Food and diet

Corn snake feeding

In the wild, corn snakes have a diet primarily consisting of mice, young rats, birds and even bats. Young corn snakes will feed on smaller mice, lizards and tree frogs. An adult corn snake will not normally feed daily and instead eat one large meal every week or two. Corn snakes are proficient climbers and may scale trees in search of birds and bats if they are not finding enough food at ground level.

In captivity however, mice, rats and day old chickens provide enough nutrients, protein and calcium to be a staple diet. Some variation will help to keep a corn snake healthy. Throughout its lifetime a corn snake will progress through all the various sizes of mice and after two years of so be able to eat weaner rats, which are slightly larger than adult mice, and day old chickens somewhere in between the two.

Corn snakes are constrictors and feed by striking their prey and biting in order to obtain a firm grip, quickly wrapping one or more coils of their body around the prey in order to suffocate it. The corn snake will then usually move their head to the head of their prey and swallow the food whole.

Corn snakes are typically not fussy with food however sometimes they will only eat one type of meal so it is important to know what a new pet corn snake will readily eat. Frozen foods can be purchased from most reptile pet shops and can be ordered in bulk online from several websites for storage in your freezer.

Feeding live prey to corn snakes

Live feeding prey can be hazardous to a corn snake, as an animal fighting for its life can do some serious damage; evidence of which can be seen on wild corn snakes, which are often covered with scars. Another advantage to feeding thawed pre-killed food is that in the process of freezing, many parasites will be killed so you are limiting the risk of passing them on to your snake.

Feeding a corn snake

Corn snakes will readily eat mice, rats and day old chickens appropriate to their size, that is, a food item one to one and a half times the girth of the corn snake. It is important that the food item is not too big as it can cause the snake exhaustion. If a corn snake eventually manages to swallow the large prey it may be regurgitated as it begins to rot in the snake’s stomach. On the other hand, feeding prey items that are smaller does not carry any side effects provided that the snake has enough to eat.

As a corn snake grows then so should the size of the prey item. Hatchling corn snakes will eat one pink mouse every 5-6 days, and progress through to adulthood when a corn snake will eat adult mice or day old chickens once every 7 to 14 days. Older corn snakes that are fully mature will be able to eat weaner rats and again these should be offered at least once every two weeks.

Frozen prey items should be fully and thoroughly defrosted before being offered to the corn snake. In most instances corn snakes are happy to eat a meal defrosted at room temperature, however some snake may prefer it to be warmed in water. Use tongs to lift the prey item into the corn snakes enclosure and rest it somewhere near to the snake trying to not startle it and not break the feeding response. If the corn snake does come to explore you could try to attract its attention with gentle rubbing of the food against a hide or substrate to make vibrations.

At adulthood overfeeding could become a problem and this is why food is usually offered once every two weeks. It is important to monitor your snake’s weight and body shape; this will help with deciding when best to feed an adult corn snake. A pair of cooking tongs such as those used on barbeques can be used for feeding corn snakes. Not only will this help stop the snake associating your hand with a meal but it will prevent accidental bites and strikes.

What if your corn snake refuses a meal?

It is not common for a corn snake to refuse food however it does happen. Usually, when a corn snake has begun its shedding cycle it will lose its appetite, which will not return until after the skin has been shed. Transportation stress caused by re-housing a snake or changing its surrounding may contribute to loss of appetite.

Care after feeding

It is not a good idea to handle a corn snake just after it has fed as this could lead to regurgitation or unnecessary stress. Wait at least two days before you next handle a corn snake after feeding.