Having a pet is no fun if you can’t play with it. But if you try to pick up a corn snake before they’re comfortable with you, they’ll be annoyed with you and won’t forget quickly. That’s why you have to learn how to handle a corn snake for the first time.
It’s tempting to jump right in and start playing with your new pet, but if you do, you could get bitten by your corn snake. That’s what this guide aims to prevent happening.
How to Handle a Corn Snake for the First Time
Corn snakes won’t immediately love you, and they won’t immediately want to play with you. They’re reptiles, not mammals. As such, you have to learn how to handle them safely and responsibly.
It all starts with getting to know one another. This might be the first snake you’ve ever owned. At the same time, you’re the first human this corn snake has had to get used to. You’re both in unknown territory, so let’s learn how to get a corn snake to like you.
Once they know you a little better, you can try out some different things. For example, you could let your corn snake bathe in water for the first time.
How to Get a Corn Snake to Like You
This bit is crucial. Don’t dive straight in and try to pick your corn snake up. You have to let them get used to you first.
Fortunately, there are ways to do just that:
- Start by sitting or standing alongside your vivarium, with the snake inside. Let them get used to what you look and smell like. Snakes use their sense of smell far more than sight, so this is crucial.
- Feed the snake once or twice before you try to get any closer. Ideally, use tweezers at first. Not handling prey is a good idea because you don’t want your hands to smell like a mouse (otherwise they might think that you’re prey too).
- When it isn’t feeding time, put your hand in their enclosure and gauge their reaction. Based on their reaction, you can move on to handling them.
Signs Your Corn Snake Likes You
There are three alternatives, each of which has a different meaning. Let’s learn those signs before we even start thinking about handling a corn snake. You start by putting your hand in their enclosure and seeing how they react.
- The corn snake striking position is easy to remember. They wind themselves up into an S shape and keep their eyes fixed on you. Of course, if you notice them doing this, remove your hand slowly and smoothly so as not to frighten them any more. However, do bear in mind that snakes can strike whether they’re in this specific position or not (although it’s not likely). Try again tomorrow.
- If your corn snake backs away slightly from your hand, it’s because they’re not used to you. This is most likely because they don’t recognize your smell. Don’t force your way closer to them. Leave your hand there for a few seconds, and see what they do. If they don’t move closer, remove your hand and try again in an hour.
- If the snake stays still, you’re making progress. Move slightly closer to them and see what they do, following the two guidelines above. If the snake allows you to get closer to them, you should touch them in the middle of their body. Don’t touch their head, neck or tail at first, as this makes them uncomfortable.
Continue to build your relationship with your pet by touching and stroking the middle of their body. If they’re comfortable with this after a couple of days, you can move on to handling them.
Corn Snake Handling Basics
Give your corn snake at least two days after their last meal before you handle them. This prevents regurgitation of their meal. Remember, snakes eat their food whole. They can’t chew their food like we can, which means it takes them longer to digest. You should also avoid handling them before they shed, i.e., in their blue phase. During this time, they can be extra-grumpy.
If you’ve never handled a snake before, it might be best to start with a snake hook. This is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a small hook that you can use to take your snake out of their enclosure.
It’s essential that both you and the snake are comfortable during handling, and if this is your first time, you might accidentally do something to frighten the snake. So, start slow.
When handling, use the following guidelines.
- Wash your hands before any time you handle your corn snake. Ideally, use soap that doesn’t have a scent. You want them to get used to the way you smell, using both their nose and their vomeronasal system. This is like a sixth sense that detects chemicals in the snake’s environment.
- Pick up your snake in the middle of their body, again avoiding both the head and the tail.
- Use both hands when you hold them. One should be a third of the way down their body, and the other should be around two thirds or three-quarters of the length to the tail. This allows your snake to feel supported as you hold them.
- Let the snake move freely. If you restrict them, they won’t understand why, and won’t be happy. Since corn snakes are constrictors, they’re likely to wrap themselves around your arm or wrist. Don’t worry, because this is normal behavior, and they aren’t trying to hurt you. It’s just the way they naturally move.
After you’re done, lower your snake back into their enclosure and wash your hands. That’s all there is to it. Above all, though, remain cool, calm and collected throughout the whole experience. Snakes prefer people who handle them confidently. The same applies when you’re trying to figure out how to handle a baby corn snake.
Best Time of Day to Handle Corn Snake
Corn snakes are naturally nocturnal. That means they’re most active during the night. However, that doesn’t mean they’re asleep all day. Coincidentally, snakes don’t sleep like we do because they don’t have eyelids. You can tell they’re sleeping because they stop moving and flicking their tongue entirely. Needless to say, but don’t disturb your snake if you think they’re asleep.
Otherwise, the best time to handle them is when they’re active. This is typically after 9 pm. However, snakes have personalities just like other pets. Some might get agitated if you try to handle them when they’re most active. If this seems to be the case, handle them when they’re tired, for example in the morning.
Overhandling Corn Snake
The question of how often to handle corn snake is an important one. As we said, you shouldn’t handle them after feeding. At least 48 hours is a good rule of thumb. However, you should also think about a) the amount of time that you spend handling them and b) the frequency with which you handle them, too.
How Long Should You Handle a Corn Snake?
The majority of owners handle their corn snake for between 10 and 20 minutes. Since some snakes like being handled and some don’t, the exact amount depends on your snake’s preferences.
Let your snake guide how you handle them and don’t try and force them to do something they don’t want to do.
Try to spot the signs of agitation in your snake:
- Flicking its tail
- Making themselves flat, so that they look bigger
- Making ‘mock strikes,’ which are intended to scare you, but not bite you
- Moving their head downwards, so that both eyes are pointed at you
This final stage is the one where you’re about to get a real bite. Because the snake’s eyes are on opposite sides of its head, they can’t see well. By lowering their head, they can look straight at you with both eyes.
If you see any of these signs, put your snake back. As for how often should you handle a corn snake, the same applies. Let your snake guide the process. If you spot the signs of agitation when you’re trying to pick them up—more than usual, anyway—it’s best to leave them alone.