How to Keep Snakes Out of Chicken Coops: 6 Tips

Is a Snake-Proof Chicken Coop Possible?

How to Keep Snakes Out of Chicken Coops: 6 Tips

Do you need to know how to keep snakes out of chicken coops? Depending on where you live in the world, you may be accustomed to worrying quite a bit about snakes, or not worrying about them very much at all.

Many people, after all, do not live-in areas populated by any of the world’s most venomous snakes, and even among the approximately 600 species of venomous snakes across the globe, very few are likely to bite humans, and even fewer will do so and produce dangerous or fatal results.

For chicken keepers, however, snakes are an entirely different game than for people simply concerned with their own safety.

Indeed, the species of snake most notorious for terrorizing chicken coops, like rat snakes and king snakes, are non-venomous and pose no threat to humans. They do, however, pose a major threat to chicken eggs and have even been known to eat baby chicks.  

Preventing serpent incursions into a chicken coop is a daunting but doable task, so long as you are not afraid of a little elbow grease and a lot of attention to detail. With the six tips below, even a first-time chicken keeper should be able to achieve a snake-proof chicken coop — or as snake-proof as possible in any area populated by scaly sneak thieves.

An eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis geluta) coiled on a log.

6 Tips for How to Keep Snakes Out of Chicken Coops

  1. Bury your coop walls at least six inches deep. Snakes, along with weasels, skunks, and many other common menaces to chicken coops, are low to the ground, burrowing predators. Even the sturdiest walls in the world do not mean much to something that can simply sneak right under them. Chicken coops, then, especially those with dirt floors, need to be protected from all directions, including the bottom. Sinking the walls of the coop at least six inches if not a foot deep should be enough to deter any burrowers from making their way into the coop. If the design of your coop or the landscape around it does not allow for this, sink the walls as deep as you can, and then cover the rest of the depth with hardware mesh (see below).   
  2. Reinforce the bottom of your coop with hardware cloth. Hardware cloth or hardware mesh is the one size fits all miracle of chicken coop reinforcement. Unlike chicken wire, which has holes small enough to contain most chickens but large enough to let in most predators, hardware cloth is sturdy enough and fine enough to keep out even the smallest and most tenacious of burrowing predators, including almost all snakes. The most effective way to utilize hardware mesh is to cover the entire bottom of your coop with it, including the floor and at least six inches up the sides of the walls. As the coop ages and warps or decays, patch even the smallest holes that develop with more hardware cloth, especially if a sturdier fix is not possible or practicable. 
  3. Keep the area around the coop clear of hiding places. Snakes are ambush predators, who are unlikely to attack a coop that they cannot safely get close to. Rocks, woodpiles, tall grasses, and low bushes are all excellent hiding places for a hungry snake, so keeping all of these and similar growths and structures far away from the coop will make it significantly less appetizing to a snake. Keep bushes and shrubbed trimmed a few inches, at least, above the ground, and mow the grass around your coop frequently. Ideally, you will be able to build your coop at a safe distance from any immovable hiding places, like sheds, boulders, or large woodpiles. 
  4. Install an automatic chicken coop door. Many chicken keepers are put off from purchasing an automatic chicken coop door because of the initial expense, which can be high, but they will also save you a world of time and worry when it comes to putting your hens in at night. Having your chickens inside before it gets dark is probably the most efficient and effective way to prevent attacks from all kinds of predators, including many snakes. Especially for chicken keepers living in areas where they amount of daylight varies widely throughout the seasons, a light-sensitive automatic chicken coop door is the easiest way to keep up with the changing times of the sunset, and will likely be a literal lifesaver for your hens.  
  5. Clean up after your chickens. Chicken feed may not be attractive to snakes in and of itself, but it is highly attractive to mice, rats, squirrels, and other small critters. Keeping these pests, especially rats, out of the coop is its own benefit, but it is also how to keep snakes away from chicken coops. These critters present an appealing prey option to snakes, who will then have a reason to hang around the chicken coop and eventually discover the delicious eggs and chicks inside. While it is probably impossible to clean up every little scrap of chicken feed after every meal, a cleaner coop is a safer coop. Other rodent mitigation efforts, like traps and cats, will also help prevent a snake problem from developing by limiting the amount of appealing food options in the area.
  6. Keep on top of maintenance and repairs. As chicken coops age, they become increasingly susceptible to predators. The walls can warp and crack; wooden floors might begin to rot. Joints and corners begin to separate, and it becomes easier and easier for snakes and other predators to worm their way into even the tiniest holes, cracks, and crevices. Keeping up to date on maintenance and repairs as the issues arise, rather than waiting until they become too big to ignore or lead to tragedy, will help keep your hens as safe as possible. A hole as small as half an inch across can let a predator into the coop, so regular coop inspections will be necessary to make sure the coop stays as safe and secure as it was the day your girls moved in. 

Corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus), a type of North American rat snake.

Snakes are a difficult and frightening foe for any chicken keeper to face. They are difficult to see and harder to stop; they are experts at hiding from humans and chickens and can squeeze into a chicken coop through even the smallest cracks and holes.

There is no way to make snake prevention easy, but it is manageable.

Many chicken keepers never lose any chicks or eggs to snakes, and the key to this feat is careful planning and constant vigilance —  not glamorous or exactly fun measures to take, but they are necessary ones.

It is important to remember that no measures are 100% foolproof, so it’s difficult to instruct how to “snake-proof” a chicken coop, but with a little luck and a lot of work, there is no reason snakes should be anything more than a minor concern to you and your flock.   

Nigel Robert is a reptile lover and editor-in-chief at More Reptiles, a reptile magazine and community.

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