What Should I Feed My Corn Snake?

Corn snakes rank as one of the most popular pet snakes, and it is pretty obvious why. With their gorgeous variable colors and patterns, corn snakes are easy to care for due to their docile disposition. Like most snakes, the corn snake is carnivorous. In their natural habitat around central and southern United States, corn snakes consume a multitude of prey.  

So, what do corn snakes eat?

Corn snakes are members of the diverse rat snake family, also known as colubrids. Rat snakes feed on rodents, from baby mice to big rats. Farmers first discovered corn snakes near fields of grain where a lot of rodents live. 

Then, what do corn snakes eat in captivity?

When taking care of a pet corn snake, it is advisable to feed them on rats and mice because it is their preferred food in the wild. Pet owners have also been known to feed their corn snakes, hamsters, chicks, quail, gerbils, and guinea pigs. There are different types of mice that you can choose to feed your corn snake, either pinkies or hoppers. One of the most common and easiest food items you can feed a corn snake is pinkies.

What are pinkies? Pinkies are baby mice commonly used to feed pet snakes. They are readily available because they are mass-produced, then killed, and flash-frozen. They are available from suppliers who sell them in bulk bags, and you can safely store them in your freezer. 

How do I feed a corn snake?

Choose your food source or prey.

  • This is where you decide whether you will use frozen or live rodents. 
  • Choose the right sized prey. The general rule is that you shouldn’t feed your snake anything larger than 1.5 times the size of its midsection. Hatchlings are fed on pinkies or mice that do not have fur yet.  
  • It is advisable that your snake once a week, that is, every 7-10 days.

Feed your corn snake.

  • Handle the prey with either forceps, tweezers, or tongs. This minimizes the risk of getting bitten by adding a safe distance between you and your snake.
  • Warm the frozen food item. Bag the frozen rodent and put it in some warm water for about 10 minutes. Do not use the microwave to thaw the frozen rodent because if it cooks, your snake may reject it or get sick after eating it.
  • Choose a feeding area. Some owners prefer feeding their corn snakes in a different tub. This helps condition your snake not to expect food whenever you put your hands in the vivarium. If you prefer this option, transfer your corn snake into the feeding tube, then put it in the warm rodent. When done, instead of removing the snake from the tub, put the whole tub into the vivarium, then open it for your snake to slither out whenever they are comfortable.
  • If you chose to feed your corn snake in the vivarium, dangle the mouse in by the tail using tongs or forceps. Your corn snake will grab the mouse within a minute, and you should immediately let go.
  • Give your corn snake some privacy to enjoy their meal. Cover the tub and leave the room. After a few feeds, your snake will feel comfortable feeding in front of you.
feeding tongs

Here are some helpful tips when feeding your corn snake:

  • Avoid handling your corn snake after feeding. It is important to give your corn snake time to digest the food. Handling after eating may cause regurgitation or aggression. Wait for at least two days before handling your snake again.
  • If your snake refuses to eat yet doesn’t appear ill or distressed, it may be because they are about to shed. Check if their skin is dull and their eyes are bluish. If so, your corn snake is preparing to shed and will resume feeding normally when they are done shedding.
  • Maintaining the right temperatures around the warm and cool areas helps your snake maintain its body temperature, which in turn helps with digestion.

Here is a guide to how much you should feed your corn snake:

Snake sizeAmount of foodNumber of days
4-15 g1 pinkie (up to 3g)4-5 days
16-23gsmall fuzzy (up to 6 g)5-6 days
24-30gfuzzy (up to 9 g)6-7 days
30-50gfluff or hoppers (up to 12 g)6-7 days
51-90gsmall adult mouse (up to 18g)7 days
170g+Large mouse (up to 25g)7+ days
400g+extra-large (30g+)10 days

Should I feed my Corn snake whole prey?

Snakes, unlike other pets, are uniquely known for swallowing their prey whole without chewing. So, if you were afraid that your pet corn snake might choke, you can rest easy because they won’t. The corn snake is well adapted to breath even as its mouth is full of prey. This is because the snake has a separate windpipe and esophagus for food. When swallowing food, a snake can pop the end of its windpipe out of its mouth, allowing them to breathe as they eat.

A corn snake’s digestive system is also strong and can dissolve bones. This is how they derive most of the calcium they need. Bones that aren’t digested can be regurgitated or passed. 

You may opt to feed your corn snake a large mouse or rat, several pinkies at once, or smaller portions regularly. The goal is to provide your snake with enough food. 

Can I feed my corn snake live rodent?

Naturally, a snake’s feeding reflexes are triggered by live prey due to their warmth. At first, you may struggle to feed your corn snake pinkies because they are already dead. It is for this reason that you are advised first to warm the pinkie. Due to this reason, some owners choose to feed their corn snakes live prey. This approach has its pros and cons. 

