Most new chicken owners know the normal predators of chickens such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons. But what about snakes? While most will not eat your flock, they will gladly eat the eggs they lay. It’s important to know what kind of snakes eat chickens to help you care for them properly.
What Kind of Snakes Eat Chickens? Big snakes such as Pythons, Copperheads, and Cottonmouth will eat a chicken. Rat snakes, black snakes, chicken snakes, king snakes, and milk snakes will eat chicken eggs. But, all snakes thrive on small rodents, and birds. They don’t normally eat chickens, unless they can’t find other food, or they see your chickens as an easy prey.
To better understand this, let’s look at the dietary needs of a snake.
A Snakes Diet Consists Of
A snakes diet will vary depending on the type of species, but all snakes are carnivores. Rodents are a large part of a snakes diet, but if there is an easier food source available, they will snatch it up to eat. (source)
What Kinds of Snakes Will Eat Chickens & Eggs?
The five most common snakes found in chicken coops and are poisonous to humans are:
- Chicken snake: It is usually found in Texas and resembles a copperhead, but it’s not poisonous.
- Black snakes: These snakes are black and can get very large. They are mostly found under logs, rocks. because they like moisture.
- King snakes: They have a white or yellowish chain-like band that runs across their backs.
- Rat Snakes: These snakes can be yellow, red, brown, black, or black and white in color.
- Milk Snakes: It is a reddish-brown snake with. a black on white checkerboard look.
There are over 50 snake species throughout the United States. Not all of them will eat chickens, but several of them will eat baby chickens or the eggs.
Here’s some of other snakes that can be found throughout the United States and what they eat.
|Snake||Diet||Will Eat Eggs or Chicken|
|Garter Snake||tadpoles, fish, lizards, insects, frogs||Chicken eggs|
|Rat Snake||mice, chipmunks, shrews, and squirrels||Eggs|
|Black Snake||small rodents, mice, and rats||Eggs|
|Cottonmouth||fish, small mammals, insects, other snakes||Both eggs and chickens|
|Milk Snake||rats, mice, voles, lizards, snake eggs||Chicken eggs|
|Night Snake||rats, mice, and bird eggs||Chicken eggs|
|Copperhead||mice, birds, lizards, insects, amphibians||Both chicks and eggs|
|Pythons||rodents, lizards, birds, pigs, wallabies||Both chicken and eggs|
|Anaconda||large rodents, fish, turtles, birds, dogs||Chicks and Eggs|
Your neighbor may even have an exotic pet snake that makes its way into the chicken coop to do some harm. Hopefully not, but you should know the proper steps to protect their chickens from snakes.
Snakes mostly prey on small rodents, but they will eat small chicks, and eggs if they see them as easy prey!
Do Snakes Eat Chickens?
While snakes can indeed eat chickens, the snakes that you usually find in farm areas aren’t big enough to eat adult chickens. Since snakes eat their entire prey in whole, it’s virtually impossible for small snakes to eat an adult chicken.
This doesn’t mean they won’t eat a young chick, or the eggs, especially if they can’t find other sources of food.
Can Snakes Kill Chickens?
Snakes most often kill young chicks and eat the eggs, but venomous snakes can bite and kill adult chickens.
Most snakes can’t digest a mature chicken, but they will kill it in an attempt to feed on the young. This happens when you have a protective rooster or hen.
The best way to tell whether a snake killed your chicken is to check their head. There’s a good chance it will be slimy up to their shoulders, because the snake couldn’t swallow the rest of the body.
Can snakes eat chickens?
Yes, large venomous snakes such as pythons, rattlesnakes, Anacondas and etc, can kill your chicken and eat it. It’s not hard to find a video on YouTube that shows a big snake eating a small chick.
Here’s a video of an Anaconda slithering into a chicken coop and feeding on two chicks at once.
In theory, snakes can eat chickens because these flightless birds can easily be on the menu of most snakes. But the truth is that snakes are more likely to be attracted to rodents.
Rodents are a large part of a snakes diet, but if there is an easier food source available, they will snatch it up to eat.
So, while it might be true that some snakes can indeed eat chickens, the fact is that they will prefer to eat rodents.
Many people say chickens are attracted to farm animals, that’s not entirely true. The reason you have snake problems, is because you have a rodent problem, and the chickens are just collateral damage.
Do Chicken Coops Attract Snakes?
While it is true that some of the food you feed your chickens can attract snakes. They are usually attracted to the chicken coop because of your chickens. Instead, they’ve chased a small mouse, rat, lizard, or other rodent from the tall grass or bushes into the chicken coop.
Once they learn they can eat without hunting, they keep coming back for the food that is so simple to get. All animals, (reptiles included) prefer to eat food that doesn’t require any effort on their part.
Your chickens eggs are an easy target, so they can’t resist coming back for seconds, thirds, and more!
Some will go into coop in search of water, shade, warmth or shelter. They aren’t necessarily looking for chicken coops, they just happened upon your coop due to survival instincts.
Signs You Might Have A Snake In Your Coop
Most people don’t think about snakes, until they realize that something has been killing their flock or stealing the eggs. Here’s some signs that you may have snakes in your coop.
Fewer Eggs: If your hens lay 10 eggs everyday, and all of a sudden you’ve noticed it’s a lot less. It’s a sign that an egg-eating snake is getting access to the coop. There are other reasons for a hen laying less eggs and it could be a change in the season. They could also be laying the eggs somewhere else, instead of the normal nesting box.
Free range hens are known for finding some of the best hiding spots to lay their eggs.
Before you freak out and think you have a snake problem, be sure to look everywhere, for your hens eggs.
Snake Skin: Snakes shed their skin in a single piece, that looks transparent in color. The skin can be found on the ground, or caught in the chicken wire where they slithered into the coop.
Missing Chicks: Some snakes can eat one or more chicks at one time. If you’re noticing that one or two is missing everyday, it could be a snake. It could also be that your chicks escaped from the coop and have wandered off.
Regurgitated Eggshells: Their bodies squeeze the yolk, and liquid from the egg, while regurgitating the empty shell.
Killed Chickens With Wet Heads: If your chickens are being killed, and their heads are wet, this is a sign of a snake. As mentioned, most snakes will only be able to swallow a chicken’s head and neck, but won’t be able to swallow the rest of their body.
They will be forced to spit it back out, leaving a dead chicken with a wet head on the ground.
Most snakes you find in your chicken coop, will be too small to eat an adult chicken. But, it doesn’t mean they won’t eat one of the babies or steal the eggs.
Once a snake learns of a food source, it’s likely to keep coming back. So, you’ll have to do everything you can to keep snakes out of the chicken coop.