Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are generally characterized as one of – if not the – finest snake species for novices to keep because of their hardy nature and simple care requirements.
Corn snakes are generally fantastic snakes for beginning keepers to discover, and significant husbandry concerns or health issues are uncommon. However, there is one area of corn snake care that may cause confusion for newcomers: feeding their new pet.
Taking Care of Your Corn Snake
To be fair, most corn snakes are voracious feeders who don’t pose the same feeding issues as some other popular snakes. However, the entire snake-feeding procedure is foreign to many first-time keepers, making things more difficult than they need to be.
But don’t worry, we’ll be here to assist you.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding corn snakes, from prey selection to presentation, as well as answer some of the most common questions new corn snake keepers have.
Corn Snake Feeding Process Basics
Corn serpent (Pantherophis guttatus or Elaphe guttata)
We’ll go into the specifics of feeding corn snakes later, but for now, let’s just go through the basics. This will guarantee that you know what to expect in the future.
You’ll begin by selecting a food source for your snake. The most common prey is a frozen mouse or rat, however other snakes may require a different prey or live prey.
You’ll use tongs to hold the prey object when it has thawed.
You’ll open the habitat and position the prey item just in front of your snake’s eyes.
Your snake may attack the prey item right away, or it may take him some time to decide.
Release your grasp on the prey object with the tongs after the snake has struck it.
Your snake will most likely coil around the prey item at this stage and “constrict” it for a short time.
Slowly back away from the enclosure and close it.
Keep an eye on your snake from afar to make sure everything goes as planned without spooking him.
Hands should be washed.
It’s as simple as that. It may take some time to finish the feeding procedure at first, but with experience, you will become extremely proficient.
Corn Snakes’ Prey Selection
Corn snakes are opportunistic predators in the wild, eating a range of prey species. Lizards, frogs, rodents, birds, and eggs are common prey, although they may also eat other snakes or insects on occasion.
In captivity, however, feeding your corn snake a rodent-based diet is usually the best option.
Rodents are a nutritious and easy-to-find food source that is also more inexpensive than some other options.
Size of Prey
Make sure you choose rodents that are the right size for your snake.
As a general guideline, choose feeder rodents that are 1.25 times the size of your snake’s midbody — this should result in a modest but noticeable bulge in your snake’s body.
Although choosing a smaller rodent is not unsafe, doing so over time may leave your snake without enough calories to develop or maintain a healthy body weight.
Prey items that are too big, on the other hand, may cause your snake to vomit them back up, resulting in significant internal injury.
As your snake develops, you’ll need to progressively increase the size of the prey you give.
Every snake is different, therefore follow the rules above when choosing food. Hatchlings will need newborn (“pink”) or fuzzy mice, while huge adults may be able to eat medium-sized rats.
Captive corn snakes are capable of trapping, subduing, and killing live rodents, but it’s crucial to remember that mice frequently fight back, resulting in significant injury to your snake.
As a result, offering your snake frozen-thawed rodents is preferable. This also prevents the rodent from experiencing any pain.
Food Preparation for Your Corn Snake
After you’ve chosen a suitable food source, you’ll need to start preparing it for your snake.
If you’re going to give a live rat to your snake, you’ll need to defrost it first. Setting it out on a thick layer of paper towels in a sufficiently warm environment is the best method to do so.
Offer it to your pet just once the rodent has totally thawed and is mushy to the touch.
If you need to speed things along, put the rodent in a jar of warm (not hot) water. Never try to defrost a mouse in the microwave; it won’t work well, and it might end in a disaster if you keep it inside for too long.
If you’re going to give your snake a live mouse, make sure it’s well-fed (this will help the rodent see your snake as a viable food source) and wipe up any substrate, urine, or excrement from its hair.
Presenting the food to your Corn Snake
You may simply open the enclosure and set the rat inside if you’re feeding your snake a live rodent. While doing so, keep an eye on your snake and avoid waving your hands too close to his face, as he may mistake your hand for a rodent and strike.
Keep an eye on your snake until he has caught and eaten the mouse, and be ready to interfere if the rodent begins to bite your pet.
It’s also crucial to examine your snake’s enclosure later, so you can clean up any excrement he may have produced while inside.
Begin by gripping it around the body with a long set of feeding tongs or tweezers if you’re giving a thawed rat to your pet. Move the rodent in front of your snake’s face by gently opening the enclosure door.
If your corn snake is a voracious feeder, he may strike first and begin strangling the rodent (snakes often constrict dead prey just as they would do with live prey).
