The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: snakes

A Predator Problem We Don’t Have In The South

I’ve mentioned previously that we work with Bible missionaries stationed in Sierra Leone, West Africa. We received these photos this afternoon. They were taken last night when they found this five foot long cobra in their chicken coop.

cobra-DSC_8110cropped
cobra-DSC_8112cropped

As much as I don’t like having to deal with raccoons and possums and the occasional fox, I’ll take them any day over having to deal with cobras.

Here is what happened in the words of Mrs. Laura Holt, who took these photos:

Last night around 9:00, Stephen and I were enjoying the cool evening air on the veranda when I heard a ripple of distress pass through the chickens. I know the voice of my flock and was certain I knew what the problem was. Stephen and I grabbed flash lights and sure enough, there it was – a five-foot cobra! In recent months we have lost 4 hens to snake bites so we didn’t want to let this one get away.

While I ran to get two shovels, a machete and the camera, Stephen was able to keep the beast fairly well corralled with the flash light – they hate light so he kept it going in circles by strategically shining the beam of light in its eyes. At one point it tried to climb a tree just outside the poultry yard but with no branches low enough it was unsuccessful though it did reach a height of about 5 feet. It finally curled into a tight ball at the base of the tree.

While holding the flash light in his mouth Stephen dealt a hard blow to the back of the beast with the shovel. Despite its serious wound it still had strength enough to climb the gate to the chicken yard all the while spitting venom and emitting a low but evil sounding hiss and a growl-like sound; very creepy. Stephen then pinned it to the gate with the two shovels but it managed to slip out and went to the ground. With the snake thus weakened he then took the machete and severed its head.

All the while Mercy was a valiant assistant. At one point he did bite the snake though we tried to keep him back as best we could. But his maneuvers were a helpful distraction to the snake so Stephen was able to get a very clear shot at the base of the head. Mercy hates snakes and has a natural sense that they need to die. He has killed a few but they were not poisonous. He even has a special bark he uses only when a snake is present and I always take that alert seriously. I dread the day when he tries to face one of these deadly foes on his own. When I was doing my morning chores today I found one hen who had fallen victim to the snake.

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.