By Stephen Sharp.
Introduction: Housing. Heating: Lighting: Substrate: Water: Hiding places: Feeding: Cleaning: Hygiene: Final Word: Enjoy your corn snake.
This care sheet is for general advise only. It is not every thing you need to know about corn snakes. The views in this article are my own and other keepers and breeders may agree or disagree, with the contents, depending on their own experiences. The details given here are based on my experience in dealing with Corn snakes since 1989. ( I have been keeping reptiles since I caught my first wild lizard in 1970, in Australia. It was a wild drop tail skink lizard. At the time I was 9 years old )
Hatchling and young corns are best raised singly in plastic boxes, with air holes. The boxes can be heated with under cage heat mats. The heat mat should only heat up to 1/3 of the floor space. More reptiles are killed by too much heat than no enough. The snake must always have access to cooler areas to prevent the snake over heating. Adult corn snakes can live in the large plastic boxes, that are used to store goods under beds, or they can live in purpose built cages called vivariums. A cage with 4 square foot of floor area is sufficient for one single snake or a breeding pair.
Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles and as such can not control their own body temperature. They therefore maintain their temperature by moving backward and forward between hotter and cooler areas of their cage. Corn snakes do best with under cage heating. They seem to do best when only up to 1/3 of the floor area is heated. It is vital that the snakes have access to cooler areas. Heat lamps have been used in the past with corn snakes but they are not a suitable as heat mats. Thermostats may be used to prevent cages getting to hot. This is normally only a problem in the hottest months. Our cages are 22 to 24oC in the cool end and around 30oC directly over the heat mats.
Corn snakes do not need UV light or any other form of light. Lights are provided to make the cage look more appealing.
The floor covering can be paper or any of the substrates that are marketed for reptiles. Pine shaving should not be used as it can become acidic when wet. I use kitchen roll or newspaper as they are cheap and easy to keep clean. Soiled substrate should be removed, the cage cleaned, and new substrate added as soon as possible. When using under cage heating the substrate should not be an insulator as that may cause the heater to over heat.
Fresh water should be provided in a bowl or other container. Some snakes like to lie in the water bowl while others may avoid it except to drink. The water bowl should be sterilised on a regular basis to prevent the build up of bacterial organisms that could effect the snake or keeper. Some keepers provide water in margarine tubes that have a hole in the lid. The hole is normally only a little bit wider than the snake. The container should be big enough for the snake to fit in easily. The advantage of such containers is that the snakes can hide in the container and get a good soak. This often helps the snakes shed their skins.
These can be cardboard tubes, crumpled cardboard, plastic hides shapes like logs etc. There is even a hide that is a water bowl on the top with a hole in the side that also gives the snake somewhere to hide.
Corn snakes will feed on rodents of appropriate size for the whole of their life. Baby snakes feed on baby mice and adult snakes will take adult mice or small rats. Live food should not be used. Frozen mice / rats can be bought cheaply from most reptile supply shops. There are also many frozen rodent suppliers on the Internet. Frozen rodents should be defrosted thoroughly before being offered to the snake. Some snake like rodents defrosted in warm water while other prefer them to be defrosted at room temperature. Please note that thawed food should only be handled using feeding tongs, to prevent the human smell being passed on to the mouse / rats. If the defrosted rodents are handled then the snake may associate the human smell with food and start to bite.
The cage should be cleaned every time the snake passes waste. The type of cleaner used is up to the keeper and could include any of the following; washing up liquid, washing up liquid with a small amount of bleach added or one of the many pet cage clear sprays on the market. Never use "Milton" , "Dettol" or any liquid that goes white when mixed with water as these are said to be harmful to snakes. I recommend "Trigene" as I have used this for many years and found it to be safe and very effective.
All reptiles carry bacteria in their digestive tract. Some carry bacterial that can be harmful to humans. It is best to ensure that you, and especially children, wash their hands after handling any reptile. Captive bred corn snakes present little, if any, risk of passing an infection on to health people. Anyone with any problem with their immune system ( the very young, the elderly, HIV or AIDS sufferers ) should refrain from handling any reptiles.
Look after your corn snake well and it could live 25 years. Read everything you can on corn snakes. The internet has many good sites dedicated to corn snake husbandry. Lastly, if you have any questions please feel free to email me on Stephen@SnakeBreeder.com
@ Stephen Sharp 2004
Enjoy your corn snake.