an unwelcome surprise

This past saturday we were away from the farm all day long, so when I got home about 8:30pm I had a bunch of chores to do.  I started with a trip down to the duck house to herd them inside and close the door for the night.  Next I headed up to the pool to get the cover pump going since it had stormed during the day and filled with water. By the time I made it to the chicken coop, most of the daylight was gone.  

The girls were all up their roost, and I noticed that for the first time, all four pullets had made it up there instead of sleeping on top of the nesting boxes.  I stepped into the coop to collect the eggs and peer into the nesting boxes. The first box is closest to the door and thus the most lit, but all I see is the golf ball we put in early on so the hens know where to lay.  Oh well, the girls dont seem to prefer laying in that box as much as the other two. Squinting into the darker middle box I find the same thing, no eggs just a golf ball. Seems a little odd, but hey, I’m not going to question the mind of a chicken.  The third box is farthest from the light, but there appears to be a lot of something in it.  As I reached into the dark box to collect my bounty of eggs, I thought for a split second about how all ten hens must have been lined up all afternoon for their chance to sit in the prized box.

My mind switched gears an instant later, and I realized that I had just grabbed ahold of something that felt nothing like the shell of an egg.  I knew now why we seemed to be short on eggs over the past few days.  It was time to take a picture to let my wife know what she was missing out on by staying behind to help clean up after a party at her parents houe.

  
Thankfully, Mr. Black Snake had been attempting to munch down another egg when I stuck my hand in and he hadn’t snapped at me, but now I needed to extract the visitor.  I quickly grabbed an empty feed bucket with lid that was sitting in the coop, stuck it near the box and put on a thick pair of gloves, but then decided to use the pitch fork in the corner instead of reaching back in there with my hand.  At this point the chickens on their shoulder-high roosts were getting restless, and they rustled and peeped disgruntedly, eyeing me as I moved around the coop.  

I slid the tines under the snake to gently lift him into the bucket, but he took off and high-tailed it out the door. I chased him down, pinned his head to the ground with the pitch fork handle, and quickly grabbed him at the back of his head.  He instinctively wrapped himself around my arm; looking back, that would have been the perfect moment totake the picture I sent to my wife.  Wearing my new snake bracelet, I had to re-enter the coop to grab the bucket, further distrurbing the chickens, especially Mr. Rooster, who has taken a great interest in my adventures.  They bob their heads and fidget nervously as I unceremoniously dumped the uninvited guest into the bucket.

With the snake contained and the wife notified, it was time to decide the fate of my captive.  I know this type of snake is good for keeping down the rodent population, but his appreciation for eggs means he can’t stay here.  We decide not to take the thief’s life, but definitely want to make sure he won’t easily find his way back.  

I threw the bucket in the back of the truck and drove the snake over the river to the next county.  For the sake of accuracy, the county line is only about a mile away, but to make it back to our coop, he will have to cross a set of railroad tracks and a hundred yard bridge or swim across the river.  For now, I feel the eggs are pretty safe.

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