Chicken Snake, a name given in the northern states to the coluber eximius (De Kay), ophibolus eximius and O. clericus (Bd. and Gd.). The head is short and the snout rounded; the nostrils are lateral, the eyes large, with a dusky pupil and gray iris; the neck is contracted, the body long but robust, covered with smooth, small hexagonal scales above, and with broad plates below; the tail is short, thick, soon becoming cylindrical, and ending in a horny tip. The color, as described by Holbrook, is milky white above, sometimes tinged with red; along the vertebral line is a series of dusky oval spots, bordered with black, sometimes giving the appearance of transverse white and black bands (as described in Storer's report on the Massachusetts reptiles); alternating with these bands on the sides is another series of smaller rounded and blacker spots, and sometimes a third smaller series lower down; the upper lip is milky white; the abdomen is silver white, sometimes yellowish; each plate marked with one or two black spots, quadrilateral, near the centre if single and near the margin if double, giving a tessellated appearance, whence the specific name calligaster given by Say to the western variety; in a specimen 3 ft. long, the head was 11 lines, body 30 in., and the tail about 5 in.; the abdominal plates 198 to 208, and the sub-caudal scales 47; it grows to the length of 5 ft.
It is perfectly harmless; from its frequenting houses and dairies, it has been called "house snake" and "milk snake." It feeds on frogs, toads, mice, insects, and small birds. It does not appear to be found below lat. 37° N.; westward it extends to the Mississippi; it prefers shady and rocky places; in the southern states it is replaced by scotophis guttatus. - The chicken snake of the south is scotophis quadrivitta-tus (Bd. and Gd.); the body is very long; above, a greenish clay color, with four longitudinal brown bands; yellowish beneath; scales on the back ridged, on the sides smooth; the head is quite distinct; the tail is one fifth of the whole length; in a specimen 4 1/2 ft. long, the head was 1 1/6 in., body 3 1/2 ft., and tail 10 in.; 233 abdominal plates and 90 subcaudal scales; it is said to attain a length of 7 ft. It is found from North Carolina southward, and to the Mississippi; it destroys rats, young chickens, and small animals, but its bite is harmless to man; it is sometimes found on trees.
Chicken Snake (Ophibolus eximius).