Will rattlesnakes eat eggs?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Ariel301, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    I think I may have a snake issue. I have noticed lately that my two hens in the flock that are currently laying--who have both laid daily without fail for months--seem to have slowed down, then stopped altogether. Or so I thought at first. Then I realized it was awfully strange that they would always skip the same day. It would be either both eggs or no eggs. Hmm. So I blamed the goats that currently have to live with them until we can get them butchered. So we blocked up the coop to keep goats from going in. The chickens go in and out as they please, the goats cannot. And...no eggs at all now for several days!

    About two weeks ago one goat in the pen was found dead in one of my nest boxes (small goat, big boxes, so he would sleep in there at night) curled up like he'd gone to sleep and just never woke. I could not find anything obviously wrong. Earlier this week, two Silkies were dead in the coop for no obvious reason. The only snake we have here that will kill animals like that is a rattlesnake, and that seems the most likely explanation for the deaths. Two neighbors have lost animals to confirmed snakebites in the last few weeks too. So, would the rattler be eating eggs too, or am I possibly dealing with two pests here? Currently my nest boxes are on the ground, tomorrow I will move them up off the ground to try preventing snakes from getting in so easily.
     
  2. Thamnophis

    Thamnophis Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 29, 2009
    Ariel,

    Rattlesnakes don't eat eggs as far as I know.

    But more important, you didn't provide any reason to suspect snakes. A goat bit by a rattlesnake would not lay down and die as if it died in its sleep. There would be a wound, swelling, discoloration, etc

    Sounds like snakes are not part of your problem - at least till you see some evidence.
     
  3. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    The animals killed are 99% certain snakebite victims. That's not the issue in question here. I had them looked at to confirm it, and with a very small animal, they often die so quickly they don't show symptoms. They get bitten, feel bad, lay down to sleep it off, and that's the end.

    I've never heard of a rattlesnake eating eggs, but I know some snakes do eat eggs. It just seems weird that we'd have two separate snake-related issues at the same time in the same spot, so I wondered if it was the same snake. I guess the egg-stealer might also be a packrat, we have an abundance of them here. What would be a good way to deter snake or rat? I can't set a rat trap, or put out poison, obviously, without killing my chickens. I am certain it is not the chickens eating the eggs, when I have had them do that in the past, they at least would leave some evidence that there had been an egg. These are just gone. (It can't be a human predator, we don't live near anyone else and the goats would make so much noise we would know someone was there)
     
  4. Thamnophis

    Thamnophis Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 29, 2009
    Could the heat be killing them? I wonder too if heat would cause the chickens to lay less?

    You have Mojave rattlesnakes in your area, as well as other species. Mojaves have a relatively high neurotoxic component (attacks the nervous system) to their venom which means they might produce fewer physical symptoms when they bite. Their venom tends to suppress the respiratory system (and others). Most rattlesnakes have primarily hemotoxic venom which attacks the circulatory system. So "normal" rattlesnake venom breaks down blood vessels, etc producing lots of ugly hemorrhaging and swelling.

    I'm not an expert in this so don't quote me, but its worth asking a local vet well versed in snakebite about it. Arizona has a toxicology department at the state level (I recall). They might be helpful in identifying snake bites.
     
  5. ruby

    ruby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Gold Hill, Alabama
    When you make your new nest off the ground put some plastic eggs in it. I have have lots of snake problems. Guineas got rid of mine. But I did have a large poisonous water moccasin eat a plastic egg. The fake eggs will also help your chickens want lay there. Be careful!
     
  6. TanithT

    TanithT Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 13, 2010
    Raleigh, NC
    Quote:Uh.....this is not a snake M.O. by any stretch of the imagination. Nor will rattlesnakes eat eggs. They aren't physically built for it, nor do they seek such food, and most likely ingesting an egg would kill a rattlesnake if it was unable to regurgitate. They completely lack the supporting musculature colubrids have that do allow them to crush and digest an egg. Rattlesnakes are also not big bird eaters, and are far more interested in rodents, though some specially adapted species prefer lizards. If you're seeing rattlesnakes around your coop, they want the rodents that are eating the feed. They do not want the birds and will pass up even a plump fuzzy little chick to pursue a mouse or a rat.

    Rattlesnakes will not want anything to do with the adult birds whatsoever and will probably give them a wide berth. A decent sized adult rooster could very easily kill a young rattlesnake, and put a serious hurting on an older one, and they know it. Their strikes are not very effective against feathers or scaly hard leg skin. Some bird species (specifically the desert "roadrunner" types and some kinds of jungle fowl) prey heavily on snakes including venomous species, and the snakes are basically helpless against them. Feathers are a surprisingly good armor against the way rattlesnakes strike, and their legs are very nearly immune to venomous snake bite.

    Colubrids are properly equipped for bird and egg eating and it's possible you have a culprit there, but there is no North American colubrid that can kill or even mildly annoy a goat. It would be the other way round, pretty much instantly, if the goat decided to pick a fight. Also, the carnage is pretty unmistakable if they kill but fail to succeed in eating an adult bird as they occasionally do. You might not recognize the marks, but you'd be describing something very different from "not a mark on them".


