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Snake In The Coop

>2 August 2012
 
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I almost forgot to tell you guys what happened a few weeks ago.

I had gone outside to the chicken run to do my periodic head count on the baby chicks. I always worry about them when they are so small, and I find myself out at the coop several times a day just to make sure they’re all doing alright.

But this time when I counted the chicks, I kept coming up one short. I looked everywhere, and counted and re-counted. But I was always one short. I knew it was a little black chick that was missing.

So, I went into the coop to see if it might be hanging out in there, and quickly spotted something black in the corner of the nesting boxes. I thought it was my chick, but as I got closer to it I realized it was actually the back end of a black snake, with a lump in its belly the size of my chick!

I was immediately hot with revenge. My poor chick!! Oh yes, this snake must die. And I admit, the question of whether I could still save my chick crossed my mind. Would it have been suffocated before it was swallowed? Or was it eaten alive? Is there a possibility I could rescue it from the stomach of its attacker?

I ran to my husband’s workshop and retrieved his machete. I hoped the snake would still be there by the time I got back to the coop. And he was. Unmoved and contentedly digesting the tiniest of my flock.

Mustering up every ounce of my body weight, I raised the machete over my head and came down on the snake’s body with all my strength. One mighty blow and the snake would be cut in two.

Uh-hem. But it wasn’t exactly so glorious. Instead, the blade simply bounced off, not even nicking the shiny flesh it was meant to sever.

Stupid dull machete.

I tried again, really putting every ounce of strength behind my weapon. Only to have it deflected with little impact once more.

Desperate, I set about whacking at the snake like a maniac, and was finally able to break the tough flesh just enough to make the snake mad. He pulled his head out from behind the nesting boxes (which got my attention enough to pause my attack), and he struck out at me from his ledge.

A bad word almost escaped my gasp as I stumbled backwards and nearly fell out the chicken coop door. Yikes!!

The snake was now on the floor of the coop, just under the roosts, aggravated and injured. Since he was out of my reach now, hiding under the rows of branches that our chickens roost on at night, I called the kids to come and check out what I was doing.

They stood in the doorway of the coop, interested in the intruder and eager to see what I was going to do with it. I gathered a little courage, and inched my way closer to him hoping to provoke the snake out of his hiding place. Closer and closer I moved, not taking my eyes off of his coiled body for a second. He was a big fella, about five feet long.

Yeah, I was a little nervous.

I stood about a foot and a half from him, my machete pointed in his direction, my eyes locked on his. I was mustering the nerves to try to whack him again. This snake had to die!! When from behind me came the voice of my eight year old, Jada, stating in her book smart matter-of-fact way,

“A snake’s striking distance is the length of its body.”

I was out the coop door before the last of her statement finished passing through her lips.

“Really?” I asked her, shocked at this new information.

“Yep!” she nodded confidently.

Okay. Plan B.

I left the snake where he was and went inside to call my husband at work. “Um, Jerry… can I shoot the snake in the chicken coop?” You know. From a distance.

“What are you going to shoot him with?” my husband asked. “Your shotgun?”

“Can I use that?!” I asked hopefully. Just say the word.

“You’ll blow a hole in the floor of the coop!” he laughed. He suggested I use his pellet gun. But I don’t know how to use the pellet gun, so I decided I’d just let him handle it when he got home.

Later that day, Jerry made short work of the snake. He strutted right into the coop, and that was that. I was grateful, but slightly annoyed that I couldn’t have been as quick and effective. Before Jerry had killed it, the snake had regurgitated my poor baby chick on the floor in front of him. My poor chick, in its whole form, laying wet and dead. Such a waste.

Dumb snake.

I thought chickens pecked snakes?

Anyways, that was that. I still crack up at Jada’s little voice stating snake facts as if reading straight from an encyclopedia. She might have just saved me from a painful learning experience!

