The Ozzy Osbourne of opossums is on the loose in Carroll Gardens, making every day since late July a black sabbath for area resident Rose Unes.
It was the week of July 19 when an opossum allegedly chomped the head off a hen roosting in Unes’s backyard chicken coop, leaving the choked chicken to die in a pile of blood-speckled feathers — and so thoroughly terrified the lone survivor that she can’t even lay eggs.
Unes, who was on vacation in Oregon at the time, entrusted her Carroll Street home — and her two-chicken henhouse in her backyard — to longtime friends David Winters and Merritt Tucker, a married couple who were visiting from California.
In the early morning hours of July 22, Winters recalled hearing some sort of commotion in the backyard — and received a vague reminder of Osbourne’s notorious stage antics.
“We hear a chicken squawking, but not being farmers, we just thought it was the chickens crowing at dawn — which of course [in hindsight] doesn’t make sense, because these were hens,” Winters said.
In the morning, Tucker went outside to water the plants and feed the chickens.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, I only see one chicken,’ ” she recalled. Then, Tucker noticed the coop door was ajar, and her stomach dropped. She peeked in and saw something as grisly as it was touching: one surviving bird next to the now-stiff corpse of her slaughtered coop-mate. “Sticking out were these two chicken feet in rigor mortis,” Tucker recollected.
She immediately summoned her husband to help clean up the mess.
“The surprising part was that it didn’t seem to be eaten at all,” he said. “There were some feathers missing, and its head was bitten off.”
Unes, understandably, was not pleased with the news, which she received upon her return later that week. After all, she raised the 5-year-old hen since it was a fluffy chick, caring for it every day in return for a daily deposit of fresh eggs.
“This is war,” Unes said this week. “I want this thing out of here.”
Sure, the hen-caper could have been the work of raccoons, which have been causing a ruckus in neighborhoods such as Greenwood Heights — but Unes is hearing none of it.
She’s convinced the case has opossum-prints all over it. After all, she said, it’s only in the past year that she’s been seeing the omnivorous marsupials patrolling her backyard and beyond, something neighborhood blogs have also been chronicling of late. “They are very ballsy,” she observed. “They look at you with this serious New York attitude.”
Tucker said that a few days after the kill, an opossum returned to the scene of the crime — looking like the cat who swallowed the canary.
“He was eyeing the other chicken,” she said. “He was waiting for the opportunity to go in and get the next one.”
Opossums typically don’t exceed 10 pounds and their small size makes them wary of humans, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Still, the state agency advised caution: “Opossums are the host for a variety of fleas, ticks and mites. They also have teeth and claws. People should keep them at a safe distance,” spokesman Thomas Panzone said.
Meanwhile, Unes isn’t the only one taking the death hard. The dead hen’s coop-mate stopped laying eggs for weeks since her companion’s demise. Since the tragedy, Unes has fortified the coop, and brought in a new hen.