Corn snakes

Corn snakes belong to the Colubrid family - the largest snake family.  As hatchlings, they normally measure 20-28cms (8-11″). Adults range from 1-1.5m (3-5´) their lifespan is up to 20 years and they are non venomous. They are hardy and easy pets to keep. They are docile, even tempered and well suited to captive conditions. They become tame with regular gentle handling, making a corn snake an ideal first pet snake. The following should give you some good advice for looking after a corn snake. 


It is advisable to start with a small pen such as an Exo Terra Faunarium for a hatchling, as corn snakes are the ‘Houdinis’ of the snake world. They will find a way out of the tiniest hole, so a plastic container is best initially. This can be placed inside an Exo Terra terrarium to ensure the correct temperature, and then when they grow to about 60cm (2´) at about a year old, move them into the terrarium itself. Corn snakes can be housed together or separately, although some males will object to sharing a vivarium with another male. Females can be housed together but should be separated for feeding, as animals frequently compete for the same food and can even try to eat each other!

Bedding and Furnishing

Bark or wood shavings are ideal as a floor layer. It is a good idea to provide a hide at both the cooler end of the terrarium and the hotter end to give the snake a choice of warm or cool security. The Exo Terra Snake cave is excellent for this or the Reptile den with its unique "through-the-glass" magnetic rock formation which allows you to look at the snake without disturbing it. If rocks are used to decorate the terrarium make sure there are no sharp edges and they cannot fall and crush your snake. A climbing branch will be appreciated by your snake and artificial plants and other terrarium décor will enhance the appearance of your set up. Remove all droppings and clean the terrarium on a regular basis to prevent disease.


Corn snakes need a hot area of about 90°F (32°C ) with a back round daytime temperature of 80°F (27°C ). At night the temperature should drop to about 70°F (21°C ). One of the best methods of heating for Corn Snakes is the Exo Terra Tropical Heat Mat. Choose an appropriate size to provide the right degree of heat, ensure only about half the floor area is covered by the mat and the mat is correctly situated outside the glass. A digital thermometer should be placed near the hot end and one at the cool end to monitor temperatures. A thermostat is essential to control the heat source and prevent your pet from becoming too hot or too cold.


Unlike many reptiles, Corn Snakes do not need UVA or UVB lighting as they have developed to be mostly nocturnal. In fact too much UV light is detrimental to albino Corn Snakes and can cause eye problems. An incandescent daylight bulb ( Sun Glo) or a ReptiGlo 2.0 flourescent tube, set on a timer to give 10-12 hours daylight, can be used because they do not have high levels of UVB. A Night Glo bulb can be used to assist nocturnal viewing if desired.


Humidity is not a critical keeping factor, except when the snake is in the run up to sloughing its skin when you can encourage the humidity up to 60% by lightly misting daily with a hand sprayer. This will promote a clean, healthy skin slough.


Like all living things, snakes can carry the naturally occurring bacteria Salmonella, which can be acquired through ingestion (by mouth). Good hygiene is therefore very important when keeping any animal. Remember you are more likely to acquire Salmonella from raw or under cooked chicken, a stale cream cake or a dog so do not automatically assume that your snake is the only suspect!

Always wash your hands after handling all animals.


From time to time a snake sheds the entire outer layer of its skin, a process referred to as sloughing. Youngsters go through this process more frequently, about every month to six weeks, than the adults, who may only slough three or four times a year. The skin should be sloughed off as a complete skin and if any pieces are left on the snake, this can kill the new skin underneath and cause problems in the future. Always check the snake for retained skin, especially the tip of the tail and the ‘spectacles’ (the bit covering the eyes) A gentle bath in warm water will usually free the stuck skin that can then be gently picked off. If in any doubt see your reptile vet or specialist who will advise you.

Diet and feeding

In the wild Corn Snakes will take a variety of prey including small mammals, lizards and birds. In captivity, they almost always accept defrosted mice and young rats, of appropriate size, without a problem. Always purchase an animal with an established feeding routine and don’t be tempted to take on the additional responsibility of an erratic feeder. Hatchlings should be fed a defrosted baby mouse every four to six days and adults a mouse or young rat no more than once every 7-10 days. The width of the prey should not exceed one and a half times the width of the snakes head. Do not try to make your snake grow faster by overfeeding because it will become obese and associated health problems can follow. Because of their slow metabolism, an overweight snake will take a long time to lose the excess fat so it is best to prevent the problem occurring in the first place.

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