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.