can a snake smell chickens?


10 Years
Dec 2, 2010

My dh was working on the attached run to our chicken coop. We had just put in an automatic pop door in the coop. My dh covered the pop door with a board leaving an inch on the bottom and an inch on the top. The scrap of wood nailed over the pop door area was to keep a coon, dog or coyote from pushing it in until we get the attached pedator proof run complete. We decided to test the pop door and found that the chickies were scared to be anywhere near that end of the coop. We decided while we were outside working next to the coop to leave it open so they could get use to the pop door. Well my husband is right next to the coop and pop door, on a ladder and her comes a 3 ft bull snake slithering along the coop. Yikes! The snake goes under my dh ladder up to the pop door. My dh jumps down and with his hammer scoops him up and throws him away from the coop. He asked me if I wanted him to kill it. I said no, just leave it alone. I then walked up to our garage to pick up a tool and there was another bull snake trying to get in the walk in door of our garage!!

We had just cleaned out the brooder in the garage and moved it to the coop! Did these snakes smell the chickens? Can they kill 6 week old chickens? I didn't kill either snake but maybe I should? Two snakes in one day!! One trying to get in coop where the chickens are now and one trying to get in the garage where the chickens had been!!

We had snakes around our patio before we had chickens. They would sun themselves and then disappear. Never did they try to come near the house or garage. I hate snakes but I hate mice more so I left them alone. And they left me alone. The photo above is of the snake from last spring (before chickens) sunning himself near our patio.
I have been told snakes do not smell like we do but have a ability to "taste" the air for their prey. As to the threat to your birds, it's based on their breed / size rather than age. A little research thru your local cooperative extension service or university will tell you what size of animal is threatened by what length and specis of snake. Good luck and I'm glad we don't have snakes up here.
Well, I guess they should have been able to "taste" alot of chicken poo in the air that day. I had thoughly cleaned out the brooder to move out of the garage. I also cleaned out the coop where we had moved the chickens. The pine shavings shoveled around make a lot of dust!
A bull snake can kill a 6 week old chicken & will also eat eggs. I would not kill them, but relocated them far from your coop and attempt to "snake proof" the coop against future visitors. Bull snakes eat a lot of rodents and are useful to have around, if you can keep your chickens safe from them.
the snakes follow the piddle of urine that the mice leave. then they find whatever taste good. eggs don't run, and they are fresh. I relocate the non-poisonous. But the great move I made was Guineas, cut my snake problem by 95%, it's very hard to keep all the snakes from getting in.
I find what we call rat snakes or chicken snakes in the coop regularly. They use their tongue (or whatever that is) to sense heat from animals. Around here, they are very good at finding coops and stealing your eggs and young chicks, depending on the size. Rat snakes (that looks like it might be a rat snake) are long skinny things. I had a 2' one eat a chick recently; it was about as big around as my thumb.

I agree, particularly if they are not poisonous, that is the one predator I will relocate. I imagine most any snake will eat rats and mice. It is a common food for pet snakes. Watching a few videos of mice overrunning farms in Australia convinced me.

Bird netting from the garden dept. works great; they get tangled in it and can't get out. Cheap, too.
The coop is snake proof if "silly" me hadn't decided to leave the pop door partially open! I thought I should get the chickens use to the noise. They are scared to death of it right now. I never thought I snake would be so bold to slither right past us while we were outside the coop!

My concern will be the run. Our coop is very secure. The run will be covered with the 2 x 1 1/2 inch horse fence buried 18 inches. We plan on running chicken wire along the bottom three feet. I would love to run hardware cloth but it is too expensive due to the size of the run. Besides, I understand it won't deter snakes because they can climb anything. We are planning to run electric fence along the bottom to discourage predators. I hope that will discourage snakes. I thought coons and coyotes would be our biggest problem but now I fear it might be snakes.

When I was a kid living on a farm we had a huge bull snake that lived in our hayloft. Sometimes it would hang from the rafters. You don't think a snake would drop from a tree to the roof of the run and come in from above? Oh boy, my dh thinks I spend all day dreaming up problems!!
You are right on the money with your theory. Snakes see the world through scent, which makes a ton of sense for a critter that lives life so close to the ground, and normally hunts critters that hide underground. They are actually smelling the air when they flick their tongues. For most species, their eyes are very poor, so they rely on scent, while some (in the pit viper family) use 'sensors' on their noses to sense heat signatures.

What all this means is that it is VERY hard to hide yummy stuff from snakes. Fortunately, there are a lot of products on the market that take advantage of their sense of smell, and repell them. Just type "snake repellant" into Google, and you'll have a variety to choose from.

Good luck!

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