love the fresh eggs and having these active birds around. But looking after chickens is not easy. One big problem is keeping them safe, especially from animals like opossums.
Even though they may not seem scary, opossums can cause real trouble. They can sneak in and harm your chickens.
This article examines a serious question: "Do opossums eat chickens?"
We also share valuable tips for protecting your chickens so you can enjoy raising them with peace of mind.
What is Opposum?
Opossums are a unique type of mammal called marsupials.
They carry their babies in a pouch on their belly. They are the only marsupials living in North America, with more than 100 different kinds.
These critters generally range from small to medium, having bodies around 6 to 18 inches long. They have lengthy tails for holding things and keeping them balanced.
Their coats are typically gray or brown, and their faces are primarily white with dark eye markings.
Opossums are night animals, active when it's dark and sleeping in the daytime. They sleep in snug spots like tree hollows, underneath buildings, or caves. Mostly, they live alone and only come together for mating.
In danger, opossums play dead, going stiff and rolling on their backs. This technique helps keep them safe.
Also, their robust immune systems are beneficial in fending off diseases that negatively affect other animals.
What Do Opossums Eat?
Opossums are omnivores, having a broad diet ranging from plant matter to small animals.
They have a particular appetite for insects and bugs, which they actively hunt or scavenge.
Opossums are also known to eat carrion—dead animal matter—which aids in sanitation by reducing the spread of diseases.
However, chickens don't usually top the menu for opossums.
But if they come across your chicken coop, they might not be able to resist a quick snack.
While rare, there have been cases where opossums have made a meal of smaller animals -- including chickens.
Does Opossum Attack Chickens?
Opossums aren't the biggest threat to chickens, but can still be dangerous.
They are good at climbing and can squeeze through tiny holes, so they may get into your chicken coop if they think there's food inside.
While they do not typically "attack" chickens like other predators, opossums may target vulnerable chickens under opportunistic circumstances.
Since opossums are scavengers, they might stumble upon a chicken coop during their nightly activities. If the pen is easily accessible, they may consume eggs or chicks.
What are Signs of Opossum Attacks
Identifying opossum attacks can be challenging, as they likely occur at night when chickens roost.
Here are some key indicators that they are sneaking out to your chicken coop:
Paw Prints With a Toe That Resembles Human Thumb
One of the telltale signs of an opossum's presence is its tracks. Opossums have unusual footprints, with five toes on both front and back paws. The thumb-like toe on the hind foot leaves a distinctive mark that sets it apart from many other animals.
Poop that Looks Like a Cat's- with Pointed Ends
The next clue can be opossum droppings. Their shape can often be mistaken for that of a cat's feces, but what sets them apart is the pointed ends. You might spot these near the coop or where opossums might be scurrying around.
Signs of Digging or Claw Marks on the Coop
Opossums are not efficient diggers like foxes, but they might show attempts to claw their way into the coop. Any signs of digging around the area or claw marks on the coop, especially near possible points of entry, could signal that an opossum paid a visit.
Bite Marks from Chickens
This could indicate a fight or struggle. If you notice bite marks or injuries on your chickens, there's a chance an opossum or another predator could have attacked them.
Missing Chicks or Eggs
Executed stealthily, this sign might go unnoticed until an actual body count is done. If you're seeing a drop in the number of chicks or eggs without any notable reason, it might be a sign an opossum - or another predator - has been helping itself to your chickens or eggs.
How To Keep Chickens Away From Opposum Attacks
Here are some effective strategies and ways to make a safe place for your chickens.
This will help your chickens stay happy and grow well, even when there is a possibility of opossum attacks.
Strengthen your coop to deter opossum invasions. Ensure that the doors, sidewalls, floors, and roof do not have any holes or weak spots. Policies like locking the coops at dusk can be a simple yet effective deterrent.
Use hardware cloth
Cover any vents or openings in the coop with hardware cloth, a type of wire mesh. This material is sturdy and more resistant to chewing or tearing than chicken wire.
Securing Food Sources
Opossums are attracted to various food sources, including chicken feed and garbage. To deter these creatures, avoid feeding chicken outdoors, especially at night, when opossums are most active.
Bring any leftover food before dusk and store pet food in secure containers.
Secure garbage bins by keeping them in the garage or using containers with tightly fitting, lockable lids. Crates can also be secured with bungee cords. Regularly clean them to minimize attractive smells.
Light 'Em Up
Opossums are nocturnal and typically shy away from well-lit areas. A simple trick involving lighting could save you a lot of trouble. Being creatures of the night, opossums prefer their activities shrouded in darkness.
They've adapted well to the night, making the most of their sharp night vision. This is when they go out to hunt or to find food, which, unfortunately, sometimes leads them to our chicken coops.
Another creative approach, particularly during festive times, is using Christmas lights. String up these warm, cheery lights around your chicken coop to give it an extra layer of protection and add a bit of sparkle to your backyard. The constant light will make your coop a far less appealing target for any lurking opossum.
Opossums, like many animals, are guided by their sense of smell. Ammonia, with its strong and unpleasant odor, can act as an effective deterrent. Opossums dislike the smell of ammonia and tend to avoid areas where they detect it.
To use ammonia as a deterrent, soak a few rags in it and place them around the perimeter of your chicken coop. Be careful not to put ammonia-soaked rags or liquid too close to the chickens or in poorly ventilated areas because the fumes can harm them.
Remember to replace the ammonia-soaked rags regularly, as the smell will diminish over time, especially after rain or in windy conditions.
Another natural opossum deterrent is garlic, which these creatures dislike due to its strong smell. People have successfully repelled opossums by spraying garlic-infused water around their chicken coops or properties.
To make a garlic spray, puree two bulbs of garlic in a blender, add a cup of water, and strain it.
Fill a garden spray bottle with this liquid mixture and spray around your chicken coop and yard, especially in areas where you suspect opossums might enter.
Ask a wildlife expert to remove the opossum safely.
If opossums are causing problems around your chicken coop, it's safest to get help from a wildlife expert.
They are trained to deal with wild animals and can do so without fear of attack. They have special tools and protect themselves with the proper clothing.
Wildlife experts also understand local rules about moving wild animals. They help homeowners to make their yards less inviting to opossums in the future.
So, asking a wildlife expert to move an opossum is good for you, your chickens, and the opossum.
Opossums may occasionally prey on chickens, given the opportunity, but they do not make a habit of hunting our feathered friends. Not to discard the fact these sprightly creatures have a unique role in our ecosystem.
Your mission? Keep your cherished chickens safe and ensure your backyard doesn't morph into a free-for-all dining spot for opossums or other lurking predators like foxes, raccoons, hawks, coyotes, and more.
Embrace the simple yet effective strategies we've discussed in this guide.
Outmaneuver the nocturnal opossum visits and provide your chickens with the secure and worry-free environment they deserve.
The fight against opossum predation begins with awareness. Keep learning, remain vigilant, and shoulder your responsibility to protect your precious flock.