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27 Comments »

  • Debbie Chamlee said:

    That is crazy! I am so scared of snakes! I won’t go in the chicken house by my self. It’s funny that your hubby said you would shoot a hole in the floor. In the house we used to live in my husband found a snake in the rafters of the shop building & he shot a hole in the side of the building. Last summer we found a big black snake in the chicken house. He tried to get it but couldn’t so he shot at it & now there is a hole in the corner. This summer we found a snake in the chicken coop but it wasn’t in a good place where we could get at it. That one got away! I think I would rather have a hole in the wall than the snake! :) We put moth balls all round our chicken house. It seems to help. Sorry you lost your chick!

  • Meg said:

    I will tell you, you are one brave woman! Geeze Louise, there is no way I would go NEAR the snake (even though I am extremely protective of the 16 chicks that hatched 2 1/2 weeks ago). Eek! Nice job hitting the snake, though uneffective. :-) GIRL POWER!

  • Chantel said:

    I would have just moved him into a lidded bucket with the rake or ho and relocated him or her. We do this about twice a year when the black snakes find our eggs. We like having them on the property because they keep the vermin population down, we just don’t want them into our eggs or our chicks so once they find the chicken house, we have to move them quite a distance so they won’t find their way back. Had to do this with a possum that got into the chicken house and took some of our chicks/young chickens a couple months ago too.

  • Lea said:

    ….you are my new hero…. I had to shudder just looking at the pictures!!!

  • Becky said:

    You are so crazy!!! I can’t believe you hacked at that thing and then stood within striking distance. Your pictures alone terrified me; there is NO way I could’ve done what you tried to do. Do you have cats? Usually farm cats will keep snakes away.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Becky,

    We do have a cat. Guess she hasn’t learned to keep snakes away yet, lol!

  • Cindy said:

    Oh my gosh! You certainly are brave!
    :D I am so glad there are no snakes in Hawaii!!

  • Christina Heisler said:

    Next on the to-do list, sharpen machete.

  • Jessica said:

    Wow you are brave! I hate snakes, don’t care what kind they are, I like to stay as far away as possible. So sad about your black chick. I thought the same thing as I started reading this, if it could possibly be alive. I’d want that snake dead too.

  • Kimberly in NC said:

    Jada cracks me up! I can just picture her saying that! Hilarious!

  • Susan C. said:

    I’m not sure where you live but every time my man says he wants to move to a warmer state I tell him only if there aren’t any snakes, scorpions, or anything else nasty. uck!

  • LindaG said:

    Your hubby and mine are just the same. My hubby would have gone right in there, too.
    You are braver than me, though. I would not have gone in with anything.

    You should learn to shoot your hubby’s pellet gun.

    And I should learn to shoot my pistol accurately, too.

    *hugs* on the loss of your chick. Hope you figure out how the snake got in to begin with.

    I have read that chickens attack snakes, too, but maybe there is a size limit for them?

  • ashlee said:

    I HATE snakes. Screw the machete, I would have gotten the shotgun first. And I thought that I read a snake’s striking distance was twice its body length…? Either way, it’s a long way. They are literally like a spring when they coil up. HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE them. Heebeeeebees.

  • ramona said:

    HI, just found your blog. We are new to homesteading. Anyway not new to ranching, horses, and snakes. You are one brave (read crazy) woman. A machete?!?! no way! I would have went straight for the shotgun and then DH would just have to fix the hole when he got home!

    Your pictures creeped me out. Then my dog twitched and touched my foot and I almost fell over backwards trying to escape from my desk/chair. My heart is racing still. Ugh, I cant believe you hit that thing more than once! Even once! No thanks. Distance weapons for me. That snake loots huge!

    My DH would also have used the shotgun cause he is not a snake friend. He thought once a cobra was attacking him cause he stepped in a hole and a stick popped up and whacked him in the thigh! He jumped like 8 feet in the air. Kudos to you.