If your snake isn’t a particularly aggressive feeder, you may need to move the rodent about to “animate” it. This will give the rodent the appearance of being alive, which some snakes may require.
Release your grasp on the rodent after the snake has struck the food item, close the cage door, and gently back away. To prevent spooking your snake, keep a safe distance between you and him.
Corn Snake Feeding Requirements
You’ll need to set up a nice feeding plan for your snake now that you’ve discovered the right prey size.
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for feeding corn snakes, a once-weekly regimen is usually a good place to start.
Nonetheless, you’ll need to keep an eye on your snake’s health and be prepared to make alterations as needed.
If your snake does not appear to be developing at a fair rate, feed him every fifth day rather than once every seven days.
If your snake looks to be gaining weight (which is usually primarily a concern with adult snakes), you should reduce the feeding frequency.
If fed once every 10 to 14 days, mature, healthy animals will typically maintain a respectable body weight.
During the winter, certain snakes, particularly males, may refuse to eat. This isn’t a reason for alarm, and most animals that go on seasonal fasts will quickly resume eating once spring arrives.
Finally, keep in mind that the size of the rodents you feed your snake will determine the best feeding frequency for him.
You’ll probably need to feed your snake less regularly if you give him huge rodents. If you give your snake little prey items, on the other hand, you may need to increase the frequency with which you feed him to ensure he maintains a healthy body weight.
Reluctant Feeder Tips and Tricks
Corn snakes are often easy to feed, which is one of the reasons they make wonderful starter pets. They may, however, have feeding issues on sometimes, which may be quite annoying.
Don’t worry; there are several things you can do to get your pet to consume food. The following are some of the most successful solutions.
- If your snake refuses to eat, don’t worry. Snakes have developed the capacity to go for lengthy periods of time without eating. A healthy corn snake would take weeks, if not months, to starve to death. As a result, if your snake declines a meal, don’t panic; simply dump the rejected rodent and try feeding your snake again a few days later.
- Make that your snake’s enclosure is correctly set up. Many feeding problems may be traced back to bad husbandry or habitat design. So, if your snake refuses to eat more than one meal, double-check your snake’s surroundings and go through your husbandry methods again. Check everything, but especially the temperatures in the enclosure and the amount of hiding space your snake has.
- Cut down on the time you spend handling your snake. Corn snakes may get agitated as a result of excessive handling, and they may refuse to eat. Corn snakes don’t appear to dislike being handled on a daily basis, but it’s best to be prepared when dealing with a hesitant feeder.
- When it’s dark, try feeding your snake. Corn snakes change their activity patterns for a number of reasons, although they are primarily diurnal (active during the day). Nonetheless, some keepers report that their snake has a better eating reaction when food is provided in low light. If you’re using a live rat, keep an eye on your snake during the feeding procedure; never leave a live rodent with your snake overnight.
- Experiment with rodents that are dark or multicolored. Corn snakes aren’t choosy about the rodents they eat, although some – especially wild-caught ones – may prefer to eat rodents that resemble natural rats and mice over the all-white laboratory rodents supplied as feeders. If your snake isn’t interested in the mice you’re giving him, attempt to find a grey, multicolored, or black rat for his next meal.
- In a small container, combine your snake and a frozen-thawed mouse. Some snakes appear to be significantly more willing to eat when placed in a very tiny container with a frozen-thawed prey item for reasons that are beyond comprehension. This is an excellent tactic to attempt if you’ve been unable to get your snake to eat in dark surroundings and natural colored rodents haven’t worked.
- Scent-transfer strategies should be considered. When it comes to detecting food, snakes rely heavily on their sense of smell. This implies that by having a prey item scent like something else, you can frequently fool them into eating it. The easiest technique to do so is to massage a frozen-thawed rodent with a lizard, frog, or bird.
- Experiment with various prey types. If everything else fails, you may try giving your pet something other than a rodent. Birds, lizards, and frogs are the most probable prey items to make your snake feed, but hamsters, gerbils, and other “pet” rodents are also worth a go.
- If the fast lasts longer than one month, consult your veterinarian. While most feeding problems are caused by husbandry mistakes, seasonal fasts, and prey choice concerns, a snake’s health can sometimes lead it to avoid food. So, if you can’t get your pet to eat within a month, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have him evaluated.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when it comes to what do corn snakes eat. It is important to remember that these snakes are obligate carnivores, which means that they require animal protein to survive. If you are having trouble getting your corn snake to eat, try some of the tips listed above. And, if all else fails, consult your veterinarian.