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Site updated:
25th June 2016

Corn Snakes - Easy Pet to keep !!!

Well, you couldn't really get anything easier. Corn snakes happily live on pre-killed deep frozen mice bought from the pet shop. They don't insist on live food, as do some other snakes. You just thaw out a mouse when required and put it in his vivarium when he isn't looking and shut the door. He very quickly catches the smell of it and finds it.

Nowadays, he takes his time over sniffing it for a while, but almost always he goes for it and performs the remarkable act of swallowing something larger than his own head.
Shaggy looking over his dinner

When he was very young - about three months old and around 14 inches long - he had two 'pinkies' (baby mice) per week; cost 25p each. As he got older and bigger he graduated to larger mice and only once a week. You might ask why mice? Can't he be fed on bits of chicken or whatever? Well, no, he can't. He needs a balanced diet, like everybody else. And being a carnivorous animal, he needs to get all his vitamins and minerals etc from the animal he eats. So he needs a whole mouse, not just the protein he would get from pieces of meat. Mice are their natural diet in the wild, though they will take small birds and lizards, too. The farmers in Carolina and other States in America love them, because they eat the mice that plague their cornfields - hence the name. While we're on names, the scientific name for the Corn snake is Elaphe Guttata Guttata, a mixture of Latin and Greek meaning 'smooth' and 'blotchy' (referring to the skin).

Now that he is over three years old and an adult, he takes one very large mouse per week - 50p each. He doesn't feed, though, when he is going into shedding mode; or PST as I call it (Pre Shedding Tension). He gets a little jumpy and isn't interested in coming out to see the world at all - let alone eating. He just wants this old damn skin to stop itching like crazy and to be rid of it. He secretes an oil (snake-oil) from under his old skin which helps it separate from the new one. This causes his eyes to go cloudy for a few days while this is happening - his eye, as you probably know, never closes as he has no eyelid. He has a transparent scale over his eye instead and this, like the rest of his skin, is shed when the time comes.

When he does decide it is time to shed - how he decides, I don't know - he becomes quite active and starts rubbing his nose on whatever happens to be in front of him at the time. This breaks the skin away from around his lips on both upper and lower jaws and by working at this, gets it to start peeling back, so that it is like a collar round his neck. He then chunters around working the skin back until it catches on a piece of log or somesuch. Once he's managed to snag it, he slows down a lot, but carries on moving forward carefully, while the skin peels off him in the same way a lady might peel off a stocking - it comes off inside out. Sometimes it all comes off in one piece, but if it is a bit more brittle than usual, it breaks in several places and he has to get the remainder snagged on something again. It is important that he does get rid of it all, right off the tip of his tail, because if it is left there then there is a chance of it cutting off the blood supply and the tip would then eventually drop off.
Shaggy's skin shortly after shedding

Once he has done it - and it only takes about ten to fifteen minutes - he is a right happy little chap and is all curious about the world again and wants to come out and have a run around on my arms and various parts of the room, like the huge sofa I have, that I allow him to explore on. If he got into some parts of my room here, it could take hours to get him out, so I don't just give him complete freedom to go where he pleases, but let him, under supervision, explore here and there. After about twenty minutes out of his vivarium he is usually quite happy to go back into it - I never forcibly get him out or put him away. I just open the glass front and if he wants to come out then he does so, onto my arms; if he doesn't want to then he stays inside. Likewise, when he is out, I just hold him close to his vivarium so he realizes where he is and he slides off into his home under his own steam. He does, however, quite often seem to stop with a couple of feet still hanging out, until I nudge him along a bit; I think he forgets how long he has got. Intelligence is certainly not snakes' strong point! He is now about as big as he is going to get, at around 5 feet long - it is very difficult to measure him absolutely accurately! After shedding he is ready for a mouse, so I always feed him either that day or the next. When he was still growing fast - about 1 inch per week at one stage - he shed his skin roughly once a month or so; nowadays it is about two months between sheds, depending on the time of year.

From about Christmas time to mid March he doesn't feed very much, if at all. He isn't actually hibernating, because I don't cool him off during winter, but his metabolism, nevertheless, does slow down somewhat. All he needs is some fresh water to drink now and then. During the rest of the year when he is his usual active self, he will quite often take water from the bowl before I've even put it down; he does seem to like fresh water in the morning! He really is a friendly character and though he doesn't wag his tail like a dog, you can tell that he is pleased to see you - romantic twaddle, maybe, but he does seem happy and contented.

When I'm at home I change his water on a daily basis, but I can go away for a few days at a time and leave him to himself quite happily: how many other pets can you safely do this with? I just have to put two bowls of water in his vivarium instead of one, just in case he craps in one of them.

Alice - my female corn snake curled up under a hollow log in the vivarium
And that's about it - they really are an enjoyable pet to have around and like the title of this page suggests, they are easy to keep. Which probably explains, partly at least, why they are becoming more and more popular as pets. Why not think about it the next time your child asks about pets; or, on the other hand, if you are a bit younger, ask your parents about it!!!

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