Denise is busy spinning and knitting so I’m taking up the slack for this post.
Last week we discovered a stowaway possum sleeping in one of the chicken coop nesting boxes.
The possum did not react to our presence or noise or annoying illumination from bright flashlights. At first we suspected it had died in the box but a slight expansion and contraction of the body confirmed the presence of life.
Was it exhausted and famished after the brutal week of snow, wind and sub-freezing temperatures? Maybe. Was it in a catatonic state, commonly known as “playing dead” due to fright or shock? Possibly. I suspect that exhaustion and hunger were more likely in this case.
There is some concern about possums attacking and eating chickens but, in fact, they rarely do so. They are lazy and somewhat cowardly and prefer an easy meal over trial by combat. Small rodents and insects are preferred targets as are eggs and chicken feed. So we were not overly concerned for chicken safety. In addition, this possum appeared too weak to mount an attack on ornery chickens.
Possums can present a vicious front when frightened with their open-mouthed hissing baring razor sharp teeth. But this is a bluff…a defense mechanism to deter a perceived threat. And no, possums do not usually carry rabies (their body temperature is too low). Ultimately, their villainous reputation is unwarranted as possums are a useful and benign member of our ecosystem.
The chickens didn’t display any anxiety over the intruder although they were a bit put out by having one of the prime nesting boxes illegally occupied and occasionally approached the box and glared at the interloper with what appeared as impatience and exasperation (if I may be allowed anthropomorphic characterizations).
So we let the little critter catch up on sleep while Denise called the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. They sent two volunteers out within a couple of hours to attempt a capture of the possum. They arrived with gloves, a net and a cat carrier. The possum did finally raise its head when they reached into the nesting box but it offered no resistance and allowed itself to be placed in the carrier with no fuss. The volunteers said it would be examined for injuries and health condition and then released back into the wild once properly recuperated.
We appreciated the quick and efficient response by Wolf Hollow and hope the possum enjoyed the brief stay in our chicken coop.
Excellent educational post!
Poor possum. I hope she/he does well.