When he pulled the snake out, it was obvious from the bulge in his belly—the snake’s belly, not my husband’s—that he had already eaten at least one egg. More disturbing was that from the length, a loose five feet, the hen house intruder looked very much like Barn Black Snake.
Barn Black Snake has made his home in, around, and under the hay stored in the side-shed of the barn for the past six years. The agreement we have is that we don’t move him, chase him, attempt to catch him, or disturb him in any way. In return for a safe place to stay and plenty to eat, it’s his job to discourage less desirable snakes, such as Timber Rattlesnakes or Copperheads, from moving in.
Nowhere in this agreement is there now, nor has there ever been, any mention of eggs. Mice, yes. Voles, yes. Chipmunks, squirrels, and other small furry creatures, yes, yes, and yes. Eggs, no. Eggs never.
In light of his history and past success—we’ve never had a rattlesnake or copperhead at the barn—he was forgiven this one egg. However, since he found his way to the chicken house once, the odds are he will be able to again. In light of this, he was banished to the back pasture.
I gathered the eggs—minus the one the slithery black thief swiped, cleaned them up and took them over to the neighbor’s house to swap for some of her home-rendered lard. Yes. Bartering eggs for lard. It used to be the mall, the boutiques, and lunch with the ladies. Now it’s the Co-Op, Tractor Supply, and lard-bartering—and won’t hear any complaints from me.
On my way home, some questions came to mind. First of all, how did the snake get into the hen house? Since the house is a PVC storage shed, there are no boards to come loose, no cracks to open up, no roofing to shift. I check it several times a week, and it’s sealed tight. Except for the back door which is opened only briefly when we’re gathering eggs, the only way in is through the chicken door that opens onto the run. That means the snake had to come across the run in broad daylight. Where was Idiot the Rooster? Why didn’t he or one of the hens make a fuss? And even more intriguing: Could the snake have had something to do with the hen I found last week. She was fat and healthy. Perfectly normal in every respect—except that she was dead. Did he scare her to death? Or, since he’s a constrictor, did he choke her?
Before going to the house, I decided to stop at the chicken run to look for some answers. There was nothing unusual going on in the run. Just a normal afternoon of scratching, pecking, and strutting. When I opened the door to the hen house, I did find one answer, though.
Unfortunately this particular answer: less than thirty minutes goes with the question: How long does it take for a black rat snake to travel from the back pasture to the hen house?
Yet again I called my husband down from the house. This time we took him almost a half a mile down our road to a little creek and let him go. That is we let him go after my husband finally got him unwound from his leg, then from the roll bar on the Polaris, and then again from his leg.
The End (Again)
A new day. First thing I did was check the hen house and there was absolutely no sign of a snake anywhere. The chickens are living the snake-free life!
Until around 10:00 am.
Yes, he came back.
Luckily, this time we caught him before he made it up the hill to the hen house. By now, catching him had become old hat for my husband, and he was unceremoniously dumped into a plastic storage box—the snake, not my husband. He stayed there all morning. That afternoon the neighbor’s children came over to see him and have some pictures taken with him. Later some other neighbors came to see him. (As you can tell, there aren’t a lot of entertainment options available in our hollow.)
After everyone who wanted to see him saw him, and everyone who wanted to touch him touched him, and all those who wanted to pose with him posed with him for a quick picture, he was ready for relocation. He and his container were loaded into the pickup and taken not to the back pasture, not to the creek, but a good five miles down the road to a little roadside area where he was released.
It’s been a week now, and so far he hasn’t returned.
Even though the chickens are safe and the eggs are safe, somehow the hay shed seems a little empty.
My Husband with the Black Rat Snake