|Common Name:||Corn Snake, Red corn snake, English corn snake, red rat snake|
|Scientific Name:||Pantherophis Guttatus|
|Life Span:||15 to 20 years (in captivity)|
|Mass:||Around 900 grams|
|Length:||61-182 cm (2.0-5.97 ft.)|
|Size:||2.5 to 5 feet in length|
|Clutch Size:||10 to 30|
|Habitat:||Wooded groves, rocky hillsides, woodlots, meadowlands, rocky open areas|
|Country of Origin:||Eastern United States|
Corn snakes are brown, or orange-ish yellow snakes that are slender, with a pattern of red, large blotches of black lining down their backs. In the bellies of these snakes are unique rows designed with alternating white and black marks, similar to that of a checkerboard.
The name itself, corn snake, may have been given to it due to its similarity to the markings of maize kernels or Indian corn. These snakes come with a variety of pattern and color, depending on their geographic range and age. New hatchlings are usually absent from the bright colors that are typical among adults.
Corn snakes usually live up to 20 years when taken care by humans, though their lifespan is generally shorter in their wild habitat.
Baby corn snakes usually thrive inside a plastic vivarium similar to the size of a huge shoebox. This can serve as their home for the first few months of their months. A cage may be needed for adult corn snakes which are at least the size of a 20-gallon reptile terrarium. A bigger cage is also better.
Note that corn snakes are not social reptiles, which means that adding a cage mate can be a burden to them. One cage should only house one corn snake. It is also important to remember that corn snakes, by nature, are escape artists, so ensure that the cage is escape-proof.
To add spice to the life of your pet, you may also want to add some habitat products such as climbing branches. Corn snakes also feel secure when you add tight reptile hides.
Breeders typically use aspen shavings for breeding because of its soft and absorbent nature. These shavings also hold shape when the snakes burrow. You may also use cypress mulch, but avoid using aromatic woods, like cedar or pine. Reptile carpet and newspaper may also work, though the corn snake may have the tendency to get beneath it. Be careful not to use sand as it may cause some impactions when consumed.
Lighting and Temperature
Corn snakes do not need special lighting, though natural light coming from nearby windows usually help corn snakes adjust their day and night cycles, along with seasonal cycles. It is recommended not to let the corn snakes be under exposure to direct sunlight since this temperature could be fatal to the snakes.
When taking care of corn snakes at home, prepare a temperature gradient with light, cable, or under tank heat pad. The ideal warmth for corn snakes is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while room temperatures at low 70s are fine on the cooler end.
You may want to install a long PVC pipe, hollow log, or skinny hide so that one end is cool while the other is warm. Make sure that the temperature is constantly checked inside the warm end but not on the glass. Even within just a few inches, the temperature may vary a bit, which means that hide box placement and the thermometer is important.
When the corn snake starts shedding its skin in pieces, it is better to increase the humidity inside the hide box. This can be done by adding paper towel, or damp moss whenever the snake is preparing to shed. Remove in between sheds in order to avoid the buildup of mold, bacteria, and other dangerous elements.
The main natural food of corn snakes is rodents. Younger corn snakes also eat lizards and frogs. Adult snakes, on the other hands, may also feed on birds or their eggs. Avoid feeding your corn snakes with crickets because they do not recognize these creatures as food.
Hatchlings usually feast on newborn mice. Feed bigger mice for a bigger adult corn snake. Most captive corn snakes usually learn to eat frozen, but completely thawed out mice. When transferring baby corn snakes to a new home, you may want to feed it with a live, newborn mouse because they are not used to eating thawed mice just yet.
Put your corn snake, along with a completely thawed mouse in an empty container. Make sure that the container has few air holes. Close the lid to allow your corn snake to focus on its meal. Make sure that the lid is tightly placed, and far from a heat source. This might overheat, and kill the snake.
Cutting the skin of a thawed mouse encourages faster and better digestion. Feed young corn snakes once in every five to seven days, while adult corn snakes should be fed once every seven to ten days.
