Never attempt to pick up a corn snake before it feels comfortable in your presence. It’ll likely be scared of you due to your size and unfamiliarity, and may bite out of fear. You have to learn how to handle a corn snake safely, so take time to familiarize yourself with the correct handling procedure.
Before you pick up your corn snake, give it time to realize that you’re not a threat. Snakes recognize you based on scent. So, spend time around your corn and watch out for signs that it feels threatened, such as hissing. When ready, be confident and calm when you handle it. Then, give it room to move freely without constricting its movement.
It’s tempting to start handling your corn snake right away, but this is a big mistake. You’re more likely to get bitten by your corn snake if you don’t give your pet time to assess whether you’re a threat. It doesn’t yet know if you’re a predator or threat. It takes time for a snake to adjust to you.
How to Handle a Corn Snake for the First Time
Corn snakes won’t ever love you or want to play with you in the way that a cat or dog would. They’re reptiles, not mammals. That’s why you have to use responsible corn snake handling techniques.
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 most likely the first human this corn snake has ever encountered. You’re both in unknown territory, so you need to learn how to get a corn snake to trust you.
Once your corn knows you better, you can try 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
Don’t dive straight in and try to pick your corn snake up. You have to let it get used to you first. There are ways to do just that:
- Spend time near to your snake’s enclosure. Start by sitting or standing alongside the vivarium, with the snake inside. Let it get used to the way you look and, more importantly, the way you smell.
- Feeding. Feed the snake once or twice before you get closer. Ideally, use tongs. Not handling prey is recommended because you don’t want your hands to smell like its dinner as you might get bitten.
- Check if your snake is comfortable. When it isn’t feeding time, slowly put your hand in their enclosure and gauge its reaction.
How Corn Snakes React to Your Presence
There are three ways a snake will typically react:
- Striking position. It winds itself up into an S shape and keeps its eyes fixed on you. If so, remove your hand slowly away so as not to frighten your corn further. However, do bear in mind that snakes can strike whether they’re in this position or not.
- Backs away slightly. This is because it’s not used to you or doesn’t recognize your smell. Don’t force your way closer to it. Leave your hand there for a few seconds, and see what it does. If it doesn’t move closer, remove your hand and try again later.
- Remains still. If the snake stays still, you’re making progress. Move slightly closer and see what happens. If your corn allows you to get closer, you should touch it in the middle of its body. Don’t touch its head, neck, or tail as this will likely make it feel uncomfortable.
If it’s comfortable after a couple of days, you can move on to handling it.
Corn Snake Handling Basics
Give your corn snake at least two days after its last meal before you handle it. This prevents regurgitation of its meal. A snake will bring up its food in order that it can escape a threat faster than it would otherwise be able to.
Remember, snakes eat their food whole. They can’t chew their food, which means it takes it longer to digest. You should also avoid handling corns before they shed, i.e. in their blue phase. During this time, they can be more aggressive and volatile due to their vulnerability.
If you’ve never handled a snake before, then start with a snake hook. This is a small hook that you can use to take your snake out of its enclosure.
It’s essential that both you and the snake are comfortable during handling, and if this is your first time, you might do something to frighten the snake. When handling, use this step-by-step guide:
- Wash your hands before handling your corn snake. Ideally, use soap that doesn’t have a scent. You want your pet to get used to the way you smell, using both its nose and vomeronasal system. This is like a sixth sense that detects chemicals in the snake’s environment.
- Gently pick up your snake in the middle of its body, again avoiding the head and tail.
- Use both hands to hold it. One should be a third of the way down its body, and the other should be around 2/3 to 3/4 of the length towards the tail. This allows your snake to feel supported as you hold it.
- Let the snake move freely. Since corn snakes are constrictors, they’re likely to wrap themselves around your arm or wrist. This is normal behavior, and they aren’t trying to hurt you in any way.
When you’re done, lower the snake back into its enclosure and wash your hands. You should always wash your hands after handling a snake or cleaning its enclosure because all reptiles have salmonella on their skin.
Snakes prefer people who handle them confidently. The same rules apply 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 nocturnal. That means they’re most active during the night. However, that doesn’t mean they’re asleep all day, unless they’re brumating. Brumation is the reptile-equivalent of hibernation.
Handle them is when they’re active. This may be after 9 PM. However, some corns may get agitated if you try to handle them when they’re most active. If so, handle them when they’re tired, such as during the morning.
Overhandling Corn Snake
You shouldn’t handle corn snakes after feeding. At least 48 hours after a meal is a good rule of thumb.
However, you should also think about the amount of time that you spend handling them, as well as the frequency.
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 corn’s preferences.
Let your snake’s body language guide how much/little you handle them. Don’t try to force your snake to do something that it doesn’t want to do. Try to identify the signs of agitation in corn snakes:
- Flicking the tail
- Making itself flat, so it looks bigger and more menacing
- Making ‘mock strikes.’ These are intended to scare, but not bite, you
- Moving its head downwards, so that both eyes are pointed at you. This is because the snake’s eyes are on opposite sides of its head, it can’t see well. By lowering its head, it can look at you with both eyes.
If you see these signs, put your snake back in its cage. As for how often should you handle a corn snake, the same applies. If you spot the signs of annoyance when you’re trying to pick it up, then leave your corn alone.
Here’s our complete guide to corn snake care.