On July 9, a private citizen in Hanover County found an adult Eastern Ratsnake in a chicken coop, and suspected that the snake had ingested several “dummy” ceramic eggs that were missing from the coop; ceramic eggs are commonly used to encourage chickens to lay eggs in specific nest boxes. After spending two days inside the coop, the snake was captured and taken to a nearby veterinary hospital before a registered volunteer transporter drove the snake to the Center on July 11.
Veterinary staff performed a physical examination, finding two firm objects lodged approximately halfway down the snake’s intestinal tract. One "crunchy" feeling object was also felt, likely a real egg. Radiographs confirmed two hollow objects (likely the indigestible ceramic eggs) that would need to be removed surgically with a procedure known as an enterotomy (cutting open the intestinal tract).
On July 12, Veterinary Intern Dr. Karra performed the surgery, successfully removing the eggs and suturing the incision site closed – a particularly challenging procedure in snakes due to their long intestinal tracts. Special care was taken to avoid damaging the eggs, which are commonly coated in paint that may be harmful if fully ingested.
In the days after surgery, Eastern Ratsnake #19-2127 has been doing well. The sutures closing the incision site have remained intact, and no signs of inflammation, discharge, or soft tissue necrosis have been observed during daily checks. For now, the veterinary and rehabilitation staff will continue to monitor the incision site and overall health of the snake, and look closely for feces in the snake’s enclosure, an indication that the digestive tract is healing appropriately.