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What do Rat Snakes Eat?

Rat snakes are constrictors, so they will eat anything that they can kill by this method. Their main diet comprises of rats, and thus the name. Rats are their favorite meal.

rat snake

On some occasions, rat snakes would feast on other animals’ eggs. Sometimes, the rat snake is also called the chicken snake because of its common presence around chicken coops.

Rat Snake Diet

The rat snake  comes in many species, one of which is the corn snake. However, the ones that are common to pet owners are the Elaphe obsolete obsolete and the Pantherophis obsoletes.

Both are black and have a rich selection of foods in the wild. Rat snakes are common in North America, Central America, and Southern Canada.

Rat snakes are sometimes called Chicken Snakes, because they are sometimes found in and around chicken coops, drawn by the rats which feed on chicken eggs.

1. Rats

The name is a dead giveaway. Rat snakes eat rats and other rodents. In the wild, they capture rodents that make the mistake of getting into their environment.

They also hunt them in farms and in gardens.

In captivity, the most common diet of a rat snake is also rats. However, pet owners do not capture wild rats as they may carry diseases. Instead, these snakes eat mice that come from pet shops—those that were bred for this very purpose.

2. Chipmunks and Squirrels

Adult rat snakes, on average, grow between three and five feet, but they are not as muscular as pythons. The big ones can reach six feet. As such, they are capable of constricting mammals like chipmunks.

Chipmunks, however, is not common in a rat snake’s diet. Chipmunks are predators of snakes, and there are videos of chipmunks in the wild that are not afraid to battle with venomous snakes. Rat snakes, on this occasion, is likely to lose.

In a fight between a squirrel and a snake, the squirrel would attempt to bite the neck or head of the snake. If the squirrel or chipmunk manages to succeed in this, the snake is not likely to stand a chance. Only a venomous snake has the chance to strike first, and then kill the squirrel.

Big rat snakes can get away with this, especially so if the chipmunk is small. If the rat snake is full, it is not likely to fight but run away, knowing it has no venom. Venomous snakes, however, will strike and bite.

Related: Do Snakes Eat Chickens?

3. Voles

Rat snakes will find voles and eat them. Since voles are burrowing animals, it is common for a rat snake to follow this tunnel to hunt them.

Voles are a type of rodent that look like mice. They are social animals that live in colonies. They get attracted to gardens and areas with lush vegetation. As such, one vole in an area is indicative that there are more.

4. Frogs

Rat snakes eat frogs, too. However, scientists note that it is the juvenile rat snakes that have a preference for frogs. In general, juvenile snakes eat cold-blooded animals. Adults eat warm-blooded ones.

Rat snakes will eat animals they find in their environment. If frogs are in there, then frogs will certainly be on the menu. One exception to this is the toad. They are poisonous, and many species of snakes have learned not to trifle with them.

5. Lizards

Rat snakes are semi-arboreal snakes. What this means is that they can climb trees.  They will hang out there. They are excellent climbers, and they will eat lizards on trees. Poor lizards that get in the way of rat snakes on land are also part of the menu.

Rat snakes also eat bird eggs. It is not uncommon to see rat snakes near chicken coops. It is the reason rat snakes also go by the name chicken snake.

In the wild, rat snakes that smell eggs would have to creep up the tree. If the eggs are from a bird that they can fight, they will take it on. However, since rat snakes have no venom, they are more likely to wait until the mother bird is away.  

FAQs

Do rat snakes eat copperheads?

No, rat snakes do not eat copperhead snakes. Although rat snakes typically eat other snakes sometimes, they keep away from venomous ones. Some rat snakes hibernate with other snakes, provided that the other snakes do not want to eat them.

Do rat snakes eat frogs?

Yes, rat snakes eat frogs in the wild. Most of the time, it is the juvenile rat snake that does this. Frogs are cold-blooded animals, and some of them have poison. As such, it is not a common occurrence for rat snakes to eat frogs.

Do rat snakes eat chickens?

Yes, rat snakes eat chickens and birds. Farmer associations and societies consider rat snakes and other snakes as pets. They do what they can to protect their chicken coops from rat snake attacks.

Do rat snakes eat chicken eggs?

Yes, rat snakes eat chicken eggs. They hang out in areas where there are chicken coops. If they smell chicken, they will naturally assume that there are eggs. Rat snakes are also called chicken snakes because they eat chicken eggs.

Do rat snakes eat squirrels?

Yes, rat snakes eat squirrels and chipmunks. However, only the big ones do this, and they have to do this in ambush.

Rat snakes are small, but they can reach six feet in length. If the squirrel or chipmunk sees the rat snake first, the table of fate turns. It is the chipmunk that will attack the rat snake.

Conclusion

Rat snakes eat mostly rodents, but their diet is flexible. As semi-arboreal snakes, they are good climbers, and they can hunt on trees. Those living in the wild are likely to eat bird eggs and lizards. Some may eat birds if given the opportunity.

Those that live in captivity usually eat mice only because that is what the owners feed them. Adults typically stick to warm-blooded animals, while juveniles like to eat cold-blooded ones.

Rat snakes have many species, including the corn snake. All of them are constrictors. They have no venom, and they kill their prey through muscle power and suffocation.