feeding baby corn snakes for the first time

When To Start Feeding Baby Corn Snakes

Knowing when to start feeding a baby corn snake is key in ensuring that it gets a good start in life. Baby corns are usually good eaters and will consume frozen-thawed pinkies. This is not always the case, though.

Baby corn snakes can be fed a pinkie shortly after hatching. It is not uncommon for baby corns to refuse food until they have shed for the first time. This usually happens between 1-2 weeks after hatching. Continuously refusing food is a cause for concern. You can try scenting the pinkie, tub feeding, adjusting the enclosure, and feeding live prey to encourage the corn snake to eat. Force-feeding is an emergency resort tactic. Few reptile vets will recommend force-feeding unless the snake has lost over 10% in mass or has other health issues.

Overfeeding your baby Corn snake may not seem like a bad thing as growing snakes need vitamins and nutrients. However, overfeeding or power feeding can result in an unhealthy snake with a shorter lifespan.

Do Baby Corn Snakes Eat Right After Hatching?

Hatchlings will usually be between 8-12 inches long and can start eating shortly after hatching. In all likelihood, though, a hatchling won’t eat this soon. It’s quite common for a snake hatchling to ignore food until its first shed. This usually happens within 1-2 weeks of hatching.

Still, you can offer food to a baby corn snake shortly after it has hatched. Don’t be concerned if it rejects the food, however. It won’t hurt the baby snake to wait a short while after hatching for its first meal.

If a baby corn snake continues to reject food after its first shed it is a good idea to start recording its weight and growth daily. Breeders will usually track this information post-hatch and keep feeding records. If you bought the snake from a dealer, you’ll be able to request this info from them.

food for baby corn snakes

What Do Baby Corn Snakes Eat?

Corn snakes eat mice in the wild and in captivity. In the wild, they also eat birds, frogs, lizards, and other rodents. Baby corn snakes should be fed pinkie mice.

The size of the snake will determine the size of the feeder mouse. Choosing the right sized feeder mouse is important. Too small, and the snake won’t get enough nutrients to grow properly. Too large, and the snake may have trouble eating. It could also suffer internal damage.

The table below details guidelines for feeding snakes by age. This is not set in stone. In fact, it is better to choose a feeder mouse based on the size of your snake rather than its age. Choosing a mouse that is the same thickness, but not thicker, as your snake’s mid-body section is the ideal size.

Snake’s AgeFeeder Mouse SizeFeeding Frequency
Hatchling:PinkieEvery 5-7 days
Juvenile:FuzzyEvery 7-10 days
Yearling:Small or HopperEvery 7-10 days
Adult:Adult or jumboEvery 10-14 days

Remember, the larger the feeder animal, the longer to go in between feeds. If your corn snake is particularly large and jumbo mice aren’t cutting it, try small rats. Rats offer more nutritional value. A rat also takes longer for a snake to digest. Be sure to adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.

How To Feed a Baby Corn Snake

Corn snakes are usually good eaters right from the get-go. Using a pair of feeding tongs or tweezers, hold a thawed pinkie by the middle and wiggle it before the snake. A bit of encouragement might be in order. Do this by touching the snake’s mouth with the head of the pinkie. In most cases, this will be enough to earn a feeding response.

Once the corn snake has latched on, release the pinkie. Avoid startling the snake while it eats as it may stop eating.

Should I Use Vitamin Or Calcium Powder?

Studies, such as this one in Copeia, have shown that a snake’s growth is directly related to how much food it ingests. This includes the quality of the nutrients, fats, and minerals in the food.

Sprinkling your snake’s food with vitamin and/or calcium powder is something that you can do for a growing snake. It’s not necessary, but it can be beneficial to their growth, especially hatchlings.

Coating food with these supplements also has the benefit of ensuring that a snake is receiving all the nutrition it needs. This can be good for growing snakes, or snakes that have gone off food and need a nutrient boost.

My Baby Corn snake Won’t Eat

Sometimes, a baby corn snake will reject food even after its first shed. There are a few methods you can try to trick the snake into eating before resorting to force-feeding.

