Monday, January 30, 2012

When Opossums Attack

I hear and read about attacks on livestock all of the time. In my city-girl naivety, I figured that since nothing had happened to our chickens yet, nothing would happen to them. Ever.

Well, ignorance can only last so long.

As I was laying in bed, I heard the most blood-curdling squawk coming from the coop. I flew out of bed and braved the cold night, armed with nothing more than a dying flashlight.

The coop, all tightly locked up, was aflutter with horrible sounding activity inside. After popping open the door, what looked like half of a rooster dashed outside into the chicken run area with a few ladies in tow. The rest of the flock were perched as high up on the roost as they could get, staring angrily down at a rather large opossum with a mouthful of feathers hanging from its maw.

It was at this point that I realized I was completely helpless. I had nothing to kill the stupid thing with, and I could not leave it alone in the coop while I ran to get something because it would just continue to munch away on my birds. So I did the only thing I could think to do.

I screamed bloody murder for Tad until he came running outside.

He came just in the nick of time, with the light from my flashlight slowly dimming. We were plunged into darkness for a few seconds, and I began to imagine so many terrible things that could happen.

The opossum, having a taste for blood, would hurl itself at me. Or, seeing its opportunity, would go after the defenseless chickens on the other side of the coop. Possibly a scared chicken would take off of the perch and I would be clawed in the face by a rogue talon.

Luckily Tad turned on his cellphone quickly enough, and we were able to spot the intruder... in exactly the same spot it had been when the flashlight had gone out.

I might overreact a little sometimes.

We then realized we were at a loss of what to do. We had a shovel, a pitchfork, a bucket, a multitude of rocks, a log, a .22 rifle, and no experience killing any living thing with our bare-hands before. If I had had a shovel when the chaos began, I would have had no trouble trying to bash the ugly thing to death... but a good 20 minutes had passed, and I was significantly cooled down.

The dimensions of our coop were also a disadvantage to us, since it is not very tall, and we have to crouch to be in it. Swinging a shovel to gain leverage would have been all but impossible. So, we started off with the rocks, which failed miserably.

Then came the log, which was short enough for Tad to swing. After getting a few good hits in, the thing keeled over in the corner of the coop. Success! After around an hour of being out in the cold and trying to deal with the opossum, the experience was over. Tad exited the coop area, and I grabbed a bucket and a shovel to remove the opossum and chuck it into the woods.

As I went to scoop up the lifeless form, the beastly animal popped up and starting hissing and biting at the shovel. Holy cow, do they have some teeth! A scream and curses from me brought Tad back into the tiny coop. The tricky guy had fooled us! The opossum had been playing possum!

We were infuriated at being outsmarted by an ugly chicken-killer. The fun and games were over.

Shovel still in hand, I tried bashing and smashing to no avail. Next up, the pitchfork, which was deftly used to try and pierce the thing to death. Nope; opossums have freakishly thick skin.

Finally it was rifle time. I had not wanted Tad to use it since I thought either:

1. The noise would freak the chickens out so much that they would start attacking us. Let us just say that they were some very cranky tenants.
2. We would accidentally hit a chicken. Like I said, this whole experience was in very, very tight quarters.

But, we had no other choice. The opossum seemed to realize his fate was coming to an end, because he began frantically trying to squeeze through a corner of the coop that had a gap in the metal about an inch wide. He made it about halfway through, and seemed to get stuck, so Tad, locked and loaded, rang out a shot at the opossum.

Grazed and probably bewildered at the activities of the night, the opossum managed to squeeze the rest of its fat butt through the hole.

All in all, it was a ridiculous night on the farm. What I thought for sure was the butt end of a chicken on the floor of the coop turned out to just be a pile of feathers. The extent of the damage was to our poor black rooster, you know, the creepy-pictured one from my last post?


Luckily there was no damage to him other than a few lacerations. The opossum had just managed to get a mouthful of his glorious tail feathers.


The only lasting damage is to his ego. His remaining feathers cover up the naked area most of the time, but after spritzing him down with an antiseptic, his bare little tush was visible.


We think we identified the entrance area of the intruder, and reinforcement of the coop was done, but I still have been sleeping with one ear open. Every morning I am also doing a perimeter of the coop to see if something tried to claw its way in.

I guess that is how it goes, living out here. We were really lucky that I had heard the initial attack and was able to stop it from continuing. Looking around online, apparently opossum attacks on chickens are fairly common, and that they can do a lot more damage than injuring a rooster's pride.

For now, we can only try to keep the ladies as safe as possible. Oh, and keep the rifle in a handy spot... and have all of the flashlights charged and at the ready.

