The husband found this snake in one of our garbage cans by the chicken coop. It wasn't huge, but it was taking a defensive position and striking out often and rattling it's tail. That made us think it was a rattler.
We studied it for a little bit, called the girls over to come see and we stressed again (and again!) why we don't want them walking in the woods without mama and daddy. Leaves are great cover for snakes and now is the time for them to be out looking for food and shelter.
After much debate on what to do, we killed it. We didn't want to set it free only to have it come back or make more baby snakes, eat our chickens or eggs, and/or hurt our children or animals. We don't kill animals without a reason and we do feel bad about it, but our family comes first.
I looked up on the internet for identifying the snake and turns out it is not a rattler after all, but a juvenile Black Ratsnake. It usually shakes his tail like a rattler when it feels threatened, which makes many people think it is a rattler (like we thought it was). It's not poisonous, but it does bite and does not slither away when people come upon it. Black Ratsnakes are usually the ones you see killed on the roadways, because they freeze and strike when they are scared-- which creates snake pancakes. Then I read further on about their eating habits and their nickname? Chicken snakes. Well, that made me feel better about our decision to kill it. They like to eat chicken eggs and chickens and are often found around chicken coops.
We will be making sure to rake often around the chicken coop now, to prevent any sneaky snakes from moving into the coop and I will be just a bit more cautious when I reach my hand into the nest boxes for an egg.