On Monday our chicks moved into their new home: a converted garden shed. I was a bit sad about losing the pretty garden shed over to a bunch of chickens. But we needed a place for the chickens to move to quickly, and Frank works 10 hour days so he didn't have time to build a completely new structure. So with some work inside the shed and out (and more to come) - it is a good coop.
On Wednesday morning we decided to let the chickens out into a little fenced area. The first chick came out, walked down the ramp, and promptly found a little area that wasn't closed up tight enough and escaped under the coop. Phooey. I set Solomon down in the grass (he was SUPPOSED to be napping but we'd had several interruptions ...) and I quickly blocked that little gap until Frank could fix it. Solomon began fussing - he had a huge mouthful of dirt and grass. I picked him up, cleaned out his mouth, and then walked quickly around the coop. I had to stop abruptly because right in front of my feet there was Mr. Rat Snake moving quickly towards the chicken under the coop! (You know that feeling where it's hard to sleep unless you at least have a sheet over you to "feel safer"? I felt that as I stood there in my flipflops wishing I had my tall rubber boots on.)
I yelled to Tabby and she let out a LOUD scream. But it was not in terror. Oh no! She had turned into a mama tiger and wanted her chicken safe. "Kill it!" she yelled. I stood there with Solomon in one hand not sure what to do. So she sprinted to the nearby woodshed to grab a hoe. (While I yelled at her "Watch out for copperheads!" because the former owners told us he sometimes had seen them in there and to be sure we had a shotgun handy for those times.) She was back in an instant and began chopping at that rat snake in a fury. But he didn't die! While she held him pinned she screamed "Help me!" I ran for another hoe (of course looking for copperheads!) and came back. I was still holding Solomon in one arm and no way was I going to put him down in the grass. So I began chopping at the snake, holding the hoe with one hand, but it was hard.
Wack! Wack! Wack! I had assumed a hoe would cut through a snake like a knife through butter. Maybe it would have if I had had two hands free to swing it? And if that snake would have stopped squirming and held still! Or maybe our hoes are in dire need of some sharpening! Well Mr. Rat Snake (was it the same that ate our baby bluebirds?) got free and went right under the coop.
Tabby really began to panic then. "He will not kill my chicken!" She ran to one side and began calling the chicken "Here chick-chick-chick-chick!" I yelled at her not to put her face so close to the opening in case that snake struck at her. I didn't care rat snakes aren't poisonous - I don't want anyone bit. I ran to get her some food to try to use to coax that chicken out while Tabby fumed in anger and prayed for God to save her chicken.
God did protect that chicken though it took an hour to get him to come out! Whew! I cornered him and Tabby grabbed him and put him in the coop and slammed the door shut.
Snakes. I hate them. (Or as we tell our kids to say "I don't care for ...") I imagine they've been unpopular ever since Satan's temptation of Eve in Garden of Eden.
We had been debating about what to do about the snakes. We know that rat snakes eat mice aggressively so that could keep the copperhead food down. (Copperheads are not aggressive about getting the mice.) And less food for copperheads might mean they stay away. So we thought maybe we'd let the rat snakes be. Maybe just use the "snake flicker" (see previous post) when necessary. (But I could never use that while holding Solomon in one arm - that thing is heavy! But now we're thinking that ANY snake that dares to come near us or our chickens - then we'll do our best to kill it.
What about you? Do you have snakes in your yard? What is your policy? And what is your favorite way to kill them, if that is what you do?
"So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this [deceived Eve],“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life." - Genesis 3:14