Corn snakes usually bite their prey, getting a strong grip, and then coiling themselves quickly around their food. They continue to squeeze tightly until the prey is subdued. Lastly, they swallow their food completely, headfirst. Corn snakes usually enjoy a good meal every few days.
Corn snakes are described as diurnal, which means that they are primarily active at daytime. They love to climb trees and enter buildings that are abandoned, searching for prey. They are also very secretive, spending most of their time underground while braving through burrows of rodents. They usually hide beneath logs or under loose bark, rocks, and other hiding places during the day.
It is recommended to ensure that the availability of freshwater is ready in a heavy, shallow reptile water bowl. Clean the bowl once in every few days, or immediately when soiled. Put the in a corner cage so that it can be found easily when the snake crawls through the perimeter of the cage at night.
Development and Reproduction
The breeding season for corn snakes usually occurs from March to May. They are described as oviparous, which means that they lay the eggs. Usually, around May to July, female corn snakes lay a batch of 10 to 30 eggs in piles of decaying vegetation, rotting stumps, or other similar places with sufficient humidity and heat in order to incubate their eggs.
Adult snakes do not take care of their eggs, which usually require up to 60 to 65 days to hatch at a temperature of around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs usually hatch between the months of July and September, with the hatchlings growing up to 25 to 38 centimeters (10 to 15 inches) in length. These hatchlings usually reach maturity in around 18 to 36 months.
Special care has to be observed when handling corn snakes. For one, they rarely bite and are relatively docile. When handling a corn snake, be careful not to smell like their food, such as rabbits or rodents. Before holding a snake, make sure to wash your hands well. Support the body, neck, and head of the snake so that they will not be stressed during handling.
As soon as the colder months of weather give way to warmer temperatures, female corn snakes usually start to produce strong smells. This will encourage the male corn snakes to look for her and thus mate. After mating, the female corn snake will lay her eggs in a month. She will look for a place that is moist and warm for the eggs to be incubated. After laying her eggs, the mother snake will leave them. The snakes will then surface after 10 weeks using a tooth that they use to get out of their shell.
Corn snakes are regarded as the most commonly bred species of snake in the USA. Breeders of domestic corn snakes have created hundreds of morphs or variations through selective breeding. Among them include albino corn snake, okeetee corn snake, snow corn snake, black corn snake, and lavender corn snake among several others.
Common Health Problems
Here are some of the most common health problems among corn snakes:
Mites are small black parasites living on corn snakes, feeding on their blood. They usually lay their eggs in the substrate placed on the tank and are usually visible around the mouth, eyes, and under their scales.
When you spot these mites, bathe your snake in warm water. Afterwards, disinfect the tank thoroughly using an insecticide which is designed for snakes. This will kill the mites breeding. This may need to be repeated several times.
This is otherwise called as mouth rot, a condition usually caused when bacteria in the mouth of corn snakes get into an open wound, causing infection in the lining of the mouth and gums. The symptoms include color change or swelling in the mouth and gums frothy discharge, or frequent mouth rubbing. If you suspect this illness, it may be needed to consult your reptile vet for advice.
The digestive process of your snake depends on its metabolism and size. However, when you are already used to their pattern, you can notice changes in their poos right away. Some signs of constipation include lethargy, bloating and loss of appetite.
To alleviate constipation, you can bathe your snake in warm water for about 15 minutes a day. This will encourage them to defecate. If it does not work, you can bring your snake to a reptile vet, as your snake may be suffering from blockage in their digestive system.
Just like humans, the only way to prevent illness in your snake is to maintain its health. However, there is no assurance that your corn snake will not get sick. Early detection of any illness, however, can help a lot It is recommended to contact your reptile vet right away if you suspect that your snake is suffering from conditions mentioned above, or you see some symptoms including loss of appetite, changes in behavior, lethargy, wrinkled or retained skin, difficulty breathing, lumps or swelling, vomiting, weight loss, and discharge from nose or eyes.
How to Breed
One important step to take when breeding corn snake is learning how to properly sex your snake. Check them immediately right after getting them in order to avoid taking care of same-sex pair for several years before finding out.