  • Andrea said:

    I was sitting on the edge of my seat while you told this story! Haha! One thing I hate are snakes but I would have thought the same thing about whether or not I could save the chick! Lesson learned: do not attack with a dull machete!! My favorite part was Jada’s statement about striking distance! Hahaha

  • Nikki R said:

    Like mother like daughter. I am always telling my hubby that you are so much braver then I!!!!:) I fear that I would not handle that so well. Glad where we live we see few snakes. :)

  • Shirley said:

    Next time use a hoe they work a lot better. Plus they have a LONG handle. Sorry to hear about the chick.

  • Jackie said:

    Oh my god!!! That story is crazy! I’ve always lived here in Manhattan, NYC so I have never had an experience like that! Where do you live??? I can’t believe snakes that large can be found in America! I guess I’m just a clueless city girl! Well, anyway, you are certainly very brave! Very cool story!

  • Little Wife on the Prairie said:

    I am sitting in my living room completely freaked out! That is the one thing that I can’t handle. Snakes scare me sooooooo bad. You were very brave. Nice to meet you too BTW! Thanks for visiting the prairie. :)

  • Sara said:

    You should get a sharp hoe, long handle and a better swing than a machete. When I was growing up my mom and I would go out to the chicken coop and we ran into black snakes there all the time. Mom kept a hoe around just for the purpose of snake ridding. For quite the girly woman my mom would get in there and take care of it like it wasn’t anything special. I’d be standing outside the door screaming every time it moved. Haha.

  • OregonGirl said:

    I’m soooo glad I don’t live in your neck of the woods. What kind of snake is that anyway?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    OregonGirl,

    Oh, it was just a regular ol’ black snake ;)

  • Dixie said:

    I hate snakes, but some snakes are a necessary evil. These snakes keep the rodent population down. Mice and rats carry diseases that can kill people. In fact, some people have died this year from camping in mountain cabins due to mice feces, which carried diseases. I live in a wooded area where the mice and rats and snakes are abundant.

    If you want to keep snakes out of your chicken coop, buy the wire that you may see which is similar to the wire on some rabbit cages. Most chicken wire has holes big enough for snakes to fit through, but the wire that I am talking about has tiny rectangular holes that most snakes cannot fit through unless they are very tiny snakes.

    I did the same thing that you did; I had the same type of snake living under my house! I killed it, one day, out of fear when I saw it slithering to fit through a hole in the foundation; then within just a few short weeks, my house was filled with mice ! I had never had a mouse problem before that, ever. Never seen one single mouse, no droppings etc. anywhere. I killed that 5 ft. long black snack and now I cannot get rid of the mice in my house. I had seen it all summer and was afraid it could somehow get into my house, so I decided to kill it. I wish now I hadn’t. The mouse problem is so filthy and dirty!

  • Joyce Pierc e said:

    I absolutely loved this story. Yes, I can imagine that you were scared and I would have been,too. I grew up on a farm and we had chicken houses with hundreds of chickens. Black snakes are a particularly common nuisance with chickens, chicks, and eggs. They are not poisonous but they do get BIG!! I HATE them. Yes, they are good for ridding a home of vermin but they are BIG!! A sharp hoe would have been better. I had a cousin-in-law that would grab them by the tail and crack them like a whip. It would disconnect their heads from their bodies. FREAKY!! but efficient.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Joyce- that is SO freaky, lol!

  • Texomamorganlady said:

    We do not kill non-poisonous snakes on our farm, they are too valuable. They and the cats keep the rodent population down. The last huge Gopher snake I found in with my hens was promptly transferred to the hay barn. The farm joke is even the snakes have to work on this place. My hay barn is less that 100 yards away and I haven’t had one come back yet. I also like the thought that when the black and gopher snakes are here eating mice and rats, there are less rattlers attracted. Consider next time giving Mr. snake a break, move him instead, it’s good karma.

  • Mandy said:

    It’s very unfortunate that you killed the snake. As many others have said, they are invaluable for their rodent control – a natural and important part of a healthy ecosystem. I understand that you were acting out of fear but hope you reconsider next time. It was just doing what snakes do and your chick was already dead (they suffocate it before swallowing). In the future, you can move it far away from the coop and then seal your coop better so that predators doing what predators do don’t get tortured to death with a dull machete.

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