Thursday, June 18, 2009

Third Time's a Charm

The other day I got a bit of a surprise when I went down to the hen house to gather the afternoon eggs. Curled up all nice and cozy in the corner next to the nesting boxes was a large Black Rat Snake. Since I didn’t have much with me other than an egg bucket, I shut the door and called up to the house for my husband to get his gloves and come down.

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.

The End

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.

The End?

My Husband with the Black Rat Snake


  1. If I find a snake in my barn, can I call your husband???


  2. Welcome back!!! Have been worried about you with just a long drought in posts. What an entertaining story to return with, too!

  3. Altho we don't have chickens yet, we have had a couple of those guys around our place. We are overrun with moles so I don't know if they're doing their job or not. If they don't, they're toast!

  4. Good to hear from you! I finally got some chickens, and although they arent in their coop yet, I am working on it. Yesterday I was walking away from it to go find some tool or other and walked head on into a 4 ft bull snake. Scared me near to vapor locking! Our poisonous snake is a diamond back rattler, the bull snake is a pretender. After I put my heart back in my chest my daughter and I steared him clear of the chicken-coop-in-progress :)... think I'll blog about it lol
    Seriously glad to hear from you again!

  5. So glad to see your post!
    I would have run the other way had that snake been in my chicken house...YIKES!!! He's huge!
    I hope he's gone for good this time.

  6. Love this post! The end ? I guess we'll see and I will stay tuned!

    How is your trained sheep?

  7. What a great post! I had so enjoyed your egg post before this one, and had hoped you would come back! I'm glad we don't have those kinds of snakes here, but it was fascinating to read about it and to see the picture! I can't wait to hear your answer about what things I can train my lamb to do with clicker training!

  8. What a great story. We had one of those who slithered in through the sliding glass door. He was waiting patiently for me in the bathroom when I stepped out of the shower!

  9. Thanks so much for the welcome back. So sorry about the long hiatus. Maybe now that my husband has retired there'll be lots more time for keeping things up to date around here.

    Nancy, feel free to call him anything you want...I usually do. :)

    Thanks so much Michelle. So glad you enjoyed the story.

    Sand Flat Farm, our barn cats, Spot and Not Spot, are mole killers supreme. Basically, they are killers of everything. Have you tried cats?

    Sheesh Sittn-n-Spinnin, that would have scared me to death. Good thing about these "black snakes" is that they are instantly recognizable as a black snake since they And Big CONGRATS on your chickens! You'll love having them! (And the eggs....oh gracious the eggs are delicious!)

    Deb, the funny thing is that every time I open the hen house door, I expect to see a snake. In over a year, this is the first time I've seen one. Strangely, I wasn't surprised at all. It's been nearly two weeks now, so I think he is really gone for good.

    Kathy B! So good to hear from you. Maa-Maat is spoiled rotten and getting more so by the day. I'm hoping to get a new video made of her now that I've gotten her a proper drum and a little piano to play.

    Claire, I'm heading straight over to your blog to give some tips on clicker training lambs...but remember, I'm no expert and pretty much making it up as I go along.

    Ok, Karen, that would have scared me past death. Chicken house I expect them -- stepping out of the shower is another thing completely!

  10. That is really funny and yucky all in the same.

  11. Welcome back! What a great, funny story and a beautiful snake. Hopefully he will stay gone eating other snakes and mice like he should! He certainly was determined to make the hen house his new home though wasn't he!

  12. Our black snake got run over by the tractor. It was an accident, but he did kill one of our ducklings first. We did like having him around, but he was close to finding the eggs.

  13. We do have lots and lots of snakes here. 18 so far this spring. They have ate and ate eggs, baby chicks and quails. The longest was over 7 feet long. He had 4 duck eggs for supper.

    The last 2 we saw yesterday. A water moccasin and a king snake(I think waiting to do in the water moccasin) at the spring.

    Glad to see you back.
    Have a great day.

  14. Well I certainly understand your problem. I have been having the same problem with bullsnakes. They are good at keeping away rattlesnakes, however, they too, found my hen house. They have been getting all of the eggs. In they....I mean two of them were in my hay container in the well house by the hen house. I took them way off into the woods. They returned.. I took them off farther...they returned. Soon, the eggs were'nt enough...they started getting at my new chicks. We soon realized we had a den of snakes underneath the hen house. In 7 days, we have killed 6 bullsnakes. I don't like killing them, however, we could not get rid of them any other way. Blessings, Kathleen