Few things are as frightening to chicken keepers as a snake in the chicken coop. These slithering pests will go after both baby chicks and adult chickens, which can stress even the healthiest of flocks. Even though only a small percentage of snakes are venomous, they can still deliver a nasty bite that’ll require treatment.
In today’s blog from Freedom Ranger Hatchery, Inc., we’ll explore why snakes go into chicken coops, whether or not they’ll eat your birds, signs that you may have a snake in your chicken coop, and what you can do to keep your baby chicks safe from these cold-blooded reptiles.
Why Do Snakes Go into Chicken Coops?
Like most animals, snakes require much of the same physiological needs as your birds do. Snakes will enter a coop for the following three reasons:
- Hunger – The snakes are after either the eggs, the chickens, or the rodents that chickens sometimes attract. A chicken coop is an easy meal for them!
- Thirst – Yes, snakes need water as well. Sometimes water dishes on the ground are more comfortable for them to access.
- Shelter – Chicken coops tend to be warm and dry, providing protection or shade from the heat. Snakes love to hide in bedding.
If you’re noticing that the egg production from your chickens suddenly begins to dwindle for no apparent reason, it could be a hungry snake that has been snacking on their eggs or stressing out your birds.
Do Snakes Eat Chickens?
The short answer is yes; snakes do eat full-grown adult chickens.
Most of the time, though, snakes are there for the eggs or baby chicks since they’re easier to digest. Luckily, most snakes are too small to threaten adult chickens, although a bite from a venomous one may be fatal. Now, snakes don’t eat every day, so it may be 4 to 40 days—sometimes even longer—before that slithering scoundrel returns for a refill.
What Are the Signs That You May Have A Snake in the Chicken Coop?
The following are several indicators to keep your eyes peeled for as they are strong hints of an uninvited pest:
- Missing Chicks – One goes missing every few days.
- Fewer Eggs in the Nests – One snake can eat two eggs in a session.
- You Find Regurgitated Egg Shells – Snakes always spit the crushed empty shell back up.
- Dead Chicken with a Wet Head – A sign the snake could not swallow the chicken whole.
- Snake Skins Laying About – A good indicator of sneaky snakes.
Seeing any of the above signs means it’s likely time for you to investigate ways to keep these reptiles out of your roost.
How Do I Prevent Snakes from Slithering Their Way into My Coop?
Snake-Proof Your Chicken Coop
Snake proofing your chicken coop is an important step you can take to make it difficult or nearly impossible for snakes to enter your chicken coop. The following are the main steps you should take:
- Consider Raising the Floor of Your Coop
Snakes usually find their way into coops while chasing after rodents to munch on. Raising the floor of your enclosure—even by a few inches—helps prevent snakes and burrowing animals from gaining access to your coop. Double-check that you’ve sealed the floor and walls so that there are no gaps or other access points.
- Consider Adding an Apron to Your Coop
A coop apron is another excellent option for preventing coop access without requiring a raised floor.
An apron prevents animals from digging into the coop by using fencing or hardware cloth that’s at least half an inch thick. Using staples or screws, connect the material to the bottom outside of your chicken coop. Then, bring the fencing out approximately 20 inches from the coop along the ground. The fencing will sit flush to the ground and can be covered with dirt, wood chips, or gravel to hide it.
- Cover Holes and Gaps with Hardware Cloth
Lastly, cover up all holes and gaps with hardware cloth. It’s the most effective at keeping snakes and other predators out of your enclosure. Snakes have a knack for getting through tiny spaces, so it’s essential to check for holes around your coop. Quarter-inch hardware cloth is small enough to prevent snakes from getting in.
Clear Out Tall Grass, Debris, Or Bushes
Eliminate easy ways for snakes to get to your coop by clearing up any debris, woodpiles, or compost. Snakes love to hide out in these types of places. Trimming back bushes and keeping your lawn or weeds mowed short will also help. Snakes are vulnerable in open areas, so if you cut tall grass, clear debris, and trim back bushes, you’re less likely to attract them.
Lastly, cut back any branches and other overhanging items that snakes could climb up and drop into the coop from above.
Control Your Rodent Population
More often than not, snakes likely happened upon your coop by chasing after a rodent to snack on. Here are a few ways to keep the rodent population down around your coop:
- Trap rats and mice
- Put away chicken feed at night when mice run most rampant
- Use a treble feeder or a bucket feeder to minimize spills and reduce rodent access
If you are more vigilant about reducing the rodents that are running around your coop, you’re much less likely to attract snakes as well. It’s a win-win!
Can I Trap Snakes That Are Eating My Chickens?
You sure can! There are many types of snake traps available on the market, likely at your local stores. You’ll want to make sure to find one that can humanely trap snakes, such as the cone or funnel trap.
Funnel traps, also called minnow traps, are ideal for trapping snakes safely without killing or harming them. Check carefully to make sure your snake isn’t venomous before handling it, and release it away from your chicken coop.
Still Unsure About Snakes or Have Other Questions?
We here at Freedom Ranger Hatchery hope you found this information useful so that you may better safeguard your baby chicks and adult chickens from snakes and other animals.
If you have any additional questions about raising healthy chickens, please contact us. Or, if you need a quality source of baby chicks to start or grow your flock, you can order online from Freedom Ranger Hatchery! We ship baby chicks from our family-owned and operated, NPIP-certified hatcheries in Lancaster County, PA, direct to you, nationwide.