Picture of Your First pet snake.

In this instructable, I'm going to give you an overview in what is involved in keeping your first pet snake, with particular reference to corn snakes. I am most knowledgeable about corn snakes, how ever because they quite like King snakes, and their living requirements are not dissimilar either.

I'm going to cover considerations before buying a snake, what to look for when buying your snake, housing and husbandry, feeding, and suitability as pets, and anything else that I think of as I go along. I think I shall write a bit about their origins as well.

Step 1: Considerations

Picture of Considerations
before you rush out and buy a snake you have to consider a few things,

can you actually get one that has been bred in captivity in the first place? I dunno, you'll have to do the leg work

do you have the space? they don't take up much room, but it is a consideration.

breeder or store? - both will be able to offer support so it is a personal choice

Do you have the money? trips to the vet will be expensive (esp with reptiles), food is really cheap as is upkeep, so it does offset the vet care aspect, its more expensive to set up than anything generally though.

will you be ok with feeding such an animal? If you are really squeamish a snake isn't going to be for you, while they are small and they eat small food you may well be able to cope, but corn's can eat quite big fully formed mice so you have to be comfortable with feeding them dead/thawed mice

where will you get food for the snake? generally if it is a store brought snake they will have food you can give it and generally it's really cheap I get 10 fuzzy mice for about £4 ($7.95/$8) and that lasts squirm about 5 weeks currently. If you get the snake from a breeder they should be able to point you in the right direction.

can you get to a reptilian vet? Your regular vet is no good, most regular vets do not have much experience with reptiles, whilst most will just admit it, some won't want to admit they are out of their depth with such an animal and "have a go." It is therefore important you know you can get to a Reptilian Specialist, although they are generally more expensive!

do you have the time? to be honest snakes won't take up much time, but it is important you can feed it regularly change water on a daily or every other day basis.

they live for a long time 15 years on average and 20 isn't uncommon for a well looked after snake. are you going to be willing to look after it for that long?

I'm not trying to put you off with this list but they are all things that you must consider and be prepared to have to deal with if/when you need to, and finding out when you need to is not the way to go!

HunerP2 months ago

Get your Steam Gift Card at http://steamgifts.eu/ It really works!

HunerP2 months ago
abigail19973 months ago
I have a female corn snake and she shed her skin yesterday she was perfectly fine yesterday I didn't touch he or anything . But I woke up a morning and she was dead. What is the cause of this sudden death
Hi so I am very keen to buy a snake but I have no idea if i am ready!
I done some research and I know I would like a corn snake but I am not sure whether or not to go buy one or adopt one as I was told there are a lot of snakes needing rehomed. Also I am not sure if I am better getting a young or older snake. I read your "Considerations" and nothing put me off so just looking for some insight from someone who owns a snake :)

I bought a baby corn snake yesterday along with its tank setup. I forgot to ask the breeder about the gender and if it was fed because I wouldn't have time to buy the mice until tomorrow. So I followed the tank instructions which is to put the heating pad on the side of the tank. I usually see it under the tank so I thought this was a different case. I also read to turn of the light at night, which I did. Anyway I woke up this morning and found my snake stretched out and not moving. I'm too afraid to pick it up and see if it's dead. It was near the side where the heating pad is. Did it freeze to death?

Did the instructions mean to put the heating pad off to the side of the tank? It doesn't sound right having on the side of the tank. I keep mine under the far side of the tank.

baileef5 months ago

I will be getting my first snake soon, and was wondering if there were any tips you could give me? I've been doing a lot of research (staying up until around 4:30 each morning) to get all of the information I can so I know the generic information and care, but was wondering if there were any things that you learned from experience that would help me and my snake? Any help would be appreciated!

F1X0R (author)  baileef5 months ago
One thing which is very common, especially with younger snakes is in the first year or two around spring time they become incredibly active and they don't want to eat at all. This often panics a lot of new keepers. Its pretty normal though. They generally go off their food at this time, they are looking for a mate and that is also why they become very restless. They should return to normal in a month or maybe too. they can easily go this length of time without eating. Its not a problem.

