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Snakes Kill Chickens!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by scrappychick11, Jul 29, 2010.

  1. scrappychick11

    scrappychick11 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 10, 2010
    Manassas, VA
    Hi all,

    Just wanted to write about an experience I had about a week ago because I noticed some posts where people were writing that snakes do not bother chickens, except for baby chicks and eggs. I used to think the same thing until I heard one of my 7 week old hens (a Rhode Island Red) screaming at 7 am one morning. I looked out the window and saw her down and struggling. Given that this is my first flock of chickens, I thought she might be having a seizure, and I ran out to check on her, not sure what I would do when I got to her. As I got closer, I realized that she was being strangled by a snake.

    Folks, this snake was not a huge bull snake, rattlesnake, or python. It was just a 3 foot long nonpoisonous rat snake and about an inch and a half in diameter. There was no way in hell he would ever be able to eat my chicken. That did not stop him from killing her, though. In fact, my neighbor believes it was the same snake he caught in his pigeon coop a few days earlier. The snake had swallowed a wooden egg and strangled one of the pigeons. My neighbor actually coaxed the wooden egg back out of the snake so it wouldn't die. In hindsight, it obviously should have been killed, but neither of us ever thought that such a small snake would go after even bigger prey than his pigeon. And, we both believed that having the occasional snake around and losing an egg every once in awhile was a fair price to pay for good rodent patrol.

    I was heartbroken to lose a chicken I had raised from 2 days old, and I am sure I will be forever haunted by the sound of Addie (my chicken) screaming and the sight of her being strangled before my eyes. I am not sure that I could have saved her had I tried to remove the snake, but I wasn't sure that I would be able to get the snake off of her without doing more damage and that I wouldn't get bitten in the process. Her death was remarkably quick, but I sincerely wish I had known what the right thing to have done was. I am unfortunately handicapped by a paralyzing fear of snakes that I know is not rational. It was all I could do to get into the chicken run and get my other 4 chickens locked in the coop. They were understandably terrified, and I'm sure my hysteria wasn't comforting.

    My chickens are housed in a 4 x 6 A-frame coop which sits inside a 10 x 10 chain link dog kennel. I'm sure the snake was easily able to slither through the holes in the chain link, but it honestly never occurred to me that I would need to snake-proof my chicken run. Mostly, I was worried about a fox and wanted sturdy chain link to withstand a determined predator. Of course, my husband and I immediately wrapped hard plastic mesh with half inch holes around the whole chicken run and laid an apron on the ground too. The top was already covered with a similar material to keep out hawks and owls. The problem with our solution is that a squirrel who had obviously become accustomed to eating chicken feed promptly chewed through double layers of the mesh at ground level in multiple places, leaving perfectly sized holes for snakes to get in. At this point, I'm thinking of starting completely over with the run and building it from scratch using lumber and hardware cloth with the possibility of electric wire, too.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know about my experience so that they don't become complacent about the presence of snakes around chickens. My experience may be rare, but it was devastating, and it has forever changed my outlook about the costs and benefits of having a snake around.
     
    3 people like this.
  2. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    So sorry about your hen and your fear of snakes. I have an irrational fear of snakes...in the water! Goes back to an incident when I was a kid, got trapped on a rock in the water surrounded by snakes! My big brother saved me, but not before I was terrified and hysterical. I can have a snake in my own hand...and if I was to release it into water, I would be afraid! How weird is that? On land, I am fine. I rehomed a looong black snake (over 5'3" long) a few years ago out of our yard. I will be on the lookout for more and will swiftly take care of the problem if I catch it messing with my chickens. You need to keep a sharp hoe ready!
     
  3. newbie coops

    newbie coops Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 20, 2008
    Northern New England
    How terrible for you! There are just some things you can't be sure of, and one of them is the safety of your livestock chickens (or pet chickens) with so many predators lying in patient wait. It's all part of the cycle of life and we're all part of the food chain and unfortunately, there are some in wildlife that are just like people...they kill gratuitously and waste what they've harvested. It's unfortunate you couldn't grab the snake if you recognized it as one not harmful toward humans but golly, in the heat of an emotional situation the best thing to do is not endanger yourself. Thanks for the warning.
     
  4. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    May 11, 2010
    They sure can! But I'm surprised the snake attacked such lively prey. Egg are much easier to subdue and digest. Either the snake was lazy or there are slim pickings in your neck of the woods.
     
  5. EggHunter_66

    EggHunter_66 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 4, 2008
    Box Springs,Georgia
    Last summer I let my duck sit on her eggs, i thought I would let her hatch out one batch. One evening we found a huge rat snake eating her eggs and the duck even went after the snake to protect her eggs and she got bite. She was okay, and out of 8+ eggs 4 were left. At the time we didnt know what kind of snake it was because her nest was in a thick row of bushes and it wasnt until my husband got his shotgun and killed it then we realized it was a rat snake which is good for keeping around BUT then again it would come back to feed again. The next day....the four eggs hatched!
    Then this past May I finally got myself some turkeys and Guineas....they were just babies and I was so excitted. I put them in a sectioned off area in our coop where new babies go...NEVER had a propblem with anything going in there, two weeks later I went out one morning to find two dead turkeys w/snake bites and the rest gone...which was a third turkey and 5 Guineas. I was so sad and ticked off at the same time. We searched high and low for that snake because it couldnt of gone to far but no sign of it!
    I was lucky that the person I got the birds from replaced my flock at no charge, which I thought was the nicest thing! Your awesome girl and you know who you are...lol..... [​IMG]
     
  6. scrappychick11

    scrappychick11 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 10, 2010
    Manassas, VA
    Quote:I'm sure you're right about the slim pickings. I live in Virginia, and we've had incredible heat for months and a bit of a dry spell earlier this month, which may have reduced the prey that the snake would normally go after. While I'm upset about losing my chicken, I can feel some sympathy for a hungry snake. When I'm hungry, I tend not to behave rationally either!
     
  7. city kid farm

    city kid farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 17, 2010
    Massachusetts
    Quote:Very true, but still, not all snakes are after the flock. Some of us who appreciate the slithery creatures among us just urge a little caution before killing the snake that might be unfortunate enough to be spotted near the coop. Most snakes, unless VERY hungry, will not go after something too big to eat and none kill for fun. Even a lazy snake will not go after a hen that is too large to wrestle down and swallow with some ease.
     
  8. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    May 11, 2010
    Maybe I should have said 'ambitious' snake.
     
  9. city kid farm

    city kid farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 17, 2010
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    Quote:[​IMG]:lau:lau
     
  10. MyBlackHen

    MyBlackHen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 26, 2010
    Upstate New York
    Quote:So sorry about Addie and thanks for the heads-up for the rest of us.
    [​IMG]
     

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