The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Chicken Snakes

Chicken snakes always seem to eventually show up when you have chickens. I usually like having them around since they are also known as rat snakes for a good reason. The trick is to gather the eggs regularly so they feed on rats and not on your eggs. If they get an egg or two every now and then, that’s OK with me. It’s part of the entertainment value of having chickens.

These were taken several years ago in my first chicken coop.

Once the snake has found the eggs, nothing seems to disturb his meal. I set up a camera and tripod and took a whole series of photos, and he completely ignored me. The process actually takes quite a while. Smaller snakes will circle the egg and then use their body to push against to force the egg into his mouth; larger snakes simply grab it and swallow. The egg eventually works its way down several inches until suddenly it breaks. You can actually hear the egg breaking as the lump flattens out. A bit creepy, perhaps, but fascinating nevertheless.

The white “egg” in the photos is plastic. Snakes are never fooled.

3 Comments

  1. John Yelvington

    April 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

    “Snakes are never fooled.” This makes me think of the Lord telling us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

  2. Stanley Sprouse

    May 13, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Today we lost a hen and her eggs as well as a white golf ball to a 5 1/2 ft. chicken snake. He was in trouble after he swallowed the golf ball, he could not get out through the biddy wire. I killed him, we have seventeen bantam chicks and two grown bantams. What have you come up with to keep the snakes away. We had sulfur and moth balls around our pen on the outside and the snake just ignored it all. I really would appreciate your reply. We do not have a website only the email address above. We can share pictures of the snake and our set up for our chickens if you would like. Thanks! Stansels Egg & Brood Haus, Greenwood, South Carolina

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      Frankly, I haven’t come up with any way to keep them out other than just killing them. I have a friend near here who would catch them and release them far from his place. Eventually they would find their way back over there (he noted some scars or other markings on the snake that he moved, so he knows it was the same one).

      Fortunately, we haven’t had a problem with them recently (as far as I know, anyway). I’m surprised that they swallowed the golf ball. I had always heard that they could tell that it wasn’t a real egg. The only solution I heard to that is to “blow” an egg and then carefully fill it with plaster of paris or some other material. The snake would be fooled by the egg shell, then the “egg” would kill it.

      All the chickens I have now are “Heavy breed” birds, so the snakes don’t try to bother them. On the other hand, I have 10 chicks that are about a week old (I really need to post photos!), and they would certainly be a tempting target. Where they are, a snake could easily get to them.

      If you have photos, I’d sure like to post them. if you don’t mind. You can send them as an attachment to stephenmcgehee@gmail.com and I’ll post them (and, of course, include photo credit to you).

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