Another thing to be aware of is any wheezing noises. If they're close to shedding then I wouldn't worry too much, its most likely loose skin rather than anything else. However corn snakes (and others) can suffer from upper respiratory infections. If they're not close to a shed and their breathing is noisy then its best to turn up the temp in their viv for a couple of weeks and see how they progress if it doesn't clear up in this time then its a trip to the vet I'm afraid.
nada.abh.35 months ago

How often is it necessary to take the corn snake out to wander and play?

Skeyekb7 months ago
So I just got a corn snake, and I know you're not supposed to handle them until a couple days after they eat. So how do you get it from the eating location back into the tank?
F1X0R (author)  Skeyekb7 months ago
Hi there, sorry its taken me a little while to get back to you on this one.

Very simply you pick them up and put them back. It isn't a zero tolerance thing. However think of it like this. if you just ate a great big meal you wouldn't be too impressed if you were made to go for a jog straight afterwards. Corn snakes will like to move around a lot when they're handled and this upsets them. Very quick handling (just for logisitics) isn't really a problem. The point is that they shouldn't be picked up and handled excessively during this period rather than not touched at all.

Another thing which is worth while noting, especially as they get a little bit older is that they can mistake your hand for food and strike when you go to put them back. If you're not confident on this use a motorcycle glove (or something similar). Just be firm when you handle them. Hand straight in, away from the face, pick up firmly and swiftly and they should generally realise what's going on and be fine from that point. Hesitating can give you issues at this point.
me and boyfriend has a corn snake and we love it ! he's like our baby and he's the cutes thing all.
F1X0R (author)  frances.washington.99 months ago
They are surprisingly cute really. A lot of people don't see it but you have to watch them for a bit I think
this is our corn snake
F1X0R (author)  frances.washington.99 months ago

Gosh. It's been a good few years since I posted this and I can't believe that Squirm was once that size. He's now a shade under 5feet! You'll be amazed how fast corns grow.

him eating

this is my 1st corn snake so i am precarious of handling her and she has a tendency to curl up, i feed her once per week on a pinkie, two days after i have tried numerous times taking it real slow to pick her up but she backs off and bolts, even when i find her she simply curls up and buries her head between her coils, how cant i handle her if she's not willing to be handled, i put her on the bed 2 week ago and the first thing she did was disappear into a pillow, so i simply put her back in the viv i use a wheelchair so i have to wash more regularly and still she wont come any where near me, i have tried many things but still nothing, whats my best plan of attracting her to come and spend 3-5 minutes per day until she gets used to me

F1X0R (author)  max.moore.9843499 months ago

Hello there,

Firstly try not to worry too much. All animals have a slightly different personality. A lot of what you've described is fairly normal. Curling up is normal. Very young snakes do tend to be more nervous. Snakes are preyed on by birds so when it comes to picking them up just do it quickly and firmly so that they don't feel they're under attack. That may help with some of the problem.

Personally I haven't tried this but you might want to give it a go. I've heard it can help a lot with nervous snakes. Try putting a used t-shirt (one that you don't care about) in her viv with her. Let her get used to your scent. Snakes after all are really very, very good at smelling things! Once she learns yours is not a smell to be scared of then you might have a bit of an easier time.

Again if a snake is out in the open, ie on your bed, the first thing they will do every time is look for somewhere to hide. When she's in her viv, is she out in the open or under a hide or buried herself in substrate? Bet she's hidden herself, its perfectly normal.

The way you smell (with regard to washing) isn't really an issue. Snakes don't care about your personal hygiene, if anything if you shower/bathe a lot then it might actually put them off as shampoos, deodorants, body washes all have a pretty non-natural smell.

Try the T shirt trick for a couple of days first. See how it goes. When you try to pick her up just assess the best way to do it then go for it. Don't be rough but you really don't want to be taking more than one attempt or you may scare them and then that will make any handling harder.

Once you've picked them up try just holding her in her viv, its an environment that she's familiar with. If you take them out and your picking them up, might be a bit much all at once. Just try it for about 5 minutes at a go, 2 or three times a day at first. Shouldn't be too much stress. Any visible signs of stress just put her down.

