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Site updated:
25th June 2016

Questions and Answers about Corn Snakes

Some of Your Questions Answered

Over the years, lots of people have continued to email me with questions about corn snakes and I'd like to take this opportunity to say thankyou to all of you who have emailed me either with nice comments about the site or with questions about your corn snake pet. If you have a question about corn snakes, you could email me, but really, the best thing to do nowadays is to register on The Corn Snakes Forum which is run alongside this site.

Anyhow, I thought it would be a good idea to produce this page, with some of the more common questions that I am asked and the answers to go with them. As well as being of general interest for people like you to read, I hope this may answer a particular question that may be puzzling or troubling you.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, here is the list of questions - the questions and their answers are all further down this page. These are just links that will hop you down the page to that particular bit.

List of Questions

Your Question not listed here?
Then go and see The Corn Snakes Forum

What is the best way to handle a hatchling that bites? He is 4 weeks old and quite aggressive. Will his handling improve as he gets older or will he get more aggresive?
Has he just moved into your home in the last few days??? If so, let him settle in for a week or so - just give him fresh water and feed if he'll take food but don't try to handle for a few days...

After that it depends... If the snake is a lively one and is active in the evening and looks like he wants to come out then open the lid/door and hold your hand still near him to let him sniff you and then hopefully he will come out onto your arm on his own...

Otherwise, if he is quiet and hiding away then make sure he isn't going into shedding mode (skin change colour, grey eyes etc), but if he isn't, then very slowly uncover him from his hide and pick him up by hooking a finger under him and then lift out in one smooth motion... Don't be afraid and don't let the snake escape your hand and start panicking... If his tail rattles then this is a sign that he's upset, so if this happens, leave alone for a minute.... But once picked up, hold him in such a way that he can slide through your fingers, but always have more fingers or hand in front of him to slide through, cos he won't actually stop moving (unless he's about to crap on you...he..he..)...

When out, let him explore your hands and arms, but always keep a couple of fingers with him curled around them to start with, until you are completely satisfied that he won't panic and leap off you if you let go of him... If he leaps off you onto the floor then get after him real fast cos he will go like lightning in a panic and may disappear before you catch him...

Assuming this doesn't happen, only keep him out for a couple of minutes or so to start with - once he has sort of settled on your arm, then point him in the direction of his viv and let him slide off your arm into his viv under his own steam... This way it won't be long before he learns that going out isn't too bad because he always gets back home soon after... (Psychology, see???)

And don't worry - once you have handled him a few times, he will get more used to it and after a few weeks he will be perfectly ok about being handled... My male corn snake, Shaggy (b. 1995), is so tame nowadays he will rest his head on the palm of my hand, while I very gently stroke the top of his head: he just placidly sits there letting you do it.

But bear in mind that corn snakes do have very sensitive skin - and a light touch in the wrong way by you can kind of 'tickle' them and make them jump - it is just a reflex action and not deliberately aggressive or anything... So touch positively, not delicately, and pick up firmly...

And, lastly, obvious though it may seem, don't wave your fingers around in front of his face...

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How can you tell a boy snake from a girl snake??
In Corn Snakes it is quite difficult if not impossible to tell just by looking. There are some differences in the shape of the tail, but these are so slight that even experts find it is not easy to tell for sure.

The only real way of telling is to have the snake probed by an expert. This involves carefully inserting a steel rod in to the snake's vent and by feeling how far the probe can be inserted easily, then the sex can be determined. I should emphasize that this should only be carried out by someone experienced in this procedure, as serious harm can come to the snake if handled badly.

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How long after feeding should you leave your snake before handling again?
After feeding, especially when adult and swallowing large size mouses, they'll generally want to sleep it off for a few days... So leave them while they are inactive or sleeping. But all snakes are different - Shaggy sleeps, whereas Alice sometimes wants to come out the next day - I only get either of the snakes out when he or she wants to come out, like when they are wide awake and active, especially if climbing the glass front of the viv... But if you have to handle your snake shortly after feeding, take particular care in supporting the snake's body on your arms and be slow and gentle with it.

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Can I put a branch from a tree in the garden into its tank?
Some people say you should boil or otherwise sterilize branches before putting in the viv... Just make sure there is no bark left on it and there are no bugs in it - perhaps leave in a warm oven for a while and roast the little b****rs... Otherwise buy a branch from the pet shop... Above all, make sure it is securely fixed, so when the snake goes clambering all over it (which they enjoy doing from time to time), it doesn't wobble at all... Also, it goes without saying, there must be no sharp pointy bits on it that the snake might hurt itself on.

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When do you know it is time to give the snake a bigger vivarium?
An adult 5ft corn will happily live in a viv about three feet long (1 metre)... A hatchling will be quite happy in a small plastic tub vivarium only about 15 inches long (40 cm) until about a year old, when the snake could be up around 2 feet long... They vary in size as adults quite a lot...

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Should you handle the baby corn snake on a daily basis?
Er, well, it's down to the snake to decide, really... At least, that is the way I have always treated mine... When young, I used to wait until they were quite active, in the evening, and then remove the lid of the viv and hold my hand in front of them when they started to come out of their own accord - that way they get used to your smell and aren't stressed. So, if they wanted to come out, then they could, but only on to my hand... You need to hold your hand very still, so the snake can sniff it and get used to the shape and position of it... It will hesitate until it feels safe that what it is about to slide onto is ok and solid enough to slide safely onto... So if you keep moving, it will feel like quicksand to the snake and it won't be eager to go onto your hand and from there onto your sleeve (long sleeves are best - but don't let the snake go inside your clothes - it may frighten the snake or hurt it if you aren't careful)...

