What should I consider before buying a corn snake?

What should I consider before buying a corn snake?

From Length Lifespan Groups
Eastern United States 5 feet (on average) 10 to 15 years Best kept solitary

 

Corn snakes are an excellent species for people considering snake-keeping as a hobby. Not only are they simple to care for, but they come in a wide range of visually stunning morphs.

In general, corn snakes are a fairly docile species – which makes them very easy to handle and rarely aggressive. But you still need to remember to treat them with care, as any animal will seek to defend itself if provoked.
 

Have you got everything prepared?

  • Vivarium
  • Light and Heat Source
  • Bulb Fitting and Guard
  • Thermostat and Thermometer
  • Water and Food Bowls
  • Hide
  • Substrate
  • Vivarium Lock
  • Feeding Tongs
  • Snake Hook (optional)
  • Vivarium Lock
  • Food (ensure you have freezer space!)
  • Spray Bottle/Humidifier (not essential but can help with shedding)

 

Diet

Corn snakes are obligate carnivores, which means they only feed on meat.

The most common food used for snakes are mice. Mice are bought frozen so need to be thawed out completely before being fed to your snake, otherwise it can significantly reduce their body temperature which is dangerous. What size of mouse you feed should be determined by the size of your snake itself – it should be no larger than the widest part of your snake’s body.

There are two methods of feeding that snake owners should be aware of: strike feeding or bowl feeding.

Strike feeding involves dangling the mouse from some feeding tongs in front of the snake and waiting for them to strike the prey and coil around it. Never offer food by holding it in your fingers! This can cause the snake to accidentally bite you when striking the prey, or it could cause the snake to simply associate your hands with feeding, which can make handling more dangerous.

Bowl feeding involves laying the mouse on a shallow bowl or rock, and then allowing the snake to find it. The snake may not respond to this method however, as in the wild they would be more attracted to moving prey, not one that already appears to be dead.

Whichever method you choose, never ever use live animals.

It is not uncommon for a corn snake to go a few weeks without eating. However, if you are struggling to get your snake to eat, you may find it easier to cut the prey, causing the scent of blood to be more potent to the snake.

 

Enclosure

An enclosure that is 3.5ft wide, 2 feet deep, and 2 feet high will provide enough space for a fully grown adult snake, although this should be treated as a minimum size. Whilst corn snakes are mostly terrestrial, they will climb on low branches which you may like to include in your vivarium. The enclosure should be suitable for deeper substrates as corn snakes like to burrow. It is also vital to check the security of the vivarium as snakes are known for being escape artists; ensure that there is no damage anywhere and that the doors shut fully. It is recommended to buy a lock for the enclosure.
 

 

Heating and Lighting

A heat bulb will be required to keep the snake’s vivarium at an optimum temperature. The temperature should be maintained at around 20-24°C at the cooler end of the vivarium and 28-30°C in their basking area. At night time, the temperature should never drop below 20°C. It is recommended to buy a bulb guard as well to protect the snake should it choose to coil around the bulb. Corn snakes do not actually require UV lighting, but should have some form of low-level light – this can come from their heat bulb. Using low-level lighting can help to bring out brighter colours on the snake.
 
If you choose to use a heat bulb as the only light source in the vivarium, a basking or daylight bulb should be used alongside a dimmer thermostat.
If using another light source, ceramic heat elements are the most reliable way to heat the vivarium – they are much more durable and therefore last longer. This should be used alongside either a pulse thermostat or an on/off thermostat.
Heat mats can also be used, but they are far less effective than the aforementioned bulbs.
 
A hiding area should be included at the cooler end of the vivarium. Hiding areas are important as they allow the snake a place to retreat into a place where they feel secure. This is a natural behaviour that they instinctually follow even in captivity, because in the wild this would help them to avoid being eaten.
 


 
 

 

Substrate

As with most reptiles, the topic of substrate is often divided. Beechwood chips or bark chips would be recommended as they allow the snake to burrow and present a lower chance of respiratory issues compared to finer particles like sand. Aspen bedding may also be used, but it is important to note that the dust from this substrate can cause irritation in the nose and mouth. The substrate is best at around 2-3 inches deep.
 
If your snake is ever suffering from mites, it is useful to use paper towels as substrate. This makes the mites easier to see and gives them fewer places to hide. It is also very easy to clean as it leaves no particles behind.
 


 
 

Water and Humidity

Corn snakes do not need high humidity levels. Keeping the tank between 40-50% humidity is suitable for them. This can be topped up using water in a spray bottle or a humidifier. A water bowl should be available at all times, this should be deep enough to bathe in and the water should be changed regularly to maintain hygiene.

 

Behaviours to watch out for

  • Snakes are very good at escaping so maintaining the security of the enclosure is vital.
  • Snakes will regurgitate their food if stressed, therefore it is best to avoid handling the snake or rearranging the enclosure for at least two days after feeding.
  • When a snake is about to shed, its eyes will go cloudy. This is temporary and will clear up once the snake starts shedding.
  • Snakes will become more aggressive if they sense food, so it is best to avoid getting too close when there is food nearby.
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    If this handy guide has piqued your interest in purchasing a corn snake, everything you may need can be found in-store or on our website. If you have any questions feel free to give us a call on 01482 585315 or drop us an email to enquiry@peejaypets.co.uk.