5 Tips To Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops

keep snakes away from chicken coop

Making sure your chickens are safe should be one of the top priorities of any keeper.

While adult chickens are more likely to kill a snake than the other way around, chicken eggs and young chicks can be eaten by larger snakes. This danger makes it absolutely necessary to snake proof your chicken coop.

Though it is a myth that commercial snake repellants or devices truly work to keep snakes away, there are a few tips that can help you keep your coop safe without harming or killing any snakes.

After all, snakes are pretty cool animals and their death is not necessary for keeping your flock out of harm’s way.

Are you having problems with snakes getting into your chicken coop?

Keep reading to learn the 5 best tips for keeping your chickens safe, and making sure snakes are not harmed in the process.

How To Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops

  1. Clear debris and increase visibility

A great way to prevent snakes from coming into your yard is to make sure there are no places to hide. Snakes are generally shy creatures that need lots of hiding spots from larger predators. This hiding spot could be a log pile, old equipment, wood or sheets of metal, bushes and even tall areas of grass.  Snakes will be a lot less likely to appear if you make sure your yard and your chicken coop is free of debris, overgrown areas and patches of long grass.

  1. Seal any small holes in your coop

Only bigger snakes like rat snakes, bull snakes and large corn snakes really pose any threat to your chickens. Even these larger species pose very little danger to adult chickens and will only consume younger chicks if given the chance. That being said, these larger species can easily squeeze themselves into small holes, and making sure your coop is properly sealed is a great measure to keep snakes out. Any holes that are larger than a half an inch should be sealed. Chicken wire is not recommended around your coop as it is usually big enough that snakes can make their way through the gaps. Once they are through, they may consume a small chick and be too big to get back out again!

  1. Use hardware cloth or wildlife friendly netting

Cloth or netting can help keep snakes from getting into areas that they are unwelcome. You can use hardware cloth or a fine mesh around fences, chicken runs, and even the base of your coop to keep snakes out. Some people suggest bird netting, but this is a really dangerous option for wildlife. Not only can snakes get caught up in it and killed but birds, deer and other larger wildlife can become entangled and die. A better option is smaller mesh (with .5cm or smaller openings), or hard plastic sturdy netting that won’t get caught on snake scales. These wildlife friendly options still work to keep snakes out of your coop, but will be a much safer alternative.

  1. Keep rodents away from your coop

Since the primary diet of most snakes is rodents, having rodents around your coop can actually attract snakes. Mice, rats and chipmunks hanging out around your chickens will encourage snakes to stay in the area as they have a steady food source. To keep rodents away, you should ensure that all your chicken feed and grain is properly sealed in rodent proof containers. You can also bring in your chicken’s feeders at night or use feeders that rodents will be unable to steal from. If your rodent problem is particularly bad, you can dump out the water overnight and refill it in the morning. Taking away the food and water source for rodents will help keep them away from your yard and therefore help keep snakes away. Lastly, keep the area around your coop as clean as possible. Pick up any stray food after feeding and you will likely see less rodents running around.

  1. Make sure you maintain your coop

Making all these changes to keep snakes away won’t work if you don’t maintain them. As your coop ages, you will likely see more and more small holes that need to be filled, mesh and fences that need to be replaced, and an increase in vulnerable areas that predators can exploit. Making sure you are maintaining your coop and keeping the general area tidy and debris-free will be the best long-term strategy to keep snakes away.

FAQs

Will A Chicken Fight A Snake?

Usually chickens are not keen on fighting snakes and when given the choice, they will flee. However, some territorial chickens that have a strong desire to protect their chicks will take on the challenge. Mature chickens often have no problem killing snakes and the result of their fight almost always ends with the snake’s death.

What Can I Put Around My Chicken Coop To Keep Snakes Away?