I never reach my hand into the vivarium and pull them out unless I have to... I just open the door in the evening if it looks obvious that they want to come out for some fresh air and exercise and let them come out in their own time...

But basically, yes, handle the snake as often as it wants to be handled, which will be at least once a day except when it hides away for a few days before shedding, when the skin is ultra-sensitive and itchy.... Also, the snake may want to sleep for a while after feeding, but it will most likely wake up and want to come out of the viv to crap...

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Where can I buy corn snakes?
Corn snakes are generally available from good reptile pet shops - from these you can also buy books to learn about snakes and all necessary equipment to keep one in... Find the nearest to you on the web or in the phone book - remember a lot of these small specialized shops don't have a web site. For instance, if you are in southern England, I would recommend Reptiles Plus, who currently have no web site, but can be contacted in Bournemouth, on 01202 421117

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My friends say they have venom. Do they?
The short answer is no, corn snakes do not have venom - they are not a poisonous snake, like a Cobra. In the wild, they kill their prey by constricting it, like a Python or Boa. They have no fangs to bite with - only tiny needle like teeth that they use to help swallow their dinner once it is dead. If a corn snake bit you on the finger, say - which would be an extremely rare thing with corn snakes - then you may have a few tiny puncture wounds, like being poked with a needle - nothing serious so long as it was cleaned.

Generally, you will only get bitten by a snake because it is trying to defend itself - so when handling a corn snake, you may get the occasional nip from very young baby hatchlings that haven't yet learnt that being handled by humans is OK. The nip from a baby corn snake is just a tickle - it doesn't hurt at all... After all, their jaws are only tiny. In the seven years since I bought my male corn snake, Shaggy, as a young hatchling, he has never ever attempted to bite anyone - he is the most docile of creatures, enjoying a good tickle under his chin now and then. Alice is very tame too - having got over her initial shyness when I first bought her as a yearling, she has matured into a much bolder, almost cheeky, character.

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Would a corn snake be a good snake for me to start with?
The short answer is, yes they make good first time snakes for people to own and look after...

Corn snakes are one of the easiest and most even tempered of snakes to keep, but like any animal, they do have certain feeding and housing requirements - so if you're thinking about keeping one, then find out all you can from books and 'care sheets' to be found on many of the good corn snake sites... There are so many good ones out there already, I'd only be re-inventing the wheel by adding another one to the web and publishing a 'care sheet' page on this site.

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How much money would a vaccination cost for a hatchling?
I can only answer for the situation in the UK, where I live... In the UK I have never heard of anyone getting a snake vaccinated... Vaccinated against what exactly???

I would guess that the situation is the same in the USA and elsewhere... I mean, snakes are not like dogs, where there are vaccinations for various things like distemper... Of course, there are one or two illnesses that can affect snakes... But generally, if you buy a healthy corn snake hatchling, free from parasites, and keep it in good clean conditions, you should never have any problems...

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Are pieces of cypress bark an acceptable substance to use for the floor of the aquarium?
I'm not certain about that. I do know that Cedar wood is poisonous. You should be able to buy bags of wood chippings from a pet shop - these are usually pinewood of some sort and will be OK. Oh, btw, the correct technical term for a snakes home is, as you may have gathered by now, vivarium, which comes from the Latin vivere, to live.

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How big will a full grown corn snake get?
An adult corn snake will grow to anywhere between 3 feet (a bit less than 1 metre) up to 5 feet 6 inches by the time it is an adult at about 30 months old... Somewhere close to 6 feet is the world record...

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Does a corn snake shed it's skin inside out?
Yes - it comes off inside out - in the same way that a lady would peel off a stocking from her leg inside out. When it is ready to come off, the snake gets quite energetic, pushing it's nose against things in the vivarium, until the skin breaks away from around it's mouth. The skin then starts to peel away from the mouth and over the head as the snake continues moving forwards. After a while the snake manages to snag the skin on a branch or somesuch and then proceeds more slowly, wriggling out of the old skin, until finally the piece right down at the very tip of the tail comes off. Quite often the skin is more or less in one piece - but beware of measuring the skin to see how big the snake is. The skin will be about 10% longer than the snake because the skin stretches as it is shed.

Shedding, or sloughing, of the skin is something adult corn snakes do about 6 to 8 times a year. A youngster will shed more often while it is growing fast. At one stage in his early life, Shaggy was growing about 1 inch per week and shedding every 4 weeks or so. See Corn Snake Shedding Skin Pictures and Words for more detail and pictures about this amazing process snakes go through.

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Can I keep two corn snakes together? Like a breeding pair all year round? Or maybe even a few females and one male?
Provided certain conditions are met, then sometimes you can keep two corn snakes together, although they will get on perfectly well in a vivarium on their own. Two males would not usually be suitable at all, as they tend to fight. And a pair of corn snakes will definitely breed - and so the female would need to be separated when she becomes gravid (pregnant). The best combination is two females - these will usually get on okay together, but you should watch out that one is not bullying the other.

And they would need to be similar in size - you could not put a small hatchling with an adult corn snake; the small one would possibly get eaten or accidentally squashed by the larger snake. Keeping more than two snakes together in a vivarium is not really recommended - you would need a very large vivarium and many hides for the snakes to get away from each other for peace and quiet.

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