I have two corn snakes, as I’m sure you know already. IMO, corns are the easiest snakes to take care of, which is probably why they’re recommended to first-time snake owners as a good pet. However, they still have some specific requirements and important things to remember in order to look after them properly, so I’ve created this guide in three parts (husbandry, feeding, behaviour & problems) for caring for corns in case anyone is thinking of getting one. Or two. Or several! They are very addictive…
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I have, however, done a tonne of research and I own two very healthy and happy corns! I’m also a member of a couple of forums and groups that focus on owning corns which is where I get so much of my information from, from fellow owners and breeders.
Feeding – this part is all about how and what to feed your snake
What to feed
Corns are fed on a diet of mice, with the size dependent on the snake’s size. It varies in different countries, but in the UK the sizes are Pinkies, Fuzzies/Fluffs, Smalls, Mediums, Large and Jumbo/Extra-Large when bought in a pet shop like Pets at Home. This might gross some people out, but they are kept frozen in your freezer and fed thawed (and slightly warmed).
Some people feed their corns live mice, but it’s quite controversial and should only be attempted after everything else fails as it is potentially dangerous for your snake and is considered cruel to the mouse. It also depends on the laws in your country, so make sure you read up on it before you try it [side note: more about non-feeders below]. You can also feed your corns small rats, chicks, eggs, reptilinks (like sausages but made for snakes!) and other small rodents as a treat, but they really don’t care about the variety. They’re not fussy, they’ll be happy with just mice!
As I mentioned, the size of the feeder mouse depends on the size of your snake. Some snakes grow quicker or stay smaller than others, even those born in the same clutch of eggs which is why you shouldn’t just go by age when choosing the right size of mouse. Below is a chart of a recommended feeding plan for corns. Personally, I don’t go by a feeding chart, I just move up the prey size (or double up the mouse if it’s a pinky or fuzzy) when there isn’t a noticeable bump in the snake’s belly after they’ve eaten. The prey should never be bigger than 1.5 times the size of the snake’s widest part before eating. Always check the mouse for abnormalities before feeding to your snake.
When to feed
Pinkies should be fed to your snakes every 4 or 5 days and double pinkies should be fed every 5 or 6 days. Fuzzies/fluffs should be fed every 6 days and double fluffs/fuzzies, smalls and mediums should be fed every 7 days. Once you get up to large mice you should feed your snake every 10 days until they’re fully grown, when you can drop it down to every 14 days. Snakes get overweight very easily so don’t be tempted to overfeed, even if your snake seems hungry after it’s eaten, as it can lead to health problems. Below is a representation of how the cross-section of your snake might look. As you can see, they should be ‘loaf-shaped’ rather than rounded. Watch out for ‘hips’ on a snake (like the picture) as this means they are overweight as well.
How to feed
They can be fed either in or out of their vivarium, depending on what you and your snake prefer. You can use tongs, your fingers or just leave the mouse in the vivarium for your snake to find. If they’re fed inside a vivarium, you should watch out for bedding being accidentally ingested or aggressiveness when you go to handle your snake on a non-food day (basically, if they think you’re a mouse). This is really rare, especially if you feed with tongs or just leave the mouse in there, but can happen sometimes. To prevent ingesting of aspen or other bedding you can put the mouse on a piece of kitchen towel in the vivarium.
If you feed outside of the vivarium, put them in a plastic tub that has enough room for them to move around and strike. Once the mouse is eaten don’t pick up the snake, just hold the tub next to the vivarium for the snake to go into on its own. You can gently nudge if it doesn’t want to move.
After they’ve eaten, they should be left alone for 48 hours as otherwise they may regurgitate their meals, which is pretty rough on their poor stomachs. If they DO regurge, don’t feed them for another 1-2 weeks so their stomach can recover. Corns also need water (obviously) on the cold end of the vivarium which should be changed every other day. The dish needs to be big enough so that the snake can bathe if they want to.
There are so many reasons why a snake might go off their food, but if there are no health problems (see a vet if you’re worried) you don’t have to worry. It might be as simple as they are going into shed, or the temperatures aren’t quite right. Once you’ve tried for a few weeks with their normal meal (snakes can last for months without food, this won’t hurt them), you can start to take measures.
If you usually feed with tongs or by hand, try placing the mouse in the viv and leaving the snake to it – they might be shy! Or if you usually do that, try feeding with tongs and wiggling the mouse around like it’s alive, as it can kick-start a natural instinct. Try feeding both in and out of the viv. You could try ‘braining’ the mouse, which is pretty gross and involves making a little hole in the mouse’s head and getting some brain matter out. You could also try scenting the mouse with a bit of tuna or even boiled egg. If none of that works, you can try different rodents, chicks or reptilinks to see if they’ve just ‘gone off’ mice for a while.
That’s it for this part! Make sure you check out part three: behaviour & problems in a few day’s time! Do any of you have corn snakes? Let me know in the comments!