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A Disappearing Act August 17, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.

The wee poultry have been disappearing. First, the turkey poults vanished one by one. Then Josie’s one baby.josiesonebaby7-06.JPG

A few weeks ago, you may remember, I had cleared out the henhouse nesting boxes of all the accumulated eggs so we’d know that all the eggs in there were fresh and usable. Undeterred, the broody hens merely started over.

For a few days, I swiped the newly laid eggs myself, hoping the hens would eventually go about their business. The kids aren’t as fearless in the face of contrary poultry as I am, so they wouldn’t argue with the mamas about whose eggs were whose. After a couple of days, I got lax again and the broodies started piling them up.

Apparently, at least 21 days have gone by now because there were the unmistakable sounds of a baby chick Sunday morning. I peeked in the boxes and saw one little black fuzzball and one in the midst of hatching. By that afternoon, though, there weren’t ANY chicks. Even the half-hatched one was gone, but there were empty shells to prove I hadn’t hallucinated.

I peered around each hen. I listened very closely. I tried spying on them to see if they’d bring babies out when they didn’t see me. No chicks.

Sunday evening after church, I talked to a poultry enthusiast friend with 30 years of chicken-raising experience about the missing tots. He said he thinks we have a snake problem. He said a chicken snake (a.k.a. rat snake) can climb really well and will reach right up under a sitting hen and snatch the chicks even if she pecks him. And chicks running around on the ground have no chance. Chicken snakes will swallow eggs too, so that may also explain why the number of incoming eggs (besides the ones the broodies were sitting on) has been so low.chickensnake1.jpg

Suddenly, the gradual disappearance of George and Martha’s (the turkeys) siblings and Josie’s one chick made sense. And since I had never found any little bodies, I knew they weren’t just being picked on by older chickens


But now, what to do? I don’t think Klondike has been trained for this kind of predator. He specializes in the large, furry kind (and proved himself again last night against a pack of 4 dogs). Brother Patch, Benjamin’s kitten, is turning out to be a good mouser, but I think this is out of his league. Chicken snakes get to be 8 feet long. yellowratsnake.jpg

We can’t stand guard over the nesting boxes all day until we see the snake, and then there’s the issue of how exactly we will “dispatch” this snake inside the confines of the henhouse.

Hmmm… I’ll let you know how we work this out.

(The snake pictures are some I found on the internet, not ones I’ve taken of the villain in question).



1. jipmeister - August 17, 2006

FIRST of all that is just BEYOND WRONG!!!
SECOND that it isn’t even the actual snake makes it even MORE WRONG!!!
ick ick ick ick ick

2. Becky - August 17, 2006

Remind me to stay OUT of the chicken house the next time I’m up there. Contrary to the opinion of some people, the only GOOD snake is a DEAD snake. This is one of those questions I’m just going to ask God about why when I get to Heaven…..along with the mosquito. I just haven’t figured out why they are necessary. I’m sure there must be a reason, but………

3. Joe - August 19, 2006

Well, we don’t KNOW that it’s a snake. We haven’t actually seen it….yet. The cultprit could be a rat, a opossum, or some other good-natured, but hungry critter that has turned our hen house in to its own personal snack bar.

I’m guessing though, I that one night, just before we turn out the lights for a peaceful night of slumber, one of us will remember that we didn’t close the hen house door. Then I’ll walk outside, trying not to awaken myself too much, to close the door. And then, then I will come face to face with an 8 foot chicken snake that’s making its rounds through the nesting boxes. It won’t be one of my more favorable farm memories.

4. Decorating the Nursery « The Farm Chronicles of Blessed Acres - August 26, 2006

[…] I “blogged” a couple of weeks ago about our disappearing poultry and the supposed predator. We still haven’t verified that we have a snake problem, but the chicks and their mothers needed to be moved to a better location anyway. Living in the basement of the nesting box high-rise is no way for a chick to grow up! […]

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