Corn snake care: what you need to know to get started
Corn snake care is easy as they are friendly and docile creatures. They don't grow too big, reaching a mature length of around 3-6ft (around 91–183 cm) long but most range between 3-4ft. They live for around 10–20 years and sometimes longer, meaning they'll give you years of enjoyment. They can be found in pretty much any colour with a number of striking patterns to suit your taste.
You can handle and tame corn snakes fairly easily, but you won't find them coiling around your arm. They're more likely to head for the warm, dark hiding spots of your sleeves and collars or openings in shirts and blouses but can be gently guided if they're heading in a worrying direction.
Occasionally, you might find a corn snake gently 'tasting' your skin with its tongue – but don't fret, it's just their way of finding out more information about you and learning that you're not a threat! With gentle and regular handling, it's very rare that you'll find your corn snake will bite, they're more likely to try and hide if they do feel threatened.
Corn snakes belong to a family called Colubridae (commonly known as colubrids which also includes milk snakes, king snakes and garters). Colubrid snakes are a fantastically diverse group of snakes found on almost every continent. They're most commonly found in southeastern USA, and the Carolina corn snake is a particularly popular type.
Because of the variety of places they can be found, their natural habitats can vary as much as their colours and patterns do. They're mostly found in wooded areas though, particularly mature pine forests and oakwoods, as these provide a rich mixture of rotten logs, tree stumps and fallen trees for finding their food as well as giving important cover from predators. Wooded areas also mean plenty of rotten bark and leaf litter for them to burrow under to snuggle.
Their easy adaptability and familiarity with relatively diverse environments are some of the reasons why corn snake care is easy. They make a great starter pet as their habitats are fairly simple to replicate at home. Providing it with the perfect place to live is an important part of corn snake care to ensure happiness and health for the future.
Corn Snake Care: Habitat
The first aspect of corn snake care to think about is habitat. Keeping a reptile isn't just about filling a tank with gadgets and gizmos – it's about trying to recreate their natural habitat in the best way you can to keep your reptile healthy. Corn snakes are no exception which is why we've created our range of corn snake starter kits with a variety of products you'll need to mimic its natural environment.
Most kits start with a wooden vivarium which is the place your corn snake will call home. The kind of vivarium you need for a corn snake doesn't differ that much. A medium vivarium is great for corn snake care and will suit most types, but as a general rule of thumb, vivariums should be at least half the length of your snake's total body length for it to be comfortable. As corn snakes are known to be quite the escape artists, vivariums are enclosed so your pet snake stays safe and secure, but they're large enough that it has space to uncoil and roam. The vivarium will also keep your corn snake warm and happy as it's a great insulator.
Another important aspect of corn snake care you'll find in our kits is a daylight lamp or basking bulb as it provides warmth and heat to regulate body temperature. They're also essential for producing UV rays which are great for helping your corn snake to view its surroundings as they can see light in the ultraviolet spectrum. These lamps and bulbs will also aid your corn snake care as they will promote activity and feeding response.
A heat mat is another important element of your corn snake's home that you'll find in our corn snake starter kit. They're ideal for helping to recreate naturally occurring warm and cool spots in your corn snake's vivarium. Corn snakes spend most of their time hiding so you'll find a range of hiding spots in our corn snake starter kits from caves to Habba Huts.
If your corn snake isn't given a place where it can feel safe and relaxed when it eats and sleeps it will often get stressed which will negatively impact its behaviour and appetite. These hideaways also provide somewhere for your corn snake to climb on to increase the exercise area that your vivarium will have on offer.
Finally, you'll find an array of chip bedding and plants to recreate the woodland/scrub environment that is the natural home of the corn snake. The woody substrates are the kind of substrate a corn snake needs as they are absorbent which means that faeces and urates can be seen and removed easily when required for optimum corn snake care. If layered deep enough, the woody bedding can provide a place for your corn snake to burrow which they love to do. Plants also give your corn snake a place to climb to get that all-important exercise.
Corn Snake Care: Feeding
So what do you feed a corn snake? Once you've got its home nice and ready, you need to think about feeding as part of your corn snake care. Corn snakes have a jaw that is distensible (able to extend) as well as a gullet (throat) which allows them to swallow prey much larger than you might expect.
What you might also find surprising is how often corn snakes need to be fed. Adults should be offered food every 10 to 14 days whereas hatchling and young snakes – because of the amount of growth they need to do – need to be fed more often, every 5–6 days. Pet corn snakes mostly eat thawed frozen mice of the appropriate size as they are carnivores. These range from pinkies (very young, small mice) to hoppers (almost fully grown mice).
The great thing about frozen mice is that they can be defrosted naturally as and when they are needed for feeding. Just like us humans, corn snakes will prefer their meat warm rather than cold as this most naturally replicates the warm-bodied prey they would catch in the wild. Corn snakes can also be fed rats and other rodents in the same way.
Most corn snakes will quickly become excited at the first scent of their food and will happily capture, constrict and consume a mouse laid directly onto their substrate. Sometimes, however, it might be necessary for your corn snake care to tease feeding by using forceps or feeding tongs to mimic the real movements of a live animal to entice a hunting and striking response.
Corn Snake Care: Choosing Your Snake
You should try to see and handle the snake you'd like to acquire. Corn snakes vary in their temperament and whereas adults will likely be fine with you picking them up and handling them, hatchlings may be nervous and vibrate their tails. Look for clear eyes, a clean vent, alertness and tongue-flicking. They should have a well-fleshed body with no scrapes or scratches and no signs of ticks or mites.
Sexing a corn snake is fairly straightforward for adults. To tell if it is a male or female, look for the length of the tail after the cloaca (the small opening on the underside of their body) as males generally have longer tails compared to females. Males also have a bulge which causes a thickening of the tail whereas for females the tail begins to taper off fairly quickly.
Corn snakes should ideally be kept in vivariums on their own as this gives you the best way to give corn snake care by allowing you to monitor their behaviour, feeding and environment. Never mix them with other species to avoid cross-contamination of disease and prevent them from becoming unwell. One benefit of keeping corn snakes is that they can be very easily bred should you want to.
Corn snakes are fantastic for beginners and there is plenty of information out there to support you in your corn snake care. If you do decide to begin the journey of owning a pet snake, then corn snakes will give you years of cheerful, active companionship if you look after them well and treat them right.