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Chickens and garden snakes?

 
Karen Walk
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Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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I have been reading lately about how awesome garter snakes are in the garden. They eat slugs and rodents and Japanese beetles grubs.

Does anyone have experience with small, low-venom snakes and poultry in the same area? I would like to encourage snakes in my food forest AND let chickens free-range there. Will the higher levels of snakes be stressful for the birds? The largest snake I have seen is about 3/4" in diameter. Most are much smaller.

Will snakes of this size eat chicken eggs? Is there a way to construct the coop to discourage snakes from entering? Maybe raise it off the ground on stilts?

Thanks!

Karen
 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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The question should be how to protect the snakes from the chickens! Small snakes are eaten by chickens.
 
Karen Walk
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Thanks Renate! I think I can give the snakes habitat that is somewhat protected from chickens - brush piles, piles of stone, etc. If the snakes won't have a negative impact on the animals that support me, it sounds like more life = more life!
 
Russell Olson
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Location: Zone 4 MN USA
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I'd love you hear of anyone who's successfully attracted bull/garter snakes into their garden, and how they did it.

I think I have a good chance in mine, some nice sunny corners I could stack flat overhanging rocks and such.
I'd love to get a handful of snakes take up residence and dissuade the pocket gophers and mice.

Maybe add a frog habitat/water source? Any plants snakes like?
 
Karen Walk
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Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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Hey Russell,

I had beams from an old post and beam barn under tarps on my property for a while. The snakes loved to curl up in the small gaps between the beams and in the mortices (about 2"x6"). We couldn't move a beam without disturbing at least one snake.

I also had a friend who grew potatoes in straw with compost. She got lots of potatoes and tons of snakes. So I think they like warm dry places with lots of small spaces where they can curl up. I'm going to try things like:

*A large flat rock propped an inch off the ground on one end and surrounded by logs or brush.

*A loose pile of logs - I'll probably cut some mortices into the logs as I have the technology

*piles of straw near the Japanese beetles favorite trees

*upside-down half flower pots

There are some great threads on permies about garter snakes. Just Google "permies garter snakes" and at least 4 threads will pop up.
 
Al Senner
Posts: 59
Location: southeast SD (zone 4b/5a)
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Karen Walk wrote:I have been reading lately about how awesome garter snakes are in the garden. They eat slugs and rodents and Japanese beetles grubs.

Does anyone have experience with small, low-venom snakes and poultry in the same area? I would like to encourage snakes in my food forest AND let chickens free-range there. Will the higher levels of snakes be stressful for the birds? The largest snake I have seen is about 3/4" in diameter. Most are much smaller.

Will snakes of this size eat chicken eggs? Is there a way to construct the coop to discourage snakes from entering? Maybe raise it off the ground on stilts?

Thanks!

Karen


In north america the only low venom snakes are rear fanged ones like hognose snakes. None of them will bother you or your livestock. If you do handle one enough to get bitten, its more like an allergic reaction than envenomation. Garter snakes( and bull snakes for that matter) tend to overwinter in groups so they can easily find each other to breed early in the spring so the best way to keep snakes around is to provide a good hibernation spot. For what its worth, when I find a snake in my urban/suburban yard 9 times out of 10 its in the raspberries.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Around here we don't have low venom snakes only the real stuff. They are not interested in chicken because they don't eat chicken, too big. However pythons do,
but you might not have pythons.
 
Karen Walk
Posts: 122
Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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Thanks guys! And no, Angelika - we have no pythons.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Good for you for encouraging snakes in your habitat! They are my rodent control of choice and I just generally love snakes.

I have had snakes eat eggs – lots of them. But you can use a smaller gage wire and make sure that the nesting areas are somewhat sealed.
If a bird is setting eggs make sure her area cannot be accessed by snakes, otherwise just make sure you can collect them regularly.
I also used sulfer on the ground around the perimeter of the hen house.

In general I derived more benefit from setting up a snake habitat than any losses. Mouse problem disappeared completely, the vole problem was diminished – resulting in more root crops for me, and the black snakes and corn snakes are very territorial so they discouraged rattlers and copperheads from setting up housekeeping in the same area.

Oh yeah, and as mentioned above, I did see a lot of little baby snake carcasses in the chicken pen – apparently the chickens think they taste good.
 
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The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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