Snakes aren't the most animated creatures at the best of times. in fact they rely on their state of suspended animation in order to catch their prey in a lot of instances. They wait for prey to come to them, not the other way round. That's why corn snakes used to be found hiding in native American corn cribs all the time. They have no interest in corn but rats and mice do!

In short expect them to want to hide, Try getting her more exposed to you and then go for longer handling sessions after a while. In time it'll come I don't doubt it.

bcopley11 year ago
I've not long had my carolina cornsnake but he hasn't been eating but when I got him they said he was a really good eater but for some reason he hasn't eaten for me could someone tell me why this could be ?
F1X0R (author)  bcopley19 months ago

Sorry I know this a is a long time but given around the time you posted this comment given the time of year, not uncommon at all that they go off their food. Its mating season. Eating makes them lethargic and they don't want to be lethargic during this time. You'll probably notice a pick up in their physical activity too. They tend to mellow with age where this issue goes though so try not to worry about it. Corns in general are good feeders. Some species will quite often decide not to eat for a long time for no real reason at all.

Treshaun_tyson10 months ago
If a corn snake bites you should u be worried
Krasen1 year ago

Why are you giving him 2 mice ?

Riverfire2 years ago
Anything about wild snakes such as Queen snakes or Garter snakes?
I caught a adult queen snake and am keeping it in a medium terrarium with a little pond and grass/reed around it. It is about 2ft long and is eating well. Her name is Lily
monkey6667 years ago
since this would be my first reptile and i dont think im ready for somthing longer then a meter. what kind of snake do you think would work for me?
well if yr lik me then u should go for a rat snake
F1X0R (author)  monkey6667 years ago
Corn snakes only grow to about a meter and a half maybe 1.6 in extra-ordinary cases. The main concern is not size, as long as you have the room for the housing. What is really important is the attitude and temperament of the snake. Corn snakes are very forgiving of the mistakes likely to be made by a novice keeper. Also don't forget that if you keep the snake from when it is young that you are going to be dealing with something under a meter for about a year (squirm is just over a year, and just under a meter now) which is about right. Males grow shorter than females.
Hoooyyat F1X0R4 years ago
Ive never heard of the male female thing, wait is it males grow to be smaller, or males grow slower. A meter and a half?!!??! Even though they grow as long as they live, most corns dont get much more than 2.5-3 feet. My cousins corn corny is about 15 and only 3 feet. (My corn is nothing to go by because Selesst is only a month old.)
F1X0R (author)  Hoooyyat4 years ago
Squirm is now about 4 and a half feet, maybe a bit more so yes about 1.5m.
Hoooyyat F1X0R4 years ago
That's big for a corn. How old is he?
F1X0R (author)  Hoooyyat4 years ago
Now I need to think. About 4 years old.
Kenyan sand boa males get to about 2ft female 3ft 3ft=1yard1yard=to about 1.4 meters(I think) but they don't require hides as they burrow, docile and very easy first pets
Try the African House Snake. Don't get more than 3 feet (typically), VERY handleable and tame, and great eaters. Pretty much as easy to keep as a Corn, just not as colorful.
freeza363 years ago
they are not related to rattlesnakes any more than a garter snake is. corn snakes are collubrids, while rattlesnakes belong to viperidae
An Villain6 years ago
R.I.P. Steve.
yep. he was a cool guy
ccoppola67 years ago
How long should you wait before handling a cornsnake after feeding time? Great tutorial by the way, I've always wanted a snake.
i wait about 2-3 days
with my corn, jerry, i leave him about 2 days, nor more and no less than 1 and a half days.
F1X0R (author)  ccoppola67 years ago
I would say a lot depends on the size of the meal. How ever most of the time, I don't handle squirm until he comes out of hiding in the evenings of his own accord. How ever an absolute minimum would be 24 hours to ensure that they don't throw the meal back up. But until they come out by themselves, its like asking you to go running after a huge meal, just just won't want to do that.
freeza363 years ago
umm you don't need a shovel. My teacher has 3 Burmese pythons. I have much experience
Nicely done! Corn snakes rule-- I hope my mom will let me get one.

