Courtesy of Wrangler Network contributor Scoop from the Coop
By Nigel Robert, Founder More Reptiles
Making sure your chickens are safe should be one of the top priorities of any keeper.
While adult chickens are more likely to kill a snake than the other way around, chicken eggs and young chicks can be eaten by larger snakes. This danger makes it absolutely necessary to snake proof your chicken coop.
Though it is a myth that commercial snake repellants or devices truly work to keep snakes away, there are a few tips that can help you keep your coop safe without harming or killing any snakes.
After all, snakes are pretty cool animals and their death is not necessary for keeping your flock out of harm’s way.
Are you having problems with snakes getting into your chicken coop?
Keep reading to learn the 5 best tips for keeping your chickens safe, and making sure snakes are not harmed in the process.
How To Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops
Clear debris and increase visibility
A great way to prevent snakes from coming into your yard is to make sure there are no places to hide. Snakes are generally shy creatures that need lots of hiding spots from larger predators. This hiding spot could be a log pile, old equipment, wood or sheets of metal, bushes and even tall areas of grass. Snakes will be a lot less likely to appear if you make sure your yard and your chicken coop is free of debris, overgrown areas and patches of long grass.
Seal any small holes in your coop
Only bigger snakes like rat snakes, bull snakes and large corn snakes really pose any threat to your chickens. Even these larger species pose very little danger to adult chickens and will only consume younger chicks if given the chance. That being said, these larger species can easily squeeze themselves into small holes, and making sure your coop is properly sealed is a great measure to keep snakes out. Any holes that are larger than a half an inch should be sealed. Chicken wire is not recommended around your coop as it is usually big enough that snakes can make their way through the gaps. Once they are through, they may consume a small chick and be too big to get back out again!
Use hardware cloth or wildlife friendly netting
Cloth or netting can help keep snakes from getting into areas that they are unwelcome. You can use hardware cloth or a fine mesh around fences, chicken runs, and even the base of your coop to keep snakes out. Some people suggest bird netting, but this is a really dangerous option for wildlife. Not only can snakes get caught up in it and killed but birds, deer and other larger wildlife can become entangled and die. A better option is smaller mesh (with .5cm or smaller openings), or hard plastic sturdy netting that won’t get caught on snake scales. These wildlife friendly options still work to keep snakes out of your coop, but will be a much safer alternative.
Keep rodents away from your coop
Since the primary diet of most snakes is rodents, having rodents around your coop can actually attract snakes. Mice, rats and chipmunks hanging out around your chickens will encourage snakes to stay in the area as they have a steady food source. To keep rodents away, you should ensure that all your chicken feed and grain is properly sealed in rodent proof containers. You can also bring in your chicken’s feeders at night or use feeders that rodents will be unable to steal from. If your rodent problem is particularly bad, you can dump out the water overnight and refill it in the morning. Taking away the food and water source for rodents will help keep them away from your yard and therefore help keep snakes away. Lastly, keep the area around your coop as clean as possible. Pick up any stray food after feeding and you will likely see less rodents running around.
Make sure you maintain your coop
Making all these changes to keep snakes away won’t work if you don’t maintain them. As your coop ages, you will likely see more and more small holes that need to be filled, mesh and fences that need to be replaced, and an increase in vulnerable areas that predators can exploit. Making sure you are maintaining your coop and keeping the general area tidy and debris-free will be the best long-term strategy to keep snakes away.
Will A Chicken Fight A Snake?
Usually chickens are not keen on fighting snakes and when given the choice, they will flee. However, some territorial chickens that have a strong desire to protect their chicks will take on the challenge. Mature chickens often have no problem killing snakes and the result of their fight almost always ends with the snake’s death.
What Can I Put Around My Chicken Coop To Keep Snakes Away?
There is no specific snake repellant that works nor is there a device that will magically keep snakes away, though many companies trying to sell products want you to believe that. Snake traps may help keep snakes away from your coop, but most of them are also inhumane and usually lead to the death of the reptile. Glue traps in particular should always be avoided as once stuck, it’s almost impossible to remove the snake and they will usually succumb to the elements or injury. The best way to keep snakes away is prevention. Making the area predator proof, clean, and free of rodents are a few steps that can help ensure snakes stay away.
You don’t have to kill or harm wild snakes in order to keep your chickens safe. Commercial snake repellants are ineffective and traps will often lead to the death of any who are caught by it. Thankfully, there are a variety of effective methods that will ensure the safety of your flock while posing no danger to native wildlife. Keeping your coop clean, removing debris and grass that may block visibility, sealing holes, using wildlife friendly netting, avoiding attracting rodents and making sure your coop is properly maintained will give snakes no reason or chance to infiltrate your coop.