Some snakes eat chickens, but chickens can be quite large and not all snakes have a large enough mouth. An example of a snake that eats chickens is the carpet python, which is commonly found in Australia and Indonesia.
Snakes that aren’t large enough to eat whole chickens may eat the chicks or eggs instead. Snakes can cause havoc to a chicken coop, even if some chickens could defend themselves. It is the reason why many chicken farmers make snake-proof chicken coops.
Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmed. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
Why do Snakes Enter Chicken Coops?
Snakes are often found in chicken coops for three main reasons:
- Food – Chicken coops contain abundant food for snakes.
- Shelter – Snakes can use chicken coops to stay warm and shelter from the outside environment.
- Water – Chickens need plenty of hydration, and snakes know they can find water in the coops.
A chicken coop is a thriving environment, and there is always food in there.
All snakes are carnivorous, so they are not after the chicken feed, such as pellets. They are after the chickens or the chicken eggs. Big snakes like pythons would go after the big chickens, while smaller ones usually target chicks and eggs.
Snakes will also find water in a chicken coop, which might be hard to come by in the wild, depending on the climate and the environment.
Snakes need water to survive, and although many snakes get their hydration from their food, some snakes also like to soak in water when it’s available.
A typical chicken coop has a reasonable level of thermal insulation to protect the chickens from the harsh outside climate. Snakes like the environment as the temperature fit their cold-blooded bodies.
Chicken coops are a great place for snakes to keep dry. Some of them would even stay inside the baskets or chicken nesting boxes. These boxes usually have dried straws or wood shavings, and a snake can find comfort and shelter there.
Do Snakes eat Chicken Eggs?
Yes, snakes eat chicken eggs. Many species of snake consume eggs as their primary source of food. When snakes are found in chicken coops, they usually are there to target the chicken eggs.
Some bird species have razor sharp talons to defend their eggs, such as owls who can easily kill a snake if it enters the owl’s nest, but chickens don’t have this advantage.
When snakes eat chicken eggs, they do not constrict the eggs. They just swallow the egg whole. The ventral spines on the neck crush the eggshell. As such, the egg’s contents are squeezed down the snake’s esophagus. Some snakes who feed solely on eggs have evolved to have no teeth because they are not necessary for eating eggs.
After this process, the snake regurgitates the eggshell. The eggshell does not get processed for digestion at all. For many farmers, eggshells scattered in the chicken coop is a sure sign that there is a snake in the area.
What Snakes are Chicken Snake?
There are no species such as chicken snakes. People refer to all snakes that eat eggs and chickens as chicken snakes. So, a chicken snake can be anything that is not already all too familiar. For example, people will not call a python a chicken snake.
The most common “chicken snakes” are the corn snake, rat snake, and pine snake.
Let’s take a look at some common snakes that are often referred to as chicken snakes:
1. Corn Snake
A corn snake is called so because it is typically found in barns that store corn. They hunt mice that live and feed off the corn, but have also been known to eat chickens and eggs. Corn snakes are sometimes referred to as chicken snakes.
They also have a marking in the belly that resembles corn. Corn snakes have no venom, and they kill prey by constriction. They look much like the copperhead, which is a venomous snake.
Adult corn snakes can grow up to about six feet and can live up to 23 years in captivity on average. The longest in recorded history is 32 years.
2. Rat Snake
The rat snake is typically black and is called so because it feeds on rats. They are constrictors and also non-venomous.
Rat snakes are a heavy subject of debate among zoologists as far as their specific snake family is concerned. Some say that there are Old World and New World rat snakes.
Rat snakes often feed on chicken eggs and may be found in coops or chicken enclosures, hence are sometimes referred to as chicken snakes.
3. Pine Snake
The pine snake is also a constrictor that belongs to the same family as rat snakes. They are excellent burrowers, and they spend most of their time underground.
Pine snakes eat rats, mice, small mammals, and eggs. What they do is to enter the burrow of a rodent and then eat them.
The pine snake stays underground if the temperature is extreme. They do not like extreme cold or heat so are often found taking shelter in chicken coops. When threatened, it will flatten its head, hiss, and make vibrating noises from its throat. A pine snake is also called a bull snake.
Also, chicken snakes are non-venomous. Those who have lived in areas that have a population of non-venomous snake species can easily identify them.
Ways to Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops
There are several methods to keep snakes away from chicken coops, but each coop will have its own set of circumstances, different species of snakes, different climates and local fauna that will impact the methods that are appropriate for you. Some common methods include raising the coop off the ground, and removing any hiding spots from around the coop.
If you have an issue with snakes, the best option is to call in a professional who knows how to safely handle the type of snakes found in your area.
Here are some methods that some people have used that may help to prevent snakes from gaining access to chickens.
If you do decide to try any of these methods, be sure to stay away from any snakes currently in the coop. If you’re not trained to handle snakes, do not attempt to move them yourself as even non-venomous snakes can be dangerous.
- Raise the floor
While snakes are good climbers, they usually find their way there only because they are chasing a rat. Raising the coop’s floor will prevent rats from getting in. As such, the snakes have one less reason to go there.
- Use a snake-proof screen
There are many screens available that have small holes in them to prevent various creatures from passing. Some meshes are small enough to prevent snakes from passing. Covering the door frames and walls of the chicken coop with small-aperture wire mesh instead of the typical metal bars may help to prevent snakes getting in.
- Remove grass and debris from around the coop
Grass and debris around the chicken coop are great hiding spots for snakes. They offer a cool environment and a place to execute an ambush. Removing grass, mulch, rocks, and logs from around the coop may help to stop snakes by removing the habitat of small creatures and insects that snakes hunt. These insects may attract frogs and lizards, which the snakes would also love to eat.
- Keep rats away
Rats are one of the reasons snakes find their way into human territory. While small rats do not eat chickens, some of them would eat a chick. If rats make it to the coop to eat the chicks, they may attract snakes to eat the rats. Keeping rats out of the chicken coop may be one way to reduce the possibility of attracting snakes.
Snakes eat chickens, provided that they are big enough. Many small snakes would only attack chicks or medium-sized chickens and their eggs.
Oftentimes, snakes would hunt the eggs only and then regurgitate the eggshell once they had cracked it and swallowed its contents.
There is no such thing as a chicken snake species. Most of these chicken snakes are corn snakes, rat snakes, and pine snakes, all of which are non-venomous.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.