There is no specific snake repellant that works nor is there a device that will magically keep snakes away, though many companies trying to sell products want you to believe that. Snake traps may help keep snakes away from your coop, but most of them are also inhumane and usually lead to the death of the reptile. Glue traps in particular should always be avoided as once stuck, it’s almost impossible to remove the snake and they will usually succumb to the elements or injury. The best way to keep snakes away is prevention. Making the area predator proof, clean, and free of rodents are a few steps that can help ensure snakes stay away.

Conclusion

You don’t have to kill or harm wild snakes in order to keep your chickens safe. Commercial snake repellants are ineffective and traps will often lead to the death of any who are caught by it. Thankfully, there are a variety of effective methods that will ensure the safety of your flock while posing no danger to native wildlife. Keeping your coop clean, removing debris and grass that may block visibility, sealing holes, using wildlife friendly netting, avoiding attracting rodents and making sure your coop is properly maintained will give snakes no reason or chance to infiltrate your coop.

Let us know if these tips have worked for you in the comments below.

 

 

 

What To Know Before Building Your Own Chicken Coop

backyard chicken on grass

Are you looking to build a coop for your first flock of backyard chickens? This article has everything you need to know about building a safe coop for a happy flock.

The perfect chicken coop protects your birds from heat, cold, weather, predators, and diseases, while also being comfortable for them and accessible for you.

I’ve had chickens in my backyard for decades, and in that time, we’ve gone through at least three chicken coops. Every time we build, there are new lessons to be learned, but the fundamental principles always stay the same. The perfect chicken coop is big enough to house the whole flock, sturdy enough to withstand the worst weather, and safe enough to keep out the most determined predators. Perhaps most importantly, it is easy for you, the owner, to clean, maintain, and keep in the best possible shape. This keeps your hens safe and healthy as long as possible. In this article, we’ll break down the things you need to know before building such a perfect coop.

  1. Choose a plan that meets all your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all perfect chicken coop plan or design that will work for every flock owner, but there are a number of universal concerns everyone should consider before picking a coop plan. One of the big ones is capacity: How many and what kind of chickens is the coop able to safely hold? How much space your birds will need will depend on a number of factors. Free-ranging birds or birds with a run will need significantly less space than birds that will be confined all day; roosters generally need a bit more space than hens; and bantam breeds can usually get by with less floor space but need more vertical space. Your personal accessibility needs – how well you can get into the coop to clean and collect eggs – is another major concern people often overlook.
  2. Pick a location that will keep your girls safe and cool. As with plans, there is no hard and fast rule about what makes the perfect location, only a series of concerns to balance against your own needs and preferences. Shade is a big one; placing the coop out of direct sunlight can help keep your flock from overheating. However, building your coop directly under the trees can run afoul of another concern, which is accessibility to predators. Hawks will see a flock that lives directly under a sturdy tree as easy prey, and ground-based predators will more easily access your coop if it is surrounded by good hiding places. Finally, human accessibility is key. Building a chicken coop can take anywhere from a weekend to about two weeks, and maintaining a flock in one more than five years. Consider how far you want to schlep building materials, tools, chicken feed, and eggs to and from the coop. As you may be doing this every day for half a decade, reconsider before picking the spot furthest away from the house.
  3. Add enough ventilation for all seasons. It’s hard to think of a few wall vents as a lifesaving design feature, but for a chicken coop, having proper ventilation is absolutely crucial. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do to keep your girls safe and healthy. A well-ventilated coop will bring in lots of clean air, which will help stop potentially fatal respiratory diseases like Newcastle and bird flu from spreading in your flock. In addition, ventilation will help keep your birds cool in hot weather. Even though modern-day chickens are descended from tropical junglefowl, they are much more susceptible to overheating than freezing. However, both heat waves and cold snaps can be dangerous to chickens. The solution is to have a lot of vents at all heights throughout the coop, which will blow cooling drafts over your birds on hot days, but to have those vents be closeable. In the winter, closing all but two vents at the very top of the coop (above the roosts) will help keep your flock both warm and disease-free.   
  4. Use hardware mesh to keep out predators. When it comes to keeping predators out of the coop, hardware mesh (also called hardware cloth) really can’t be beat. Its small holes (much smaller than those in chicken wire) keep out all manner of ground-based predators, and you can’t use too much of the stuff. Use it to reinforce your walls, your floor, your outer fence, and then bury some more at least six inches into the ground around your perimeter. The one place chicken wire is a better choice is for the upper parts of the run fencing, to keep chickens in and other birds out.   
  5. Customize your nesting boxes and roosts for maximum safety and comfort. Nesting boxes (for egg-laying) and roosts (for sleeping) are the two parts of the coop your hens will use most often. They aren’t fussed about what they look like, as long as your nesting boxes are filled with something soft (like wood shavings or straw) and your roosts are the highest available sitting place in the coop. Have 10 inches of space per bird in your roosts, and one nesting box for every three hens, plus one more than you need for if a hen goes broody or picks a favorite box.

