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.
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.
Your Question not listed here?
Then go and see The Corn Snakes
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
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...
lastly, obvious though it may seem, don't wave your fingers around in front of his
How can you tell a boy snake from a girl
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.
|How long after feeding should you leave your snake before
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
|Can I put a branch from a tree in the garden into its
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.
|When do you know it is time to give the snake a bigger
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...
|Should you handle the baby corn snake on a daily
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...
|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
|My friends say they have venom. Do they?
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.
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.
|Would a corn snake be a good snake for me to start
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.
|How much money would a vaccination cost for a
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
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...
|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.
|How big will a full grown corn snake get?
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
|Does a corn snake shed it's skin inside out?
- 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.
|Can I keep two corn snakes together? Like a breeding pair
all year round? Or maybe even a few females and one male?
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.