Thelma is a Chocolate Orpington (not to be confused with a Black Australorp)–she is one of our newest hens. One of Bud’s previous students has a father who raises them, and he gave us two pullets last time Bud went to Houston.
Since she started laying, she has been a very regular layer. One day I went into the hen house, and noticed all the signs of broodiness. So, being the chicken addict I am, I decided to put a few…well…okay –9– eggs underneath her. (You know…some won’t even hatch, and some will be roosters, so you have to prepare for that.)
Bud and I both wanted to see what kind of Broody she would make. Helen, our favorite Broody, has raised multiple groups of chicks and she is a great mother. She is getting on up there in age, though, and won’t always be with us forever.
Thelma has been such a good Broody Mama…she was brooding so HARD! You could almost feel her broodiness, with her breast and head down, feathers all puffed out, and a look of concentration that was unbreakable. She had not gotten up off the nest at all after I had put the eggs under her.
After you have seen a Broody Hen in action, it gives new meaning to Genesis 1:1-2:
In the beginning created God the heavens and the earth.
And the earth was form and void; and darkness over the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters.
Some versions say ‘hovering or moving’ in place of the word ‘brooding,’ but after having seen a broody chicken, it really gave me a new picture for this scripture.
So… I came into the hen house this morning, and the first thing I saw was the eggs in the brooder area scattered. I knew something was very wrong. I poked my head inside, and Thelma was nowhere to be seen.
For some unknown reason, I happened to glance up over my shoulder as I was kneeling down. I looked into the nest box, and there was a huge black snake curled up in the corner of one of the nesting boxes! I ran to the house and called for Bud, yelling that there was a black snake in the hen house.
Bud had just woken up, so he had to get dressed first. He grabbed his machete and went inside the hen house and told me stay way back. I watched from the door as Bud stabbed the machete into the nesting box. With each stab the snake’s head would pop out like a jack-in-the-box, striking at him. I could see it’s head going in and out from my vantage point. Finally, Bud pulled the snake out onto the floor of the hen house with his machete, and gashed it just below the head.
Black snakes are one of the ‘good’ snakes, and are non-venomous. They eat mice and other snakes, but they also eat eggs, and they can eat baby chicks. Apparently this snake ate at least 3 of the eggs, and was digesting them while curled up in the nesting box. Bud happened to gash the snake’s neck right where an egg was, because you can see the yolk of it spilling out onto the ground with the blood.
I don’t know if it was nerves or if it was still alive, but it opened it’s mouth and snarled at me while I was trying to take pictures.
The snake was about 4 1/2 feet long.
I found Thelma in one of the nesting boxes, safe and sound. I felt so bad for her. It must have been very scary. Chickens don’t see well in the dark, so I don’t know how she found her way through the darkness into the nesting box, unless it happened before or after it got dark.
We marveled at it for a while, and then Bud said he was going to go have a cup of coffee and told me it was my responsibility to dispose of it. I scooped it up with a stick, carried it over to the pond across the street and tossed it in the water.
Just another day on the farm.