Corn snake Care sheet

By Exotic Reptiles

Common Name: Corn Snake
Scientific Name: Elaphe guttata guttata
Herpetologists may also refer to the Corn Snake under the Latin name of Pantherophis Guttatus Guttatus, as there
has recently been a discussion about the re-classification of the Corn Snake's scientific name.

Due to the wide variety of colors and the fact that corn snakes become really tame and easy to handle, they make a
very good first exotic pet. They are also not too big and range from 30cm up to 1.6m, which makes them easy to
handle and house.
In this care sheet we will explore the things that you need to know to care for your corn snake and keep it happy.


Description: Corns snakes are a relatively small snake from the Colubridae family. They come in a range of
different morphs in a variety of colors, but normal (Carolina) corns are bright red to orange with black markings.
Size: 120cm -190cm (4ft-6ft)
Life span: (Captive) Pet Corns have the potential to live for over 18 years; records exist of Corns over 22 years of
Origin: USA (Range found throughout Central and Eastern America)
Habitat: Pine forests, rocky outcrops, grasslands, hills and around farms and grain stores. They are often found
within corn stores, feeding on the rodents that feed in the corn, hence the name Corn Snake. They are a terrestrial
species, spending the majority of their time on the ground, but they also appreciate the opportunity to climb.

Things to consider before purchasing
 Who will look after your new pet if you are away?
 Can you get food easily from your local pet shop?
 Can you live with a bag of dead mice in your freezer?
 Can you handle feeding the mice to your pet?
 Are you prepared to take on an animal that could live for up to 20 years?
 Is the rest of the family happy to live with a pet snake?
 Can you afford all the equipment necessary to keep your pet happy?
 Have you done your research on Corn Snakes and their relevant care?
You should also consider the availability of Corn Snakes in your area and find out as much about local reptile
stockists and breeders before deciding where to purchase your Corn Snake from. It is advisable to buy your snake
from a reputable stockist and ensure that they have enough information about the snake's history before you decide
to buy. Never buy a snake without adequate feeding and shedding records, as these can tell you a lot about your

Corn Snake's state of health. Problem feeders and bad shedders can cause a lot of worry, so ensure that your Corn
Snake eats regularly and sheds well before you decide to buy.

Selection of your Snake

Always insist on handling your snake before you decide to buy. This will allow you to notice any health or
temperament issues before you take your Corn Snake Home. Healthy snakes are alert. It will watch all movement in
and near its cage, and its eyes will be bright and clear. Beware of sluggish, unresponsive specimens.
Examine the snake's skin carefully, especially the spaces under the scales, for this is where ticks and mites are often
hiding. Snake ticks are big, appearing as bumps protruding from beneath the scales. Mites are tiny and bright red,
like grains of paprika. Avoid any snake with these external parasites (see snake specialist for more information).
Look at the snout and mouth. Any red or swollen areas indicate possible mouth rot, and curing this is often a long
and difficult process, so avoid any snakes so infected.
Always ask the seller if the snake has been eating and when did it last eat. Pet shops sometimes starve the snakes to
make them seem slimmer.
If your snake has passed these tests then it is probably a good, healthy snake. Internal problems such as intestinal
worms are hard to tell but usually some of the external problems will occur.
Quarantining your new Corn Snake is good practice if you have other snakes in the household. 2-3 months should
be a minimum quarantine period.

Handling of your Snake

Handling Corn snakes are very easy to do, there are only a few points to consider before doing this.

Never surprise your snake, always let it know you are there, or else it could strike out in defense.

Always make sure your hands are washed, especially if you were handling the snakes food, the scent of the
prey could cause the snake to strike at you.

Never handled the snake roughly, don’t squeeze it’s body in your hands, gently hold it in your hands and let
it move as it wants to

Never handle a snake for the first 48hrs after it has eaten as this might cause them to regurgated the food.

Housing in Captivity
Corn Snakes are not highly active and do not need huge enclosures. A medium sized vivarium (Even a fish tank with
a tight fitting lid) will house your Corn Snake nicely. The vivarium should allow a minimum of 1 square foot of floor
space to each foot of snake and be approximately a third of the snake’s length in height. Hatchlings should start out
in an appropriately sized small vivarium as they can become stressed and stop feeding in an oversized vivarium.

