Eastern Ratsnake #24-1641

May 26, 2024
Rescue Location
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Ingestion of ceramic egg
Current Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated

On the morning of May 26, a homeowner in Fredericksburg found a surprise in their chicken coop: an Eastern Ratsnake! The snake had entered the coop in search of eggs, a favorite food of ratsnakes; unfortunately, it mistook a ceramic egg that was used to encourage the chickens to lay for an actual egg – and swallowed it. The homeowner noticed that the ceramic egg was missing and brought the snake to the Wildlife Center for treatment.

On admission, the snake was bright, alert, and responsive. Radiographs confirmed that the ceramic egg was in the mid-third section of the snake's body. As you can see in this radiograph, the fake egg was much too large for the snake to pass on its own, so the veterinary team had to anesthetize the snake to surgically remove the egg. 

Radiograph of the Eastern Ratsnake, with the ceramic egg clearly visible“Fortunately, these surgeries aren't particularly challenging, and snakes generally heal well if they are treated quickly,” says Dr. Karra, the Center's Director of Veterinary Services. “But there is always the risk of complications, especially if the tissue has been stretched by the egg to the point that it is no longer healthy."

In the days following surgery, the veterinary team closely monitored the snake's incision site for any signs of infection or other issues, but thus far no concerns have been found. The team will continue to monitor the site, as well as the snake's attitude and appetite, and will administer fluids to keep the snake hydrated. 

If you happen to find a surprise visitor like this snake in your chicken coop, there is nothing to fear: the snake will not harm the chickens, as it is simply after the eggs that they lay. However, if the snake consumes a fake egg, it will need help from a permitted wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible – the longer it takes to surgically remove the egg, the less likely the snake is to survive. 

While it can be difficult, there are also steps you can take to keep snakes away from a chicken coop. Snakes can enter the coop through small holes, so be sure to seal any small entrances to the coop. Additionally, trimming the grass and hedges near a coop may help, since snakes are more vulnerable in open areas and will typically avoid them. However, most chicken owners are happy to pay an occasional “egg tax” to local ratsnakes to help keep the rodent population under control! 

For more information on how to co-exist with these wild neighbors, visit our help & advice page.

You can help support our work with native wildlife.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this Eastern Ratsnake and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.