29 comments:

  1. Oh, dear.....that's all I can say! Oh, dear. Well, that and I'm glad Tad didn't get rattled and shoot a hen, or you!

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    1. I, too, am extremely thankful that he did not shoot me! :D

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  2. I was LOL at your story. Had I been there I would of been screaming my head off the entire time! Glad you save the chickens and beautiful rooster.

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    1. Oh, there was some screaming involved. I may look back on it and think that I was all cool, calm, and collected... if only!

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  3. OMG! So glad that nothing but pride was harmed.

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    1. Me, too! Poor little guy, just doing his job to protect the ladies.

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  4. I'm sorry...I should feel terrible about the poor rooster, but you are such a great story teller I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants...and then the picture of the tailess rooster...just too funny! I love new, young homesteaders...keep the stories coming!

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed the story! We looked like a bunch of fools, but at least our nearest neighbors are not near enough to have seen the hijinks.

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  5. OMG that is SO SCARY! My neighbors also had an opossum incident... I hope those bastards leave my girls alone! Now, maybe I can use that log and shovel trick to get rid of my groundhog....

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    1. I am never dodging an opossum on the highway ever again.

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  6. Opossums are the biggest chicken killer around here. If I see one, they are history. I was in your situation last year; nothing but a flashlight (WHY don't I ALWAYS bring a pistol with me when I close up the chickens????). But I did have a HUGE rock nearby. Bashed it's brains out and I don't feel a bit sorry. But normally they are taken care of with a more humane .22 shot.

    Sorry to hear about your rooster, but your story did give me a good laugh! And honestly, he looks frekking HIL-arious now!!! Sorry, but it's true! :)

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    1. I never thought that opossums were chicken-killers, as I have only really heard stories of raccoons and such. Seeing that ugly thing with a mouthful of feathers was all the proof I needed, though!

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  7. Oh my, I certainly hope that you had your pajamas on! I'm happy to hear that there were casualties! The rooster does look quite funny without his tail!

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    1. Luckily the heat was turned down that night to try and save some money on the electric bill, so pajamas were most definitely involved!

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  8. That story was hilarious!!! I felt like I was totally right there in the coop watching it all unfold. Too funny. I can honestly say I've never seen a tail featherless rooster, until now. Now I know why they have tail feathers... :-)

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed it!

      The poor guy is definitely on the bottom of the rooster totem-pole now. The ladies all but ignore him without his tail feathers. :(

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  9. Live traps work...then the gun. One spring we caught and killed 5 skunks after one of the buggers got in and killed two of my hens before I could get there. Peta will not like you, but better the rouge predator than your hens.


    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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    1. We will be investing in a trap if something else happens, for sure!

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  10. Good grief, you had me on the edge of my seat. That's a pretty horrible experience though and so fortunate you showed up when you did. My DH keeps wanting me to carry a club around with me whenever I go outside. Of course I don't do it, but this is a reminder of why he thinks I should.

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    1. It was very lucky that I managed to hear the initial attack. I bet that stupid opossum would have done some damage had he been left alone for even a few minutes.

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  11. We just had our first opposum sighting...and we had a massacre a few months ago...I thought it was raccoons but now I'm having second thoughts.

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    1. Before this, I was not even looking out for opossums since I did not know they would harm the chickens. I was just on the look out for raccoons, but now I know better!

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  12. wow what a night your two had! I am glad to hear it was just a few feathers that were eaten and not any chickens!

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  13. Yes, this is one of the "beauties" of country life for sure. We keep geese for this reason. They would be powerless against an invader in the coop (since they don't share a coop), but they are very useful when everyone is out free ranging.

    I'm sorry about your rooster's tail, but I'm glad that was the extent of the injury.

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    1. I bet geese would be an excellent flock protector! The ones I have encountered are definitely not shy about defending themselves.

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  14. You're a great story teller! I was sitting here reading and laughing and my husband asked me why. I read him your story and he laughed, too. We've been homesteading for almost 7 years now and have a few incidents under our belt. Best of luck in your venture and watch out opossums!

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  15. I have never heard of opossums killing anything other than mice and rats. Otherwise, they prefer spoiled vegetation, spoiled fruit, snails, slugs and even cockroaches. They are known as natures sanitation workers and known to be peaceful, docile animals. IDK how many of you know that they are not even rodents but are actually marsupials. I'm actually a little upset to have come across this. I dn't have chickens so no worries here but very disturbed to have read this. I wouldn't advocate killing opossums,as many do just b/c of their being ugly/scary but in your case, you do have your chickens to protect so you have reason to do what you have to do.

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  16. last night I left the door open just a little for my cats then I heard noise!And I a very Ugly opossums was in house I hate them Luickly I chaseit out with a Broom fat and Ugly it.......it made very Ugly noises Like divel I should buy a gun to killed them!!!

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