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?