Building your own chicken coop can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are only a few crucial elements to keep in mind when building that, if planned for correctly, will result in a sturdy coop and a safe, happy, healthy, productive flock.

 

Making the Switch: Chick Feed to Layer Ration

By Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC

It’s always a big event when your chickens start to lay! You and your birds put so much hard work and dedication into that moment, and the feed you give your birds is an important part of that first egg, too.  As your birds mature from fuzzy chicks into fully feathered adults, their nutritional needs change. The chick starter/grower they were eating now needs to be replaced with layer ration. How can you support this transition and help them live their best lives as laying hens? 

As your chicks become young adults, their dietary needs change.

Why do I need to switch?

The feed switch from chick starter/grower is critical for the health of your growing birds. So how do the needs of chicks and laying hens differ, and what are the differences between chick starter/grower and layer ration? The short answer is that chicks need feed that supports healthy growth, and hens need feed that supports healthy egg laying.

In their first months of life, chicks’ bodies experience a lot of changes. They need a feed focused on muscle and skeletal growth. Because chicks develop so quickly, their feed requires higher protein, more amino acids, and higher phosphorus levels to support growth. Giving chicks layer ration too soon can cause kidney or liver damage and growth problems.

Layers, on the other hand, need feed that supports egg production. Hens put lots of nutrients into eggs, and the vitamins and minerals that form the shell and its contents come from the hen’s diet. In addition, minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are important for powering  muscles to lay the egg. Adult laying hens also need higher levels of Vitamin D3 to support calcium absorption.

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Either way, you should start with a good layer ration!

When should I switch?

Now that you know the why of switching from chick starter/grower to layer ration, let’s look at when. Most breeds start laying between 20 and 24 weeks of age. It’s important to start providing your hens with a quality layer feed before they begin laying. To prime your hen’s bodies for producing great eggs in the healthiest way possible, you should begin the switch to layer ration at around 16 weeks.

How do I make the transition easy?

Chickens are creatures of habit who like routines and continuity. Because chickens like things to be the same, it’s important to maintain consistency in nutrition. The best way to make a diet transition is to introduce the new food gradually. If you attempt to switch too quickly, you may see the following effects:

  • Digestive upset: A new diet may cause intestinal distress. Signs include a change in the color and consistency of droppings: they may be darker or lighter, or drier or runnier. During a diet change, feeding too many treats also can cause digestive upset and affect the overall health of your birds.
  • Refusal to eat: Chickens like things to be the same. It’s part of being a prey species. Their need for consistency includes their environment, flock mates, feeding times — and their diet. If you switch out a food all at once, they may not recognize the new feed and may stop eating altogether!
  • Overall health decline: Birds who are not happy with their new feed may experience health effects or fail to thrive. They might eat less, thereby getting fewer nutrients. If they free range, they may eat too many things that do not contain the right nutrients, and their bodies will not be ready for the transition to laying.

Now that you know the importance of a gradual transition, you can keep in mind the following to help you transition from one feed to another.  