Corn Snakes are excellent escape artists, so care must be taken when planning their housing. Make sure your
vivarium or tank has a tight fitting lid, which can be clamped down. Corn snakes are very strong and can push a
loose fitting lid from a vivarium.
In my experience you can make a cage up to look very attractive with either live or fake plants and decorations,
especially if planning on using them as a display animal.
The other option that you have, and the one that we use with our reptiles is the racking system. It is a space saver
and allows for the accurate monitoring of each snakes’ habitats, like eating, defecating, shedding, breeding etc.
For us this works well as we do not want our snakes housed together and we have no need for displaying them as
they are for breeding. Racking systems are easy to make and you can find many videos on YouTube explaining how
to do this.

Whichever means of housing your reptiles you choose, always remember to consider all your animals needs as
causing them stress will cause illness and might result in you losing your animal.



There are a few substrates that you can use for your snake, again depending on your personal choice. Listed below
are the most popular and also a mention of what not to use.

Pine Shavings
Newspaper is my favourite, especially for use in our racking system, it might not be that attractive, but for
us it is easy to clean and with the amount of cages we have that helps a lot.

Do not use cedar, bark shavings, sand and gravel as these are either toxic or not absorbent which promotes growth
of bacteria. Always keep your substrate clean and you will have no problems with bacteria.

Light and Heating

The main point to stipulate here is that all reptiles are cold blooded and for that fact they need heat sources to
regulate their body temperatures.
For display cages I would recommend the use of a heating pad and an infra-red light, remembering to create a hot
and cold spot for your snake so he can move in between the two as he needs to.
In our racking systems that we have we use heat pads or heat cables and these are regulated with a temperature
control keeping our temperature right. We do not use any lights as this is not necessary for corn snakes. Our
racking systems are in a room with natural sunlight so they follow the normal day and night patterns as we do.

Corn Snakes do not require a specific humidity level, but may appreciate a light misting of their vivarium to aid
them during the shedding process.

Ensure that you do not allow the humidity to reach too high a level as this may cause your Corn Snake to develop an
R.I (Respiratory Infection).

All Corn Snakes need fresh water to drink daily. Water should be given in a reasonable sized bowl which is fairly
heavy to stop your snake tipping it over. Water can also help your snake during shedding at this time your snake
may be found bathing in the water.
If the snake defecates in its water bowl, the bowl must be cleaned and disinfected immediately.

Cage Décor and Hide Boxes
All Corn Snakes need somewhere to hide and may become stressed if this is not provided. This could be a cardboard
box, a toilet roll tube or an upturned plant pot that can be easily replaced if it becomes soiled.
Specialist reptile hides can be purchased from pet shops and over the Internet. These are usually quite expensive,
but look good inside the vivarium and can be easily cleaned when you clean the rest of the vivarium.
Any hide should be just large enough for your Corn Snake to curl up in; if it is too large the snake will not feel as
secure. It is advised to place at least two hides in your vivarium so that your Corn snake will have a place to hide in
both the warm and cool end of the tank.
In general, it is wise to place two hides in your vivarium for your Corn snake to use, one in the warm side of the
vivarium and one in the cooler side. This enables your snake to have adequate hiding places along the temperature
gradient, which would allow your snake to adjust its body temperature. This is important, because for some Corn
Snakes, the instinct to hide is often more insistent than the instinct to keep at the right temperature. If the snake does
not control his body temperature it can lead to many problems, the least of which being digestive problems.
Branches, rocks, stones and plastic plants can be bought from pet shops and over the internet these provide a place
for climbing and resting, they also aid the snake when shedding its skin.
Branches and rocks collected from the wild will need to be debugged by soaking first in chlorine/water solution,
then rinsed thoroughly, soaked in clean water, then left to dry in the sun. Alternatively, baking your find in an oven
for an hour at 100°C would also kill any parasites or bacteria living on it that could harm your snake.
Some live plants may be harmful to your Corn Snake, if in doubt don't use them in your Vivarium.
Corn snakes are very inquisitive animals and like to explore new surroundings. Once in a while change the layout of
the vivarium, as this will keep your Corn Snake from becoming bored. You will notice once you put your Corn Snake
back in the tank it will start to re-explore its new surroundings.

