Corn snakes make fascinating pets for adults and children of all ages. They are easy to keep and care for once set up in a correct environment. They are easy to handle and following regular handling will become fairly tame. Corn snakes can grow to 1.5m long and will often live for around 20 years so will be a long term commitment for anyone thinking of keeping one.
These snakes are crepuscular, most active at dawn and dusk, so they will hide and sleep during the daytime when the light is switched on and will then come out when the lights are turned off, also they tend to be terrestrial meaning they spend most of their time on the ground, however they will enjoy climbing around the vivarium given the chance.
Corn snakes do not have the same needs for companionship as most mammals do, so are happily kept on their own. At times it is advised to keep singularly as aggression can be shown between individuals; it would never be advised to try keeping different species together at any time!
Corn snakes come from the Americas and are typically found in the South-eastern United States. In the wild they tend to live in over-grown fields, pine forests and areas of agriculture. Like most reptiles, they are normally housed in an enclosed cage with glass doors, known as a vivarium. They have specific requirements, therefore it’s essential that the environment within the vivarium is controlled precisely and monitored at all times.
Young Corn snakes should not be housed in large vivariums as this can be stressful for them and they can be less inclined to eat. Corn snakes are not highly active and do not need huge enclosures. A medium sized vivarium will house your snake comfortably. As a rough guide, the vivarium can be half the length of the snakes total body length. Snakes are excellent escape artists, so care must be taken when planning their enclosure. Make sure your vivarium has a tight fitting lid and tightly fitting doors. Snakes are very strong and can push a loose fitting lid from a vivarium.
There are many options in regards to substrate that you can keep your snakes on. We would advise Aspen bedding, bark chips or cage carpet. The substrates are very easy to keep clean, which is paramount in order to stop possible health issues.
Snakes are cold blooded and get heat from their surroundings. In the wild, snakes move between warm and cooler spots toregulate their temperature, this is called thermo-regulation.
The ideal temperature gradient for your snake’s vivarium is a gradient of 24°C-30°C. If the temperatures are not correct often the snake will not feed and their health will deteriorate quickly. A night-time drop in temperature of 5°C is advised.
Heat should be provided using either a heat mat with thermostat or a bulb with a dimming stat on the roof of the vivarium. If you decide to heat the vivarium with a bulb a guard must be used as snakes could easily burn themselves when moving around the vivarium. Heat mats should only cover between a third and a half of the floor space to allow your snake to thermo-regulate. This heat mat should be regulated by a thermostat to ensure that it does not overheat.
There is no specific UV requirement for lighting of any kind for corn snakes; however snakes will react differently to the different amount of daylight. It is good practice to mimic the seasonal changes that the snake would find in the wild, meaning 12-14 hours of daylight in the summer months reducing down to 8 hours in autumn.
Humidity is also critical when keeping most types of reptiles, however with Corn snakes high levels of constant humidity can cause health issues so a nice dry vivarium is ideal, with a damp hide of some type to ensure the snake can hide away in a cool wet hide if they so wish.
Although snakes do not play with toys, they do appreciate enrichment in their habitat in the form of décor such as artificial plants, branches, hides, rocks and cork bark.
Corn snakes are carnivores and opportunist feeders. In the wild they would normally hunt small mammals, birds, and other reptiles. However, in captivity these types of snakes will solely feed on rodents, with the best choice being mice. Mice are available to buy frozen, they should be fully defrosted at room temperature (not in a microwave) between sheets of absorbent kitchen towel. Carefully dispose of the towels after use and disinfect any surfaces that may have come into contact.
Offering food using tongs or tweezers will help prevent your pet from striking you by mistake.
Young snakes are usually fed ‘pinkies’ with the size of the prey increasing to adult mice as the snake grows. When healthy, these types of snakes are not picky eaters and most will thrive on a regime of once or twice weekly feeds. Adults may only need feeding once every 10 days. A snakes appetite will diminish around the time of a skin shedding so feeding frequency should be reduced accordingly. Regular feeding of any snake is important to ensure that your pets are in the best possible health!
It is important to provide a large water bowl for your snakes. Snakes will drink regularly but will also use the bowl to bathe in, meaning regular cleaning of the bowl is essential.
Corn snakes do not tend to be aggressive and are not venomous. Once used to regular handling they will very rarely bite due to their relaxed and passive nature. They are rather inquisitive and they will move all around their vivarium to explore the surroundings.
Care must be taken when “waking” up a snake as they may strike due to fear, so slow gentle movements should be made when you are about to pick up the snake. Always use two hands when lifting snakes so you are fully supporting the whole body. Always try to slide your hand under the middle section of the snake and lift, use the other hand to let the snake pass through your hands offering as much support as possible.
You should always let the snakes pass through your hands and you should never grab or restrict the snake as you could easily cause damage to your pet.
Snakes are relatively easy to care for, as they only tend to defecate 1 or 2 days after feeding. Regular spot cleaning will mean a full clean out should only be necessary every 2-3 weeks. When you clean out the housing, disinfect the cage furniture and the inside of the vivarium with a reptile safe disinfectant. Completely dry the contents before replacing in the vivarium with fresh substrate.
Cleanliness is of paramount importance with all pets. Keeping a snake’s vivarium clean is an easy task if carried out on a regular basis. The faeces of a snake will tend to be a rather large solid matter that can easily be lifted out of the enclosure and the general area can then be cleaned dependant on the substrate the snakes are being kept on. If you have chosen to keep the snake on Aspen bedding you are able to move the bedding from around the defecated area out, if you are using cage carpet it is good practice to remove the carpet and clean with a suitable reptile disinfectant.
As long as they are given the correct food, environment, care and attention, snakes are generally problem-free, low maintenance and easy to care for pets.
A healthy snake will have a solid muscular body, rounded and tapering to the tail. They also have bright eyes with no cloudiness unless about to shed their skin. Scales are clean and smooth.
As a snake grows it removes its outer skin, known as shedding or sloughing. The first sign that this is about to happen is a cloudiness over the eyes and a dullness on the scales, this could last for a number of days. The snake may also lose its appetite and spend long periods of time in its water bowl or moist hide in preparation for shedding. A healthy snake will shed its skin in one piece, often around some of the vivarium décor. If the snake sheds in multiple skin pieces it is a good indication the humidity in the enclosure may need increasing.
Following a shed, it is essential for you to ensure that all the skin has been removed, especially around the eyes and tip of the tail. Any remaining skin should be bathed and gently rubbed to assist in removal of the excess skin.
All vets have a basic understanding of reptiles but those with a specialist interest are worth seeking out. If your pet shows signs of being unwell, contact your vet as soon as possible.
Did you know insurance against unexpected veterinary costs is available for corn snakes in just the same way as it is for cats and dogs!
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after feeding or handling your corn snake. Also wash after contact with any of their equipment.
Always supervise children to ensure they do not put the snake, (or objects that the snake has been in contact with) near their mouths. Ensure children wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling the snake. Do not kiss your snake.
Our Foam Hand Wash is perfect for use after handling or cleaning your pet and its environment. It contains Byotrol, an effective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent.
- Vivarium / Faunarium
- Heat mat and thermostat
- Water bowl
- Reptile safe disinfectant
- Feeding tongs
- Frozen food
- Corn Snake Book