Easy ways to keep snakes out of the chicken coop!

When discussing poultry predators, snakes are often labeled as more of a nuisance than a threat. Many people believe that snakes will only eat eggs and since they also eat mice, it's great to have them around the chicken coop. Many see snakes as basically harmless to full grown chickens.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Over the past 2 years I have lost 2 grown hens, a few chicks, and some eggs to snakes. Unfortunately since I live in the woods, I have more snake encounters than the average chicken keeper...but that also means I have more opportunity to test out snake repellent methods.

Snake in chicken coop

A snake will kill a full grown chicken even when it's glaringly obvious that it could never swallow a chicken that size. Many chicken keepers have found a deceased chicken with a wet looking head and neck. That happens when a snake kills then tries to eat something that is too big. It gives up and spits it back out.

In  my situations both of the hens that the snake killed had chicks with her. I found both with the snake still wrapped around the hen and it's my theory that she was trying to keep the snake from the chicks. She may have even pecked at it to try to make it leave. The snake couldn't get past the mama hen so it decided to kill her first. I don't think the snake would have even attempted to swallow the hen, but we'll never know.


Keeping snakes out of the chicken coop


Obviously your number one line of defense against snakes is to keep them out of the chicken coop in the first place. You'll want to look for any holes that the snake can fit through. Typically anything 1/2" or more should be filled in or covered securely. Check around doors, windows and the roof for holes. Make sure areas left open for air circulation are covered with hardware cloth.

Keep in mind that if you leave your doors wide open during the day (most of us do) a snake can easily get in that way. That is exactly what happened to my d'Uccle hen. 

If your coop has a run, hardware cloth should be used on the run instead of chicken wire. Many snakes can easily get through the holes in chicken wire, though they will probably get stuck inside after eating.

If you use a fencing with spaces larger than 1/2" on your run, you might want to fasten bird netting to it. I do this on my grow out pen. If a snake tries to get through the netting it will fit at first, but as it moves through the holes it will eventually get to where it's body is too wide to get through the small holes of the netting. 

The netting is really difficult for them to back out of though. You will inevitably have to untangle a snake from  the fence and netting (I just cut the netting to remove the snake and zip tie it back together) but at least the snake didn't get your chicks!

snake caught in bird netting on chicken run

Keep mice and rats out of the chicken coop. Snakes eat rodents and having them around your chicken coop is a big attractant for snakes. Follow my 3 Simple Steps to Keep Your Coop Rodent Free to keep mice, rats and even chipmunks out of your chicken coop.

Clear debris, equipment and weeds away from the perimeter of the chicken coop and run. Don't leave anywhere for snakes to hide. Keep grass trimmed low. Consider planting lemongrass and marigolds near the coop as they're known to repel snakes.

Snake in grass outside chicken coop

Guinea fowl are good to keep with your chickens as they will alert for any predator, but they especially hate snakes. The snake in the above picture was in the yard and I came outside to see what was going on because the guineas were yelling at it. As soon as I got near it the snake slithered between the rocks next to the steps. I started taking the video below and and even after the snake had hidden to where they couldn't get it, the guineas keep coming back to yell at it some more! lol (I was holding my phone the wrong way, sorry!)


Snake deterrent powder can be sprinkled on the ground outside of the coop and run. I used an all natural one called Snake Shield and it: elicits a neurological reaction in snakes that effectively repels them with just one encounter. Snakes rely on a special organ, called the Jacobsen’s organ, to interpret environmental stimuli and navigate their surroundings. Snake Shield temporarily blocks this critical function, causing snakes to immediately retreat in search of fresh air.

Snake traps are a thing and they work pretty well. I didn't know this till I started looking around, but there are different styles available depending on what type and size snakes you're dealing with. I highly recommend the humane snake traps and not the glue trap type.

A friend of mine swears by keeping a Minnow trap with an egg in it inside the coop at all times. The snake gets in the trap through the small hole and drops down to where the egg is. After eating the egg it cannot get back out. He swears it works. If you are going to use some type of trap, make sure you check it daily.

Once trapped I usually take snakes for a drive to the back of my woods and let them go about 10 acres from where they were caught. I don't know how far they can actually travel, but that distance seems to work for me.

Relocating black snake from chicken coop


Snake deterrents that don't work very well:

Golf balls. I've often heard that if you put golf balls or ceramic eggs in the nest boxes that snakes will eat them, be unable to digest them and die. There are 2 major flaws in this theory. First, snakes have an amazing sense of smell and generally they will not be confused by a non egg item. Second, snakes can regurgitate quite easily. In fact, after eating an egg they regurgitate the undigested eggshell. They will have no problem spitting that golf ball right back up once they realize it's not food.

Now there is a small chance that a snake will get confused and eat that fake egg or golf ball (more likely: real eggs or a chick) then not be able to fit back out through whatever tiny hole he got in through. In that case, the snake would be stuck in the coop and you would be able to relocate him far away. You're going to have to catch the snake before a chicken sees it and starts a fight with it though...which is a risky chance to take.

I have heard that snakes hate the smell of mothballs and will stay away from them. However, mothballs are toxic and contain a chemical known to cause cancer. Plus, you wouldn't want your chickens to get into them accidentally and get sick. Mothballs are a pesticide regulated by the EPA and using them outdoors and in this manner is actually illegal.


In closing if you have a snake problem there are a lot of effective methods to control it. Whatever you do, please do not attempt to pick up a snake unless you have positively identified it as non venomous and have taken the proper precautions. If you are not comfortable touching a snake, a big box and a shovel can help you get it out of your way. Please be careful! I would hate for anybody to get bitten!

Having problems with other predators around your coop? Click here for my previous posts on chicken predators!
~L

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