General Information & Description
The possum is North America's only marsupial mammal. (The female has a marsupium in which she carries and nurses her young until they are 2-3 months old.) Mature possums are roughly the same size as a cat, has grey to black fur, black eyes, pink noses, feet and tails, black ears and pointed noses. Possums are usually slow moving, nocturnal animals. Gentle and placid animals who prefer a quiet solitary life, they may growl, hiss and bare their teeth when threatened and will sometimes, when frightened and unable to flee, fall into a shock-like state, known as "playing possum".
Though indigenous to Australia, Sulawesi, and New Guinea, possums are also found in eastern, central and west coast states of North America, as well as some parts of Canada. They are absent from the Rockies, most western plains states and parts of the northern US.
Methods of Kill
Possums as Chicken Killers can be a problem for flock owners as they prefer hunting at night and may never be seen during the day. Hens often do not survive a possum attack. The possum's razor sharp claws have been known to lacerate their necks and bowels—leaving them to bleed to death. When possums gain access to chicken coops, they will eat the chickens and the eggs and they also like attacking and eating chicks.
Prevention & Treatment
Possums are attracted by pet food, windfalls from fruit trees, rubbish bins, bird feeders and chicken coops. Make your property unattractive by keeping rubbish bins shut and secure, taking pet food bowls in at night and regularly pick up windfalls under fruit trees. Possums are very easily deterred by light and noise. Christmas lights have proven to be particularly effective in keeping them away. During the day, leaving a radio playing near the chicken run will also help deter them. Another very effective way of keeping them away from your chicken is by placing empty tins with ammonia soaked rags inside around the perimeter of your coop and run. Punch holes in the tins and keep the tops sealed. Possums are very good climbers, but can be prevented from climbing over wire mesh fences by installing a tightly stretched electric fence wire near the top of the fence 3 inches out from the mesh. Humane, live traps would help if you have an existing possum problem. If you caught a possum in your trap, contact your local game warden or animal control office for assistance. Please note it is illegal in many states to relocate possums.
For more information on possums and how to deter them see the Predators and Pests section of the forum.