Tuesday night, Dan (thirteen) came charging upstairs after his nightly visit out to the chickenhouse to gather the eggs. “There was a huge snake wrapped around one of the chickens,” he announced, “but I whacked it with a shovel until it let go.” (And then he said, “The snake freaked me out so I need to play some computer games before bed to calm down.” But that was another conversation.)

We have the chickens fenced off from foxes, eagles, and stray dogs, but it’s impossible to keep snakes out of the nesting boxes. Black snakes slither up in there and eat the eggs. When I was a kid, we had what seemed like HUNDREDS of chickens, and it was our job to feed, water, collect eggs, clean and grade eggs, and sell eggs. If you weren’t careful about sticking your hands into nesting boxes, you’d find yourself patting a snake. In fact, one of the enduring memories of my childhood is putting my hand under a sitting hen to check for eggs and discovering that she was SITTING on a blacksnake which was busy swallowing the eggs in the nest while she was laying more.

Chickens are not so smart.

I never saw a snake do anything to a chicken, though, so this snake clearly has delusions of boa-constrictor grandeur. Apparently the chicken in question survived the shovel-whacking and staggered off to recover, so the squeezing was ineffective anyway.

Last night Dan came thundering back upstairs again (these snake emergencies always happen after Pete and I are in bed, I’m not sure why) and announced that Ben (nearly seventeen) had caught the snake. Turns out Dan had been tracking the snake’s habits and figuring out when it visited the egg buffet every night, and last night he dragged Ben out to help him catch it. “And he’s got it downstairs!” he finishes up. “It’s HUGE! Come see it!”


It was a really big snake. A six-footer.

This morning at breakfast, I say to Ben, “Where did you free the snake?” (Black snakes drive out copperheads and eat rats, so we never kill them; we just keep moving them out of the henhouse.)

“Oh,” Ben says, “it was dark and the snake was kind of hard to hold, so I just let him go down near your office.”

(shudder) (shudder)

Showing 8 comments
  • Di

    Oh, Ben. Ben. Ben.

  • Katie

    Didn’t know black snakes drove out copperheads. We’ve been having a problem with baby copperheads under the bushes in my front yard. Guess I have to get a black snake…

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to reach under a chicken and grab a snake instead of an egg. Creepy.

  • JFS in IL

    So I imagine you are now working with your feet up off the floor…

  • Sebastian (a lady)

    There really is something about boys this age. I don’t know if they really are naturally this clueless or if they have an innate gift for finding the buttons that tweak their mothers.

  • DebbieQ

    Oh lordy, I am itching and jumping just reading this. To quote Indiana Jones, “I hate snakes!”

  • Pam

    Your son was VERY brave to pick up this extremely long snake. It looks very similar to the one I hacked to death with a very dull hoe in my barn recently. My snake had just begun to swallow the brahma chicken’s egg when I rushed to get my camera, snap a shot and whack away. I didn’t realize it was harmless and I went into a killing frenzy.

  • Janice in NJ

    Ah, yes. But sometimes I can totally relate to the not-so-smart chicken. As a mother, I get tired of chasing off all of the snakes in order to save the eggs that I’m not going to get to keep anyway. Maybe if I just sit here like a dope and let the dumb snake eat all of the eggs that I’ll never see again ANYWAY, someone else will be moved to act on this curled and imposing lump that’s between me and a comfortable place to SIT!

    Smiling. And trying to unpack a family from vacation. And trying to calculate the space-time distance between me and a comfortable chair. 🙂


  • crunchycon

    I had to smile at the chickens-are-not-smart comment; I spent a good part of my childhood chasing silly chickens off the crabapple trees where they enjoyed roosting. While I chased chickens, though, the rooster enjoyed chasing me :-(. I did not weep when a fox got him.

    Snakes, now, that’s another story. I shudder also.

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