A family of brushtail possums lives in our roof (photo not mine – courtesy of http://www.ozpossum.com/photos.htm). It doesn’t bother me that much but Frank is convinced this is not acceptable. I haven’t argued because I’ve heard (and seen) that possum pee can really damage a ceiling. And someone mentioned to me what a nightmare it is to have a possum die and decompose in your roof. I needed no more convincing than that.
Frank did some hunting around and found a few sites with instructions on how to build a possum nest box. Like I do with recipes, he combined the best of all and came up with his own plan. It’s the same basic plan that most sites refer to (most sites even use the same drawing) and here’s a link: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/GuideToMakingAPossumHouse.htm.
Frank added a baffle in front of the hole because some sites suggested this would deter birds from flying in and setting up house.
Here’s Frank’s “detailed” schematic:
He took old hardwood (not treated timber) fence palings, planed the edges smooth, cut them to length, glued and screwed them together. He actually glued along the side of each board and caulked any big gaps so that the box would be more wind and water proof, making a nicer home for our possums.
The bottom has holes drilled in it to allow water drainage. The top has flashing on it, shingle-like, to minimise water getting inside. Hinges are used along the roof in case we ever want to lift the lid. And, of course, a branch-stairway makes it just that much easier for someone to adopt this as home.
Frank made a second box for friends who have their own resident possum. They are very keen to get their own house-guest moved into private digs.
We filled the box with leaves and hung it in the tree out front. This is the tree we are pretty sure the possums use to enter and exit our roof (up the tree, across the electricity or phone lines, under the tile and home-sweet-home).
The possum box is attached to the tree with some strong wire (old lines from our Hills Hoist) surrounded by garden hose (to stop the wire damaging the tree). A bungy cord is used to prevent swinging.
Frank put a couple of chunks of apple in the box to attract the possum. To make doubly sure the box wasn’t missed, he stuck some apples around the box and some watermelon chunks on the roof. By sundown the fruit was gone – in the bellies of some local parrots no doubt.
The next step is to hope the possums move in. The box has been in place a few days and nothing yet. I hooked my camera to an extendable pole (for tree branch lopping) and ran the video while I raised the camera into the opening. Here’s the inside – very lonely looking. And no apples. I bet the possum climbed in to eat the apple but decided our roof makes a nicer permanent home.
It looks like we’ll have to try the stick half of this carrot-and-stick approach. That is, discourage them from enjoying their roof-home. This can be done by a) sealing all their entrances to the roof (not easy in our house); b) putting a light in the roof to irritate the possums (we’ve used this to great effect in the past but the possums have moved to an area we can’t reach) and/or c) putting something smelly that the possums don’t like in the roof like moth balls or a spray available from the local garden supply store that is totally non-toxic and organic but is unappealing to possums.
After that, the final step is to pray it all works and our possum moves house. Since possums are territorial, if we do have one (or a family) living in our tree, our roof should remain possum free.