Rat Snake killing my half grown hens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Powerpuff, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Powerpuff

    Powerpuff New Egg

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    Jun 3, 2011
    We have lived somewhat peacefully with our rat snakes for years. As long as we grab up the eggs before they do and as long as we have kept our chicks closed in until they are big enough to fly up high to roost at night, we haven't had any problems. Until now. This batch of chicks we bought from a feed store. Usually they are hatched by a mama hen and then when they are big enough to fly up high, mama hens takes them way up into the rafters (we keep them closed at night in a pen until they are big enough). Since this batch didn't have anyone to teach them to fly up high, they were roosting up off the ground but not up in the rafters. They were certainly big enough to let out of the closed coop as they are almost as big as a full grown hen... maybe more than half way. But a snake killed two of them.... swallowed up their heads and got to their shoulder and said 'oops, just can't fit' or whatever... I mean serious??? And their is no way the hens attacked them first because we made sure they were safe and sound and tucked away on their little perch that wasn't very high off the ground but still off the ground...all 6 were asleep and within hours of darkness they were swallowed up and regurgitated ( because I went out to check later).... it was awful. It was a big black rat snake. Its not like we don't have tons and tons of things for them to eat...we live on the lake in the woods with oodles of rabbits and mice...

    So since then we keep putting them in a coop at night and closing them in tight... and if we are going to be gone late at night we can't let them out because we have always had free roaming chickens...... they come in at night and usually they are safe. Never had big snakes kill big chickens...not full grown but still... I need to know if the snakes are going to keep killing them as long as they aren't roosting way up high... will they killl them as long as they are not in the rafters or locked up?
     
  2. melissa41927

    melissa41927 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    with one of my first broody hens a pair of rat snakes killed her and ate the eggs she was sitting on. i know it was a pair because later that morning, we started looking around for the culprit and found the two snake with bulges in their bellies.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:Powerpuff,

    You do not indicate where you are. By any chance are you in the home range of bull or gopher snakes? They run a bit larger than rat snakes and seem more likely to go after larger young birds but even 1/2 grow standard size birds should be larger than they will wasste time with unless you have bantams.
     
  4. Brody's Broodello

    Brody's Broodello Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just killed a 5 1/2 foot Black Snake last weekend. It was in the barn, I had a total of 4 birds, 2 silkie pullets, 1 silkie cockeral & an ameraucana hen get killed by the snake. It just coiled up & killed them, then went of to eat more eggs. This was over a 2 wek period that it killed the birds. We had a snake last year kill an expensive bantam Wyandotte cockeral, it also tried to swallow that one up too. But the snake this year didn't try to eat the birds, just killed them.
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Brody's Broodello :

    I just killed a 5 1/2 foot Black Snake last weekend. It was in the barn, I had a total of 4 birds, 2 silkie pullets, 1 silkie cockeral & an ameraucana hen get killed by the snake. It just coiled up & killed them, then went of to eat more eggs. This was over a 2 wek period that it killed the birds. We had a snake last year kill an expensive bantam Wyandotte cockeral, it also tried to swallow that one up too. But the snake this year didn't try to eat the birds, just killed them.

    Did you see snake do killing. Snakes generally do not kill what they can swallow. It takes a lot of effort to subdue something they can eat and wasting effort on something they can not is not smart.

    I have bull snakes that can eat both rat snakes timber rattlers but they seem to have little interest in my birds. I have no doubt they could kill a 1/2 grown dominique but such an effort would exhuast snake and not provide nurishment.​
     
  6. Kikiriki

    Kikiriki Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Would the chickens have pecked the snake? Perhaps it wanted those eggs enough to remove the danger of the birds...

    Once it learns a food source it is likely to keep coming back. Window screen over any holes/openings would keep it out i imagine and it is relatively cheap. use staples and hard as nails glue...
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:Chickens vary greatly in how they respond to snakes. My games will attack one they can swallow without hesitation and consume it alive. They will also go after snakes that are a little too large to swallow, kill it, and with some effort often involving friends dismember it before swallowing. Larger snakes catch their eye and possibly receive a peck but generally move along safely. My chickens are probably main reason copperheads do not come yards because they do not take harassment well. Upon first opportunity, I will catch a larger bull snake and put out in yard to see what chickens do. I suspect they will harass it at most.

    To my knowledge I have never lost a chicken to a snake. Eggs, yes but more lost to cracking in nest. Snakes do seem partial to nest owing to temperature being comfortable and the fact such sites are close to a preferred prey item, namely mice that tend to be abundant where ever chickens are housed and fed.

    Many folks kill snakes in and around their poultry buildings. I wish that such dead snakes be examined for gut contents. If results like I have had, then rodents will repressent bulk of identifiable material.
     
  8. Powerpuff

    Powerpuff New Egg

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    Jun 3, 2011
    I live in North Texas.
    I am pretty certain they are rat snakes. I am just befunkeld at why on earth they are killing my hens. The only thing I can think of is that the first time they were roosting low to the ground and the next time they were on the ground sound asleep. My neighbor had a rat snake do the same thing in her coop.
    I am pretty positive they were sound asleep when attacked because I had already checked on them and they were out cold and they looked so adorable all snuggled up.
    There is a reason for this but I don't know how to fix it or change it. Our coop is open... it has been for years. We then have a nesting pen that is completely snake proof inside the coop that we keep moms and chicks in and let out when the chicks are teenage size.
    I wish I knew when a snake wouldn't try to kill them... or will it always do that if they sleep low to the ground? And why is it doing it? I remember years ago having an old sick hen who began sleeping on the ground and we found a snake coiled up around her one morning. But I figured somehow the snake knew she was sick and it was a mercy kill... crazy I know but its just what I told myself....animals and critters have been known to look out for each other ... anyways... never ever had a snake do that again until now so I guess I just wanted to know if anyone knew if this would continue to happen as long as the chickens slept low to the ground. For some reason they don't seem to have any interest in flying up into the rafters.
     
  9. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've never had a snake kill my chickens but here's one that ate a fake egg. I have heard that snakes will strangle chickens. I won't tolerate anything harming my livestock. I have to much invested not just money but hard work. It takes forever to get an egg .[​IMG]
     
  10. silkeysandra

    silkeysandra Chillin' With My Peeps

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    that is just so odd about your snake and chickens. I also am in Texas--Grand Prairie--and have had snakes of various breeds around the hens, but they have seemed more interested in the various lizards we have than the eggs or the hens. If the snake is only working at night for the chickens, then I would encourage them to roost higher, although my rat snakes will get as high as above my patio door. Just go in when they are drowsy and pick them up and set them higher in the roosting area. may help. I have used moth balls to ward off snakes and I guess it worked as I have not found another snake in the chicken pen outside or the coop inside. couldn't hurt. I put them in cardboard boxes wit holes in the sides so the hens couldn't peck them.
     
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