Reptiles are less common than other pets, so you might not know what corn snakes should eat. Corns, like all snakes, are obligate carnivores. This means that they should be fed a meat-based diet.
We’ll start our guide by looking at what corn snakes like to eat. We take a look at what they might choose to eat in the wild, and which foods you should avoid giving them altogether. We’ll then detail a corn snake’s dietary requirements and how often corn snakes should be fed.
- 1 What Can Corn Snakes Eat?
- 1.1 What do Corn Snakes Eat in the Wild?
- 1.2 Basic Corn Snake Diet
- 1.3 How Often Do Corn Snakes Eat?
- 1.4 Do Corn Snakes Eat When Shedding?
- 1.5 Why is My Corn Snake Refusing to Eat?
- 1.6 How Do You Get Baby Corn Snakes to Eat?
- 1.7 Do Corn Snakes Eat Less in Winter?
- 1.8 Other Related Articles:
What Can Corn Snakes Eat?
Corn snakes are natural constrictor snakes. This means that they catch their prey first with their mouth, but squeeze it to death rather than poisoning it.
Corn snakes lack any functional venom and are harmless to humans. Their teeth are too small to do you severe damage, although a bite will hurt, so don’t feed them by hand.
As you can probably figure out, corn snakes prefer live prey. However, you can teach pet snakes, corn snakes included, to eat frozen food too. You can this link get a 50-pack of frozen fuzzy mice by UGRodents on Amazon (by clicking on the link). This will take care of your snake’s food requirements for many months. Just store the food away in your freezer!
Of course, this is a lot more convenient, and less gruesome (if that’s something you’re concerned about). But, what does a corn snake prey on?
Let’s take a look at a corn snake’s natural diet, and how you can replicate that at home.
What do Corn Snakes Eat in the Wild?
A corn snake’s favorite food in the wild is small, live rodents. Scientifically speaking, corn snakes are referred to as rat snakes because their natural diet consists mostly of rodents, birds, tiny frogs and similar. They even got their name because of their chosen diet.
Historically, they were most easily found near granaries and other food stores, where they could catch the rats and mice that lived nearby.
Because corn snakes are a North American species, they don’t feed on tropical rodents or animals in the wild. And the smaller the snake, the smaller the prey. Young corn snakes feed primarily on new-born mice, which is easily reflected in their diet at home too.
Corn snakes are obligate carnivores. This means that they have to eat meat in their diet. If you fed them on vegetables and gave them nothing else, they wouldn’t be getting the nutrients they need.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Eggs?
Yes, corn snakes can eat eggs. Almost every kind of snake either can or does feed on eggs. One of the smallest snakes (the Thread snake) is small enough to eat ants’ eggs.
And then, the largest of snakes (pythons or anacondas, for example) eat bigger birds’ eggs to supplement their diet. There are five species called egg-eating snakes because it’s all they eat.
The clue is in the word supplement. Eggs shouldn’t be the primary part of your corn snake’s diet, because they don’t contain everything that they need.
In the wild, alongside their general diet of small rodents, they eat little birds’ eggs (e.g., quail eggs) that offer good nutritional value and are the right size. You can, therefore, feed them small eggs as a treat every now and again.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Fish?
Some snakes will choose to eat fish in the wild, depending on their natural habitat. On top of that, most kinds of snake can eat fish, although they may not choose to because they don’t recognize it as prey.
The species that will eat fish include:
- North American water snakes
- Garter snakes
- Common grass snakes
- Viperina snakes
- Asian keelbacks
- Cottonmouth snakes
- Sea kraits, and any other species of sea snake
However, it’s unlikely that your corn snake will want to. There is also a chance that it might give them digestive problems.
If you do choose to give your corn snake some fish filet, only give them a small piece and see how they react and whether they like it. If they do like it, feed it to them occasionally.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Chicken?
Corn snakes often attack birds’ nests. They’re easy targets. Most birds, aside from birds of prey, are small and can’t harm a snake. Eggs provide nutrition. And not only that but any chicks and hatchlings offer the perfect meal.
Long story short, yes, corn snakes eat chicken. Just take the following guidelines into account:
- Corn snakes eat live prey in the wild. That being said, this prey may bite or otherwise hurt your snake. It’s unlikely that a small, live chick would harm your snake, however, so live or dead food is okay.
- Whole, adult chickens aren’t typical food for corn snakes. However, according to a paper in the Journal of Herpetology, small chicks and hatchlings are prey for many snakes. Remember that the meal size should be proportionate to the size and age of your snake.
