2018-02-08 / Life in Leelanau

How to keep opossums out of your chicken coop

By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff


THIS OPOSSUM was found eating eggs in a chicken coup in Solon Township. It was humanely “rehomed.” THIS OPOSSUM was found eating eggs in a chicken coup in Solon Township. It was humanely “rehomed.” It can be a dangerous life for chickens residing in Leelanau County.

As fox, hawk, owl, coyote, raccoon and opossum all wander the winter woods, they also frequent local chicken coops in search of a free meal.

Jon Kunz of Cedar is frustrated with the marsupial menace.

“We found an uninvited possum harassing our chickens in our barn this winter,” Kunz said. “He disappeared for a bit, but returned with the warmer weather where we found him having quite a hissing standoff with our dog, Frodo, under the beehives.

“Time to get the trap out.”

And Kunz is not alone.

Many farmers find that opossums will target eggs and young chicks. While they have the capacity for killing adult chickens, they are less likely than other predators to engage with a bird larger than they are.


STAFF WRITER Amy Hubbell recalls “Uncle Jim” and “Aunt Dort” offering her husband “opossum innards” before they were married. No opossums were harmed in the making of the dish, however; it was a beef dish. STAFF WRITER Amy Hubbell recalls “Uncle Jim” and “Aunt Dort” offering her husband “opossum innards” before they were married. No opossums were harmed in the making of the dish, however; it was a beef dish. Suzanne Laskey of Laskey’s Deep Roots Farm enjoys letting her chickens free range and feels that as long as the coop is shut an hour or two before the sun goes down, the chickens and the eggs will be safe.

So far, she hasn’t had any problems with the egg-eating invaders.

To keep these predators out of her coop, Laskey takes extra precautions.

“Once an opossum has discovered an entry, it’ll be difficult to keep them out until you remedy the problem,” she said. “The most important thing to do is make sure you bury your hardware cloth or chicken wire between six and eight inches into the ground. We went a bit further and put Quickcrete on top of it. All our doors latch and close tightly. It is also fully enclosed.”

In addition, chicken owners can put hardware cloth stapled on windows.

As non-vector animals, opossums do not carry rabies. However, they will hiss and bite if provoked.

Of course, if these antics are unsuccessful, they will resort to “playing possum” by rolling over on their side and pretending to be dead.

Unlike all other mammals in northern Michigan (and North America), opossums are marsupials. Not an attractive creature, they have hairless tails, hairless ears, a pink nose, opposable thumbs and 50 teeth. Because they do not build their own shelters, opossums typically make their homes in dens or nests of other animals, barns, hollow trees and fallen logs.

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