If you’re thinking of adopting a snake, or any reptile for that matter, someone may have recommended that you look at a corn snake. But are corn snakes good pets?
Yes! These are among the most popular reptile pets in the United States—and for good reason. They are docile, non-venomous, and relatively easy to look after.
But adopting any pet is still a big commitment, and you should know what you’re getting into before you take one home. Corn snakes can live for 15-20 years, so you need to be prepared!
Today, we’ll talk about exactly why corn snakes make great pets, but also what is involved in looking after them. By the end of the article, you should know whether a corn snake might be the right pet for you.
You can find other great reptile pets for beginners here.
Corn Snakes – Basic Facts
Corn snakes, also known as rat snakes, are native to the southeastern United States. They get their name because they tend to live in corn granaries and eat the mice and rats that also spend their time around this food supply.
Corn snakes are nocturnal or crepuscular reptiles, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk and tend to hide and sleep during the day. While they can grow up to about six feet in the wild, in captivity they tend to grow to between two and four feet.
They tend to be slender, cute snakes, and more than 800 different morphs exist, so there are plenty of colorful options for enthusiasts to geek-out over!
Why Do Corn Snakes Make Good Pets?
What is it about corn snakes that make them good pets? There are a few things to consider.
Docile And Non-Venomous
Corn snakes are relatively docile animals and are extremely unlikely to bite or attack humans, even when being handled. If they’re feeling particularly threatened and do bite, they are non-venomous. Consequently, the risk of serious injury to human owners is very low.
Small And Low-Activity Levels
While corn snakes can grow up to six feet long in the wild, in captivity they tend to grow to between two and four feet. This is much smaller than other popular snake breeds, such as ball pythons, which tend to be between four and six feet in length.
In addition to this relatively small size, corn snakes aren’t very active. This means they are happy in a relatively small tank. An adult corn snake can live in a 30-gallon tank, compared to an adult ball python, which should really have a 40- to 60-gallon tank. This is great if you don’t have room in your house for a very large terrarium.
Easy To Care For
Corn snakes are relatively easy to care for because, generally speaking, they really don’t need much. Their tank setup is simple and you won’t have to drastically adjust their heat and humidity levels on a daily basis.
They only need to eat once a week and can comfortably go two weeks without eating if you are away. Unlike some other snake breeds, they don’t tend to be picky eaters and are unlikely to reject any food that you offer them.
While it might be a stretch to call a corn snake friendly, they certainly tolerate human company and human companionship better than many other snake breeds. If you get them from a young age and handle them for a few minutes once or twice a week, by the time they are juveniles, your corn snake may let you handle them every day!
Of course, every snake is different and their tolerance for being handled will depend on their past experiences. But you should never handle snakes for extended periods. A maximum of 15 minutes a day is generally considered appropriate.
When you adopt a pet, presumably you are looking for a long-term companion. When cared for properly, corn snakes have a lifespan of 10-15 years in captivity. That’s about twice as long as they live in the wild since they aren’t exposed to their natural predators. This means that you and your serpentine friend could be together for a nice long time.
Cons Of Corn Snakes As Pets?
While there are lots of reasons why corn snakes make excellent pets, there are a few things that you should be aware of before committing to taking one home.
First, they do live for 10-15 years, so you need to be prepared to commit to their care and upkeep for that period of time. Remember that snakes born and raised in captivity won’t survive if they are later abandoned in the wild.
While they are relatively easy to look after, corn snakes do require daily care. In particular, they always need access to clean water, but they also have a tendency to defecate in their water pool. This means their water dish needs to be cleaned and changed at least once a day, and you should completely clean their tank at least once a month.
Corn snakes only need to be fed once a week, but they can also go two weeks on occasion if necessary. But feeding your corn snake does mean handling live or dead mice. If you have live mice, you will have to kill them before offering them to your snake. This is important because the scared prey can bite your snake when dangled into the tank, and the injuries can lead to infection.
If you get frozen mice, they need to be thawed naturally (i.e. not in the microwave) before being fed to your snake. You may also need to cut them open to make their smell more potent before dangling them into the cage. This feeding process is not for everyone.
