Feeding guidelines by snake age:
- Hatchling to 2 months: 1 pinkie
- 4 months: 2 pinkies
- 6 months: 3 pinkies
- 8 months: 1 fuzzy
- 10 months: 2 fuzzies
- 12 months: 3 fuzzies
- 14 months: 1 small mouse
- 16 months: 2 small mice
- 18 months: 1 adult or jumbo mouse
Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed once every 7-10 days.
Adults should be fed once every 10-14 days.
If you have a juvenile but are not sure of its exact age, choose a feeder no larger than 1.5x the width of your snake’s body at its widest point (don’t worry about head size — snakes are very flexible). Offer feeders until it refuses, and repeat 7-10 days later.
Choose a schedule that keeps a hatchling/juvenile growing, or what keeps an adult at a consistent weight. Weighing your snake weekly with a kitchen scale will help you determine what works best, as well as track trends in growth or weight loss. Whichever interval you choose, stick with it — snakes thrive on routine.
Frozen/Thawed or Live?
The generally accepted practice for corn snake food is to use captive bred prey items that have been humanely euthanized and frozen rather than live. This is because live feeders will use teeth and claws to fight for their life against the snake — sometimes causing injury. Also, “stunning” a live feeder by slamming its head against a hard object will discourage fighting back, but it’s also incredibly inhumane.
Corn snakes generally have a fairly enthusiastic feeding response, so they don’t have much of a problem taking frozen/thawed prey.
Prepare a frozen rodent 1 day in advance by sticking it in the refrigerator to thaw slowly. This discourages bacterial growth which would otherwise make your snake sick. Then, directly before feeding, place the feeder in warm water for 5 minutes. This will simulate body heat and encourage the snake to eat.
If using frozen-thawed, you can enhance your snake’s “hunting” experience and encourage its feeding response by wiggling the feeder to simulate a struggle after the snake has struck and begun constricting. It may seem macabre, but this is for the snake’s mental and physical health.
That all being said, ultimately you must respect your snake’s feeding preferences. If it refuses to eat frozen/thawed, give it live and supervise the interaction carefully. The live rodent should not be left in your corn snake’s enclosure for more than 1 hour. Keeping your pet healthy and fed should always be your top priority.
Mice or rats?
Mice are the most popular corn snake food, as they “grow” along with the snake. As you probably noticed in the guidelines at the top of the page, a hatchling can handle a pinkie (newborn) mouse, and an adult snake can handle an adult mouse.
Rats can be offered as feeders, but because they tend to be more nutritious than mice, they can actually make a corn snake fat if fed at the same rate as mouse feeders. If using rats as your primary feeders, feed every 10-14 days for juveniles and every 14-21 days for adults.
Corn snakes may also be offered quail eggs as an occasional treat.
Should I feed my corn snake in a separate enclosure?
There’s a common misconception among snake owners that feeding a snake inside its home enclosure will make it “cage aggressive.” Modern understanding of snake psychology argues that our perception of “aggression” is incorrect; snakes that have learned to associate the opening of the enclosure with food (due to infrequent handling) will lunge for the first object they see, assuming that it is food — no harm toward the keeper’s hand intended.
So instead of being moved to feed, the snake should be trained to tell the difference between feeding time and handling time. The most reliable method of so doing is to tap the snake gently with a paper towel roll or to stroke its body with a snake hook before handling. If the snake strikes, no harm done. If it doesn’t, it knows not to expect food.
In conclusion, feed your snake inside its home. Unlike humans, snakes don’t particularly like “eating out.”
I trapped a mouse — can I use it for corn snake food?
Sorry, but no. Wild-caught prey can transmit disease or parasites to your snake, which means more vet bills for you down the road. Do yourself (and your corn snake) a favor by disposing of the mouse elsewhere.
A Quick Note About Water
Keep a large, heavy bowl of water in the enclosure at all times. Use dechlorinated water if possible, but the water should be changed 2x weekly. If it gets soiled before then, scrub with a disinfectant, rinse, and replace.
Note: There is a common belief that distilled, filtered, or softened water is better for reptiles than tap (hard) water. This is false. While it is better to use these for misting because they don’t leave mineral residue, the lack of minerals creates osmotic imbalance within the snakes body after ingestion. As a result, the body has to give away its own minerals and electrolytes to restore balance. Over time, this can actually lead to dehydration, even when the snake is drinking regularly.
For more information, read Water Treatment Precautions: Hard vs Soft (Filtered) Water.
PRO TIP: Buy frozen/thawed feeders in bulk if you can, because you’re more likely to get quality prey from online suppliers than from your local pet store. Also, buying in bulk saves on shipping fees, which can be expensive.