Never feed your snake raw chicken. Store-bought chickens can contain salmonella, which will kill them. They also wouldn’t want to eat processed chicken, because it would smell completely different from the usual diet of rodents and similar.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Vegetables?
Corn snakes don’t eat vegetables when they’re in the wild.
Corn snakes are obligate carnivores. That means they have to have meat in their diet to survive. If you’re not willing or able to provide meat for your pet snake, then you should consider owning a pet that would be better suited to the diet you can offer.
You can still try them on certain vegetables as a snack if you like. The odds are that they won’t recognize what you’re offering as food.
However, if they do want a particular vegetable, only provide it as a snack and not as the central part of their diet. Otherwise, they won’t get the nutrients they need.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Toads & Frogs?
Yes, they can, but it’s not the best idea for many reasons:
- Your corn snake might grow to prefer toads and frogs if you offer them regularly from when they’re young. Because they’re difficult to source, there may be a problem if your frogs are out of season or are too expensive to source.
- Your frogs may have come into contact with parasites, pesticides or similar. These could be harmful to your snake. Even preparing the frogs might not be enough to kill bacteria, fungus or similar that could hurt them.
- Many amphibians, especially small toads and frogs, are poisonous and aren’t eaten in the wild. Poison dart frogs may have parasites and could kill your snake, for example.
As a general rule, avoid feeding your snake wild-caught prey to prevent these risks.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Insects?
Corn snakes are rodent feeders in both captivity and the wild. Insects offer an entirely different nutritional profile than other reptiles can live on, but that corn snakes can’t.
This applies to anything from tiny insects to big ones like crickets. And if you were to ask can corn snakes eat spiders, we’d give you the same answer.
Can Corn Snakes Eat Worms?
Earthworms and mealworms are typical food for some reptiles, mostly lizards. However, they aren’t a part of a corn snake’s natural diet. Like we said above, corn snakes don’t eat insects.
Mealworms have a hard exoskeleton, especially if they’ve been dried. Scientifically speaking, they’re chitinous: their outer shell is made from chitin, the substance that crustaceans and insects use as a flexible but robust ‘armor.’ Your corn snake would find this hard to digest.
Not only that but because worms of any kind aren’t a natural source of food for corn snakes, they won’t even try to eat it. Best avoid this idea.
Corn Snake Dietary Requirements
Corn snakes eat their prey whole. This means that you have to feed them appropriately-sized food, whatever you give them.
As a rough guideline, don’t give them anything that’s more than one and a half times the size of their head. Otherwise, they’d struggle to eat it (because they don’t chew, and they don’t take small bites).
Basic Corn Snake Diet
Corn snakes should almost entirely eat mice and other rodents of a similar size. The trick is to pick the right size of prey for the age and size of your snake.
- Hatchling Corn Snakes: Feed your hatchling snake pinkie mice. These are baby mice that are killed before they grow a coat (hence their pink color). These are between 0.5 and 1-inch long, and about 2-3 grams each. You can get pinkie mice on Amazon with this link.
- Adult Corn Snakes: Feed your adult snake ‘fuzzies’. You can buy fuzzies on Amazon.com with this link. These are baby mice that are a few days old and had a chance to start growing their coat before they died. They’re slightly bigger, between 1 and 1.5 inches long. They can weigh between 5 and 9 grams, depending on their age (younger fuzzies are called ‘pink fuzzies,’ which are perfect for younger adult corn snakes).
- Extra Large Corn Snakes: Extra large corn snakes can eat extra large prey. Ask for hoppers or weanlings, depending on the size of your pet. Hoppers are up to 2 inches long; weanlings are between 2.5 inches long.
Corn snakes don’t need a varied diet in the same way that we do; they’re happy eating the same food week in, week out.
If you do want to give them some food as a treat every once in a while, try quail eggs. They’re the perfect size for them to eat, and they’re not too far from their natural diet either.
How Often Do Corn Snakes Eat?
There’s a standard diet regimen in the corn snake owners’ community called the Munson feeding plan, which gives an approximate guide to what you should feed your corn snake and when.
It’s based on the weight of your snake, so before you start feeding them, check how much they weigh with some basic scales.
The plan is as follows:
|Snake Size||Amount of Food||No. of Days|
|4 –15g||1 Pinkie (0.5 – 3g)||4 to 5 days|
|16 – 23g||Small Fuzzy (3 – 6g)||5-6 Days|
|24 – 30g||Fuzzy (7 – 9g)||6-7 Days|
|30 – 50g||Fluff / Hoppers (7 – 12g)||6-7 Days|
|51 – 90g||Small Adult / Weaned (13-18g)||7 Days|
|170g+||Large (19 to 25g)||7+ Days|
|400g+||Extra Large (30g +)||10 Days|
Grams are more accurate for smaller measurements than pounds and ounces, which is why they’re recommended for measuring small corn snakes. Common kitchen scales should be able to measure in grams, but if yours don’t, there are plenty online that do.
