How To Care For Pet Corn Snakes

How To Care For Pet Corn Snakes

Corn Snake: The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is a North American species of rat snake that subdues its small prey by constriction. It is found throughout the southeastern and central United States. Their docile nature, reluctance to bite, moderate adult size, attractive pattern, and comparatively simple care make them commonly kept pet snakes. Though superficially resembling the venomous copperhead and often killed as a result of this mistaken identity, corn snakes are harmless and beneficial to humans.Corn snakes lack functional venom and help control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease.

The corn snake is named for the species’ regular presence near grain stores, where it preys on mice and rats that eat harvested corn. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this usage as far back as 1675. Some sources maintain that the corn snake is so-named because the distinctive, nearly-checkered pattern of the snake’s belly scales resembles the kernels of variegated corn. Regardless of the name’s origin, the corn reference can be a useful mnemonic for identifying corn snakes.

Albino Corn Snake

The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is a North American species of rat snake that kills small prey by constriction.

Corn snakes are found throughout the southeastern and central United States. They are often kept as pets. They reach a moderate size of 3.9–6.0 feet (1.2–1.8 m). In the wild, they usually live around 6–8 years, but in captivity can live to be up to 23 years old or longer.

Corn snakes look similar to the venomous copperhead snake and are often killed because of this similarity. Corn snakes are harmless and beneficial to humans. They are one of the most common snakes kept as pets, alongside the garter snake and ball python. Corn snakes lack venom and help control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease. They can be distinguished from copperheads by their brighter colors, slender build and lack of heat-sensing pits.

Although the corn snake is distinguished by its bright red orange colored scales, possible mutations can occur completely rejecting these pigments, changing its appearance. The two-color mutations that are known to occur is albinism and anerythrism. Snakes that are homozygous for albinism lack the black pigment, and the ones that are homozygous for anerythrism lack the red pigment.

The corn snake is named for the species’ regular presence near grain stores, where it preys on mice and rats that eat harvested corn. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this usage as far back as 1675. Some sources maintain that the corn snake is so-named because the distinctive, nearly-checkered pattern of the snake’s belly scales resembles the kernels of variegated corn. Regardless of the name’s origin, the corn reference can be a useful mnemonic for identifying them. Their diet in the wild mainly consists of rodents, small amphibians, birds and/or their eggs, other types of eggs, and so on. They’re not known for eating insects, though. In captivity they’re usually fed a steady diet of pinky mice and other types of creatures such as the ones above.


Corn Snake Morphs

Corn Snake Morphs

Corn snakes make excellent choices as pet snakes. Corn snakes are closely related to rat snakes (rat snakes also belong to the genus Elaphe) and are also sometimes called red rat snakes (especially the amelanistic color variations). They are native to the southeastern United States, are mostly land-dwelling and are active mainly at night or at dusk and dawn. snakes are generally docile, relatively easy to care for and do not get very large therefore they make a great choice for beginner snake owners.  However, they are also favorites with experienced keepers due to the vast array of beautiful colors and patterns selective breeding has produced.

Corn Snake Care

These low-key snakes allow people to handle them and are generally docile. They like to burrow and hide, so a decent-sized enclosure and loose substrate (lining) on the bottom is key.

Like most snakes, corn snakes are excellent escape artists, so their enclosures should be secure. If a snake gets out of its cage it can get lost or hurt itself (and give a household visitor a good scare).

Corn snakes—again, like most snakes—are carnivores. In the wild, they stalk their prey primarily via smell rather than sight. And when they feel threatened, especially in the wild, they may vibrate their tail, similar to rattlesnakes, as a defense mechanism.


Picking a solid cage is a necessity for proper corn snake care. A 20-gallon long tank (a longer and shallower version of a 20-gallon tank) makes a good-sized cage for a corn snake. It is important to get a secure-fitting lid that can be clamped down for this tank as well. Corn snakes will push at the lid with their noses looking for weaknesses and tiny openings, so the fit of the lid is very important.

Provide hiding spots for your corn snake. A hide box (any closed-in container like a cardboard box will do) should be provided that is just large enough for the snake to curl up in; if it is too large the snake will not feel as secure. Pieces of bark can also provide hiding spots for your snake if it is on a substrate that allows it to burrow under the bark. Ideally, a hiding place should be available in both the cooler and warmer ends of the enclosure. Also, provide a branch for climbing.


Maintaining your corn snake’s cage at the correct temperature is vital. Keep a temperature gradient of about 70 to 85 F (21 to 29 C) in the cage. Under tank heat pads or heat tape can be used, but they can make it difficult to monitor how hot the enclosure is getting.

An overhead incandescent heat light is preferred, but corn snakes are from temperate climates, so they do not need tropical temperatures. Make sure their enclosure does not get too hot.

