Playing Possum

When it comes to my chickens, I’m a mother hen who doesn’t mess around. My girls have the run of the place, and I don’t take kindly to predatory folk prowling around, plundering nests, and ruffling feathers.

But every “Head Hencho” knows there are as many ways of tending a flock as there are chicken poops under a roost. You have your movable pens, laser deterrents, traps, and high-voltage hot wire. Plenty of armed and able farmgirls shoot to kill without batting an eyelash.

And then there’s another approach, one you might not want to try at home.

Down south in the wild woodlands of Arkansas, Jen Bové does things her own way.  A longtime writer for my magazine, Jen is a tough cookie. But, she admits her heart is sometimes too soft to fend for a farm in a place where predators come in all manner of tooth and claw.

She respects the clever raccoons, she insists, and the coyotes sing lullabies she loves to hear.

So Jen’s solution is to enforce a strict schedule for her chickens. The hens get cooped up just before sundown and let loose at dawn. It works out pretty well. Most of the time. But there was that one night when she got home after dark…

Heart pounding, Jen switched on the light of the coop, and there he was—a possum perched in a nest box with egg shells and yolk oozing from his toothy grin. Luckily, the hens were okay, but the stubborn possum wasn’t easily deterred from his dinner. That’s when Jen hatched a plan.

Picture a 5-gallon bucket, a long-handled hoe, an empty feed sack, a bungee cord…and a bunch of chickens fluttering on their roost overhead.

With the bucket positioned under the nest box, Jen leaned out to hook the hoe behind the possum’s posterior. With a nudge and a tug, she dumped the hissing marauder down into the bucket. And before you could shout “Score!” Jen slapped the feed sack over the opening and bungeed it tight.

The chickens cheered! er, clucked.

Few possums are fortunate enough to undergo a change of venue like the prisoner Jen transported in her pickup that night. Her young daughter said, “Mom took the possum to town.”

Playing possum, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Johnruble

Well, not to town, exactly, more “to task.” But the critter did get a fresh chance at good behavior, miles from the nearest chicken coop.

Gives new meaning to the expression “Awesome Possum.”

Share your chicken/predator stories. I have about 10 more!

  1. martha cook says:

    Bobcat!! The year we first moved back to my husband’s family farm area – with two sister cats and their new litters of kittens, we moved into another being’s terrain. From time to time during the first summer of moving in, building a deck, planting trees, garden, some lawn, I noticed that the cats were frightened, and later, that some kittens disappeared, but it was a cold night in January, 1993, when I realized that something was watching me thru the living room window as I held our new baby. The fearless creature was either a lynx or a bobcat, and was merely two feet from the back of my head, thru the glass. We put “the run” on it, but it appeared again, so we got a permit to shoot it, and did try to trap it. Bobcats are too smart for our trap, at least, but we did trap one skunk and one of the neighbor’s cats! Releasing the skunk took a LONG piece of rebar and a bit of stealth. By June, we had lost several cats and kittens, and feared we were providing a ready lunch for this bobcat. On a fine afternoon in July, we finally saw him creep around a shrub, in broad daylight, trying to sneak up on our newest group of kittens. My husband shot him, and by pre-agreement, turned him over to the Fish & Game Commission. One good thing from all this: knowing we had a predator on hand convinced me to NEVER take our baby out to the lawn, and then turn my back to go back in for a phone or blanket, etc. Now the “baby” is eighteen, so he goes with me to the compost pile or to turn off the garden water, if it is getting dark. A good reminder for all mothers who move to the country – all manner of animal predators can be watching for a small child as well as for your cat. (Martha Cook, Idaho)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *