chickens watching the posssum

chickens watching the possum







I realize that as a general rule, opossums aren’t considered to be particularly cute creatures.  So regarding the abundance of opossum photos today, I’m sorry about that. (My mom is a big fan of wildlife though, so she should be pleased.)

I was washing dishes on a recent afternoon when I looked out the window and saw a wobbly opossum heading toward our house followed by a group of very curious chickens who were keeping a distance of about three feet.  It was the funniest sight, almost as funny as watching a chicken chase a June beetle.  I grabbed the camera and headed outside while my kids yelled to me, “Mommy!  What are you doing?  Do you want to get rabies?”  (They assume that any nocturnal animal seen out and about during the day is rabid because we’ve taught them that.  Actually, opossums are rarely infected with rabies.)  The opossum had waddled to an old tray full of rainwater next to the house to get a drink of water.  It drank for some time before turning back to take a look at the audience that had gathered.  Seth hanging his head out the kitchen window noticed that the opossum had a large and very nasty wound on its back infested with….  Having already noticed that the opossum wasn’t using one of its rear legs, I sent the kids to get Jonny, telling them that we needed to put the poor creature out of it’s misery.  Jonny walked outside, not too excited at the prospect of dealing with the opossum.  The children insisted that we give it a chance.  Jonny was able to get the poor thing to walk into a big trash can where it sat, staring up at us pitifully.

I made some phone calls, and it only took a few minutes to find a wildlife rehabilitator willing to help.  It was dinner time, and I was tired and the rehabilitator lived nearly an hour away.  But what was I to do?  The opossum was staring at me with those eyes, and Larkspur who has only recently discovered that “animals are her favorite things,” was insistent.  Jonny moved the opossum into a cat carrier and Gabriel, Larkspur, Beatrix, Silas, and I headed for the rehabilitator’s house.  Were I pregnant, I would have never survived that drive.  The opossum smelled like a dead animal.  Larkspur, who is typically very sensitive about odors, didn’t complain.  She repeated over and over how glad she was that we were “saving” the opossum.  She was extremely enthusiastic about the whole situation.  Eventually we reached our destination and I was very relieved that my longest session ever of breathing dead animal smell was over.

Reaching into the cat carrier to wrap the opossum in a towel, the rehabilitator said, “You’re a kind person to bring it to me.”  I had to tell her that honestly it was the hearts of my children, not my own, that prompted me.  But as I looked into those pleading little black opossum eyes, I was glad.  I drove home so grateful for this stranger who was willing to help, who does this on a daily basis.  But really, I was most grateful for the way I knew this woman’s act of kindness affected my little girl.

That was three days ago, and today at Larkspur’s insistence, I called to check on the opossum, worried that there would be bad news.  I got a machine and left a message.  Lark, who never pays any attention to the phone, came running into my bedroom a little while later carrying it.  “It’s her!  She’s talking on the answering machine!”

I answered and inquired after the opossum.  I was hoping that if it recovered, it could be returned to our property. Evidently it’s doing great, but because of its leg injury it probably won’t be able to be released back into the wild and will instead go to live with a very nice “opossum lady” and become an “educating opossum” and have a “very good life.”  She’ll know more by the end of the week.  I am to call back then.  “It’s a revolving door here.  When you call, make sure to reference ‘Claudine.’  Her name is Claudine.  If you mention ‘Claudine With The Maggots’ I’ll know who you’re talking about.”

Poor, dear, Claudine With The Maggots.  I do think it would be cool if we could release her back on our property.  Larkspur would be thrilled.  We’ll see.

p.s.  Two other recent wild things: an Eastern newt and a brown snake.

Eastern newt

brown snake


  1. Thanks for that! My family and I had somewhat of a similar experience. A bunch of baby birds fell from their nest, and we helped unite them with their mother, by making a makeshift nest by hanging them in a basket. 🙂

  2. That opossum is too cute! I had no idea they were so very different in looks to our own (Australian) possums. As I first scrolled through pics I thought, “oh no, a ferret!”. But the wrapped up pictures show she is much larger than a ferret.

    Gorgeous newt (that would be a lizard here I think, although I’ve never seen such a colourful one) and brown snake (again, different here, brown snakes are the ones you don’t want to go near, they’re the most poisonous!).

  3. Wow, that’s the cutest possum I’ve seen… And the newt, WOW. We have tons here on the property, but they are all just dirt brown.Though I found one in the front yard that was the size of a rat…took it to town to a game guy who told me to return it to where I found it…it was endangered. A Lot of weird animals come through our place. Once there was a huge White Raccoon that was killing our chickens. I actually dreamed about it the night before I went out in the morning to go to work, and there it was in the front yard.

  4. Claudine is adorable.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing Ginny, beautiful photos and I’m so glad you had a happy ending. Lucky opossom 🙂 x

  6. Actually, I think opossums look quite cute with their tiny eyes and knobbly nose!
    It’s a great story and it was really selfless to help Claudine.

  7. What a wonderful story!

  8. Oh Ginny, you are so kind to rescue this sweet little creature! He is beautiful, I have never seen one this ‘close up’ before, as we live in South Africa. And to drive this distance to save him, you have gifted him with his life, just wonderful.

    I think I must knit this little opossum, thank you for the inspiration.

    Kind regards

  9. Now, I think she is absolutely adorable!! I have a soft spot for any kind of critter like that 🙂 My girls and I have rescued quite a few animals and they remember every single one. I know your little ones will too!
    And the newt, we love newts but the first thing that came to my mind seeing this one was “She turned me into a newt!” “A newt?!””I got better…” Monty Python invades my head a bit too much I think…

  10. We think they are cute. Benefit of living close to the city, is that the time we found a baby opossum, we were able to find a vets that treated wildlife (and hands them off to the rehabbers) pretty close to us!
    I am glad Claudine is doing ok!

  11. This is will probably be a story told to many new family members over the years; a “you know you’re part of the family when you know the oppossum story” kind of thing.

  12. You know, I’ve never really thought opossums were cute, but Claudine does look sort of adorable wrapped up in that towel!

  13. Rebecca S says:

    WHAT an awesome story! I TOTALLY <3 it! THANK YOU for responding to the hearts of your children…they will thank you and remember it forever. I know from experience 😉

  14. Claudine hit the jackpot when she stumbled up for a drink of water. She must have a strong will to survive, I’m sure being handled by humans was quite stressful for her.

  15. For the first time ever, I was driving the other day and an opossum went running across the road in front of my car. I was startled..used to seeing squirrels, not opossums….I live in a small city…glad your story turned out better….when I was s kid, an opossum was run over in front of our house and it had babies that were killed too….those are my two opossum sightings…

  16. there is no way any other blog post i read this week will top this. What a fabulous story and how amazing to have been characters in it 🙂

  17. I agree with Aimee, no way in the world would I have that possum back anywhere near our property. When we first moved onto the farm and got our first batch of chickens my littlest sister kept coming in and telling us there was a snake in the hen house. She was seeing the possum’s tail as it was hiding in the straw. It ate all the combs off the hens’ heads but never killed them before we figured out what in the world was wrong. We had to call the neighbor (Dad was still working in the city) who came and shot it. Then he asked if we wanted it for our soup pot or if we minded if he took it home. Needless to say, we let him take it home as payment.

    • Hi Jen! I completely understand where you’re coming from, and we wouldn’t consider bringing her back if she had ever threatened our chickens. We live on two acres surrounded by acres and acres of forest so opossums, raccoons, and foxes are in abundance here among others. “Claudine” would simply be rejoining the countless other wild animals that already live here.

  18. I am not loving possums these day. One has killed two of our chicks and then one of our Silkie Bantams just two nights ago. It was so awful to find our beautiful Silkie in the mouth of that possum and all scratched up and suffering. I respect your saving it but would never have an animal like that return to my property. From what I have read online, they KEEP coming back to kill unless they are killed OR caught in a trap and relocated…we are off to buy some traps this week.

    • I’m sorry to hear that! I would have been devastated. I have no idea why, but in more than three years of keeping chickens in the midst of abundant wildlife, we’ve never lost a chicken to a predator. Our flock free ranges during the day, and is locked in their coop at night.

  19. what a great ending. i am so happy you had such a big heart to drive an hour at the end of the day to save that little critter. 🙂

  20. I agree, Claudine (with the maggots) knew she would get help at your place. Thanks for helping her. Great story.

  21. Glad Claudine got the help she needed. We don’t have opossums up here but, in fact, I think she is very cute.

  22. I don’t normally think opossums are cute, but those pictures are endearing. Sweet story.

  23. What a great story of poor (but lucky) Claudine with the maggots! How awesome that she got the help she needed. I don’t know if I could have stomached the smell you describe. The things we do for our littles.. What a great Mom you are!

