Saturday, April 12, 2008

Warning, Snake Photo

I figured I should give fair warning to those that might not think snakes are cool.  

I took this photo last summer.  The local rat snakes and I went round and round about who the eggs actually belonged to.  I say they are mine, since I'm feeding the chickens and cleaning up after them.  The snakes say they are theirs since they keep the mice and rats out of the surrounding pasture and chicken coop.  We both have a legitimate claim to the eggs. Lawyers were about to be called in.  The hens could care less, they just want the snakes to work a little faster at swallowing so they can get in to lay the next egg.  I believe that the snakes took far more eggs than they let on.  I just thought egg production was down because the hens were getting older.  Poor girls, I threatened them with the stew pot all summer and it wasn't even their fault.  They were about to call in lawyers of their own for terroristic threats.

All kidding aside.  I removed five, yes five, different snakes from the nest box last summer.  I know they were different because I drove them far, far away before I released them.  We had an amazing (and drought breaking) amount of rain last spring and summer.  Everything flourished, including rats and mice.  There was enough food to go around I guess, because the snakes flourished too.  I'd image they found my nest box by accident and then all bets were off.  If I were a snake, it would go like this: "Do I spend my time stalking and catching mice who run away from me, or do I wander over to this nice box and eat eggs--who don't run away.?" Seems like an easy decision, even for a snake.

If you've gotten this far in my post, you'll understand that I consider snakes a fairly good thing to have around and don't follow the "kill first, ask questions later" mindset of some.  Snakes are so helpful to have around and are more afraid of us than we could ever be of them.  The only one I've killed since we moved here was a coral snake.  Animals and children can't be counted on to leave such a pretty snake alone.  

We haven't had the rains this year, so maybe I won't be in a legal battle with rat snakes again. It's just so disconcerting to stick your hand in a nest box after dark and feel egg, egg, egg, snake, egg.  Screaming in the dark scares the chickens.  Maybe I should have a lawyer on retainer just in case?


  1. I don't know why, but that just makes me mad! Don't eat MY eggs Mr. Snake.

    I had a good laugh at your humorous writing, though, and what you said makes so much sense in that snakes don't realize that those eggs aren't their just for them. What an easy meal...mice can not only run away, but they bite back (which is why people feed frozen/thawed mice to their snakes.

    I have a question, though. Is your henhouse/nestbox off the ground, or not?
    I'm hoping that because our nestboxes and house are above the ground that snakes won't bother or even realize they can slither up the ramp into the fresh egg grocery.

    I don't have any problems with non-venomous snakes, but if we find a rattlesnake on our land, it will meet a quick demise. We just can't take that chance with the kids and critters around here.

  2. The coop is not off the ground, although the nest box is. Rat snakes are excellent climbers. I've seen one 20ft up in a tree being harassed by songbirds.

    We have rattlers around here, I've just never seen one. Like you, I'd have to kill the venomous ones. Animals and kids can't tell the venomous ones from the non-venomous ones.

  3. You picked them up? As in you got THAT close? And you had them in a moving vehicle where you couldn't get away quickly? Ohhhhhhh you are such a stronger woman than me! If an 18" garter snake startles me I scream like a little girl, jump three feet and swear. You're my hero!

  4. There's a trick to picking up 3 foot long snakes. First, have a stick with a nice forked end and a bucket with a lid. Often, if I pick them up by the tail end, I can just swing them toward the bucket and they'll go right in. Sometimes it requires that I pin their heads against the ground with the forked stick. I then grab them behind the head "Steve Irwin style" and just pick them up. Rat snakes aren't particularly aggressive. They are usually in complete compliance with the moving.

    It's funny you mentioned screaming. In my post I mention gathering eggs after dark (with no flashlight). I won't do that again. Geez, who would guess there'd be a snake in there after dark?

  5. Your reply to SeasonsEatings just made my skin crawl.

    If I ever have to explore the Temple of Doom or anywhere snake infested...I'm taking you with me. You are one brave and fearless chick.

    Now off to bed I go to have nightmares filled with writhing, tree-climbing, egg eating snakes.

    (ps, my word verification here was "Farhmton". Like a town filled with farms)