Though they are not exactly sparring for a fight, adult chickens are known to take on snakes and win. Attacking and killing snakes is not unusual for chickens and other flightless birds that nest on the ground. Chickens and other birds protect their roost and eggs from snakes by pecking them to death.
Chickens will instinctively attack and kill snakes
It seems that the appearance of a snake triggers innate attacking behaviors that have remarkable boldness and ferocity.
It is thought that the serpent-killer instinct may have been inherited from the Red Jungle Fowl, from which domestic chickens are descended. More ancient and native poultry breeds display these behaviors more strongly.
Chickens are generally wary of predators and with a snake, they will leave nothing to chance. Members of the flock will raise the alarm and the group will descend on the snake. If it is small, the snake is unlikely to escape an attack. Feisty hens do not hold back but will even pursue a fleeing snake.
Roosters will definitely be up for the challenge of taking out a wily snake!
The bravado and swagger of a rooster are not all hot air. Hair-raising footage from India captured a bold Cockrel pecking a king cobra to death. These males are fiercely protective of their flock and are known to kill even the deadliest of snakes. They will drive a serpent away from the other chickens while pecking it and even picking it up.
Roosters are instinctively equipped with rapid pecking and darting maneuvers that can pin down and make short work of a snake. Venomous snakes find it difficult to strike a rooster due to evasive bobbing movements from the bird. The weakened and exhausted snake is finally swallowed down.
Are snake-eating chickens a myth?
Chickens will not only kill but eat small snakes. In regions where snakes are common, smaller venomous and non-venomous snakes are easy pickings for a foraging hen.
The vast majority of snakes are not Amazonian anacondas. Your hens are most likely to encounter small racers and garters that they can dart for and gobble down.
If a hen catches a small snake, there may be a scuffle with other hens who want in on this popular treat. Most owners first become aware that their snakes eat hens by watching one race across the yard to cover where they can enjoy their treat alone.
It’s not a meal for the fainthearted as a chicken will dispatch and swallow the snake whole. Sadly a snake can prove too much of a mouthful for some chickens, as they can become stuck in the crop and cause a fatal impaction.
Is it safe to have snakes around your chickens?
Though chickens are capable of going toe to toe with a snake, it is still wise to exercise caution on behalf of your hens and keep them away from snakes.
Given the capacity of chickens to kill a snake, it is understandable that these predators will not deliberately take on these large birds but if opportunity and advantage present themselves, snakes will go for young chicks and eggs.
A coop may not be an immediate target for snakes but their hunting of mice and other vermin may attract them there.
How snakes hunt chickens
Furtive snakes of size and caliber to eat chicks and eggs will squeeze through even small openings to the coop so they can access the nesting area and wolf down whole eggs.
Snakes should always be considered as a cause of missing eggs and will even eat decoy wooden eggs or golf balls if you leave them there. Sometimes a full snake will have to lay low in the coop while they are temporarily too large to escape.
An especially daring large snake may try to swallow a young pullet and may leave no signs of predation other than a missing bird. If the attempt failed you may be left with a dead bird with a wet head.
Securing your chickens coop against snakes.
If you are concerned about the risks of snakes to your chickens you can take the following steps to protect your backyard hens from unwelcome serpents:
- Keep your coop free of leftover food to prevent a rodent infestation that can attract snakes.
- Remove eggs frequently, do not leave them in the nesting box for long.
- Install ¼” to ½” diameter mesh hardware over venting and other potential access points to your coop and roost. Chicken wire will not be adequate for determined predators like snakes.
In all honesty, for the vast majority of snakes, your chickens are going to be the predator. However, keeping your coop clean and well secured will keep opportunistic predators like snakes away from your chicks and eggs.