Hope = when pigs fly/ hell freezes over.
My mom was originally against it but once i reminded her that she grew up with snakes and lizards, and that she had a corn once, she agreed.
my dad was against mine. Then he realized (after about 6 years) that i needed one
harhar same problem
F1X0R (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
hahaha, the way i got my mum to agree was to start of with saying "mum can I get a tarantula" and worked back from there! in the end mum ended up wanting to get some barking tree frogs but never did, though can you imagine it, bloody frogs keep barking in the night! squirm has grown on my whole family over the course of the last 9 months or so (3 months old when i got him!) except maybe dad, who is convinced that squirm doesn't like him, because he has handled him only twice and both times squirm went to the toilet on him!
F1X0R (author) 7 years ago
kellogs corn snake, quite good, i know someone who's got a corn called Adolf Hissler, quite distasteful anyway . and yeah I have to agree birds are one of the largest predators of corn snakes, hence why they don't like being out in the day. I find it isn't necessary to use a large housing to being with (really difficult to find when they are little) but once they get bigger its more ideal to just provide lots of hiding places. i know they aren't exactly agoraphobic but it was the best way i could think to describe it. although it is arguable because there are no birds in my room, and so its not rational to be afraid of anything in my room for a snake (same reason people are afraid of spiders, despite them being no danger at all is instinct , primitive part of the brain controls fears, the amagdyla) at the moment squirm is in a fairly small enclosure, when i notice he starts getting active in the evening (he won't straight after feeds or anything) then he comes out for a couple of hours to slither around my room as he pleases, obviously I'm watching him the whole time.
Hoooyyat F1X0R4 years ago
So you let a yearling corn out for hours to slither about your room as he pleases? Seems like something bad could happen or he could get away!
0.775volts7 years ago
Pretty well done. You take good care of your corn, many props for that! Before touring, I had a corn for about six months, she was great. I always fed her in the box, never realized you needed a second area to feed her. I did a few different things when it came to feeding (she was always a very good feeder). I nuke a cup of water for about two minutes, then put the fuzzies in a plasic bag and submerge them for tow or three minutes. the water warms them nicely, but the plastic helps keep the scent in. if you try this method, be sure to rest the mice in your hand after warming them up, if they're too hot you can injure your snake. if they have cold or even frozen spots in the middle, the snake may puke them back up again. this is bad for the snake, and i would assume would be very gross to clean up. another point I learned that may help is this: don't handle your snake the day you feed her if you can help it, and give her a day or two after feeding. this helps to seperate yourself from the prey objects. I fed vlad with chopsticks, I found that to work quite well, but like I said, she was always quick on the draw, I never had to play much to get her to grab the mouse. in the states, the vet you want to look for is called a "Specialist". look for one of them and ask if they work with snakes. you can also call the nearest zoo and ask them if they have a list or something. the zoo is usually very helpful. if you can't find mice nearby (and be picky, don't EVER use dead lab mice). you can order them from Rodentpro.com . this isn't a plug or anything, but I got mine from them, and their quality is pretty good. 200 fuzzies plus shipping came in at around $60 usd, but that's because they ship them frozen on dry ice. the shipping charge is about $30, so if you order, stock up. it's also fun to tell you friends to get something out of the freezer when you know they're gonna run into a big bag of frozen mice. about your terrariums, you should have a cool side and a warm side, so the snake can move around to regulate temperature. yours is a pretty good layout. I had a devil of a time working this kind of thing out, but when I got it right, vlad just seemed happier somehow. You can keep putting her in larger terrariums if you want, your snake won't mind the additional room as he or she gets older, and it will help your snake to grow as well. corns can get up to two meters or so, but if you keep her in a small terrarium, she'll stay small. when I got vlad she was about 1.2 meters,about 2 cm in diameter and she was 8 years old. after 6 months in a large terrarium, she had grown to 1.7 meters, and was about 4 cm. I did feed her alot, but I kept a careful eye to see if she was getting overweight (your vet can show you how to check). she started at 2 fuzzies per week, but I kicked that up to 2 fuzzies twice a week after the first month when she always seemed ravenous. after that I gave her one every other day until she stopped accepting food, gave her a week and then did three and two per week. that's alot, but after a month of that she was noticeably longer and was more active. though you may not need to feed so aggressively if you're starting with a young snake. another note: make sure you have a lid that shuts securely! vlad got out once, and was gone for about a week before I found her, needless to say she was quite stressed and dirty from a week of slithering wherever she got off to. anyway, have fun with your corn, and keep up the good work!
Corns keep growing no matter what size tank they are in. As they grow you MUST put them in a larger Vivarium or they will become depressed, or sick. A corn should be able to stretch out their lungs, which are about 3/4 of their entire body so the vivarium should be that long(ish) and about 1/3 of the snakes length in tank depth and height.

