Besides being one of the easiest pets to care for, Corn Snakes are one of the most docile animals on the planet. Cats and dogs have to eat each and every day. Cats must have their litter boxes cleaned, and dogs have to be walked. Corn Snakes only eat every seven to ten days, and go just about as often. This makes them a great pet for people who travel, or simply don’t have much time. However snakes are cold blooded: This means that they have a few extra requirements (temperature and humidity). Once their habitat is set up properly, the extra requirements don’t take much time or effort. These requirements are nonnegotiable.
Most snakes should eat a meal that is the same diameter as the snake is in the thickest spot. If the thickest part of your snake is about one inch in diameter, then the meal should also be one inch in diameter. If your snake eats a meal that is too small, then it will not be getting enough nutrition. If they eat a meal that is too large, they could have trouble getting it down. If they do get it down, then it could upset their feeding cycle , or the snake could stop eating for a while.
Typically with the correct sized meal Corn Snakes eat every seven days. I know people that always feed every ten days and their snakes do just fine. However those snakes are pets only. If you plan on becoming a snake breeder then your snakes should eat more often than every ten days (in my opinion).
Corn Snakes eat rodents, typically mice. Snakes can eat live rodents, or frozen rodents that have to be thawed. There are pros and cons to each. We always prefer to feed frozen/thawed (FT), over live for the following reasons;
One – It is much easier. It is much easier to keep bags of rodents on hand in the freezer, than to keep live rodents that need to be cared for. There are times when local pet stores are out of specific food items. We prefer to keep plenty on hand.
Two – It is safer for the snake. Sometimes the rat can chew on the snake causing injury. Many of the snakes that we have are rescues. Some of them have injuries from being fed live rodents. One of them is missing most of its tail due to a rat chewing it off. We are glad that we got the snake out of that environment.
Three – It costs less. We can get medium rats for roughly $1.50 each when frozen. They cost over $5.00 when live. I realize that costs would be greatly reduced if we produce our own rats, but for now thats an unnecessary headache.
The big pro to feeding live rodents in my opinion is that snakes prefer it over frozen/thawed. This is very important to understand. Snakes are hard wired to kill their prey before they eat it. When feeding frozen/thawed some snakes need to be tricked into thinking the rodent is still alive. This is done simply by wiggling it to make it look alive. Most of the time this is not necessary. The smell of rodents in the air can make them go crazy, and they are usually ready to eat.
There are many ways to thaw frozen rodents. We prefer to let them thaw slowly. Once they are thawed, we then heat them up with warm clean water. Do not feed your snake rodents that are partially frozen. Do not feed your snake rodents that are over 100°F. Before feeding the snakes, we semi-dry the rodents with paper towels. Don’t handle your snake for at least 24 hours after they eat. If they do get handled during this time they could regurgitate their rodent. This can hurt their throat. Its best not to feed them for about a week.
Corn Snakes also require fresh water to drink. We change the water about every week, unless it gets something in it. Then we change it out sooner. If you have a nice looking tank, you can find some really good looking natural style dishes. Always try to use distilled or filtered water if possible.
Shelter – Heat, humidity, security, bedding.
One of the most important things to understand about snakes is that they require a certain temperature and humidity. They are cold blooded and have to be kept warm. They require an ambient temperature between 73°F and 76°F. If they are kept much cooler, they can easily develop a respiratory infection or even die. Its also essential that they have a hot spot. This means that part of the cage is a warmer temperature than the rest of the cage. The hot spot should be between 84°F and 90°F. This hot spot is essential so that the snake can digest its meal. Without it they can develop health problems. Because we are warm blooded, we do not have this problem. Most people either use a heat light to give a hot spot, or an under tank heat pad that uses a thermostat. NEVER USE A HEAT ROCK. The temperature of a heat rock cannot be properly regulated. I have seen plenty of reptiles injured by heat rocks over the years. We recommend an under tank heating pad with a thermostat. Do not use one without a thermostat. The thermostat is what regulates the temperature, and keeps the snake from getting hurt. Heat lights can work too if they are set up properly. Just make sure that the heat light does not get too hot. Some of our rescued snakes have permanent scars from being burnt by heat lights. Under tank heaters with thermostats are much easier to get right.
Two essential tools that every reptile owner should have are a temperature gun, and a thermometer that also reads humidity. Temperature guns are very inexpensive. They can be found online for around $20. A good thermometer is around $10. The temperature gun can tell you exactly what the temperature is of your hot spot, or even your ambient temperature. If you use heat lights, this is a great way to make sure that they are not too close to your reptile.
The humidity should be around 40%. If it drops below that the snake could have trouble shedding its skin. If the humidity drops below 405, then the snake could develop other health problems. Some people that live in dry climates add a humidity box in with their snake. This can be useful to the snake especially before he sheds. Another option is to cover most of the lid trapping in the humidity. Just make sure to leave enough of a gap so that the snake can breathe.
Corn snakes also should have a way to feel secure. This can be accomplished by providing them with something to hide under, such as a box, log, or cave. In captivity a big open tank can be quite intimidating. If your snake is not happy it might not eat, or hiss as you go to handle it. Snakes are often crabby when they are about to shed. Their eyes turn foggy, making it hard to see. They can become nervous during this time and hiss or refuse food. During this time I just leave them be.
The final consideration is the type of bedding to use. You can use anything from aspen chips, to paper towels. Being from Minnesota our winters get pretty dry, so we prefer to use coco. There are many types from many sources. Coco holds moisture well, while also resisting mold. During the summer months when humidity is high, we mostly use paper towels, or liners. With a light mist we can hold 40% humidity pretty easily. Make sure to clean the enclosure regularly. If they sit in their own filth they can easily get sick.
Corn Snakes can be one of the easiest pets to take care of. Besides giving them food and water, make sure that they have a constant ambient temperature of 73-76°F with a hot spot of 84-90°f and humidity averaging 40%. Those numbers are not optional. Once its set up properly, it should take care of itself.