Baby Corn Snake

A variety of materials can be used as a substrate for your pet corn snake. Newspaper is the utilitarian choice since it is very easy to clean up, but its appearance in the cage leaves a little to be desired. Indoor/outdoor carpeting (“Astroturf”) can be used, and if you cut two pieces, you can rotate them by swapping the clean one out for the dirty one at cleaning time and thoroughly wash and dry the soiled piece.

Pine bark chips are another good choice. The chips that are soiled with feces can simply be scooped out and thorough cleaning is done as needed. Aspen shavings can be used in a similar manner, although it is probably a good idea to move the snake to a separate container for feeding so that the shavings are not inadvertently ingested. Sand, soil, corncob, pine shavings, and cedar shavings are not good choices for corn snakes.

Food and Water

Corn snakes should be fed pre-killed mice or small rats, although the latter is only suitable for larger corn snakes. Hatchlings are started out on pinkie mice for feedings, and the size of the prey is increased as the snake grows. The prey item can be as wide or a little wider than the snake’s head.

Young growing snakes should be fed a couple of times a week, while adults need only be fed one appropriately sized prey item every week or 10 days. Your snake’s appetite might decline around the time of a shed, so reduce feeding frequency if your snake is about to start shedding.

A water dish is also necessary, and the water should be kept meticulously clean. Snakes often defecate in their water, and when this happens, the waste should be cleaned immediately. A heavy dish several inches in diameter makes a good water source. You may find you snake soaking in the dish, particularly before a shed.

Common Health Problems

Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is a bacterial infection of the mouth that often causes saliva bubbles as well as inflammation in and around the mouth. If left untreated, this ailment can cause infection in the bone and the snake’s teeth may fall out.

As with most snake breeds, corn snakes are susceptible to fungal and respiratory infections. The former is marked by discoloration of the skin. A sign of respiratory infection is open-mouth breathing or wheezing. All of these health issues require treatment by a reptile veterinarian.

Okeetee Corn Snake

Corn snakes, sometimes called red rat snakes, are slender, orange or brownish-yellow snakes with a pattern of large, red blotches outlined in black down their backs.

Along their bellies are distinctive rows of alternating black and white marks, which resemble a checkerboard pattern. The name corn snake may have originated from the similarity of these markings to the checkered pattern of kernels of maize or Indian corn.

These snakes exhibit considerable variations in color and pattern, depending on their age and geographic range. Young hatchlings also lack the brighter coloration seen in adults.


Corn snakes are approximately 61 to 182 centimeters (24 to 72 inches) long.

Native Habitat

Corn snakes are found in the eastern United States from southern New Jersey to Florida, into Louisiana and parts of Kentucky. They are most abundant in Florida and other southeastern states.

Introduced populations have been recorded on several islands in the Caribbean, with established populations in the Bahamas (New Providence and Grand Bahama), Grand Cayman, the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas) and the Lesser Antilles.

These snakes inhabit wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadowlands, woodlots, rocky open areas, tropical hammocks, barns and abandoned buildings.

Food/Eating Habits

These constrictors bite their prey to get a firm grip, then quickly coil themselves around their meal, squeezing tightly until the prey is subdued. Finally, they swallow their food whole, usually headfirst. Corn snakes have also been observed swallowing small prey alive.

These snakes typically feed every few days. Young hatchlings eat lizards and tree frogs, while adults feed on larger prey, such as mice, rats, birds and bats. At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, corn snakes eat mice and rats.

Reproduction and Development

Breeding season for these snakes takes place from March to May. Corn snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs that later hatch. In late May to July, the female snake lays a clutch of 10 to 30 eggs in rotting stumps, piles of decaying vegetation or other similar locations with sufficient heat and humidity to incubate the eggs.

Adult corn snakes do not care for their eggs, which require about 60 to 65 days at a temperature of about 82 degrees Fahrenheit to hatch. The eggs hatch between July and September, and hatchlings are 25 to 38 centimeters (10 to 15 inches) long. They reach maturity in about 18 to 36 months.

Sleep Habits

Corn snakes are primarily diurnal, or most active during the day. Corn snakes readily climb trees and enter abandoned buildings in search of prey. However, they are very secretive and spend most of their time underground prowling through rodent burrows. They often hide under loose bark or beneath logs, rocks and other debris during the day.

Are corn snakes a good pet?

Corn snakes are a small-sized colubrid snake that make a good choice for anyone who would like to keep a snake as a pet. … Corn snakes are generally docile and are easy to tame. They rarely bite and are inquisitive and relatively active, making them a great choice as a pet for adults and children alike.

corn snake cannot kill you.

Corn snakes also can‘t hurt you more than a cat scratch can. They are a very calmly mannered animal that is a great first pet snake because it is so harmless.

Can a corn snake hurt you?

Corn snakes rarely bite, even if frightened or hurt. If they do bite, the bite from a hatchling usually causes no pain at all, and may not even be noticed due to the small size of the teeth. A bite from an adult may perhaps be enough to draw a little blood, like tiny pin pricks.

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