Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes, also known as Red Rat Snakes, get their name from their habit of hunting mice in corn granaries. They originate from the Southeastern United States and are land-dwelling reptiles that generally restrict their activities to dawn, dusk, and nighttime. Over the years, captive breeding has produced beautiful colors and patterns for this snake’s skin.

These snakes take well to handling, but be warned that they will hide if they escape their confines, making them somewhat challenging as pets. Corn Snakes like to burrow as well as climb, so these habits should be taken into consideration when designing their habitat. In general, this is an easy-to-care-for snake and popular with families. The lifespan of the Corn Snake is typically from 15 to 20 years.

a corn snake on the hunt for food

Corn Snakes Information

  • Average Length: 3 to 5 feet
  • Average Weight: 2 pounds
  • Snake Type: Rat Snake
  • Skin Appearance: Multi-color with striped or diffused pattern
  • Skin Colors: Red and orange; orange and yellow; and black
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes! 
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: They tend to have respiratory infections, fungal disease, dermatitis, and stomatitis 
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 15 to 20 years
a corn snake basking

Physical Appearance of Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes are small-sized snakes that have multi-color skin. Though they can come in a variety of colors, common variation in them includes having large patches of orange-red colors that are ringed with a streak of black color, followed by dull shades of yellow color. 

Genetic mutations can result in them having many different varieties based upon pattern or color. They can also come in colors ranging from gold to white. As for patterns they can be striped or diffused. Compound variations are when a mixture of both color and pattern variations happen together.

Temperament of Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes are gentle and usually allow people to handle them. The best part about these snakes is that they do not tend to bite even when they feel threatened. They will just vibrate their tails to show that they are being defensive. 

These snakes are alert and are great at escaping. They may try to push the lid off the tank or look for tiny openings to escape. It is important for the lid of the tank or enclosure in which they are housed to be kept tightly closed at all times.

Their Compatibility with Children

Corn Snakes are harmless and can be easily handled by children. Teach your kids how to support the body of the snake with their hands. Until children are comfortable being around the snake they should be supervised to prevent injury to the snake.

Anyone that handles the snake must wash their hands once they are finished. This is because most snakes are carriers of infectious diseases like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Washing hands will reduce the chances of getting these diseases.

Living Space for Corn Snakes

A comfortable living space for an adult Corn Snake a 20 to 30 gallon glass tank. The top of the tank must be secured tightly. A mesh lid should provide the secure lid to prevent them from escaping as well as ventilation for your Corn Snake.

The tank needs to have a warmer and a cooler side. You can create the temperature difference either with a lamp or with an under the tank heater for the warmer side.  The warmer side should be able to keep the warm side warm, and bleed some of the heat to the cooler side to keep it within the lower range.

a corn snake coiled on itself

To feel secure the Corn Snakes like to curl and hide, so there must be hiding areas in both the sections. A cardboard box or any closed container can be used for this. The hiding space must not be too large and just enough to allow the snake to curl up, otherwise they will not feel safe.

The Substrate or the flooring of the tank should allow the snake to burrow under it. This will also help the snake to feel secure. Dry natural leaves that have been sterilized with water or a mixture of sand and soil are recommended to be used.  

a corn snake coiled up and ready to eat

You can also use paper towels or newspapers but this should only be a temporary arrangement.

To provide a more natural feel to the living space, you can also add plants and branches to the tank. They should be plastic or replica items and not be live plants and wood as the fertilizer in the soil can be harmful to snakes.

Corn Snakes are not social creatures. They are much better off if you keep them in a habitat to themselves. There are exceptions to this, but until you are more familiar with them it is best to follow this rule.

Best Climate for Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes need an environment that consists of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Depending on where they are kept, you may have to place an overhead incandescent heat lamp to regulate heat and create a substitute for sunlight. 

During the day the temperature should be kept around 80 to 85 degrees. In the night the temperature should not fall below 75 degrees. 

