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Snake in the nest box

Snake eating egg

A few weeks ago, we noticed a drastic decline in the number of eggs coming out of our coop.  As day length decreases, it's normal to notice fewer eggs, but a hen's lay usually drops off gradually rather than all at once.  Added to the mystery, some days our egg haul was back to normal, followed by a series of days with only one or two eggs in the nest box.  What was going on?

Mark solved the mystery when he found a black rat snake sunning itself outside the coop in the middle of August.  For a while, we gathered eggs earlier in the day, and the snake seemed to have moved on, but numbers once again declined this past week.  Sure enough, this time Mark caught the snake in the act, its body swollen around an egg.

Hunting a snakeBlack rat snakes are completely non-poisonous, and from my days as a naturalist, I know most are actually pretty friendly too.  But I still didn't feel comfortable just picking up the snake (which I planned to relocate to the other side of the hill).  Instead, I tried pushing the snake into a bucket, then I ended up chasing it across the coop where the reptile kept trying to slither out holes which no longer fit its body due to the addition of the egg lump.  Eventually, the snake regurgitated its egg and disappeared into the weeds...just as Mark appeared with a homemade tool to make snake handling easier.  Stay tuned for Mark's post on that topic later (and, maybe, a successful catch this afternoon?).

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