5 Ways to Keep a Corn Snake Happy
Snakes typically live a sheltered life, without tank mates and can go long periods without interactions. They aren’t social creatures and so this isn’t much of an issue, but there are ways to make sure your snake is happy, and who doesn’t want that!
The first and possibly one of the most important steps is to have a suitably sized vivarium. Corn snakes continue to grow throughout their entire life span, which is about 20 years in captivity, and can reach around one and a half meters long. They’ll grow quicker while they’re young and slow down as they get older. They can measure around a meter long by the time they’re 3 years old, and for the remainder of the time they’ll grow more slowly.
As a general rule of thumb, when your corn snake has grown to the length of the vivarium plus the width of the enclosure, it’s time to upgrade to a larger space. When they’re a hatchling, you can keep them in a smaller tank known as a faunarium, this is recommended as a large vivarium right off the bat can be stressful for your snake. Another way to go about this is investing in a vivarium that can have a wall partition at varying widths, so your vivarium space can grow as your snake does.
Also keep in mind that your snake, though they may move slow, is an escape artist. Make sure any vivariums you get are sealed properly - including the holes in which the wires pass through. Many people have lost their snakes inside their homes for months at a time.
All snakes, including corn snakes, are cold blooded animals which means they have to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot spots and cold spots. This is known as thermo-regulation and you can allow them to do this by their heat pads or a heat lamp with adjustable settings and a safety cover, so they don’t burn themselves. Corn snakes come from the warm south east states of the US, which means they’ll need temperatures of around 86F in the warm area, and 77F in the colder area.
Keep cleanliness in good shape
After you feed your snake, it’ll take around 2 days to digest its food and then it’ll defecate. Be sure to expect this mess, and spot clean it as soon as you notice this. You’ll need to fully clean the vivarium every 2 to 3 weeks, changing the substrate and cleaning the furniture and decorations with a reptile safe disinfectant. Aspen is a good bedding as it’s unscented and not toxic. Cedar and pine shavings might be suitable for rodents but aren’t safe for corn snakes. Water bowls should be replenished with a fresh supply of water daily and should also be large enough to bathe in, prior to shedding your snake might spend some time sitting in the dish as the hydration will help the shedding process.
Be careful with food
Corn snakes eat pinkies when they’re young, before moving onto regular mice and then young rats as they age. Be sure to feed them only mice that are as thick as the widest part of their midsection. Their food should be defrosted at room temperature or thawed in warm water before feeding your snake. Never microwave a frozen mouse or rat - nobody wants that, trust us. Live food is unsuitable for corn snakes as they can be injured during feeding by claws and teeth of the defending animal. Disinfect everything you use to feed your snake after you’ve used it, be it dishes or tongs. If your snake’s about to shed, they may not eat, which is fine - just wait until afterwards. If your snake doesn’t want to eat and you’ve prepared their meal, dispose of it carefully and only offer them fresh food.
Provide them with enrichment
Snakes may not play and are generally solitary animals, however they do appreciate suitable branches and rocks to climb on - their environment should replicate their natural environment in the wild. Give them plenty of things to explore! They’ll also use these items to help shedding too, by rubbing up against them. Don’t go out and buy a whole lot of new items if you’ve already got your viv up and running with your snake in - adding too much all at once could be unsettling for your snake.
You can take them out of the viv for an exploration and to hold them, they don’t mind being held if they’re used to people. Just make sure you don’t handle them for 48 hours after you’ve fed them. During this time they’ll be sluggish and busy digesting their food. If you handle them during this time they may regurgitate their food - which is unpleasant for all involved. If this does happen, wait until they’re due their next feed and try again. If they continue to regurgitate their foods even when left alone, take them to a vet.
If you’re new to handling snakes, and your snake is new, make sure you leave them be for a few days after getting them so that they can settle in properly. They’ll be stressed out at this time so leaving them alone is the best option here. Gradually build up to fully handling them by placing your hand in the vivarium regularly, building slowly up to stroking your snake, making sure to avoid the head and the tail.