Most snake breeders follow a schedule of environmental conditioning their corn snakes. After around three to four weeks, the female snakes start shedding for the first time. This is considered as the pre-breeding shed. You may want to start introducing the male snake to the female at this point.
After making sure that successful breeding took place, you can start keeping the female snake separated in her own cage. Feed your snake heavily, adding calcium d3 supplement. Within three to four weeks, she will start shedding. This is the pre-egg laying shed.
When this happens, you can now place a nesting box in her cage. Add substrate as well. Almost always, the female snake will begin laying up to eight to twelve days after shedding. Avoid disturbing your snake until you are completely sure that she is done.
Possible Danger to Humans
Because of the attractive colors of corn snakes, and the fact that they are calm and docile, they are among the most popular choices as pets. If you are bitten by a corn snake, despite being non-venomous, it is still better to go to the doctor to have your bite checked because some people may have an allergic reaction to the bite.
Variations of Corn Snakes
After several generations of performing selective breeding, captive or domesticated corn snakes are now available in various patterns and colors. They come as a result of combining together recessive and dominant genes which code for the proteins that are usually involved in the development of chromatophore. New morphs, or variations, usually become available each year as breeders continue to gain more understanding on the involved genetics.
Availability – Where to Get One?
Corn snakes are available readily at pet shops, online reptile stores, reptile exhibits, and expos, as well as direct breeders. Some wild-caught varieties usually adopt as pets, while captive-bred snakes are better options because of their beautiful pattern and color morphs. Captive-bred corn snakes also make it possible to get healthy and parasite-free snakes. Owners can also get details about the history, age, and parentage of the snakes.
Fun Facts About Corn Snake
- Corn snakes are actually constrictors, which means that they love to wrap themselves around their prey, squeezing and subduing it before completely swallowing it.
- The color of the body of the corn snake usually depends on its habitat. This means that this provides camouflage and protection to the snakes.
- Aside from the fact that the pattern of the belly of a corn snake resembles that of the Indian corn kernel, they are usually found near corn plants, which attracts their favorite prey, rodents.
- Humans benefit from the presence of corn snakes because they help in controlling the number of rodents. They also help in preventing the spread of diseases and crop damage which are typically associated with the presence of numerous rodents.
- Corn snakes also love sleeping. In fact, they hibernate during the colder periods of the year.
- Corn snakes are not interested in parental care. The babies only reach up to 10 to 15 inches at birth. From the first day of their life, they already need to take care of themselves.
How to Care for a Corn Snake?
Newly hatched corn snakes are naturally defensive and nervous. Even though it is quite normal for baby corn snakes to hide, feel or defend themselves naturally, they really have no ability to harm people. In fact, a cat or a white mouse that plays roughly can cause more damage when compared with the biggest corn snake.
As such, it is very important to give your baby corn snake a few weeks to get accustomed to, settle in its new home, and get used to a regular feeding schedule before possibly stressing it with careless handling. After about three or four successful feedings, handle your corn snake for a short period of time, except after a meal for the first two or three days.
Make sure that you handle your corn snake from the side, instead of holding it from the top, as this is the usual way a predator would do. Gently lift your corn snake up, but feel confident. Corn snakes can smell fear and hesitation, and this can also scare them too. This will make them bite or hide. If necessary, use light cotton gloves to encourage confidence. Once your corn snake recognizes you as an owner, and that you are not a predator, it will be tamed quite quickly.
I just received my new corn snake, what do I need to do?
Even before receiving your pet corn snake, it is very important to prepare your cage. The cage should be able to demonstrate the most important factor that should be considered – heating. Since snakes are not generally capable of producing enough body heat to support their digestion and appetite, it is vital to make sure that the cage is heated properly in order to ensure the welfare and health of your pet.
How often do corn snakes shed?
As your pet corn snake continues to grow, it will shed its skin. The typically occurs once every few weeks. The gap of time between sheds also increases as they grow older. When they have reached adulthood, corn snakes shed once every few months.
How often do corn snakes eat?
Baby corn snakes should be fed once in five to seven days. Adult corn snakes, on the other hand, should be fed once every seven to ten days.