Scenting Food

Scenting the pinkie can be a way to trick a baby corn snake into eating. Corn snakes in the wild will also consume lizards, frogs, and small birds. Occasionally, captive-bred ones will have the same preference.

To scent a pinkie, wash and dry the mouse. Rub it on a frozen-thawed chick so that the scent is transferred. Now offer the scented pinkie to the snake. You can also do this with frogs or lizards.

Training the snake to accept unscented feeder mice is ideal, because, aside from chicks, other feeder prey animals are difficult for many to come by.

Container Feeding

Container feeding can be another useful tactic for convincing picky baby corn snakes to eat. Here’s how:

  1. Find a round container that has a lid.
  2. Place the feeder mouse by the inner wall and seal the snake inside the container. Leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Return the snake to its enclosure when done, even if it didn’t eat.

The snake will continuously bump into the feeder mouse as it follows the curve of the container. This can trick the snake into eating. The container’s walls should not be clear. Although placing a towel over the container can work, the lid should be pierced in several places to allow airflow.

Pros for tub feeding:

  • There’s no bedding, so there is less mess and no chance for the snake to ingest substrate
  • Tub feeding is good for encouraging picky eaters to consume food

Cons for tub feeding:

  • Removing a snake from its environment can stress it out and discourage it from eating its meal
  • Picking up a snake to put it back into its enclosure can cause it to regurgitate its meal because that’s how snakes escape threats

Location

A baby corn snake may reject food if it feels anxious. Consider:

  • Is the enclosure too large? Snakes can feel exposed and unsafe in too large enclosures.
  • Are the temperature and humidity levels correct? Corn snakes need a temperature gradient of 75-85°F and humidity levels between 40-50%.
  • Are there any external factors, such as loud music or scents, making the snake uncomfortable? Place the enclosure in a calm space that doesn’t see an abundance of activity, such as a study or den.

Adjusting the enclosure can be the right move. Once the snake is feeling more secure, it may eat its food.

Live Feeding

Frozen-thawed pinkies are ideal feeders. However, if your baby corn snake refuses frozen-thawed then a live pinkie is an alternative. Place the pinkie near the snake and give it some privacy. Don’t leave the pinkie in there for more than 10 minutes. If the snake doesn’t eat the pinkie, remove it.

Breeders that raise a corn snake to eat only live prey should notify a possible owner about its eating habits. Getting a corn snake raised on live food to take frozen-thawed can be difficult.

how long can baby corn snakes go without eating?

Force-Feeding

Only consider force-feeding if the snake has lost over 10% of its weight and a vet agrees that force-feeding is the way forward. Force-feeding a corn snake, at any age, should not be done without first being shown the process by a reptile vet. It should also only be done in emergency situations.

Is Overfeeding My Snake Bad?

Overfeeding a snake can cause it to become overweight. It can also cause a young snake to grow faster than it should. This can shorten its lifespan and cause other health issues.

Is My Snake Overweight?

The signs of an overweight snake are:

  • Raised fat reserves
  • Being overly soft to the touch. Snakes are lean and muscular when at their ideal weight and should be firm to the touch
  • Pronounced fat rolls when coiled
  • Scale spread
  • Obvious hips above the tail

How Long Can You Keep Frozen Mice?

Feeder rodents can usually be kept frozen for up to 6 months. Ideally, they should be put deep in the freezer to avoid partial thawing.

If you notice a small amount of freezer burn on a feeder mouse it can still safely be fed to the snake.

Thawing Frozen Mice

Thaw the pinkie in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Do not use boiling water, as this can change the smell and texture of the pinkie. You’ll know the mouse is thawed when you can poke its middle and feel no lumps inside. Do not thaw a mouse in the microwave or offer a partially-thawed mouse.

Baby corn snakes can be fed shortly after hatching. In all likelihood, they won’t eat until after their first shed. Don’t be alarmed if your baby corn snake refuses to eat for the first 1-2 weeks of its life.

Post-shed, if your snake still refuses to eat it might be time to try different feeding methods, such as container feeding or scenting. Force-feeding is a last resort and should only be done in emergency situations.

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