Predators are a big concern for many chicken keepers, so do possums eat chickens? Possums might look small and harmless, but they’re predators to many animals. So, it’s important to find out if they’re a threat so you can properly protect your flock.
What is a Possum?
Technically, these animals are called opossums, but most people simply call them possums. This can be confusing because there is an Australian animal called a possum, which is an entirely different species.
Opossums are mammals in North and South America. They’re the only marsupials in America. They can be distinguished by their white faces and long, hairless tails. They’re omnivores, so they will eat both plants and animals, and usually, they’ll eat whatever they can find.
Do Possums Eat Chickens?
Yes, possums will eat chickens if they have the opportunity. They will eat anything that they’re able to, so if a smaller chicken is within reach, they won’t say no. However, it’s not common since chickens are much larger than what possums usually eat.
Possums are used to eating insects, small rodents, and road kill. So, instead of attacking an adult hen or rooster, they’re more likely to eat chicks, eggs, and bantams.
How to Tell if a Possum Ate a Chicken
If you have a lot of chickens in your flock, you might not notice right away if one is missing. Even if you think that one is gone, how do you know if a possum is to blame?
Here are some signs that a possum has been near your chickens:
- There are tiny footprints with opposable thumbs on the hind feet.
- There’s feces similar to small dog poop.
- Your chickens have bite marks, likely near their breast, neck, or thigh.
- Baby chicks are missing and/or mother hens are acting distressed.
- Eggs are missing and/or egg shells are scattered around.
- Chicken remains or feathers are present.
- Trash cans are tipped over or rummaged through.
If you suspect that a possum has been near your chickens, you may need to provide more methods of protection for your birds. However, opossums don’t live everywhere, so there’s always a chance that the intruder could be a different predator.
Where Do Possums Live?
Opossums are found across North, Central, and South America, but they’re most common in the United States. Texas, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas are some of the states with the most possum sightings.
These mammals prefer forest or brushy habitats, but since they’re not picky eaters, they can thrive in a variety of places. They have adapted well to living near cities, as long as they can find a place to dig a burrow for protection.
Signs That Possums are Nearby
The most obvious signs that a possum is in the area is if you see footprints or poop. However, if you’re not familiar with what possum feet and feces look like, there are ways to make it easier.
A way to identify a predator better is by sprinkling a powdered substance, such as flour, on the ground where you suspect activity. Then, if the animals walks through it, you’ll be able to see their footprints more clearly. You can look up images of possum feet to see if it matches it footprints on your property.
It’s rare for possums to damage property. In most instances, they’re just looking for an easy snack. So, if your chicken enclosure is secure, you might not have any problems. If a possum is living nearby, it’s also unlikely that you’ll see their burrows since they often live in old dens that aren’t near humans.
How to Protect Your Chickens from Possums
If you’re worried about possums or any other predators hunting your chickens, then there are some steps you can take to keep your flock safe.
Take Advantage of Security Precautions
Possums are nocturnal, so they’ll likely only attack chickens at night. So, it’s important to keep your chickens secure at night. Keep them locked in their coop so they’re not an easy target. Many keepers take advantage of an automatic coop door for convenience.
You can also choose to keep the area outside of your chicken coop secure. Put up fences to deter predators from trying to get in. However, most chickens like to have some free range time, so you may want to open the gate during the day.
Use Music and Lights
Possums are unlikely to hunt near where they suspect humans are. So, if you quietly play the radio near your chickens at night, a predator might avoid going near the coop. Hanging Christmas lights or using a motion-sensor light on the coop could also scare possums away.
Avoid Attracting Possums
Do not leave food outside at night. Cat food, bird feeders, and even open trash cans could provide an easy snack for possums. Keep these food sources unaccessible to predators at night and clean up any food that might be lying on the ground. If there’s not much food on your property, possums are unlikely to stop by.
Let Cats and Dogs Guard
Many cats and dogs prefer to stay comfortable inside at night, but they can also make great guards if given the chance. Possums will usually run away from dogs and cats, especially if they’re being chased. So, having a pet that’s protective of your property might be helpful in this situation.
If you cannot get a pesky possum to leave, then you may have to catch and relocate them. Use a live trap if the laws in your area allow it. If you’re unsure how to move a possum to a different location, contact a wildlife removal company to assist you.
How to Scare Away a Possum
If you spot a possum near your chickens, there’s no need to panic. They’re more afraid of you than you are of them, so it doesn’t take much to scare them off. Seeing a human approach them is usually enough to send them running. Seeing you near the chickens might encourage them to stay away from your coop in the future too.
Despite common belief, possums are unlikely to carry rabies. They have a stronger immune system than other wild animals. However, it’s still best to keep a safe distance from wild animals, even when trying to scare them off.
Try to avoid screaming at the possum because it could trigger a survival reaction, such as playing dead. Most of the time, you don’t need to do anything overly scary to get a possum to run away.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re still curious about possums and whether or not they eat chickens, here are some commonly asked questions.
Possums are opportunistic hunters, so they will eat just about anything that’s easily accessible. Fruits, grains, insects, small rodents, dead animals, and birds are just some of the items that might be part of a possum’s dinner plans.
Foxes, raccoons, skunks, cats, dogs, coyotes, and birds of prey are all common chicken predators. Most predators are more active at night when there aren’t people around, which is why it’s crucial to keep chickens inside the coop when it’s dark out.
Possums might not look dangerous, but they could eat your chickens if you’re not careful. So, it’s best to take precautionary measures before one of your birds becomes an animal’s meal.