Egg-Suckin’ Snake in the Grass

Our hens are giving us NO eggs lately but I discovered one of them nestled in the weeds on a well-concealed nest behind the garden mid-day and was sure I’d find at least one egg there later in the evening. Nope.

So I stopped by the hidden nest the next morning after the hens had been out an hour or two, just to see if maybe I could snag a warm, fresh egg. And now I know what’s happening to our free-range eggs lately: the same well-fed king snake I met in the garden shed a few weeks back is experiencing a cholesterol spike.

He was coiled up in the nest like he owned the place. With my approach, he slowly began to slither off into the thick brush. I grabbed his tail just as it was about to disappear into the tall weeds. His invisible front half, meanwhile, coiled around the vegetation, giving him a good grip to counter my pull in the opposite direction. A GOOD grip.

So there I stood holding with what I’d guess was about 25# of resistance, the snake’s body as straight and taut as a hoe handle, neither one of us budging an inch. I tried to imagine what that stand-off would have looked like to a passing car. Finally, I outlasted him and he began to release his hold on his anchor.

I swung him out into the yard to see exactly who I was dealing with here, holding him briefly on my outstretched arm at shoulder height; he reached the ground easily from that level. His egg diet has made him a record specimen, the result of HENS…Herpetological EggCentric Nutritional State. (You’ll not find this in the ICD9 book). He is somewhat better than 60 inches in length, and one thick muscular fellow, by virtue of his high-protein body-builder’s diet.

During our tug of war, I made a point to hold him behind the vent. Even so, he managed to anoint me with snake stink, with which the dog later on was most impressed. And I’m thinking we have a candidate for the Goose Creek Snake Relocation Program. I don’t want to kill him, but I’d like him to find another way to put food on his table than the eggs that should go on mine.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred! You and your quips! you’re a mess.
    The only way he’s gonna leave is forcefully evicted and arrested. If there’s any way you can catch him and get him in some kind of container, take him down to Allegheny Springs Rd. and turn him out. Otherwise, you’ve got yourself a nature provided gangster. He’ll take care of the rodents and threatening legless demons, but it’ll cost you for that service.

  2. Going through the dresser drawers last week, found: a canvas sack, home made in 1970–my snake sack Ann made me the semester I took herpetology at Auburn. I haven’t really had need of such now for 40 years, but I can’t bear to throw it out. Maybe the need has indeed arisen for my old snake sack in the Relocation Program efforts. I see no other non-lethal way to protect our eggs. Problem is, this is by no means the only egg-sucker oggling our avian ova. That old sack’s gonna get quite a work out after all!

  3. A real snake in the grass, eh? The snake will be just as happy in another setting and you’ll have your eggs back. Until the next one comes along!

  4. Might be easier to relocate the chickens, Fred! We finally had to dispatch one last year. Didn’t take a hint. My snake in my post (later today) on my blog measures (yes, he’s still around–not past tense) 75 inches and now that the baby chicks and turkeys arrived today, there is lots more at stake! This year, I bought some Premier electric fencing–woven electric and am in the process of encircling the chick mobile with it and plan to spark some interest in the snake moving on out to another locale.

    Best of luck!

  5. Don’t know this to be true, but I’ve heard that once a snake has been caught (or tossed) it will not return to that place. But, hen eggs are awful tempting…

  6. My thought, in the sustained tug-of-war, was to traumatize the snake without harming it. I think I succeeded. Seeing how big he was, after all, sort of traumatized me too, but maybe “thrilled” would be a better way to say it. What a magnificent mass of scaled muscle! And I can’t blame him: eggs are mighty tasty, though I suppose ‘raw, whole and with shells’ is an acquired taste.

  7. We had the same problem not long ago. Sadly, he filled himself up on eggs that were due to hatch in a few days.

    We put the nests boxes up on stilts and put the broody hen and her new eggs inside a rabbit hutch. Now the snake is back to hanging out in the garden shed eating mice.

    It’s much better to have a mice-eating, egg snacking black snake around than a people-biting copper head.

    Good luck to you!

  8. Oh how I loved this post and the comments. What we miss out on in the city. A tug of war with a strong snake: awesome!