Do corn snakes like to climb?
In general, corn snakes are partially arboreal, which means that they usually spend their time in trees, and thus, love to climb. With this reason, you can add climbing plants and branches, placed in areas where the snake can climb on. Make sure that it can handle the weight of the snake, and it is small enough to curl around.
Do corn snakes have a personality?
In terms of behavior, corn snakes are the most docile and calm species in the reptile world. They are not prone to defecating, biting, or constricting, even when under stress. They also love being handled at times. Baby corn snakes have the tendency to nip, though they will settle down after handling gently.
How should I heat up the cage for my corn snake?
Regardless of where you live, note that the indoor temperature that you may prefer is still cool for your pet. It is recommended to provide an adequately private hide, especially on the warmer end of the cage which maintains a range of 80 degrees to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees to 29 degrees Celsius) all the time. The other end of the cage should also have a private hide with a temperature that is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) all the time.
What role do cage “hides” play in the care of my pet?
A hide describes any type of furnishing placed inside the cage that will allow your snake to feel as it is really hiding from everything in its environment, thus allowing them to instinctively feel safe from predation. Since corn snakes do not have eyelids, and since it is natural for them to feel safe in the darkness, using hides is beneficial towards the mental health of corn snakes.
I have been hearing about “morph” from other corn snake owners. What does it mean?
When compared to the canine world, morph means the herpetoculture which identifies the “breed” of the corn snake. In general, all corn snakes fall under the same species, Pantherophis guttatus, though with a variety of phylogenetic characteristics which makes them unique from other morphs, wild-types, and mutations.
My corn snake looks different from the pictures I always see from others. Why?
Corn snakes are known to dramatically grow from hatchling to adult. The average appearance of the corn snakes are the ones that are usually depicted in pictures. Since most owners start growing with younger ones, it usually looks different. As such, it is not recommended to select corn snakes, especially when purchasing online, based on the pictures of younger hatchlings.
How soon should it be before I start feeding a rodent to my pet after delivery? How big, or how small, should I feed it?
At a normal cage temperature, corn snakes usually digest their food three days after being fed. Most sellers ship their snakes that last ate more than 72 hours before delivery. It is recommended, therefore, to feed your corn snakes about 2 to 7 days after receiving.
One thing that should be noted, and is very important, is to avoid feeding your new pet until you are sure that appropriate cage temperatures are sufficient to digestion. During the first two or three meals, it is suggested to provide food that is half the size of the normal serving. After that, if normal digestion is already observed, you can move up to normal-sized meals.
Can multiple corn snakes be housed together with no problem?
It is not really recommended to house together multiple young corn snakes. It is recommended to have one corn snake per cage. This is due to the possibility of feeding confusion by one or multiple snakes. The likelihood of injuries or fatality from a larger community of housed corn snakes is less than 1%. Still, housing them in separate cages is recommended.
Is it possible to handle a corn snake while shedding?
Yes, it is possible to handle it immediately after shedding. There is no need to worry about it. It is not best to hold the snake before they shed, not after.
Which gender of a corn snake is better?
This depends on your preference. One way to tell the difference in gender is by considering its size. Both male and female corn snakes grow from 27.5 to 47 inches long, but the male snakes are typically bigger compared to the females. In terms of behavior, both genders are docile, making them good pets.
Do corn snake bites hurt?
These types of snakes rarely bite, even when under stress, hurt or frightened. If they do bite, the bite from a young corn snake usually is not painful, and may not even be noticed at all because of the size of their teeth. On the other hand, a bite from an adult corn snake may draw a little blood and show tiny pricks.
Is there a need to bathe my corn snake?
Bathing helps in relieving issues such as constipation in your snake. It also promotes shedding and kills mites. When bathing your snake, make sure to use filtered water or warm spring.
How often should the cage be cleaned?
It is recommended to change the water at least once a day. Enclosures and cages should be frequently cleaned, using a 5% bleach solution. Allow to air dry afterwards. Spot cleaning is easy because corn snakes only defecate once or twice a week.