Check your local Herpetology Society for more info on everything
I dont think you've mentioned how often you have to feed the snake. I guess the feeding schedule is the same for all snaked of the same size, as with dogs, but how often do you give em the mice? also, can you substitute mice for something else? is meat ok?
F1X0R (author)  raj.dabholkar7 years ago
It varies. When they are young about once a week, and then as they get older every 10 days. Its not really practical for me to say how much they should be eating either, this is the sort of thing that is individual to every snake. It is best to ask at the place you get the snake from.
Ummm I have a cat who was a stray but now she is quite docile she mostly lays around or is outside but loves to bat things around would it be safe to get a snake? like would or could my cat tip over the vivarium or like shock the snake? excuse me if I sound stupid but I have srsly never seen a snake as pet in my life. I'd say its cause I live in newfoundland but snakes could live here right
A glass vivarium is way to heavy for a cat to knock over, and it's unlikely she could shock the snake. Provided you keep your cat away from the snake while you are handling it you should be fine.
You know any reptilians vets. around Springfield MO?
it was nice instructable man :P
steve rules!!!
we miss you man!!
nice able man (Y)
grundisimo6 years ago
terrarium you mean ?
F1X0R (author)  grundisimo6 years ago
I guess firefox spell checker doesn't like me.
amakerguy6 years ago
hey here is a Great site for all reptiles! It is a forum with loads of reptile breeders and experts! Its great for all of your questions.
amakerguy6 years ago
aw! I had a corn snake a year ago and (they are escape artists!) he escaped and my lid had licks on it! sadly I did not find him but I did find his skin shed outside on the side of my house!
Snakes should be fine in a large container. Just make sure your terrarium/vivarium/tub has a low, opaque lid. There is definite, scientific conclusion to why snakes seem to get stressed in open spaces. However, after many years of studying zoology and animal behavior (specifying in herpetology) I have come to a fairly obvious conclusion in which I believe. The main predator of snakes (especially smaller varieties such as the corn) is by no doubt the bird of prey. Where do birds like to live and hang-out? The tops of tall trees of course! What can the see from so high up? Open areas and grasslands of course! Obviously, a snake slithering across a grassed clearing would be a moronic decision, for surely the snake would be eaten. As is also well known snakes prefer not to rely on their eyesight, especially the nocturnal varieties. Many people like to put their snake in a glass aquarium (bad for all reptiles) with a screen lid. As snakes have fairly poor depth perception (as with all geckos and some other lizards) they assume that if they cannot judge distance vertically, they are in the open. A bird could then easily swoop down and grab 'em (not so good for the snake). Snakes are therefore not Agoraphobic! A phobia is an unjustified fear. Snakes being afraid of open air above them is perfectly justified, and pure instinct. This also proves that housing for a snake can be as large as possible horizontally, with no ill effects. Just make sure is is heavily covered, like a wooded area. With plenty of bark and tons of hides. I have always had problems with keeping live animals in small enclosures (this is why I keep my 9" hardwickii in a 6x3' enclosure) I find a 2m corn does exceptionally well in a 12x6' enclosure, preferably only a foot high. (Sounds weird, I know.) Many people fell this takes up a lot of space, which it does, on it's own. But you can also keep 8 adult corns in a surface area of 12x6', you can easily stack 8 tanks on top of each other in a room, just make sure the bottom ones have plenty of braces. Believe me, watching a gigantic snake slither it's way through many an obstacle in it's equally gigantic tank is much more exciting than watching a stunted snake mosy around a 20g tank.