  • Taste and smell: Formulated feeds from different companies have different ingredients, and it may be easier to stay with one brand, rather than switching brands. For example, Nutrena’s new improved NatureWise line includes essential oils that improve the taste and smell of the feed. If you start your birds on NatureWise Chick Starter Grower, they may move more easily to NatureWise Layer Feed.
  • Visual appearance: The shape of the feed is important, too. Birds are very visual creatures, so they will move more easily to a new feed that looks familiar. Most chick feeds are crumbles, so your birds likely will transition more easily to a feed in crumble form, rather than to a pellet.
  • Nutritional quality: You also want to make sure the new feed is nutritionally similar to or better than your chick feed. If you are feeding a high-quality chick feed, you should seek to maintain the same level of quality in your layer feed. Or better yet, find a layer feed that offers more and better nutrition. A shift to a lower-quality diet could affect the health of your birds at a critical time in their lives.

 

It’s important to transition to a layer ration that is similar to the chick starter you have been feeding. The similarity in texture and nutrients between Nutrena NatureWise Chick Starter Grower (left) and NatureWise Layer Crumble (right) can help your birds make the switch.

What are best practices for switching from chick diet to layer feed?

So how do you switch you birds from chick starter/grower to layer ration? The following are some tips that will help make the transition as easy as possible. You should always start by reading and following the instructions on the manufacturer’s label. Nutrena recommends starting the transition at 16 weeks, and your birds should have made the transition by 18 to 20 weeks. Your chickens may be just fine with this transition, but just in case, we recommend the following protocol.

  • Transition slowly: Mix 25% layer feed with 75% starter/grower feed for a week. Then change to 50% layer feed and 50% starter/grower feed, again for a week. Next, provide 75% layer feed and 25% starter/grower feed for a week. And then finally provide only layer feed.
  • Observe your birds: Monitor the birds closely. Check their crops, watch them eat, and check the feed levels to make sure they are eating. If they are not fed too many treats, layer hens should self-regulate their diet, eating about a quarter pound (1/2 cup) of food per bird per day. You may also want to weigh them every few days. You will need to adjust if there is any sign of weight loss.
  • Slow down the transition: If they stop eating or start losing weight, return to the previous percentages of new and old feed and continue for a few more days. Then try to increase the percentage, and continue increasing, but at a slower rate.
  • Observe nutritional needs: The layer feed should provide about 90% of your hens’ diet. Limit scratch and treats to no more than 10% of their diet. Feeding too many treats reduces the amount of nutrition your birds get from their feed. Limit treats to every few days, and then feed only about 2 tablespoons.
  • Be consistent: Your chickens need consistency, so provide them with fresh food and water at the same time each day, preferably morning and afternoon. They should have both feed and water available at all times.
  • Offer extras: Provide grit — small pieces of granite or other stones — to help them grind up their feed. Also offer oyster shell or limestone, which is slow-release calcium, as opposed to the calcium in their feed, which is absorbed quickly by the body. These supplements should be provided free choice, in separate dishes from the feed, and available at all times. The birds are self-regulating and will eat as much grit and oyster shell/limestone as they need.
  • Remember water: Fresh water is important to proper egg formation; eggs are mostly water. Make sure your birds have water at all times, even during the winter.
It’s important to observe your birds’ eating habits when you start a new feed.

How do I choose a layer ration?

How do you select a layer ration for your birds? First, think about your expectations for your birds and find a feed that will fit those needs. You have a number of options, from bare-minimum feeds that offer very basic nutrition to feeds that are finely crafted for top performance.

Pullets like this one need optimal nutrition to get their bodies in shape for laying.

For backyard flock owners, the goal is usually eggs. If this is your goal, choose a layer diet that will support your pullets as they make the transition to layers and prepare them to live healthy, productive lives. At the very least look for the minimum requirements of layer feed — 16% protein, 0.70% lysine, 0.30% methionine, 3.0% calcium, and 0.40% phosphorus.

