Did the possum kill my chicken or was he just eating the leftovers?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by mama24, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. mama24

    mama24 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dh let the chickens out this morning before he left for work. This evening, about 6:30, about a half hour after I got home, I went out to shut them up for the night. It had been dark for probably half an hour. A hen was missing, so I got a flashlight. She was next to our compost heap and a possum was sitting there eating her. [​IMG] I went and turned on some outside lights and grabbed a shovel. I was going to kill the little bugger with it, but he ran through a small opening between fence sections, the chickens can't fit though it, but he did. And he's the biggest possum I've ever seen! I knew we had a possum, but I didn't realize he was coming into our yard so early in the evening, and thought he was just eating our compost. My oldest son is supposed to shut up the chickens before it gets dark, but he forgot today. She was already stiff, there were feathers pulled out all around her, and flesh was missing mostly from the entire back of her neck, head (but the skull, vertebrae, and beak were still there) and one breast. Is it likely that this possum killed her or did I just catch him eating some other predator's leftovers? We do have a lot of stray cats in our area, but none have bothered the chickens before. We have a full-grown rooster, and I can't imagine him letting a cat kill one of his hens. They're Delawares, so he's not a small rooster. He's almost as tall as my 2 year old daughter! Because the hen's body was completely stiff, I think she must have been dead a while. It's cold here, but still above freezing. It's been raining all day, in the mid 30's. Any ideas? I live in the city, so no guns.

    I'm so sad! We started out with 3 hens and the rooster last August. These girls lay a beautiful egg every single day, maybe miss a day every 2 weeks or more. We lost one a few months ago, and now we lost another. I'm down to one hen and one rooster who needs more than 1 hen! I had just made then aprons last week b/c he's been mating them too much!
     
  2. dirtsaver

    dirtsaver Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wendy my best guess is the possum killed the hen and dragged it to a more private area to enjoy his meal. I feel for you. And for your remaining hen and roo!

    Larry
     
  3. Catstar68

    Catstar68 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Seems strange the chicken was already stiff.....maybe it was already dead and the opossum was scavenging.
    I agree though, I can't see a rooster letting a cat get one of his hens. or a opossum either but now that the body had been gnawed on it will be hard to tell if it was a natural death or a predator.
    Sorry about you loss [​IMG]
     
  4. mama24

    mama24 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have also seen a hawk hanging out in our yard (well, in the trees above our yard anyway) lately. The rooster has a particular danger call he gives when the hawk is around, so I know it's been around a lot. Would a hawk kill a full-grown large breed hen? Doesn't seem likely. I do just think it's weird she was already stiff. Doesn't it usually take a few hours for rigor mortis to set in?

    Actually, I just googled chicken and rigor mortis and learned in chickens, it can happen in half an hour. [​IMG] So if he came as soon as it got dark, he could easily have pulled her down from her roost and dragged her out to the compost heap, where he's used to snacking. [​IMG] I have wanted to get a dog, but dh doesn't like dogs for some strange reason.

    Can a bb gun kill a possum? I've never used a bb gun, but my oldest tells me some neighbor friends of his have a few. Or maybe I'll just tell my dad to bring a .22 down next time he visits and some firecrackers, too, so the neighbors don't call the cops. ha.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2011
  5. mama24

    mama24 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh, we also have a great horned owl in the neighborhood. We've heard him, but haven't seen him.
     
  6. Catstar68

    Catstar68 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't think a BB gun is generally powerful enough to kill a possum.
     
  7. Grim

    Grim Out Of The Brooder

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    the bb gun will sting and run the possum off, but won't do much good. the hawk could kill the hen but the size of it means it's unlikely it would attack her. a red tail is just too small to carry a hen that big off. the owl didn't do it. you would have found a few feathers but he would have flown off with her. the possum in the most likely culprit. they tend to eat off the heads of the chicken. i've lost 6 hens in one night to a single possum. he just killed them ate the head and got another. (i go through a lot of chickens.) the .22 is your best bet. angle the shot down. shoot into the back or top of the head. in a city don't go for a horizontal shot. a .22 can be fatal to a human at a range over 1/2 a mile. and bullets are persistent little buggers. they like to hit SOMETHING.make sure it's the ground.
     
  8. Carolyn

    Carolyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could live trap the oppossum and then dispose of him more quietly.....but please do not trap and release him to become someone else's problem. I have had oppossum kill and eat 2 hens this winter. Managed to hide them well enough I blamed it on an owl or hawk until I heard the other hens squawking one night and killed 2 oppossum that night and later trapped 2 more. Yes a red tail hawk can and will kill grown chickens inspite of roosters being present (in my case 3 fiesty roos were in the pen). If they are too heavy they will eat the head and return later to eat more.

    You need to fix the opening and even if by some remote possibility the oppossum did not kill your chicken he has a taste for them and will be back and maybe bring the family.

    Sorry about your loss. It makes me so mad to loose one.
     
  9. treeman52

    treeman52 Out Of The Brooder

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    Chicken owners need to be aware , you must keep your birds secure at all times. If you don't when one gets killed whose fault is it . Close the holes and cover the run and only free range when you are near or suffer the consequences.
     
  10. mama24

    mama24 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks treeman. Judgmental nonadvice is always so helpful, especially coming from someone who doesn't even own chickens. [​IMG]
     

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