In response to many requests for information concerning the captive care of this popular pet snake RainForest Adventures is providing the following suggested guidelines for the captive care of the pet Red Rat, or Corn Snake .
Long a staple in the pet industry the Corn Snake can make an excellent choice as a pet snake.
Small size, even temper, and general ease of care make this snake a logical choice for both beginners and experienced keepers alike.
In this article we will address the basic needs and requirements to successfully keep a pet Corn Snake. The primary areas that will address here are:
A native of the South east United States, the Corn Snake is full grown at approximately three to five feet in length. A thin, lithe animal the Corn snake is highly adaptable in the wild, hunting both on the ground and in the trees.
Today virtually all Corn snakes available in pet shops were born and bred in captivity. There is an immense amount of interest in breeding this snake by both professionals and amateurs alike.
Captive born and bred babies are by far a better option for several reasons. (Note: Animals offered for sale are often referred to as CBB, this designates captive born and bred) Generally captive born babies are produced by individual hobbyists, or breeders and then resold to the pet stores or are available for resale by the breeder themselves at pet shows. This is by far the best way to support not only your local pet store or reptile show, but also is much more "eco-friendly"
Baby Corn snakes that are hatched in captivity are generally much less likely to contain parasites, illnesses etc. Captive born snakes are almost always healthier, and adjusted to feeding on pre-killed food items than a wild caught animal. That being said wild caught corn snakes are one of the easiest to adjust captive conditions and often start feeding amazingly fast compared to other wild caught species.
You may be able to communicate directly with the breeder himself and gain reasonable insight into the color pattern, temperament and adult size of the parents that produced the animal. Breeders and pet shops in your area are also much more likely to stand behind an animal that is captive born vs. a wild caught specimen.
As is the case with purchasing any new pet common sense should prevail in choosing a baby. Clear, bright eyes, no nasal discharge, no obvious signs of parasites etc. are obvious things to look for. Asking the seller about a guarantee is always a good idea, but be reasonable on this subject. Once the baby leaves the care of the seller they have no control over what conditions the animal is kept in.
It is always a good idea to have your new pet's enclosure setup and established before your new animal arrives home. While this snake does not require highly a specialized environment there are certainly some basic criteria that must be met for the overall health and well being of your new pet snake.
Each of our homes are different, the ambient air temperature, location of the enclosure and other factors may require a day or two for you to ensure the temperature and humidity factors are stable before bringing your new Corn snake home. Always try to determine the temperature of the enclosure both during the day and night to ensure the enclosure is not too hot or too cold.
The ideal day time temperature range for your snake is 82-88 degrees. An enclosure should have a basking spot, or warm end that is a higher temperature than the rest of the enclosure. This will allow your snake to move (thermo regulate) from a warm area to cooler a one. Nighttime temperatures should not be allowed to drop below 70 degrees.
Humidity is not as large a concern for this species as with others, but you should try to maintain the relative humidity higher than the normal humidity found in most homes. The proper humidity is a larger factor in allowing the animal to shed it's skin properly than it is any other health issue. A large water bowl that the snake can soak in will significantly aid in both maintaining the humidity and providing a bathing spot for the snake.
Adult Corn Snakes are generally comfortable in a 55 gallon aquarium. Although larger enclosures are acceptable.
Corn snakes feed primarily on rodents such as mice, and rats. The vast majority of snakes will gladly consume pre-killed rodents. The Corn Snake is less likely to be a seasonal feeder than some of the other pet snake species. The most critical component of feeding any pet snake is to ensure the environment is correct and free from excessive stress. While the Corn Snake may be a bit more forgiving of it's environment than tropical snakes it is still important to attempt to make the animal as comfortable as possible.
If your snake refuses to feed review all of the housing and husbandry practices to ensure the snake has adequate temperatures and humidity requirements. Also make every effort not stress the animal prior to feeding by handling etc.
It is highly recommended that you kill the rodents prior to feeding any snake. Rodents posses very strong jaws and sharp teeth. A misplaced strike by a snake can result in the rodent having it's mouth free to bite the snake during constriction. This will not only result in open wounds that are subject to infection, but can result in serious injury to the skeletal structure of the snake. Death is not an uncommon result of a snake who is bitten in the spine or other critical area by the rodent. On occasion a snake may need some encouragement to eat a prey item that is not moving about on it's own. We typically trick the snake into eating it's first few meals by simulating movement of the rodent by simply dangling the food item in front of the snakes face. Be careful not to be be too aggressive in dangling the food item as this may intimidate a young Corn Snake.
One major benefit to purchasing pre-killed mice, or buying live mice and killing them your self is the storage of frozen rodents. Rodents can be store in zip lock bags and stored for months. This convenience allows you to purchase many months of feeder rodents at a time. In many cases your cost of feeding your animal will go down as the quantity of rodents purchased will allow you to take advantage of savings.
Corn Snakes take four or five days to digest a meal and prefer to do this in a dark, warm place, i.e. "hide-box". Water should be provided in a large heavy bowl, so that the Corn Snake has plenty of room to soak. Try to utilize as heavy a container as possible to avoid the possibility the snake may tip the container over.
Many owners of Corn Snakes eventually wish to breed this wonderful pet snake. Undoubtedly one of the easiest of snakes to breed, the Corn snake has very few specific needs that need to be met prior to successfully producing a clutch of eggs.
Many of the North American Colubrids, which the Corn Snake is a member of, benefit from a cooling period in the winter months. This cooling period helps to simulate the normal winter hibernation that many of our snakes here in the United States experience each year. The simulated cooling period can last up to eight weeks and generally consists of temperatures in the 50 degree range. Care should be taken to ensure that your animal is very healthy and well fed prior to attempting to hibernate the snake. A source of water should be provided and the animal should be checked on no less than every 3 or 4 days to ensure the hibernation is going normally. It is very important to ensure your snake has fully digested it's last meal prior to entering hibernation.
Once you begin to bring your snake out of hibernation the temperatures can be gradually increased to the normal exhibit temperatures. Begin to feed the snake when the temperatures have returned to normal. The introduction of a mate can occur once you are sure that your snake has fully recovered from hibernation.
At RainForest we have had successful production of clutches of eggs both by hibernating the snakes as well as not hibernating this species. Corn Snakes seem to be the most forgiving of all species of snakes to breed.
Mating occurs almost immediately and can last for up to one week. Males will repeatedly mate with the female during this period of time. The adults can be left together if you choose to or they can be separated at this point for ease of feeding etc.