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Watch out for sneaky snake!

Texas Rat Snake in Duck Pen

Our 4-year old Khaki Campbell ducks are still amazingly prolific egg layers. We noticed their lay rate had gone down over the past few days. Laying rates can go down for many reasons, including some type of unexpected startle or interruption to the routine.  By the 2nd day of less prolific laying, we were suspicious and started looking around more carefully. And look who we found up on a “second floor” area we no longer use as a brooder :  Mr. or Ms. Texas Rat Snake, with about 6 lumps of eggs in its belly!

predator in trees

What besides branches do you see in this picture?

The Texas Rat Snake is non-venomous and has other nicknames, such as “Chicken Snake” or “Tree Snake”.  It generally grows up to around 6 feet in length, although it can grow larger, as may have been this case with our newly discovered visitor. As shown in this photo, they are excellent tree climbers. Once, I tried to move one with my hands and was amazed at the sheer strength in its undulating body!

They can become aggressive if cornered and can give you a nasty non-venomous strike. Further, the snake can vibrate its tail, which can lead to misidentification as a rattle snake.

Friend of foe for poultry? Depends on how you view it…

They do love to eat bird eggs, but a good coop setup using hardware cloth for any ventilated areas can keep them out of the coop. The one in our simply because I had left the front of the duck pen open while our ducks were in their gated yard.  We have a larger brush pile not that far away, so I’m sure the snake just welcomed itself through the front door and went up to its own private second floor to wait for some yummy duck egg meals.

On the positive side, as the name indicates, they eat rodents, so having them around can keep a rodent population at bay, especially when you leave on larger pieces of land with fields, brush piles, etc. This also keeps rodents away from loose chicken feed. Further, if there are no rodents or other small creatures to eat, this can keep away other snakes, such as the venomous rattle snake.

All in all, seems poultry and rat snakes can both be on the same property without poultry incident with good coop design and regular inspections of the coop if egg production goes down.

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