  Advantages of feeding your corn snake live prey

  • Live prey is more fresh compared to frozen pinkies. 
  • Your corn snake will instinctively identify live prey as food. 

 Disadvantages of feeding your corn snake live prey.

  • Live prey may injure your corn snake. Rodents have sharp claws and teeth that they can use to scratch or bite the snake.
  • Live prey that is caught in the wild may have parasites that will infect your pet snake. Live prey may risk the overall health of your snake. 
  • Live rodents are pricier than pre-killed prey. 
  • If your corn snake gets used to live rodents, it is hard to switch to a pre-killed diet. Some wild-caught snakes have starved themselves due to this.

What do baby corn snakes eat?

A baby corn snake’s first meal is usually after their first prenatal shed. Baby corn snakes feed on pinkie mice due to their size and lack of mobility, making them easy food. You should feed your baby corn snake a pinkie once every 5-7 days. 

Can corn snakes eat fish?

Surprisingly, there are snake breeds that eat fish instead of mice. Snakes can eat fish, but their bodies cannot digest them properly. Corn snakes cannot eat fish, but snakes whose natural habitat is water can. Some of these fish breeds include the garter snake, ribbon snake, and watersnake.

What do corn snakes eat besides mice?

Did you know that corn snakes aren’t picky eaters? They enjoy feeding on most things that aren’t bigger than themselves. Primarily, they feed on rodents and also enjoy feeding on moles, birds, bats, reptiles, and amphibians. Baby corn snakes are very fond of tree frogs.

Do corn snakes eat at night?

The corn is naturally a nocturnal snake. They often hide a lot during the day then come out at night to hunt for prey. So, yes, corn snakes eat at night. It is important to create your own feeding schedule with regards to how many times you feed your snake and what time of the day you prefer. However, if your corn refuses to eat, a great idea would be to turn off the UVB lights.

Do corn snakes eat eggs?

In the wild, rat snakes result in eating eggs in the absence of any other food source. Baby corn snakes have been known to feed on bird eggs out in the wild occasionally. A large corn snake may enjoy a quail egg. However, not all corn snakes will identify birds and quail eggs as food. Be prepared as eating eggs will affect their excretion, making it runnier than normal. 

Can corn snakes eat chicken eggs? 

Chicken eggs are too large for your snake unless the snake is very large. Stick to smaller eggs like quail and bird eggs.

How long can I keep frozen mice in the freezer?

For hairless or furless prey, they can stay fresh for up to six months. Prey with fur, hair, or feathers can last between six to nine months in a freezer.

Pro tip: Use an actual deep freeze freezer instead of the freezer compartment at the top of your fridge.

The packaging also plays a crucial role during storage. It should have or allow very little air in.

Why is my corn snake not eating?

There are several reasons why your corn snake may not be eating, including:

  • Incorrect temperature setup
  • Food isn’t heated up properly.
  • Pending shed
  • Dehydration
  • Fussy
  • Illness such as mites, mouth rot
  • Not hungry yet
  • Winter: Snakes, like other reptiles, are very sensitive to change in air pressure. Their behavior may change over the winter months and even during a storm. 

If your snake refuses to eat for extended periods of time, please consult an exotic vet. 

Can corn snakes eat fruits and vegetables?

Feeding a snake vegetables sounds very appealing; however, corn snakes do not recognize fruits and vegetables as food. Their digestive system isn’t set up to digest fruits and vegetables either. Snakes need meat to survive because plants do not contain nearly enough calories to sustain them nutritionally. Since snakes swallow their food whole, they cannot break down plant matter before swallowing it.

Why is my corn aggressive after feeding? 

Your corn snake is aggressive after feeding because you are attempting to handle it before it fully digests its meal. You should give your snake at least 48 hours after feeding before handling it. If you use a different feeding tub, instead of picking your snake up to transfer them into their vivarium, simply put the feeding tube into the vivarium and leave it open for the snake to crawl out at its own time. 

Do corn snakes eat bugs, crickets, or insects?

No, corn snakes do not identify bugs, crickets, and insects as prey. They simply ignore them. This is because they emit very little body heat. Corn snakes identify their food sources by the heat they emit, directing them to their target.

Do corn snakes eat birds?

Yes. In the wild, corn snakes hunt for small birds up in trees and on the ground. This is mainly done by adult corn snakes. In captivity, however, small birds aren’t a reliable food source because they aren’t always readily available.

With the above tips, you can now confidently feed your corn snake. Remember to use prey that is less than 1.5 times the width of your snake’s midsection. If your corn snake refuses to eat food for an extended period of time, please consult a vet because there may be underlying issues. 

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