by Rebecca Nickols
Snakes and Chickens - probably not a good combination... However, not every snake is venomous and most snakes are not even considered a threat to you or your flock. In my state (Missouri) there are 47 different species of snakes; only five of which are venomous: the copperhead, cottonmouth and 3 different species of rattlesnakes. I have seen copperheads near my property and even though I live in a rural-wooded area, I'm not overly fearful of a snakebite. According to Jim Low (Missouri Department of Conservation), you're more likely to be struck by falling space debris than bitten by a snake in Missouri!
Continue reading as chicken keeper, Anna Wight, shares her experience with an egg-eating rat snake:
I went out to lock up the chickens tonight (like I do every evening) and to make sure water containers and feeders were topped off. The ducks were quite upset, giving me all kinds of attention. Lots of quacking and carrying on. I have a duck that's been broody, and we've been nursing a sore foot pad on her, so I've been letting her sit on some eggs so she doesn't feel like she needs to be running around the chicken yard all day on her sore foot pad. Even she was off of her nest, quacking, and was quite upset about something.
I looked over at her nest and saw a RAT SNAKE had come through the chicken wire nearly 3 feet up the side of the fence and was investigating her eggs! No wonder she was so upset!!
Since our snake issues began, I've been carrying a two-way walkie-talkie so I can get Alan's assistance as needed. This certainly called for some much needed assistance! I voiced over the radio for him to grab my camera and come to the chicken yard, that there was a snake thinking about eating a duck egg!
Thanks Anna for sharing your experience (and photos) with the readers of Community Chickens! I think it's awesome that you had your wits about you to capture this egg-eating snake on film before you relocated him away from the coop.
To view more of Anna's homesteading adventures, visit the links below:
Sassy and Sweet (website)
Anna Wight Photography (facebook)
As for predator proofing your coop from a snake invasion, here's some advice from Beth Sinclair, a chicken enthusiast with some first hand snake knowledge. She is a past president of the Treasure Coast Herpetological Society and has 12 years experience raising colubrids, chameleons, poison dart frogs and geckos.
Yellow, red and black rat snakes are native to much of the U.S. and are likely to be the main cause of egg loss from smaller coops, though racers would likely go for eggs as well and are more common in urban areas. Being as I was a colubrid breeder (rat snakes, king snakes and other small, non-venomous species), I know from experience that snakes can get into nearly anything - they are escape artists and can seriously flatten their little bodies. My best suggestion for keeping your coop snake proof is to use the smallest mesh available as chicken wire would allow most of these guys to get inside with ease. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and are perfectly created to climb any tree imaginable. They are truly the best rodent control you will ever see, so take into account that height won't help keep your coop safe from these critters. Keep mesh size small and they simply won't be able to enter. I have yet to find ANYTHING smell-wise, save for gasoline and kerosene, that deters snakes - and I certainly don't advise anyone to keep that around their coop! Prevention is the key for snake control... AND if you can keep them OUT of your coop, these same snakes may help you with rodent problems. So try to let them live - once you have a problem with rats, you will never look at a snake the same again; they are Godsends.
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