Monday, May 21, 2012

(DF) SNAKE!!!!!: an unwelcome guest in the hen nest

Before I get started, let me make it very clear that I do not really dislike snakes (at least in their own habitat).  I would also like to say that I am not an advocate for killing any creature (and yes that includes snakes, bugs and poison ivy) without a really good reason.  Considerations of scary or annoying or even dangerous don't qualify in my mind as good reasons.  For me personally, and each of us has the right and obligation to make such decisions for themselves, what qualifies as good reasons are few.  They include the need for food, an immediate threat to oneself or others, with others including not only other humans but any creature one is responsible for the survival of, such as domestic animals and pets that we have agreed to care for.  Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be a full essay, so now to what I was really saying.

Recently, I have noticed that the daily egg count has been less than stable.  Some days there will be six or seven and other days one or none at all, sometimes for a couple of days in a row.  With no sign of broken eggs or other evidence, my obvious suspicion was a snake.  My suspicions were right, and Sunday afternoon I surprised a large black rat snake (commonly known in this area as a chicken snake) in the hen nest, with bulges to show two eggs already swallowed and another on the way.  The nests have doors that open into the blacksmith shop so I don't have to open the chicken pen to gather eggs, making the variety of implements for dispatching the intruder somewhat considerable.  In seconds, the snake was dead and laying beside the path, still dripping egg from its mouth.

As I have already stated, there has to be a good reason for me to kill anything, and to kill one of these non-poisonous snakes is a particularly shameful loss around the farm.  Normally, their main food source is rats and mice, which everyone wants to keep under control for obvious reasons.  However, once they get started eating eggs, they don't stop.  And why should they?   Snakes aren't stupid and an egg is a wonderful source of protein, with the added benefit that it does not try to run away or put up a fight.  This is where the reason for killing the snake comes in.  Eggs are the reason for having the chickens in the first place and a threat to someone's food is a potential threat to that person because it takes away that nutrition.  As an added factor, if there are chicks present, they are just another snack to the hungry snake, and a large one like this particular individual of about five feet long can kill a full grown hen.

Yes, the good reason was really there, but such a total waste of a misguided predator.  Or was it a total waste?  I remember quite well how much my grandmother loved her chickens and how much she hated anything that was a threat to them.  She hated snakes in particular and would kill everyone she saw, no matter what kind.  She also believed it was a terrible sin to waste anything, even a dead snake.  To keep this sinful waste from happening, she would bury any snake she killed (or anything else that invaded her chicken house for that matter) in the garden.  Partly as a result of this practice, her garden soil was very rich and productive.  With that in mind, the snake in question is now in the compost pile under manure and bedding from the goat stall, where it will enrich the soil for next year's garden.  And egg production should be a bit more stable, at least until that blasted squirrel finds a way to get in the chicken pen, but that is another story.


  1. Forget the snake. Your hens and eggs are precious. I'm okay with snakes too, but not when they interfere with livestock. Had one ( grass snake) in my basement all winter three years ago. I could hide anything down there as the girls wouldn't go down, such fears of 'the snake'. I grew up with all brothers. Overcame the fear of them pretty quickly!

  2. LOL, simplicity! That was a great idea and a great use of a snake!

    I don't care much for ANY snake, but those black ones I have always thought were beautiful (I know, kind of weird.) Bubba and Dusty killed one for me last week... it was striped and I was told that it, too, was a rat snake. They played with it, kept bringing it to me as a 'present' and nibbled on it all day until it was gone. My snakes never make it to the compost heap. First, while it still has a little movement, the cats play with it. Then, my roosters, and sometimes hens, usually end up eating it. It is fun to watch them play tug of war over it!

    Wise choice, Dave. We certainly need those eggs!

  3. Thanks for the comment, simplicity. I love the story about the snake in the basement. Sounds like it may as well have been a dragon. In the past, when I have had lots of mice, I have at times turned a small rat snake loose the house to help balance the population. It is amazing how quickly the mice take the hint and depart.

    As for snakes, or anything else, interfering with livestock, well, that just can't be allowed.

  4. Sorry they don't make it to the compost pile, Anna. But it sounds like they don't go to waste. Cheap entertainment, pet toys and chicken feed are all good uses. Of course, lets not forget that if they are eaten by the chickens, they still end up in the compost.

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