Some premium feeds provide additional ingredients for optimal flock performance. For example, in addition to providing a solid nutritional foundation, Nutrena NatureWise includes the following:

  • Pre/probiotics support good bacteria, prevent colonization of bad bacteria, and aid with absorption of nutrients.
  • Yeast culture supports the immune system and gut microflora.
  • Essential oils are plant extracts that provide several benefits:
    • Provide nutrition to support healthy immunity
    • Maximize egg production
    • Support healthy digestion
    • Encourage healthy growth/bone formation
    • Enable superior eggshell strength
    • Enhance feed taste and freshness
  • Vitamin D3, an important vitamin related to calcium absorption, has the following roles:
    • Helps body absorb and use calcium
    • Improves hardness of eggshells
    • Supports stronger bones
    • Contributes to eggs that contain 37% more D3 than eggs from chickens fed a standard diet
  • Tagetes meal (Aztec marigold) helps the hens produce golden egg yolks.
  • Yucca schidigera extract reduces the amount of ammonia in your hens’ droppings, which minimizes coop odor.

 

Caring for a Multi-Species Flock of Chickens

Flock expansion can be an exciting endeavor, especially when you are looking to add a new species or two. It can be a fun and challenging task to meet the needs of a multi-species flock of chickens.

Here are a few tips and recommendations to consider if you plan to take your flock to the next level.

There are three main areas of focus before caring for a multi-species flock:

  • Coop Cleanliness
  • Living Space
  • Management Techniques

Coop cleanliness

Providing your multi-species flock with a clean home is of the utmost importance in preventing sickness.

Keep the coop clean and dry, and keep waterers out of the coop area to prevent splashing and playing by waterfowl.

Remember, anytime you bring new poultry in, you must quarantine them before mixing with the rest of the flock.

Not only will the aid in preventing any pre-existing disease they may bring in, but also is safer for the birds until they are acclimated.

Living Space

Larger poultry need more space, so plan accordingly. Factor in a minimum of 4-square-feet per chicken and even more for larger birds. Failing to provide adequate space can lead to boredom and birds will likely begin to peck at one another.

If space is an issue, or the birds are more confined during the winter months, make sure there are plenty of food/toys/distractions to relieve boredom.

Management Techniques

A successful multi-species flock is an environment where there is little stress on the birds. Having a good ratio of male to female poultry will help keep a balance in the coop.

A good rule of thumb for chickens is approximately 7 hens to 1 rooster. For ducks or other waterfowl, a good balance would include 5-6 females to 1 drake.

Remember that waterfowl are different from chickens and other birds in that they like wet conditions. So their bedding should have more absorbency like straw, pine shavings or grass from lawn mowing.

Additionally, ducks don’t like to roost like chickens, so don’t expect to see them on the perches of your coop! They also prefer cooler weather, are more active at night and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to take a dip in a pool or other body of water.

Another multi-species management recommendation would be to keep chickens and turkeys separate. This is to preventing Blackhead disease carried from chickens to turkeys.

Although not extremely common in a small flock setting, it can be fatal to turkeys if contracted.

These considerations and many more should be made before you dive head first into managing a multi-species flock.

If you are up for the challenge, undoubtedly much enjoyment of watching them grow and flourish is in your future!

New Chick Checklist

New Chick Checklist

New Chick Checklist: Chicks thrive in ideal conditions, so consider these tips for getting started:

  • Heat: Suspend a warm bulb about a foot above the brooder floor for warmth – and have a second bulb on hand in case one burns out. Keep temps in the brooder about 90-95 degrees F for the first week, decreasing about 5 degrees per week. Raise the light as chicks grow.
  • Environment: Be sure your brooder is big enough so your chicks can move about comfortably. Keep it out of drafts. Stock tanks, plastic tubs and homemade brooders are a few good options. Do not allow the brooder to become wet or damp.
  • Bedding: Pine wood shavings are ideal. Avoid straw and newspaper as these become slippery for chicks. Clean bedding daily.
  • Water: Be sure clean, fresh water is always available. Dip chick beaks into water and let them drink 4-5 hours before introducing feed. Elevating the waterer a couple inches off the floor will help it stay clean and prevent bedding from contaminating it.
  • Feed: Scatter feed on the brooder floor so chicks can find it at first. Then place in a feeder. Have chick starter feed available 24/7. Your chicks will eat just what they need. One chick will eat about 10 pounds of chick starter in its first weeks of life. There are some great options available when considering chick starter feeds.

