Breeding corn snakes

Corn snakes are one of the most widely bred reptiles in the industry and captive breeding of corn snakes is so common that you are unlikely to find any wild caught animals for sale. With so many different morphs they come in an ever-enlarging range of colour and patterns, which can lead to a beautifully varied collection of just one species.

Determining the sex a corn snake

There are a few very different methods for sexing corn snakes; these are probing, popping and counting. Probing and popping are difficult to master and can be dangerous if done wrong. It is advised to see these methods done by an expert before attempting them and therefore they will not be described here.

Determining the sex by counting

The following method has been proven on many corn snakes, each time being accurate. It works off the basic that male corn snakes have longer tails than females. That is the length from the anus to the tail tip where there are pairs of scales.

Try to acquire a slough or two from the corn snake you wish to sex. You may use the snake itself but this will prove difficult. A marker pen will also come in useful to mark the slough.

Begin counting the pairs of scales on the underside of the corn snake’s tail up to the anus (expect somewhere near 70 pairs). Write down this number and then count the number of ventral (belly) scales from head to anus (record this number also).

Subtract the number of pairs of tail scales from the number of ventral scales. For a male corn snake the number will be below 154, as he has a longer tail, whereas a female Corn snake will have a number larger than 154. Take some time to examine the examples below.

Heres two examples:

A 2001 specimen:
Ventral (belly) scales = 212
Pairs under the tail = 82
Difference = 212 – 82 = 130
The result is less than 154; therefore it is male.

A 2003 specimen:
Ventral (belly) scales = 225
Pairs under the tail = 64
Difference = 225 – 64 = 161
The result is more than 154; therefore it is female

Corn snake brumation

Brumation is a term used for the hibernation-like state that cold-blooded animals utilise during very cold seasons. Corn snakes do not require Brumation however it helps them align their biological clocks and will ensure that your females are ready for breeding at the desired time.

There are three baseline recommendation to knowing if a female is ready for breeding; 3 years old, 3 foot long (90 cm) and at least 300 grams in weight. This should be determined two weeks prior to brumation, when feeding should be stopped with both male and female snakes to ensure that the last meal has been fully digested.

In November lower the temperature to around 7-18°C (45-65°F) and sustain for 8-12 weeks. It is not necessary to gradually lower the temperature and doing so may lead to other complications. After the cooling period of typically 12 weeks, both corn snakes are introduced into their normal environments and warmer climate.

Begin to offer food 1 week following, starting with something smaller and then returning to a normal feeding routine.

Mating corn snakes

At around four weeks after brumation male corn snakes will shed with the female following two weeks later. This is a sign that she is ready to be mated and so introductions can begin.

Introduce the male and female to each other; it does not matter which way round, however it may be less stressful to leave a female in her own habitat. If you do not witness a successful copulation, allow the corn snakes to spend two days together and do this until she is visibly gravid. One mating is usually enough, but it does no harm to allow them to mate two or three times.

Once gravid a female corn snake will become extremely hungry and so should be fed twice that of a normal routine. This will provide vital nutrients for the developing eggs.

Corn snake egg laying

It is important to prepare for egg laying by providing a nest or lay box. A lay box can easily be made from a plastic tub with a hole in the lid that is large enough for a gravid corn snake to pass in and out of. Fill this half way with moist vermiculite. After a gestation period of 30-45 days a female corn snake will lay a clutch typically of 8-16 eggs, upwards of 25-30. This will be around 10 days after she has shed. Gently and carefully remove the corn snake from this lay box and move to incubation.

Now the female corn snake will be hungry and exhausted, so continue feeding her more often than you normally would to increase your chances of a successful double clutch. Again though, begin to offer small meals, increasing the size and frequency until your female is feeding normally again. She should regain body weight quickly, and will usually shed her skin about two weeks after laying.

Incubate the eggs at a temperature of 25-27 °C (78-80 °F) and high relative humidity for a period of around 55-65 days. Open the containers for air exchange once a week and check for any dead or rotting eggs, which should be removed if possible.

Hatching corn snake eggs

After 55-65 days of incubation the baby corn snakes should begin to emerge from their eggs using an egg tooth. They will remain in the eggs to soak up the yolk for a few days before venturing out of the shell. Hatchlings will require their first feed after their first shed, which should occur around a week after they hatch.