    About two weeks ago one goat in the pen was found dead in one of my nest boxes (small goat, big boxes, so he would sleep in there at night) curled up like he'd gone to sleep and just never woke. I could not find anything obviously wrong. Earlier this week, two Silkies were dead in the coop for no obvious reason. The only snake we have here that will kill animals like that is a rattlesnake, and that seems the most likely explanation for the deaths. Two neighbors have lost animals to confirmed snakebites in the last few weeks too. So, would the rattler be eating eggs too, or am I possibly dealing with two pests here? Currently my nest boxes are on the ground, tomorrow I will move them up off the ground to try preventing snakes from getting in so easily.

    This is not a snake M.O. either. Tell me exactly where you live and I'll narrow down the species in the area, but if you're in North America you are very, VERY unlikely to see animals mysteriously dead without an apparent mark on them from snakebite. There should be significant swelling and local necrosis, and it takes quite a long time for this to be fatal, especially in hoofstock which are markedly resistant.

    EDIT: Apparently you're in one of the few localities where there are significantly neurotoxic vipers, so it's not impossible, just unlikely. Same story on Crotalus scutulatus not being interested in birds or eggs however. I've worked with this species pretty extensively in the wild and in captivity for venom research and antivenom production. With a "scut" bite in some localities, the ones that have the Type A venom, you might see minimal local symptoms prior to death, but swelling still occurs almost immediately even with the 35 percenters, the high end neurotoxic Type A venom producers that we want most for venom extraction. That venom is still pretty hard on tissue as it contains cytotoxic components, and you will definitely see its effects in the majority of bite cases to animals bitten in an extremity. An intracoelomic bite such as may be delivered to a much smaller animal (a rat for instance) would reliably kill without producing local symptoms, but it is not physically possible for a medium-small rattlesnake species to get an IcE delivery on something the size of a goat. They'd have a hard time doing it with something even as big as a rabbit due to the physical mechanics.

    One thing you can do if you suspect your chicken was killed by a rattlesnake is to pluck it and observe the corpse for a day or two. In the fridge is fine. You should see postmortem discoloration developing due to venom in the tissues. A veterinarian should also be able to readily observe on necropsy whether there was any bolus of venom delivered into any of the animal's tissues. It does cause significant disruption in tissue.​
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010
  7. MMPoultryFarms

    MMPoultryFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 21, 2010
    Okarche Oklahoma
    Fact of the matter is yes in some cases rattle snakes can and will eat eggs. There is alot of information on the web pertaining to rattlesnakes heres a link on an E-book I really like about them (one of my hobbys is to hunt rattlers here in our gypsum hills) http://books.google.com/books?id=k6NPFxaA-NAC&pg=PA124&lpg=PA124&dq=can+rattlesnakes+eat+chicken+eggs%3F&source=bl&ots=tqoVk7UH1z&sig=W23TAZROGFU2D_btTwhFASj_Gfk&hl=en&ei=ZW9YTLyhIc-XcZv92dwI&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I
    hope this information helps you to better understand rattlers and what you might be dealing with Good luck to you.
     
  8. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Jacksonville, Florida
    I have a friend that was bit on his ring finger by a Pygmy rattlesnake many years ago. Luckily he didnt have his wedding band on at that time, he was weeding out his flowerbed when it struck. Fortunately our local hospital had anti venin on hand and after 7 days he was released. Pygmy rattlers are only 6-8 inches long fully grown and rarely have rattles around here, if they do, they're so tiny you cant hear them. Pygmies are very high strung rattlers and will strike quickly and often delivering a powerful full dose of venom. It is possible for a small rattlesnake to deliver a potent amount of venom...enough to kill a human, certainly enough to kill a goat and/or rabbit.
     
  9. TanithT

    TanithT Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 13, 2010
    Raleigh, NC
    Quote:Tee-tiny songbird eggs they may have a hope of crushing and digesting, or passing intact, though tree climbing rattlesnakes would be an extreme rarity and limited to very young, light bodied and agile animals. The rattlesnake that ate the hen's egg very well might not have survived the experience. They have absolutely no functional mechanism for breaking and compacting that shell.

    Any colubrid can wrap around your wrist or a tree limb and support its own weight with its constricting grip. A rattlesnake cannot do this. They lack the supporting musculature. They cannot internally crush eggs either. Their muscle weakness in this respect is really pretty profound, and while it makes them easier to handle, it also means that egg eating is a seriously dysfunctional behavior for them, health wise. [​IMG]
     
  10. Nuclear Chickens

    Nuclear Chickens Bird Mechanic

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    Tonopah, Arizona
    Simple answer for how to rid the coop of snakes is go to LOWES and get a bag of "SNAKE AWAY" (about 10 bucks). Specially formulated for rattle snakes. Pour a barrier line around the Coop and Run. Be carful to not put it in areas where the chickens forrage. Also be sure the snake does not live under the coop because Snake Away will also keep the snake traped in side. I too live in Arizona and found two diamondbacks (one was over 5 feet long) on my patio. Since then no more snakes on the porch. [​IMG]
     

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