Opossums are not as wily as are raccoons, and although they can climb fences and dig beneath them, opossums are not as adept at opening locks or latches. However, like raccoons, they can reach their hands through wire mesh that is too small for their whole bodies to fit. In that last case, they will pull out parts of your birds if that is all they can reach. They can also fit through very small openings for their body size.
How to protect your flock from opossums
- Avoid attracting opossums or other predators to your yard. For instance, don't leave cat food out overnight, and make sure they will not be attracted to food in wild bird feeders or any seed beneath the feeders. Make sure your garbage cans are covered at night. Clean up any fruit that has fallen from nearby fruit trees, and if possible, remove any bushes, woodpiles, or other debris that may give them places to hide near your home and coop. In dry areas or during dry periods, opossums may be attracted to sources of water in your yard, too. Don't leave anything out for them!
- Make sure all your coop's entrances are closed at night and latched properly.
- Make sure any wire mesh on your coop and run is securely attached, because like other small mammals, they will try to pry it off or bend it enough that they can squeeze through. Don't use chicken wire: chicken wire is not a barrier to predators. Opossums and other predators can tear right through it like tissue paper. (Chicken wire should only be used to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out.) Ideally, use hardware cloth with a fine mesh that opossums can't reach through (use 1/2" or 1/4").
- Install motion-sensor lighting or electric fencing around your coop and run. Most nocturnal predators are not fans of being in the spotlight, so a sudden light shining on them, triggered by their movement, may be enough to scare them away. When installed and functioning properly, electric fencing is usually enough to deter almost any ground-based predator.
- If necessary and legal in your area, trap and relocate a nuisance opossum. It may be best to contact a qualified wildlife removal company or your local authorities in order to do this safely. Opossums are an essential part of the ecosystem, consuming snakes, insects, snails, slugs, mice, rats, and other kinds of animals, so killing them is not generally necessary or recommended.