Corn snake care sheet
Corn snakes are a terrestrial snake that occupies grasslands, rocky outcrops and pine forests around south-eastern and central United States. They can reach maturity in less than two years and in captivity and when cares for correctly often live for 15-20 years, reaching a massive 1.2 to 1.8 m (4 to 6 foot) in length. Being very tame, docile and reluctant to bite makes them ideal pets for the whole family and child safe under supervision.
In captivity corn snakes are fed only a small variety of foods, such as rats, mice and chicks (day old chickens) which meet the nutritional requirements suitably. They like warmer temperatures than you expect in a household 21-31 °C (70-88 °F) so additional heating is required, however unlike other species of reptile additional lighting is not a requirement so long as they can recognise night from day.
In this corn snake care sheet you will learn about how to choose a healthy pet, and be able to care for it, hopefully for many years to come. Corn snakes are ideal beginner snakes due to ease of care, their inherent calm and docile nature, and their wide selection of colour morphs. They also take well to mice, rats and chicks (day old chickens) as a basic staple diet and rarely reject food for long periods of time.
Things to consider
Before buying any pet you must be certain that you can provide adequate care and living standards. After reading the corn snake care sheet you will have a better idea of whether or not you can meet these requirements. Some important things to consider include the care or your snake while you are away from home, maintenance costs, longevity of corn snakes and feeding of defrosted rodents.
Choosing a corn snake
When selecting a corn snake from a pet shop be sure to ask to handle the snake prior to buying it. While handling the corn snake check for a firm rounded body, clear eyes free of mucus or discharge (however they may be cloudy if the snake is about to shed it skin), check for evidence of mites especially around the head and eyes, and check for faint specks on body. A healthy corn snake should not have to open its mouth to breathe and should not appear as if it is gasping for breath, as observed in a snake with a respiratory infection.
If you get the chance to peer inside the mouth, it should be a uniform pink in colour, as reddened areas or cheesy looking matter may indicate mouth rot. A healthy snake will also have shiny smooth skin with no scabs or sores and will move smoothly with no tremors or jerking motions. Finally check the vent for swelling or sores which would indicate ill health.
You could even ask the vendor for a demonstration feeding, to see if the snake is feeding well and not refusing food.
Handling a corn snake
Corn Snakes are an active species of snake and without exercise can become weak or fat. As well as providing them with somewhere in their vivarium to climb it is also important that you handle your snake on a regular basis. Corn snakes like to explore and will also appreciate the time outside the vivarium with their owner. Some Corn Snakes will appreciate more time outside the vivarium, while others may shy away from regular handling.
Pick up your corn snake by the mid body with a firm grip not squeezing but allowing the snake to slide through your hand. Always support the weight of the corn snake and do not let it fall or become unsteady. In these instances when a corn snake feels unsupported it is not unlikely for the snake to use its mouth as an anchor for support.
Before and after handling you snake it is important to wash your hands with a good anti-bacterial hand wash. This is especially important if you have multiple specimens, so has not to pass on any infections between your snakes. Anti-bacterial hand sanitisers are widely available and are useful to have close to your vivarium for quick and regular hand cleaning.
As reptiles grow they regularly need to shed their skin; either because their skin becomes too small and tight, or because it becomes worn out. The new skin is produced underneath the old one prior to shedding. Young snakes may shed more frequently than adult snakes, but in general the shedding process occurs several times a year. This is nothing to worry about as a keeper, but there are a few things you can do to help your snake through this process.
At the beginning of the process the corn snakes eyes turn milky blue and the overall appearance of the snake is somewhat diminished. Just prior to shedding the eyes clear up and the corn snake seeks a humid environment to soften the skin, this could even involve soaking in a water bowl. When the skin is soft enough to be removed, shedding will begin; the corn snake rolls the skin off its head and inverts it all the way down its body, until it finishes off its tail.
Up to two weeks before shedding all corn snakes stop feeding and will have no appetite until the skin has been removed. The whole process usually lasts little more than a week and so a feeding routine is rarely disturbed.
Cleaning Corn snake enclosures
Corn snake enclosures should be spot cleaned regularly to prevent any nasty bugs moving in. This simply involves removing faeces and urine. Every month or two the whole vivarium may be cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant or a weak bleach solution. Remember to rinse thoroughly afterwards to remove any chemicals.
Keeping a corn snake diary
Keeping a record of your corn snake’s activities is a good way to monitor your snake as it grows. Keep information such as feeding times, shedding dates, and weight and length measurements.