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Backyard Chickens, Part 12 (Or “NOW where are the eggs?”)

July 25, 2011

Raising Chickens

You thought you had solved your egg hunt problem, but they are starting to go missing again.  You can’t find any “rogue hens” nesting in the bushes.  What’s going on?

Egg Thieves

We have 2 big lovable mutts (that scare the pants off strangers and delivery people) that are incurable “egg-sucking dawgs” as country folk refer to them.  They are large enough that one in particular can hide 3 eggs in her mouth and I can’t tell as she’s sneaking off.  Snitching eggs seems to be their only vice and we’ve had the dogs for ages, so we just try to make sure the birds all lay in places the dogs can’t get to.

One of the dogs has mastered the art of carefully cracking the shell in half and licking up the contents.  I can hardly blame them for their appreciation of henfruit, but we can’t allow it to go unchecked.

The other major issue we have had is chicken snakes.  Where you live, they may go by a different name (rat snake, corn snake, etc), but it is usually the same thing.  Ours are typically at least 5 feet long, mostly brown, but with a somewhat darker diamond shaped pattern on the back.  They could pass at a glance for something poisonous, but on closer inspection, you can see they have round irises in their eyes.  When they get in defensive poses, the back of the head flattens and does take on a triangular look, but in reality it isn’t that tell-tale viper shape.

These snakes are terrible egg thieves and have been known to eat chicks also.  They would rather flee a person than strike, but they are brazen enough to steal eggs right out from under a setting hen.

More than once, we have gone to collect eggs only to find a very big snake coiled around the nest downing one after another.  They eat them by encircling them, unhinging their jaws, and using their bodies as resistance when they swallow them whole.  Some snakes can regurgitate the shell later, but I’ve never seen chicken snakes do that.  Having the nests off the ground won’t necessarily be enough.  We have found the snakes in the upper level of our “apartment” nesting boxes.  Always look before you reach in for eggs!

Skunks, raccoons, and opossums also like to dine on eggs.  Waterfowl nesting on the ground often lose their eggs to one of these creatures.

In the next installment, I will address common predators of chickens.

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11 Comments on “Backyard Chickens, Part 12 (Or “NOW where are the eggs?”)”

  1. boldviolet Says:

    Yikes! I would absolutely lose my mind if I lifted the nest box lid to find a snake right there!

    Reply

  2. Laura Says:

    That’s an actual picture of a snake we caught in the act. He was over 6 feet long.

    Our little children almost put their hands right on a big one about 3 weeks ago since the nestboxes are pretty dark inside. Fortunately, I was there and saw movement inside and stopped them mid-reach- it was about to go after the same eggs they were.

    We disposed of that one but I think there is another one (or two?) going in the portable coops because even the faithful ducks haven’t had a single egg in several days when I go collect.

    The snakes are sometimes in our storage building (hunting mice?) and there was one on the mower deck that I didn’t see until it slithered off 30 feet into the cutting! 😛

    Reply

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