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I threw a copperhead snake to the chickens-was I wrong?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by WillWork4Eggs, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. WillWork4Eggs

    WillWork4Eggs Hatching

    Apr 27, 2009
    Howdy! I'm new to the forum and I wanted to get y'all's thoughts and advice on an incident that took place this weekend. First of all, even though I grew up on a farm, this is my first year raising chickens as an adult. About six weeks ago I adopted 18 pullets of mixed breeds for eggs and meat. I'm raising them free-range style, where they'll have the run of the backyard once they're big enough. I was moving some scrap lumber near the chickens' pen to stack it in another area when I found this baby copperhead snake (about 6" to 8" long). I didn't have anything to kill it with and I was afraid if I left to get a hoe it would escape (and I certainly wasn't carrying it to get the hoe!). I remembered reading something about chickens killing and eating snakes, so I picked it up (I was wearing leather gloves) and flung it in amongst the chickens. Forming a mob, they all pounced on the snake and fought like crazed velociraptors over it! The snake was dead within a matter of minutes. It was actually pretty funny watching them chase each other around the chicken coop fighting over that snake. One would grab one end, another had the other end and all-out tug-of-war would erupt. One time the tug-of-war happened while another chicken was straddling the snake and that chicken was hopping back and forth while straddling the snake, trying to get off! The chickens had a lot of fun fighting over it for a long time even after it was dead. I guess they ate it, because after a while the snake dissapeared and the chickens returned to normal. I told my husband about this and he thought it was funny, but he also expressed concern that the chickens might have been in danger by the snake and that got me to worrying about it. (He was also relieved that the snake was dead.) I would never have attempted to pick up the snake and/or throw it to them if it hadn't been so small and if I hadn't read somewhere that chickens could kill snakes. I didn't mean any harm to the chickens and certainly didn't want to place them in any danger. It was a split-second reaction to finding that snake and wanting to get rid of it so it wouldn't end up biting one of the children or my other pets! Y'all are more experienced with chickens than I am, so do you think I did the right thing, or did I put the chickens in danger?
    1 person likes this.

  2. jenni2142

    jenni2142 Songster

    Jul 16, 2008
    South Carolina
    I don't think it would cause any harm, a lot of people on here have chickens that eat snakes. Mine like black widow spiders and have never gotten ill.
  3. byrandom

    byrandom Songster

    Sep 22, 2008
    Terrell, TX
    Chickens CAN and WILL kill snakes.

    That being said, a small copperhead could easily kill a chicken if it landed a bite.

    You would/will see the effects of the venom within 24 hours.

    http://www.venomousreptiles.org/articles/59 :

    When I got home, I was all but exhausted, much too tired to be dealing with a hot snake. I should have just left the Copper in it's container over night, but instead I set up a cage for it. I had a 10 gallon tank with a locking, screen lid that I put it on the floor and got ready for the snake. Then, instead of opening the container in the tank, I remained standing and popped the lid. As I stooped to pour the snake in, predictably, it took off and landed on the floor. I HAD NO HANDLING TOOLS WITHIN REACH! So, I did the only thing I could do and tried to tail it. Unfortunately, I was wearing a brace on my right hand due to arthritis, which helped matters not at all. I took a hit at the base of my right thumb -- Aw, (insert four-letter word of choice)! Being already bitten now, I simply grabbed the snake and dropped it into the tank.

    So. Here we go again. The snake safely put away, I took off the brace and sat back to see how bad it was going to be. I soon saw that for a small Copper (aprox. 18''), it was a pretty stiff envenomation. I decided to document this bite and took the first of a series of photographs, measured the fang spread with a vernier caliper, cleaned the site of the bite with alcohol and went to bed. The spread was .572 inches.

    April 29th: Sunday morning, I woke up with a severe headache that might or might not have had anything to do with the bite. The hand was so swollen that the fingers were all but immobile. The swelling continued all the way up to the shoulder. I had limited motion in the elbow and almost none in the wrist. Even the shoulder felt a little stiff. The entire arm ached and the thumb was excruciating, and beginning to show some color. I drove over to my daughter's where some more photos were taken. There was a spirited discussion with her and my son-in-law as to going to the hospital, which I won. I am sensitive to horse serum and would have refused that treatment, anyway.