In Captivity corn snakes should be fed captive bred mice only, don’t feed them wild caught mice as they may carry
parasites. Hatchlings should be fed 1 mouse pinkie a week or every 4 days, yearlings can start on mouse fuzzies or
rat pups where adult corns can eat a fully grown mouse or big rat pups. Corn snakes don’t tend to be fussy eaters
when they are adults although you do get the odd corn that will only eat mice and the odd corn that will only eat rat
pups. Remember to always feed you snakes separately. Hatchlings are also pretty easy to get eating they do a lot
better when they are kept separately. This takes a lot more tubs and space but it is well worth it. The reason being
that when they are so young they feel insecure and scared and if they are all kept in one tub they stress each other
out, your success rate of hatchlings feeding straight from the word go is much higher. Most people keep all there
hatchlings in one tub then they are separated into individual tubs to get fed then they are put back into the one tub
and that’s where it all goes downhill, snakes want to be left alone after they have eaten. Over feeding and food items
that are too large for your snake can be dangerous to your snake’s health and can also result in regurgitation. Make
sure you put a water bowl in your enclosure when the snake has finished eating, as 9 out of 10 snakes will want to
drink water after eating.

Corn snakes, like all other snakes, shed their skin as they grow. This will happen more frequently when the snake is
still young and become less often as the snake reaches adulthood.
Signs that your snake is going to shed are
 Skin will turn a pale color
 Eyes will become milky blue color
 Most snakes will stop taking food at this stage, but not always true, we have had some that ate while
Most of the time your snake will shed its skin without any problems, but sometimes especially if there is something
else wrong with the snake it might have a problem with shedding.
You can assist in the shedding process buy lightly misting the enclosure or spraying the animal with a product you
buy in pet shops called shed ease.
I some serious cases I have found that bathing the snake in luke warm water to soften the skin helps. Just lay the
snake in a tub of luke warm water for half an hour or so and then gently run your hand over the old skin. The water

should have softened the old skin and it should just slip off as you run your fingers over it. Some small pieces might
need to be removed with a pair of tweezers, but be careful not to injure the snake.
After you are done make sure all the old skin is removed and put the snake back in its cage.

Social Structure

Corn snakes are solitary animals, only coming together for mating so I would not advise in keeping them together.
We have in the past kept some snakes together, but always found that one would be more dominant, always taking
the food and you could see that the submissive one was stressed by the other snake, so I wouldn’t recommend
keeping them together.
For this reason our racking system is ideal again as the snakes are kept alone and only introduced when mating has
to occur.
If you do decide to keep more than one snake in an enclosure, the watch the animals closely and make sure that one
or more don’t get stressed out, stop eating or anything else goes wrong.

There are many techniques you can use to sex your snake, including comparing tail lengths visually as males tend to
have longer tails than females, but the only two accurate ways of determining corn snake sex are popping and
probing. Popping is usually done on hatchling corns and Probing on older specimens. Both techniques should only
be carried out by an experienced snake keeper or herpetologist, as your Corn Snake can be hurt if the procedure is
not done properly.

Corn snakes are really easy to breed in captivity, but please consider everything before you do this as having a
bunch of babies to care for is a lot of work and time consuming. I would recommend that the minimum requirements
for a female to breed would be at least 3 years of age, 3ft in length and 300 grams in weight.
Brumation (cooling your snake down for winter) is advised to greater your chances of successful breeding. A good
brumation period is about 8 to 10 weeks for the female Corn Snake. The temperature needs to be dropped gradually
to around 7-18°C (45-65°F) and maintained until gradually raising it back up after the recommended brumation
period. Your Corn snake should not be fed during this time, but fresh water should always be available.
In the wild the Corn Snake mating season is usually around March, so this is a good time to introduce your female
to the male's vivarium for copulation. They can be left together for a few weeks. If the copulation is successful, the
female will become gravid (pregnant).
Once your Corn snake has become gravid, they will need to feed more frequently to ensure they gain the vital
nutrients needed for egg development. A nest box should be placed in the vivarium when it becomes obvious that the
female is searching for a place to lay her eggs. A nest box can be made easily from a plastic tub. Simply cut a hole
in the lid of the box that is big enough for your female to fit through and fill the tub with damp vermiculite. Once the
eggs have been laid, remove the eggs. Your female will be hungry and exhausted, so continue feeding her more often
than you normally would to increase your chances of a successful double clutch.
Female Corn Snakes will lay between 10 and 20 eggs, which will need to be incubated for between 55 and 65 days
(7 to 9 weeks). Try to keep the eggs at a constant temperature of 26-29°C (79-85°F). Vermiculite is a good substrate
to have inside the incubator as it will help keep the humidity levels correct.
If incubation is successful the hatchlings should break out of their eggs using an egg tooth. They will remain in the
eggs to soak up the yoke for a few days before venturing out of the shell. You should watch them closely at this
stage, but not force them to leave the egg before they are ready.

