Corn Snakes are an excellent, easy-to-keep beginner snake species. Let’s go over some of the basics quickly to get you up to speed.
An adult corn snake is typically full grown between 4-5 feet, which suggests either a 28-41 quart tub for a rack system or a 40-gallon enclosure equivalent for an enclosure. Baby corn snakes, while hatching at between 6-8 inches, are typically rehomed when they are around 8-10 inches. This allows them to be kept comfortably in a 6-quart tub or 10-15 gallon enclosure equivalent. More space can be beneficial but keep in mind to not overwhelm your baby snake with too many open spaces. Cage decors help with this.
84-86°F (29-30°C) is a commonly agreed-upon warm spot for corn snakes. As with most reptiles, a hot and cool side within the enclosure is necessary for thermoregulation. temperatures closer to 74°F (23°C) are suggested for the cool side to create a temperature “gradient” within your enclosure. The most important factor with gauging your temperatures is observing your snake (as corn snakes come from all different parts of the Southern and Central United States). An animal’s behavior is telling; if a corn snake is consistently on the cool side, this means that the hot side is too hot and vice versa. Snakes are ectotherms: meaning they do not control or produce their own body heat, rather it is controlled by their surroundings.
The humidity levels within an enclosure are recommended between 50-70%. From babies to adults, shedding can occur from every few weeks to every few months; healthy humidity levels help with the process of your snake to shed its skin. We find that providing a moist hide at all times ensures the option to regulate humidity as well.
It’s beneficial to almost all reptiles to contain a UVB light within the enclosure, however, lots of reptiles do not require this. Corn Snakes are considered crepuscular, meaning that they are most active during the dusk and dawn hours, suggesting they do not need much UV light. The heat of the mid-day sun usually finds them resting in shade in their natural habitat, while nocturnal activity is not uncommon. We opted to add the use of a lower-level UV bulb in all our cages and have found our animals basking underneath it. A light cycle is very important and a 12 by 12-hour ratio is most often recommended.
For all reptiles, the substrate is a very important factor in maintaining warmth and humidity. That being said, cornsnakes are a very hardy species and we have kept them in the past from a range of paper towels (for hatchlings), wood chip/shavings, peat moss, coir, and even on a full bioactive substrate. Be sure to allow for dry areas for your cornsnake to move around on so as to prevent scale rot. Scale rot is a bacterial infection that can be caused by soiled and damp substrates. We currently house all our North American colubrid snakes on a lab-grade hardwood chip substrate while providing a moist hide filled with sphagnum moss.
As the rule goes: the bigger the animal, the bigger it eats. For baby corn snakes, “pinkie” (newborn) mice are recommended, while fully grown adults will eventually become accustomed to large/jumbo mice. When needing to resort to Jumbo mice for size, we prefer using Norwegian rats or African Soft Furred Rats as they are less fatty. Frozen-thawed mice are recommended for feeding, as live mice can damage the snake during the feeding process. If a corn snake is being raised from a baby, it’s best to feed them every 3-4 days while increasing the time between feedings as they age. Adult corn snakes usually feed every 7-10 days for maintenance.
Expectantly, there should be at least 2 hides within your enclosure–one on the hot side and one on the cool side. Snakes enjoy hiding, so if there is only 1 hide on a side of the enclosure that is either too hot/cold and uncomfortable, it is unlikely that the snake will not leave the security of its hide. This can cause stress and refusals of meals along with other problems to your snake’s comfort and wellbeing. Water bowls (of course) are also required and expected to be cleaned and replaced with fresh water frequently. Water bowls should be big enough for your snake to sit and relax in–this will both help the shedding process and produce more humidity. Corn snakes also enjoy extras such as plants, rocks, and branches.
Corn snakes are noted to be very energetic and fast-moving when younger, although they can also be very docile and not always prone to biting. As with all animals, snakes will become less skittish as time and handling increase. Don’t give up on handling a flighty snake. They will get comfortable the more you handle them!