Here is some information on how long corn snakes can survive without food.
Do Corn Snakes Eat When Shedding?
Corn snakes grow quickly and can reach five feet in length. However, their skin isn’t designed to stretch to fit their size like ours is. As such, corn snakes shed their skin every few weeks when they’re still small and growing. The time between sheds increases as they age.
Some corns refuse to eat in the time before they shed. This lasts a few days, and it’s called the blue phase. This is because your corn snake’s eyes will turn cloudy or blue.
Their colors and patterns will also grow darker at this point. This change in coloration will clear up, and your snake will look normal again. Then 3 or 4 days later, they’ll start their shed.
During this time, they may find it hard to digest. As such, they won’t bother eating. But don’t worry. Shedding doesn’t take long, and they’ll have their appetite back when they’re done. All that being said, some corns eat during shedding anyway. Yours might do either.
And remember that allowing your corn snake to bathe in water assists with the shedding process.
Why is My Corn Snake Refusing to Eat?
Shedding isn’t the only reason your corn snake might have decided not to eat.
Let’s take a look at some other reasons.
- The food might not be recognizable as food due to temperature or lack of odor.
- Your snake might be agitated due to being overhandled before feeding.
- Your snake may feel too cold. The colder they are, the more sluggish they are generally. Cold temperatures can also lead to poor digestion.
- They might not be hungry yet—i.e., you’re overfeeding them. Stick to the Munson feeding plan above for how much you should five them.
- Your corn snake may not be used to frozen food. If the mice you’re feeding them aren’t completely thawed, it will put them off (just like eating frozen food would put you off). Let a pinkie defrost for 15 minutes before feeding, and large mice for two hours.
- The environment you keep your snake in may have recently changed. If so, this can make them uncomfortable or nervous. This puts them off their food.
If your snake is refusing to eat, leave them be. They’ll let you know when they’re next hungry. However, if they seem to be suffering ill effects of hunger but still don’t want to eat, it might be worth talking to a vet.
How Do You Get Baby Corn Snakes to Eat?
Baby corn snakes will usually eat a pinkie within the first ten days of their life. However, for one reason or another, sometimes hatchling corns don’t want to feed.
It’s unclear why exactly this is the case, but it does happen. There are two techniques to get a baby corn snake to eat that you can use.
- It’s best if your snake’s prey moves. They respond to animation since they feed on live prey. Snakes are also more likely to feed if they’re thirsty. You also have to make sure your snake has somewhere comfortable to digest their meal. An upturned plant pot is perfect.
- If this doesn’t work, the least stressful method is to “brain” the pinkie. You’ll need the smallest pinkie you can find, a knife or toothpick, and a strong stomach. You need to expose the pinkie’s brain so that the snake can smell it and recognize it as food. More than often, this works. Your snake will then recognize future pinkies as food without having to do this again.
- If this fails, and your corn snake still refuses to eat, you can try to encourage them using “tease feeding.” This should be your last resort because it’s stressful for your snake, which is never a good thing. Hold your snake in your hands, and gently tap the pinkie against their nose (repeatedly if necessary) using tweezers. This should encourage him to strike his prey. If this doesn’t work, brain the pinkie before you tease feed your snake.
Do Corn Snakes Eat Less in Winter?
Corn snakes, like many snake species, go through snake winter anorexia. This is perfectly normal, and a common experience for snake owners. At first, you might be worried that there’s something wrong, but it’s normal behavior. Many things cause this to happen.
Cooler temperatures encourage snakes—as cold-blooded reptiles—to stop being so active and to go into a state called brumation.
This is similar to hibernation in mammals, where the snake finds a spot where they can be out of the weather. Changes in air pressure and day length can also trigger this response.
This period of low activity and low hunger can last an entire winter. Snakes are efficient creatures. Even during regular activity, they still only need to eat once a week or so. They can go 3-5 months without feeding with no ill effects.
Corn snakes are natural predators that love small rodents, tiny chicks and eggs. Don’t try to force anything on them that’s against their nature.
Not only will it be frustrating for you—because they won’t listen—but it would be bad for them too. Stick to their normal diet, even if it seems like it doesn’t offer much variety, and you won’t go too far wrong.