Unlike other snakes, Corn Snakes are comfortable in the normal humidity levels of most homes. 40 to 50 cent humidity is considered good for them and will allow for normal shedding of their skin. During winters it is important to monitor the humidity levels using a hygrometer. If the humidity falls too low, mist the tank or keep an evaporating water bowl inside the tank to provide the necessary humidity. 

The Attention a Corn Snakes Needs

With snakes, there is not much attention that needs to be given like other pets. Most snakes are content to be kept in their tank without interruption. But because this snake is a pet, they should be handled a few times every week. This will help keep them comfortable with you. 

Some Corn Snakes may like to be handled more often while some may not like to be handled as frequently. Whenever you handle them be careful to not leave their body hanging as this might hurt them. When the snake does not want to be held anymore you will know by how they behave.

Grooming and Care

The Corn Snakes will shed their skin several times a year. You may see them not eating food or shy away when you try to handle them. Though most Corn Snakes will shed their skin on their own, some may require help.

Placing a large bowl of water inside the tank will increase the humidity of the tank and help in the snake shedding their skin. Once the skin has been shed look for any remains of the skin. If there are any, you can bathe them in warm water and gently rub them to remove the remaining skin. 

Their tank needs to be cleaned and sanitized once a week. This will help to prevent bacteria and fungus from accumulating inside the tank. Any visible poop and urine should be regularly removed from the enclosure. 

When you plan to clean the enclosure you can move the snake to a smaller temporary container while you do the cleaning.  Use a bleaching solution to sterilize the habitat. 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water is the correct ratio to sterilize it. Let the tank properly dry before placing your snake back inside.

Health Issues

Infectious Stomatitis is a common bacterial infection found in Corn Snakes. This results in saliva bubbles and inflammation inside and outside the mouth. If untreated it can lead to bone infection and loss of teeth. If you see this, take the snake to a vet immediately. In most cases, antibiotics will work but in some cases, surgery might be required to remove the damaged oral tissue.

a close up of a corn snakes head
snake food

They can also have respiratory diseases that can result in mucus in nostrils or mouth, and difficulty in breathing characterized by open mouth. This is often caused when they are exposed to cold temperatures for long durations. 

Some snakes may also develop a fungal infection that results in discoloration of the skin. External parasites like mites may also attach to their skin and cause diseases. A visible sign for this would be the snake spending longer periods sitting inside the water.

It is important to monitor your snakes’ health daily. Take them to the vet immediately if you find any signs of infection or disease.

Feeding A Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes should be fed pre-killed frozen mice. The frozen mice must be defrosted before feeding it to the Corn Snakes. Younger snakes can eat smaller size mice. As they grow older the size of the mouse should increase. 

Growing snakes should be offered food two times a week and adults once every 7 to 10 days. If they are not hungry they will not eat what you give them.  If you gave them live food and they do not eat it, it should be removed from the cage so that it cannot harm your snake if it starts to shed.

The snake will feed less when they are going to shed. If you see them having cloudy eyes and hazy skin, this is a sign that they are going to shed soon. Reduce the size of the food that you give them.

They also need a bowl of water inside the tank to allow them to drink. Snakes may sometimes defecate in the water. If this happens, clean the bowl and refill the water. This will prevent the snakes from getting sick drinking contaminated water.

Related Questions:

How to protect the light lamp from the snake inside the tank?

You can buy wire cages to cover the lamp. This will prevent the Corn Snake from touching the lamp and getting burned by the heat. Another option is to keep the lamp just outside of the enclosure, near the lid.

Are Corn Snakes venomous?

No, they are not venomous. Generally, they do not even bite. The very rare time that they do, it will only cause a little pain but it will not be harmful. Often Corn Snakes are confused with similar looking copperhead snakes, a venomous snake breed. Because people confuse Corn Snakes with copperhead snakes, they are frequently killed in the wild.

How long can you keep the snake out of the tank?

You can take the snakes out as often as they will allow you to.  When they don’t want to be handled any longer they will start to move around more and can be difficult to handle.  This is them telling you that they want to go back to their home.  Sometimes this is after 10 minutes, other times it might be an hour.

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