By Angela D Shelton
There’s nothing like a farm-fresh egg for breakfast. If you don’t believe me, just ask Ricky and Lucy, my two huskies. They would prefer our farm eggs to the dog food we keep pushing on them.
I usually give eggs away by the dozens and share them with my happy pets. Until one day, there weren’t as many in the nesting box. Some days, not even one. Something was definitely going on in the chicken coop.
A dozen hens happily pecked about in our yard and the cow pastures at Two Oaks Ranch. Two humans can’t eat the output of a dozen chickens, thus the abundance to share. But what was happening to the eggs? The chickens didn’t seem unhealthy. I didn’t see any injuries, yet egg production had plummeted. Then my husband fed and watered the chickens one day and opened their nest to find a gigantic rat snake curled up in the box, happily enjoying a feast. So, there was our answer.
Since then, snakes have come and gone. One surprised me thoroughly when I went to get a scoop of sunflower seeds for the flock. I lifted the lid only to see the serpent curled around the bag, looking for a mouse who had moved into the feed box the previous week. That was a shocker to this hater of reptiles.
One of my favorite snake stories, though, is when I came out to perform coop duties and found a snake stuck halfway in and halfway out of the nesting box. This silly fellow had somehow gotten its head, and the egg it had eaten stuck on opposite sides of the nest door. He was in a real predicament as the chickens found it fun to peck at his fascinating tail as it dangled. The wayward back end of the snake had unlocked the box’s latch next to his prison. The hens were jumping up into the open nest, hung their heads out the door, and pecked the stuck offender. Now that’s poetic justice.
I’m no fan of the slippery ones. When I see them, I do my best to go in the opposite direction. But this guy kept me from filling the feeder and waterer for my birds. It was getting dark, and I was flying solo on the farm that night. (Some days, this girl wants to phone a friend on specific tasks.)
How could I release the snake without touching him or getting close to that angry, hissing mouth? I went on a hunt for the lengthiest pole I could find. A pair of bush trimmers? Nope, not long enough for my tastes. A rake—closer, but not quite. Then I saw it, a tree trimming pole. Yes!
I began with the extension as far out on the pole as I could manage while sitting on the ATV, so my feet wouldn’t touch the same ground as the snake once it got free. It wasn’t easy. I had to use the long pole to unlatch the door from eight feet away. And at that distance, the tool was heavy for this weak-armed chickadee. I’d get close to getting the latch undone, only to lose control and lock it again—repeatedly. But finally, I got it done, and the snake slunk away, angry for the disturbance of its meal.
Lessons learned? A few. First, I found my big-girl panties that day and conquered my fears just enough to get the job done. The chickens got the care they needed. Hooray! Second, believe it or not, I spent a lot of time praying that day. Most of it was along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding me on this one, God.” After all, He knows how much I hate snakes. Honestly, I only needed to find the right tool and be brave enough to use it. Life’s like that sometimes.
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