Once they are out of the egg, the hatchlings will all need to be housed separately. Small sandwich box are good for
housing your hatchlings at this stage.
Hatchlings will require their first feed after their first shed, which should occur around a week after they hatch. If
the hatchling is reluctant to eat its first pinky, try braining the pinky to encourage them to take it. If you are planning
to sell on your hatchlings, it is important to ensure that the hatchlings are readily accepting food and are healthy
before selling them.

Hatchling Care
Hatchlings can be housed in a plastic tubs measuring 15cm X 25cm and 10cm in height with a tight fit lid and
ventilation holes on the side of the tub. In the tub you must have a water bowl and a hide spot which can be anything
from strips of newspaper to toilet paper or even a toilet paper roll. A hide spot is essential for hatchlings as they feel
very insecure when they are so young and if they do not have a hide spot that they feel secure and one can pick up
problems with feeding. Hatchling corn snakes should also be kept separately as they stress each other out, bottom
line being that hatchlings do much better when they are housed alone.
After hatching separate them into their individual containers and like we do is we then keep all then containers in a
cabinet where the heat is regulated.
About a week after hatching they will shed for the first time and then they will be ready for their first meal. Offer
them small pinkie mice about a day old. Some coaxing will be needed with some of them on their first meal, but
usually corn snake hatchlings take their first meal easily.
If you are planning on selling the hatchlings you must make sure that they eat and shed well and are healthy before
putting them up for sale.
I would recommend keeping them until their third or at least second shed before selling them.

Keeping Records
Keeping records of your snake’s activities is very useful especially for a breeder like me. We use a program
specially developed for the record keeping of reptiles and we use that for all our animals.
With this you can keep records or when the animal last ate, its last shed, defecation, breeding records, just about
anything you can think of.
It also helps to keep track of the growth of your animals, and you can pull reports to show the growth charts, eating
records and everything else.

Below is the link to the site where you can go and download the program, believe me I have tried most of the others
out there and this has worked the best for me, but if any of you know of any other programs please let me know so
we can try that one out as well.
Here is the link

Common Complaints
Corn Snakes are a hardy snake that would rarely become ill with appropriate care, but here is a quick introduction
to a few disorders that need to be looked out for.
Mites: Mites are little black parasites that live on your Corn Snake and feed on their blood. If your Corn Snake
catches mites they can usually be found around the eyes, mouth and under scales. Your snake will seem lethargic
and may go off its food during a mite infestation. If you discover mites on your corn snake, immediately bathe your
snake in warm water and fully disinfect the entire tank and contents. Refill your vivarium with white kitchen roll and
leave the cage furniture to a minimum. This helps stops the mites being able to breed as they need substrate to lay
eggs and also allows you to see them more clearly while you monitor your snake. Repeated bathing and disinfecting
of the vivarium helps, but it unlikely that you will remove a mite infestation without some sort of treatment. Reptile
shops sell various treatments to help kill off the mites, but some vets may prescribe a weak dose of Frontline if they
feel it is necessary.
Respiratory Infections (R.Is): R.Is are a bacterial infection that is usually caused by poor cage conditions, low
temperatures or too much humidity, but can be passed from snake to snake too. Corn Snakes may sound wheezy with
excessive saliva and nasal discharge. Their mouths may also gape open as your corn struggles to breathe. Very mild
R.Is may go away themselves if the conditions that the snake are living in are corrected, but serious infections need
to be seen to by a vet immediately to avoid Mouth Rot or even death of your Corn Snake. The vet may prescribe an
anti-biotic called Baytril, which is safe enough to be given to your snake.
Regurgitation: When a snake regurgitates it's meal, it may not necessarily be down to illness, but as regurgitation is
a symptom of many digestive problems, illnesses and stress it is recommended that if your Corn Snake does
regurgitate it's meal that you monitor your snake very closely for further symptoms. Sometimes a Corn Snake may
regurgitate its meal if it is handled too soon after a feeding or if it has been fed an item that is too large for it. In this
case, you should leave the snake to settle back down for a week before trying to feed again. If your Corn Snake
repeatedly regurgitates its meal, loses excessive weight or shows any other signs that are worrying you, seek
medical attention as soon as possible.


Corn snakes are the most kept reptile pet in the world, they really do make wonderful pets, remember if you are
interested in buying or have one already it is YOUR responsibility to look after and do the necessary research on
your snake. This care sheet is not a complete informative document, read as many care sheets, books and internet
sites and make sure that you are ready to own a snake, do all this and your experience will be rewarding and if you
need any advice and help with your snake please do not hesitate to contact us. The above information is our
personal experience with corn snakes and is merely a guide line for you guys. Enjoy your corn snake.