    April 30th: The whole arm felt pressurized. I was getting a little worried about blood circulation to the hand, the lack of which brings on gangrene. We were having a Spring chilly spell, not uncomfortable, but the fingers of the bitten hand felt very cold. I got some more photos and offered the Copperhead an undeserved mouse. The camera worked and the snake ate the mouse with every evidence of smug self-satisfaction.

    May 1st: The Communists and Socialists had a good time on this day. I did not. It was pretty much the same as yesterday except that the snake did not get another mouse. The camera continued to function well and we got a pic of both hands for a comparison . The swelling appeared down slightly.

    May 2nd: The swelling was defiantly going down, and rapidly. I was getting a fair amount movement in the fingers and more range in the elbow and wrist. The pain was not as bad, but it had broadened it's horizons a bit. I was now beginning to notice a deep muscle ache, mainly in the forearm. It was the beginning of the swelling's aftermath. I was also getting a strange, little muscle spasm in the space between the thumb and forefinger.

    May 3rd: The swelling was down dramatically, but I got a really nasty surprise when that odd, little spasm turned into a cramp that ground at least a millimeter of enamel off of my molars as I pried the thumb away from the forefinger, making the whole hand hurt a lot worse. This was to happen several times during the next, few days. The ache in the muscles of the arm was more pronounced, but the worst was in the back of the hand. The thumb was very sore. We took a final pic of both hands.

    May 13th: As I sit here two-fingering the keyboard, the hand and forearm are still, perhaps not swollen, but very slightly puffy. It's all functioning just fine, but the whole thing feels a little stiff. The thumb remains larger than it should be and there is a spot at the site of the bite with no feeling at all. The joint at the base of the thumb is swollen. The muscles between the thumb and forefinger remain a little sore and there is still a little residual ache in the muscles in the forearm. At the moment, I don't think I'll lose any function in the hand, but the thumb has yet to regain a full range of motion. A tendon running between the joints is pronounced even when the thumb is relaxed.

    And that was on a full-grown human male.​
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2009
  4. amazondoc

    amazondoc Cracked Egghead

    Mar 31, 2008
    Lebanon, TN
    IMHO there was probably some danger, but not much. Baby poisonous snakes *can* inject venom through their bites -- but they have teeny tiny mouths and teeny tiny teeth. I think it would be quite difficult for one to get through the feathers or the thick leg scales in order to envenomate the hens.

    Don't worry, be happy -- the hens got a lot of entertainment and a bit of extra protein. [​IMG]
  5. WillWork4Eggs

    WillWork4Eggs Hatching

    Apr 27, 2009
    Quote:If I had to make a choice, I think I'd rather eat a snake than a spider!lol
  6. WillWork4Eggs

    WillWork4Eggs Hatching

    Apr 27, 2009
    Quote:And that was on a full-grown human male.

    And I picked that thing up? [​IMG] Eek! It happened Saturday, so it's been more than 24 hours and they're all okay.
  7. WillWork4Eggs

    WillWork4Eggs Hatching

    Apr 27, 2009
    Quote:It was quite entertaining- you can't pay for entertainment that good! I wish I'd thought to get my camera, but the snake startled me so much I forgot about all else.

  8. EricShane

    EricShane Songster

    Apr 12, 2009
    SouthWestern Ohio
    well, unless you've been moved on by God to do so, I would leave it alone! lol
  9. ranchhand

    ranchhand Rest in Peace 1956-2011

    Aug 25, 2008
    Just my opinion and not intended as judgemental, but not in a million years would I throw any venomous snake in with my pets and/or livestock. I have found rattlers and copperheads many times - if I don't have a way of dispatching them at hand, I let them go. And scold them for coming so close, [​IMG] . I actually don't go far without a shovel here in the woods anymore.

    Man, I hate finding them! Glad you and the chickens are ok!

    Next time you want entertainment, buy them some crickets. They go nuts!
  10. kgeorge

    kgeorge Songster

    Mar 5, 2009
    Beech Creek, PA
    A snake, no matter what kind, would have a heck of hard time biting a chicken. So, throwing that snake in with the chickens was okay, in my humble opinion. Talking about entertainment, have you ever seen a chicken go after a mouse? Chickens like to kill mice, too. [​IMG]

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