  24. I don’t typically comment but this brought tears to my eyes.

  25. I’m glad you saved the opossum (even though I wouldn’t have wanted to originally either). It’s such a cool story!

  26. I love opossums. They’re sweet and hilarious. Some day, I will be the Opossum Lady. It will be a good day.

    Once upon a time, it was very late at night. One of our cats was on the front window sill making the stragest noise. Cuddled up on the otherside of the glass was the tiniest opossum baby I’d ever seen. Alone. Looking for all the world like it wanted to call that cat Mama just to get warm. Armed with a towel, my husband went outside to collect it. We fully expected it to run away. Nope. It looked almost grateful to have been picked up. We held him and cooed. But it was very late. We put him in a cat carrier with a bit of soggy cat food and some water and went to bed for the night.

    The next morning we took many many pictures of the adorable critter before my husband went off to the wildlife rehabilitator. It was more than an hour away and he was supposed to be at work. The woman there was so pleased that we’d brought the baby in. She assured him that it would not, in fact, have survived on it’s own – not with the weather turning cold.

    So your story has touched me. I am pleased beyond words at the heart and caring of you – and your children. Thank you for being amazing people.

  27. It is truly amazing what our children teach us. They remind us to open our hearts and go a little further than we want.

  28. Claudine is adorable. SO glad that you saved her!

  29. I had one of the grandsons to our local Nature Center last week—and we were there when they brought their oppossum in to the teaching lab to feed her dinner. Fascinating. Jacob was enthralled–and Opal was endearing ( a term I never ever thought I’d apply to a possum!) A life of teaching really isn’t so bad. (She was rescued from the pouch when her mom was hit by a car—hand raised—and unable to fend for herself in the wild. Lucky possum. Honestly, I sort of thought they were just born dead on the side of the road. That poor eyesight gets them every time.) Cheers for Claudine!!!! (such a good, compassionate family you are raising!!!!!!!–good job)

  30. wow! i’ve never seen a picture of one of those before!
    how cute! well done for saving it! : )

  31. PS I think you ought to write a book (the kids can illlustrate) about Claudine.

  32. I had a good belly laugh about the dead animal smell reference. What a good mama you are to those curious children. This is a beautiful story. I love that children love animals. My kids are obsessed with our neighbors cat Cozy. We are renting and are frequent movers/travelers because we are a navy family – so for now – animals are out of the question. They enjoy our neighbors pets so much and since they visit so often in our yard it is as if they are ours. (Foster is the other pet of popularity, a very sweet rusty golden retriever. Have a lovely day. Embrace the summer mugginess!! Give thanks, this is the day the Lord has made.

  33. Oh my, we don’t have opossums here in Australia. I do believe I gave a little squeal when I saw those photos, shes so sweet! It would be wonderful if she was released back to your place, unless of course they eat vegetable gardens… I have no idea what they eat. They are the ones that play dead right??

  34. Claudine is ever so cute! What a great learning time for your family!

  35. Sabrina says:

    Oh my…I’m not sure what we would’ve done had a oppossom came to our house (I’m sure they are around here…hiding). Just this morning, we caught a racoon in a relocation trap. I would love for it to stay on the property, but I’m afraid it will get into the chickens or rabbits. As of now, the children are moving the coon to a safe cool spot, till Daddy comes home to move it to it’s new home far from our land.

  36. Those are fabulous photos of all the wildlife, Ginny. And you do have a big heart. Many-a parent would just tell their children it’s hopeless and put it out of it’s misery. Especially when maggots are involved. Ew! We see those Eastern Newts at a local park quite frequently. Beautiful, aren’t they!

  37. We have always been big on wildlife around here too, when I was little we found a baby raccoon that had been abandoned and took care of it for a while. And there was this one time when we were camping that my brother decided to play with a skunk…luckily he did not get sprayed. My mom also has a family of fox that live in a den behind her house, kind of strange since we live in the city, but they are fun to watch!

  38. We are the same way over here except….we have had opossums kill chickens before so I am sure we would kindly ask that miss opossum not be returned to the property. Family first and all!

  39. Oh! I love that picture of the newt! Red Efts are some of my very favorite animals, strange I know, but true! Poor stinking Claudine With The Maggots,(eeew!) I am glad that everything worked out well for her and Larkspur. Great story!

  40. Claudine is one lucky opossum!

  41. Great story – I love the pics!

  42. What a lovely story Ginny! that injured little opossum didn’t just walk into your garden by chance, I’m sure Claudine knew the welcome and help that would be bestowed upon her.

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