Can Chickens Smell and Taste?

Anyone tending a backyard flock quickly learns that chickens can be as picky Can Chickens Smell and Taste?about food as a crabby child. Put a pan of kitchen scraps into the run and hens enthusiastically devour bread, meat scraps, and some greens yet shun citrus, turnip chunks and many other goodies. They seem to instantly know what foods are a delicious break from dry feed.

Midsummer is a time of food plenty for chickens and wild birds, and it’s Can Chickens Taste?fascinating to watch what they will and won’t eat. Any grasshopper misfortunate enough to hop into a chicken run becomes an instant protein-rich snack. Hens entirely ignore box elder bugs buzzing around them. They’ll eat grasses that grow in their run and shun other plants, like motherwort. How do they know what’s good to eat and what’s not?

Scientists have been debating how well birds can taste and smell for years. Because they have tough bony beaks and small hard tongues it’s more difficult to study their tasting ability than it is with mammals.  According to an ornithologist, Dr. Neil Bernstein, the bird brain is heavily developed for sight, sound, and balance with smell and taste much less acute. Their sense of touch varies by species.

Humans mouths contain about 9,000 taste buds compared with 50 to 500 for birds.  One researcher discovered about 400 taste buds in ducks. Chickens have some taste buds, but they are located in the back of their mouth. So, before they can taste something they’ve already committed to swallowing it.

Studies on the chicken sense of smell and taste are scarce, but more research has been done on wild birds visiting feeders stocked with diverse seeds.  Wild birds, such as chickadees and cardinals, use their keen sense of vision to locate seeds and seem to know which ones are tastiest or most nutritious. For example, they’ll pick every sunflower seed out of a blend of seeds before eating a single milo seed.

Chickens aren’t bird brains. They have intelligence and memory, and this may be a clue on how they react to food.  “I once ate popcorn not knowing I was about to develop the flu.  To put it politely, I tasted popcorn that night on the way out.  It was years before I could eat popcorn again because I unconsciously associated it with illness,” said ornithologist Bernstein.  The same might happen with chickens. A bird who gobbled down a box elder bug and had her throat badly scratched may remember it and take this common insect off her food list.

In many ways, chickens are like humans. People have food preferences. So, do hens.  Although generally, every bird in a flock is likely to like or dislike a certain food, this can vary.  One hen may like tomato scraps, but a flock sister won’t touch them.

Some birds can detect odor. Turkey vultures can locate food hidden under a dense tree cover by chemicals emitted from decaying dead animals. In contrast, great horned owls have been known to kill and eat skunks. “Because skunk spray can hurt owl eyes I don’t think they seek skunks often.  Owls don’t seem to have a sense of smell, but they certainly have food preferences,” said Karla Bloem, Executive Director of the International Owl Center. “For example, they don’t seem to like ground squirrels but love voles,” she added. For a great horned owl having no sense of smell is a benefit. But, how about chickens?

Chickens don’t seem to have much ability to smell or taste. That may be an advantage. They seem to prefer foods of certain colors. Toss scraps of red tomatoes into the run, and they’ll be instantly devoured, while green pepper scraps are ignored. Why hens will eat green grass yet avoid nearby green motherwort or buckwheat plants is a mystery perhaps known only to chickens.

One thing is certain. When given a diversity of foods chickens, and other bird species, have an amazing ability to choose those that are nutritious. One of the benefits of keeping a flock is observing them. It doesn’t take long to learn that they are amazingly perceptive.

Privacy Policy | Terms