With all this in mind, remember that you will be working to care for your snake, and while corn snakes are “friendlier” than many other reptiles, you will never develop the same bond with them as you would with, for example, a dog.
Corn Snake Care 101
We’ve mentioned several times that corn snakes are relatively easy to care for, but what exactly does it take to properly look after one? Below are the main things you need to know.
First and foremost, you need to invest in a terrarium to create an appropriate habitat for your corn snake. This should imitate their habitat in the wild as much as possible, but no, don’t create a mini-granary!
Invest in a 30-gallon tank, which can be used for the snake throughout its life. Some people believe that juvenile corn snakes can become stressed if their tank is too large, and therefore you should start with a smaller tank and then upgrade as they grow. This is a possibility but not necessary.
The problem for small snakes is when their tank is too bare. If you fill the larger tank with lots of hiding places and branches, they’ll be quite comfortable.
The tank needs to be heated and include both hotter and cooler areas as your snake maintains their body heat by moving between temperature levels. The hottest area of the tank, where the heat lamps are situated, should be about 81 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooler end of the tank should be between 74 and 78 degrees.
Humidity should be set between 35-60%. It should be at the higher range when the snake is ready to shed. But be careful not to let humidity get too high as this can lead to mouth rot, fungal disease, and respiratory infections.
Get a hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity levels.
While corn snakes tend to rely on ground heat rather than basking, they still benefit from a UVB light during the day. They need to have clear day and night periods to maintain their circadian rhythm. So, if there is a lot of artificial light in your house at night, their tank should be shielded from this.
The substrate of their tank should be made from something they can burrow in, since corn snakes love to burrow. Aspen is often an excellent choice. They should also have at least two hides and lots of branches and other objects to climb on and also use as friction when it comes to shedding their skin.
Make sure the roof and any other openings to your snake’s terrarium are tightly secured since they tend to be escape artists!
Corn snakes only need to be fed once a week. They should receive one mouse that can be obtained from a pet store or local prey breeder. The mouse should be about the same width as your snake to avoid choking. Dangle the recently killed or defrosted mouse above your snake’s head using a set of long tweezers. Let go as soon as they grab it to avoid damaging their teeth.
They should always have a pool of fresh water available that is deep enough for them to enter but not deep enough for them to drown. Corn snakes do tend to defecate in these pools, so they need to be cleaned at least once a day. The entire tank should be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly once a month.
Remember, you should only have one corn snake in a terrarium. They are anti-social creatures and will become violent with one another if they are forced to share the same confined space.
Corn Snake Pets FAQs
Are corn snakes friendly?
While it might be overstating it to call corn snakes friendly, they are docile and tolerate being handled. This makes them a “friendlier” reptile pet than many others. Corn snakes rarely bite and they are non-venomous so pose little risk to their owners.
Do pet corn snakes like to be held?
Corn snakes tolerate being held better than more other snake species. If you have them from a young age and handle them regularly, they may grow accustomed to being handled as often as once a day. Never handle your corn snake for more than 15 minutes at a time. While they tolerate the experience, it can become stressful if it goes on for too long.
How long can pet corn snakes live?
Corn snakes, when properly cared for, live for 10-15 years in captivity. This is about twice as long as they live in the wild, mostly because they are not exposed to their most common predators. There are examples of corn snakes living more than 20 years in captivity.
Can a corn snake choke you?
In theory, if a corn snake wrapped itself around your neck, it could be strong enough to choke you. But your corn snake is very unlikely to do this. Their instinct is to go after prey that is small enough for them to eat and to avoid larger animals that are potential predators. For this reason, your corn snake is very unlikely to try and choke you.
Will You Be Adopting A Corn Snake?
Now that you know all the essential characteristics of corn snakes and how to look after them, will you be adopting one? If you have always dreamed of being a snake or reptile parent but you are just starting out, they are one of the best snakes you can get. They are easy to look after and will reward you by letting you handle them a bit more than most other snake species.
If you are considering a reptile as a pet, read our complete guide to everything you need to know about becoming a reptile parent.