There is a species of snakes, rat snakes that hang around chicken coops and this is why they are called chicken snakes. These snakes feed of rats and mice, but when there is a food shortage, they look for something else to eat, like eggs and poultry.
Rat snakes are non-venomous and usually non-aggressive that some people keep them as pets. They are widely spread across North America and may be found throughout the United States. When it comes to appearance, rat snakes come in different shades like a red, brown, yellow rat snake, black rat snake, or gray.
If you are worried that you might have some venomous snakes in your coop or worried if they will feed on the eggs, this article will give you some insights on how to deal with that. It highlights what these snakes eat, how to know you have some in your coop, and how to keep your coop free from snakes.
What Do They Eat?
As mentioned, these snakes mainly feed on rats, mice, and other rodents around chicken coops. Vermin is common around coops as they find a ready supply of food from the food remains and the droppings. Infestation attracts rat snakes, especially if you live in an area where snakes are common like North America or in general the United States.
Once the snakes exhaust their food supply (rats and mice), they find alternative food options. In this case, they invade your coop and start eating chicken eggs and sometimes the chicken too. The snakes eat the eggs or chicks whole by unhinging the jaws.
After eating, the belly swells up, and the rat snake may not slip back to the outside. On this note, you may find one coiled up in the corner of your coop. If you do not find one soon, it will slip out and might not come back until it needs to feed again; usually after four to five days.
Signs That You Have Snakes in Your Coop
Tracking to see if you have a rat snake in your coop can be challenging and time-consuming. One, they will only stick around in the coop for a day, and if you miss them during this time, you might not find them again. These snakes can also stay up to 5 days without needing to eat again, so finding one in action is seemingly impossible.
But, there are a few signs that you could be having a ratsnake around your coop.
If you have had a consistent supply of eggs from your chicken, then a few missing eggs might indicate a rat snake. You might want to track how many eggs you collect on average daily to keep track of how many you miss each day. If you notice a significant decline in the number, you might want to check around the coop for rat snakes.
However, it is essential to note a reduction in the number of eggs could be due to other factors such as the onset of a new season such as fall or winter. With this in mind, you can assess the situation and ascertain if snakes are the problem.
After eating eggs, snakes regurgitate compressed eggshells. Usually, they are free of yolk and appear rolled lengthwise in a cigar shape. If you find these inside or around your coop, it could mean a rat snake is in the zone.
Snakes naturally shed their skin after a while. If you find some translucent, dry, and scaly snakeskin in your yard, it could be a sign some snakes have been around for a while. And, in most cases, if there is skin in your yard, it shows snakes have been there for a while.
If you notice a member of your flock has a wet head, it could mean a rat snake was trying to eat it but gave up. You might want to act quickly as this could mean the rat snake is still in the vicinity.
Are Snakes Around Your Coop Helpful or Harmful?
The answer to this goes both ways. Rat snakes could be beneficial around your coop; however, they could cause alarm when they invade the coop. How? If you notice snakes around the coop, it is a sign you have vermin most likely eating your chicken feed. Although non-venomous, these can be destructive, and some like weasels can be dangerous as they attack and kill chickens.
Also, vermin in your chicken coop could increase the risks of diseases. They are known for spreading infections, and this can be detrimental. Having snakes around to eat vermin can help protect your coop and, ultimately, your chickens’ health.
As much as these snakes eat eggs after exhausting their vermin supply, they can help control pests. You need to keep track of the coop environment to prevent the snakes from attacking the chickens.
How to Keep Your Coop Free From Rat Snakes
The first thing is identifying areas that rat snakes may gain access to your coop. Block those openings to ensure snakes stay out of the coop and nesting boxes. If you have regular chicken wire around, replace that with a smaller one to minimize the size of the holes that snakes would otherwise fit.
Also, check door gaps and use weather stripping or door molding to close large openings. Aim to leave spaces that are ¼ inch or less. Rat snakes can fit in small openings, so you want to make sure the coop is customized to block access.
A more long term solution is keeping your coop free from vermin that attract snakes in the first place. Store chicken feeds in rodent-proof containers and keep the area clean at all times. Also, ensure the areas around the coop are clear and free from hiding places.
The Bottom Line
Chicken snakes can be destructive and might result in losses in eggs and chicks when they access the coop. The good thing is that they feed on vermin helping with pest control. But, since controlling what they eat can be challenging, it is advisable to keep them away from your coop. The tips above are helpful; hopefully, you enhance the safety of your chickens.