Possum in the Hen House

Possums are Predators

Every chicken enthusiast dreads the potential predator attack. Hawks and owls can pick off a chicken before you know it. Foxes, coyotes, neighborhood dogs, racoons, skunks, and even cats can be a threat to your poultry. I also knew that possums would steal eggs and eat young birds if given the chance, but last fall I found out how destructive a hungry possum can be. I lost 26 chickens to possums.

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The worst part about the predation was the fact that this possum didn’t stop with one chicken. It bit the neck of each victim, or beheaded it completely, then went back for another without eating the last bird. One of the hens was still alive, but mortally wounded. I had to put her down. We never did catch the critter, but we did see a possum waddling off in the beam of our flashlight.

I suspect that the culprit may have been a mother possum teaching her young to hunt. I have no proof or evidence to back that up…it’s just my gut instinct telling me this. Shortly after these attacks a large possum was found dead on the side of the road, just past our neighbors house. I did a little mental jig in celebration…hoping that the perpetrator was dead. I continued closing the chicken coop up before dusk to discourage further evening raids and we didn’t have any more problems with possums for the rest of the fall and winter…until just the other day.

I scared a possum that had been eating eggs and it ran under the back steps to the pasture. I considered using the pitchfork to do it in, but that seemed terribly inhumane. I realize that every predator is just trying to make a living in this world. Unfortunately the ones who find out that our livestock make good eating and easy prey will keep coming back unless we do something about it. But to be honest with you, I just didn’t feel right about stabbing it with a pitchfork. Pretty gruesome.

The next evening Tom put the chickens away for me, since Joe and  I were out visiting with our homeschooling friends. He took the pellet gun with him just in case the possum had come back for more fresh eggs from the nest boxes. Sure enough, our little egg thief was back at his business and this time it was his undoing. Tom shot it point blank in the head with the pellet gun and then unloaded another round just to be sure it wasn’t ‘playing possum.’

The unfortunate possum looks like it is fairly young, probably from last year’s litter. It could be one of the offspring that was learning the ropes on our unlucky hens last September, if my theory is correct. If so, it may have been orphaned and was just looking for a source of easy meals in our hen house. Whatever the situation, we don’t have to worry about that possum anymore. But there are plenty of other predators that would love a chicken dinner, so I’ll need to be more careful with my chickens.

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