Garter snakes is the name for a group of small to medium-sized snakes that are commonly found across Northern America.
The term encompasses around 35 species of snakes and generally speaking, Garter snakes are harmless and too small to harm chickens or eat chicken eggs.
Although Garter snakes do not pose a serious threat to your backyard chickens or their eggs, you should still stop them from getting into your chickens’ coop and run.
Snakes can cause a lot of stress for chickens - which isn’t a surprise, is it! - so it’s best you do everything you can to snake-proof your coop.
Do Garter Snakes Eat Chicken Eggs?
It’s generally believed that Garter snakes will not steal or eat chicken eggs as they’re too small and eggs are not a staple in their diet.
Garter snakes, also called grass snakes, are typically less than 39 inches (100cm) in length and mostly feed on fishes, earthworms, and other small insects.
Most species of Garter snakes are capable of immobilizing their prey so they can take time to swallow it whole, and occasionally they’ll eat larger prey like rodents and small mammals.
I’ve asked around in the backyard chicken community and researched this topic in-depth, and wasn’t able to find any accounts where Garter snakes were responsible for eggs going missing.
There are plenty of other species of snake that are known to eat chicken eggs. Rat snakes and Egg-eating snakes (the name is a giveaway) are two of the more common culprits.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore Garter snakes in your yard though. They can still cause your flock some stress as snakes are seen as predators.
Do Chicken Eggs Attract Snakes?
A lot of backyard chicken owners are concerned that chicken eggs attract snakes, but I’ve never been able to find any evidence to back this up.
Snakes are opportunist scavengers, it’s more likely the smell of a coop and your chickens that attract them, and they end up stealing eggs after entering a coop.
If eggs are breaking open in your chicken’s coop, however, this is a different matter as a snake will likely smell the yolk of the egg.
For this reason, it’s important that you do everything you can to avoid eggs breaking, and clean up any spillages as you see them.
I don’t think leaving an egg out any longer than necessary makes it more likely snakes will enter your coop though, they’ll enter anyway.
What Kind of Snake Eats Chicken Eggs?
As a rule of thumb, if a snake is big enough to eat an egg, it’s likely that it will eat it if it’s hungry.
Some of the species of snakes commonly found in North America that are large enough as adults to eat chicken eggs include:
- Various types of Rattlesnake
- Milk snakes
- Egg-eating snakes
- King snakes
- Chicken snakes (this encompasses several species of snakes)
- To name just a few
Something to keep in mind is that just because a snake doesn’t look like its mouth is large enough to eat an egg, it doesn’t mean it’s not able to.
Rat snakes have fairly small heads. I’ll admit that at first sight, I didn’t think it would be possible for one to swallow a chicken egg whole.
How wrong I was.
Snakes are able to unhinge their jaws to widen their mouths. Most snakes can eat something around three times the size of their heads by doing this.
Related - More on the dangers of rattlesnakes and milk snakes here.
Do Chickens Scare Away Snakes?
The answer to this question isn’t as clear-cut as ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
In some instances, chickens can successfully scare or keep snakes away from their coops. If your chickens are a lot bigger than the snakes and able to defend themselves, that is.
Some breeds are more aggressive and better at defending themselves, too. Guinea Fowl, for example, are pretty tough and will fight off snakes.
You do have to be careful if you know that there is a possibility of snakes coming into contact with your chickens, however.
Make sure you identify what species of snakes they are, and research how dangerous they are.
Just because a snake is too small to eat a chicken whole, it doesn’t mean it will not bite a chicken and injure or kill it.
In fact, many snakes will try and eat a chicken - or any other animal - that is far too large for them before realizing it’s not possible.
Many owners have entered their coops in the morning to find dead chickens with wet heads and necks.
A sign that a snake has attempted to swallow the chicken but not been able to fit it in and given up!
Garter snakes are commonly kept as pets and are even seen as a benefit to most gardeners as they help keep yards free from many pests.
If you’re raising backyard chickens, however, you already have your own pest control. Garter snakes are pests that can cause distress to your beloved chooks.
They might not eat eggs or harm chickens, but you should still take steps to try and remove Garter snakes from your yard and ensure they can’t get into your chicken’s coop.
Garter Snake - britannica.com