The corn snake is one of the most popular pet snakes because of its colors and patterns. Plus, it’s an excellent option for beginners.
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Table of contents
Corn snakes are docile and slender orange or brownish-yellow snakes with a red and black pattern down their backs.
Their bellies are checkered with white and black markings, which resembles maize, and it’s how it got its name.
The following is an overview of the corn snake species:
- Scientific name: Pantherophis (previously Elaphe) guttatus.
- Origin: North America.
- Size: 24 to 72 inches long.
- Life expectancy: 15 to 20 years in captivity. 6 to 8 years in the wild.
The corn snake is also related to the rat snake, which is why they’re sometimes called red rat snakes.
Diet and feeding
As carnivores, a corn snakes diet consists of frozen mice thawed to room temperature or higher. Adults need one mouse per 7 to 10 days, while young and growing corn snakes require one mouse per week.
The mice must also be pre-killed. You can purchase them online or at a pet store.
It’s crucial to feed an appropriately sized mouse. Young corn snakes require pinkie mice, while adults can eat larger mice. The key is to ensure the mouse is as wide or slightly wider than the snake’s head.
When you’re feeding a corn snake, make sure to place the snake and mouse in a separate tank or container that’s closed and away from heat. It ensures that the snake doesn’t associate your hand or an open tank with feeding.
Once your snake finishes eating, allow 24 to 72 hours for digestion. If you hold your corn snake after feeding, it may vomit.
For water, make sure you provide fresh drinking water in a shallow bowl each day. Your snake may also use the bowl to soak in. It generally occurs before shedding.
Creating a safe and enclosed home leads to a happy corn snake. Hatchlings and small corn snakes require a small vivarium, about the size of a shoebox.
Adults need a 20-gallon reptile terrarium or cage. The Exo Terra Outback Terrarium 20-Gallon tank from Amazon is an excellent choice.
It’s important to note that corn snakes are excellent at escaping. So, you must ensure that the lid is secure. They’re strong, and if it’s loose, they may be able to escape.
Substrates are also great to have in the tank. One of the most common choices is aspen shavings or reptile bark. Replace the shavings or bark once per month to keep the terrarium hygienic. Zoo Med Aspen Shavings from Amazon are highly rated and affordable.
Since snakes love to hide, be sure to provide a private area for your snake to squeeze into or a branch to climb on. It’s best to give them more than one place to hide, and ideally, one would be warm while the other is cool.
As cold-blooded creatures, corn snakes need heat to regulate their body temperature. Provide your snake with a temperature gradient with a light.
Keep the temperature within 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use under-tank heating pads or tape.
For light, provide between 8 to 12 hours. You don’t need to give them light at all times because it can cause them stress. Also, avoid placing them in direct sunlight.
If you have multiple corn snakes, give each one a tank because snakes aren’t social. If you’re not able to get several tanks, you can house them together. Never put them with other snake species.
A healthy corn snake is active, alert, has clear eyes, is free of parasites, and eats regularly. If you suspect that your snake is facing health issues, contact your vet.
Common health issues include parasites, dermatitis, respiratory disease, and stomatitis. Blisters, mucus, unusual breathing, and rapid shedding are possible warning signs.
Handling a corn snake
Corn snakes are the most active in the evening, around dawn and dusk. To ensure that the corn snake feels comfortable and is awake, gently tap or stroke it with a snake hook.
Then, pick it up from the sides and make sure you support its entire body. Avoid leaving any part of it hanging, grab its tail, or restrain its head.
As the corn snake moves, gently follow it with your hands to continue providing support.
If you have hatchlings, give them two weeks to settle in before handling them. They’re nervous and defensive, which means they need time to acclimate.
Also, keep handling sessions to 15 minutes and no more than once per day.
Corn snakes quickly get used to handling, especially if you provide support to make them feel secure.
Frequently asked questions
When you’re choosing a corn snake, look for one that has clear eyes, is alert, and free of illness, cuts, and bugs, or parasites.
Corn snakes aren’t dangerous because they aren’t venomous. However, they’ll bite if they get irritated. They’re pretty friendly and docile, which means it isn’t easy to cause them to bite.
No, a corn snake can’t strangle a human. It’s also important to note that corn snakes prey on mice and small rats.
If a corn snake bites you, it won’t be painful. Instead, you may feel a slight sting, such as a cat scratch or papercut. You may also have spots of bleeding. All you need to do is clean it out to prevent infection, and you’re good to go.
Featured image courtesy of Canva.
About the author: David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Pets, the leading resource for everything you need to know about pets and adorable pet accessories.