HWA and I were out late one night a few months ago, and on returning, I went to make sure that all the birds had made it into the coop before the door closed. They’re pretty good about going in, so I was surprised to see most of the flock outside instead. Opening the people door, I discovered the reason why.
My coop is 10×10, and this guy stretched most of the way along one wall, and had turned the corner with some more along the next wall. BIG BLACK RAT SNAKE! Given time to think, I might have leapt backwards, but a 3-week-old chick was standing 2″ from the snake’s mouth, and, thinking it was going to strike any moment, protective mother hen mode kicked in and I grabbed the snake by the tail and dragged it out of there. After stopping at the house to show off my prize to HWA and snap some pictures to show my friends, I carried/dragged it across the street to let it go in the large pasture there, hoping it would not find its way back.
Returning to the coop, I discovered that the chick had probably been safe. Prior to the snake’s visit, I had about 8 broody hens sitting on clutches in various areas of the coop. While doing a head count, I found that although I hadn’t lost any birds, I HAD lost many of the eggs that were under broody hens. I also discovered a sure-fire method of breaking broodies. It turns out, a hen who has had her eggs stolen by a 12′ long black rat snake will permanently cease brooding. Effective immediately. Who knew?
The chickens and turkeys that had been on the 3′ roosts apparently felt safe. (They weren’t. A few weeks prior to this we saw what we presume was the same snake, 12′ high in the rafters of our barn.) They recovered quickly. The ducks — who spend their nights on the floor — were another matter. Apparently traumatized, they were terrified of the coop for a week afterward. You’ve heard the expression “like herding cats”? Well, that expression should be “like herding ducks”! For nights after, I was at the coop for an hour or more, trying to convince 20 ducks to go into the coop. They’d dutifully file towards the door, then at some unseen signal, break and scatter left and right. Most of the time muscovies waddle lackadaisically around, giving the impression that they are slow and lazy. It turns out, they can move lightning fast when they want to. If you’d been nearby, you might have heard my pathetically whiny entreaties to them, “Please just go IN!”
Eventually they got over their fear and life went back to “normal”. And the snake? We haven’t seen him since. Which is fine by me and the birds.