Black snake (I think?) help!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by wishingon, Nov 30, 2016.

  1. wishingon

    wishingon Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2016
    We had a lot of issues with predators this year, and it was our first year doing the backyard chicken thing. For the most part, we were able to solve the big predator problems, but a black snake (I think) ate our 5 Easter Egger chicks at the end of the summer.

    We didn't know what was getting them at first, they just slowly started disappearing. The day the last one went missing, there was a large black snake with a swollen gut sitting fat and happy in the coop. I didn't kill it because I didn't have a tool handy, and I was afraid it might be poisonous. No picture either, because by the time I came back with my phone it was gone.

    My question is this: How do I keep snakes away? I live in a neighborhood in a rural area so I'm sure there are plenty. I've read mothballs deter them but they're illegal (at least in Virginia). I do have two roosters that are full grown now, will they be any help? They were a few months old when the snake originally paid a visit and they avoided it with the rest of the hens around their age.

    If it is a black snake I don't want to kill it because they keep meaner snakes away (or so I've heard) and I'd rather have him than a rattle snake! But I'd like to get more EE chicks this spring, but not if they're just going to be eaten!

    Sorry for the long post!
     
  2. birdwrangler057

    birdwrangler057 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Try getting cedar wood chips and spreading them all around the coop, cedar is toxic to snakes and other animals. I would have said to put mothballs in a jar and poke holes in the top, but nix that. Set a snake trap and relocate it 8-10 miles from your house. if it has a diamond head, stay clear, it is a water mocison a.k.a. cotton mouth (Shoot it!!!!).
     
  3. birdwrangler057

    birdwrangler057 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Try getting an airsoft gun and shooting it when it returns, I did that to a coach whip and he never returned.
     
  4. wishingon

    wishingon Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2016
    Thanks William! We actually put cedar shavings in our coop with straw to help with insulation this winter, so hopefully it'll keep them away! [​IMG]
     
  5. birdwrangler057

    birdwrangler057 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Actually, that's great, but you need to spread some around the perimeter. Also, I don't think you'll be having any snake problems again until spring, because all the snakes are hibernating.
     
  6. wishingon

    wishingon Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2016
    Okay, we'll do that too! Thank you!
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes, snakes can be a challenge. I’m not sure where you are or what your weather is right now, but in warm weather I have had problems, mainly black rat snakes and black racers. Usually they eat eggs, I once had one eat eggs out from under a broody hen. That was creepy, I walk in and a snake is wrapped around the hen. By the time I got a hoe it was gone. I now keep a hoe with a short (broken) handle in the coop. I mainly use it to scrape the dropping board but it’s handy if I need something quick. The short handle gives me room to operate in the coop without breaking a window or banging into things.

    I once had a snake enter a brooder through the holes in 1” hardware cloth. After it swallowed a chick it could not get back out. I’ve also has a couple of snakes swallow golf balls I use as fake eggs and not be able to get back out of the coop the way it came in. I’ve also had snakes totally ignore the golf balls and only eat eggs. Don’t count on them eating a golf ball, most won’t.

    Don’t count on a rooster challenging a big snake either, mine do not. I have had the entire flock giving a distress call when a snake was in the coop so the rooster knew it was there. Some roosters might challenge a big snake but mine never have as far as I know. Small snakes are likely to be eaten by the chickens.

    Do you know how it is getting in? Can you block off its entry point? That’s not always easy. Snakes can show up any time day or night. If it is using a pop door, what can you do?

    One method I’ve seen on here but have not tried is to use a minnow trap baited with an egg. Most snakes tend to use the same route coming and going so if you can put it on the route you can maybe catch it. Remember that a snake got through my 1’ hardware cloth so use a trap with pretty fine mesh. Baby chicks can get inside the trap but adults should not be able to. It’s fairly common when you set a minnow trap to trap minnows to find a water snake in it.

    I have not tried any snake repellent. You can often find something sold at a garden or feed store. I’ve tried repellents for other critters and find that they may work in the short term but in the long term they are not very good. Most wild critters are pretty adaptable, that’s how they survive in the wild, and they soon learn there is no real danger for them. Or it rains and you have to reapply it, constantly.

    As long as they are not poisonous a friend wants me to relocate snakes to her property. Part of that is that some can possibly help keep poisonous snakes away and partly she just doesn’t like them killed. I’ve given her a few and now keep a snake stick (used to pin the snake down) and an old pillow case in that area so I’m ready. One that was really remarkable to me was a tiny garter snake that was living inside the coop under a step for chicks to get in and out of the pop door. I don’t know how hat kept from being eaten by the chickens. She’s also received a few pretty good sized black snakes. I generally leaved snakes alone unless they are poisonous or in the coop.

    Snakes are often drawn to an area that has mice. A lot of our coops are havens for mice. If you can control your mouse population you can lessen the chance that a snake will visit. It will help to keep the area around your coop clear of anyplace a mouse or snake can hide. That’s a lot easier said than done. That means brush, weeds, tall grass, and piles of about anything. I save my feed bags to store compost in and have found mice and a snake in that pile of bags. It’s a constant challenge.

    If you do manage to remove one snake, don’t think you have solved the problem. If you have one you have more. I once removed two 5-feet long black racers from the inside of my coop a week apart.

    Around here snakes aren’t that big of a problem normally. I don’t think I lost one egg or chick to a snake all this year. But some years I have had several. They seem to be worse here when we are having a dry spell. I think they are drawn to my waterers as much as anything else.

    Good luck.
     
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  8. wishingon

    wishingon Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2016
    Thanks ridgerunner! I hope the roosters will do something about it now that they're bigger. Luckily I have a few months to prepare. We don't have mice but it's an "open" coop, meaning it has 3 solid walls, a roof, and a wall of iron bars, which is probably where it got in. The floor is 2 feet off the ground and we're getting a tarp to cover the wall that's not solid to keep them warm at night. I have a shovel nearby now, but I don't know if I have the guts to get rid of a snake. We live a few hundred yards from a very big river so I'm sure there are plenty more!
     

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