With that said, I am not suggesting you use a enclosure with 72 square feet. Just use as large as is comfortable to you and your snake. (Please god, don't use a 20g fish tank!)
Yeah 20g is way too small, but Fixor is correct, snakes often get stressed when in a very large enclosure. And I think you have a very good point about the birds of prey. The trick to this is just as you said, give LOTS of obstacles and things to hide in/around. Anything to slow down the predators. The other thing to think about is the title of the instructible: "You're first pet snake". A beginner snake keeper is NOT going to get something as big as you got for an enclosure, which I admit, am VERY jealous of :), nor have the extra money to fill a 72 square foot enclosure with hides. Also, I'd imagine the cleaning of such a tank is quite a chore...especially with a full break down and standard 5% bleach solution disinfection. Not really a beginner chore in my opinion :) So I think fixor was justified in saying keep it relatively small. You also briefly mentioned stunting...well thats also a myth. No animal will grow to the 'size of its cage' (i.e. stay small in a small cage). The only way to stunt an animals growth is to underfeed it. By the way...any pics of your giant set-up? I'd love to see what your using.
I believe I've accidentally misled you (*sheepish*) I've always had very little patience for snakes, more of a lizard keeper myself. The set-up I've described is one of a good friend.(Btw: I visited him since writing this, and it's only 10x6). He builds furniture-grade enclosures and breeds the occasional snake to make some extra pocket money. That beast of a thing I was talking about is probably one of a kind! The rack I described unfortunately never did come into existence. I got that idea from one of his many blueprints. He said it wasn't possible due to cleanliness issues. As for the enclosure he owns, the system is rather ingenious. The top is simply removable, I'm pretty sure I have a picture of him, "wading" around in the shin-deep jungle, floating around my hard drive. I'll be sure to post it when I find it (no such luck as yet). I guess I'll have to swallow my pride with "keeping it small" thing, you have a very good point about the title as well. *sigh* P.S. As far as I remember, the hides were all homemade or natural. It's surprisingly cheap if you go DIY.
would crickets work or does it need to mice & does it need to be feed more than once at a time
There are very few snakes that eat insects, and those tend to be very hard to keep properly.
F1X0R (author)  nuclearscience7 years ago
I'm pretty sure you can't feed them crickets, although, they will eat rats and gerbils once they are larger, also some lizards, but I'm not an expert on that, as I always feed "frozen thawed" Mice. You will find that as the snake grows, but is not yet large enough for the next size up in mouse, you will need to feed more than one. At the Moment His squirmship has three in one sitting, but thats it for 10 days! Only takes 10 minutes as well.
m_yazhini7 years ago
i am realy scarced of seeing your pet
monkey6667 years ago
I could probley handle it but for my parents thats a no.
sinny7 years ago
what type of snake was on steve urwin i think it was an albino python is that right
F1X0R (author)  sinny7 years ago
You are correct in that it is an Albino, and is Derived from the Python family, it is an Albino Burmese python. Its hard to tell from your comment, how much you know, and I don't want to appear rude here, but Albino just refers to a lack of certain pigmentation of the skin. Albino traits run in most species including humans. The Albino Burmese Python grows to 17 feet, where as the normal Burmese Pythons grow to around 21 feet (both in a time frame of around 4 years) they have been known to kill humans, so proper care and attention when handling is advised.
Kiteman7 years ago
Nice set of instructions.

You do need to do a little editing -

> The site has had indigestion over the pound sign (try writing "4GBP" instead)
> Capitalise the start of a sentence and "OK".


(BTW, I once came across somebody with a pet corn snake called Kellogs)
lol, kellogs corn snakes
Ah man, that statement was waaaay funnier than it should have been! =D