Corn Snake Vs. Milk Snake: Which Is Best For Beginners?

If you’ve never owned a snake before, deciding which one to get may seem like a difficult task.

It is always best for beginner reptile owners to choose a smaller snake with a docile temperament.

Corn snakes and milk snakes are very popular as pets, but which one is better for beginners?

Corn snakes and milk snakes are excellent for beginners due to their small size and easy care requirements. Corn snakes tend to be more docile, while milk snakes are slightly temperamental, but there are no significant differences between them.

The right snake for you is a matter of personal choice.

Read on to learn more about the differences between corn snakes and milk snakes to help you decide which one is best for you.

corn snake vs milk snake

Are There Differences Between Corn Snakes and Milk Snakes?

No matter what breed it is, any snake you choose will have different personalities from one another.

It is often difficult to know how a snake will react to any situation.

Corn snakes and milk snakes both have docile temperaments, but the milk snake may become temperamental at times.

Corn snakes rarely become aggressive or stressed, so they are easier to feed.

The other main difference between the two breeds of snakes is their appearance.

Milk snakes are slightly smaller than corn snakes, and they are also more brightly colored.

Both snake breeds come in various color morphs, so it is easy to choose one that is most appealing to you if looks are important.

Corn Snake Vs. Milk Snake Appearance

Corn snakes have a reddish base color with blotchy brown, orange, and red patterns, with a black and white checkered pattern on their belly scales. Milk snakes tend to be brighter with a white, orange, or yellow base color and white, black, or red stripes outlined in distinct bands of black.

Milk snakes are set apart from corn snakes because their patterning is much more distinct, and their colors tend to be more vivid.

Both snakes are often confused with other species.

Corn snakes are sometimes mistaken for the venomous copperhead, and milk snakes are sometimes thought to be the venomous coral snake.

There is a wide variety of color morphs available for both snakes, but corn snakes present a wider variety of options.

There are more than 800 color morphs for corn snakes, while currently, there are only 24 recognized color morphs for milk snakes.

Check out our favorite corn snake morphs with pictures.

Size Differences In Corn And Milk Snakes

Corn snakes and milk snakes are very similar in size, and both snakes are relatively small. Corn snakes have a moderate size and grow up to 6′ feet in length and weigh around two pounds. Milk snakes are usually smaller, averaging 3′ feet long and weighing between one and three pounds.

The longest corn snake ever recorded measured at 6′ feet, and some milk snakes may grow to just over 5′ feet, but it is not very common.

Since both snakes are in the smaller size range, they are easy to handle and do not require an elaborate enclosure.

Female corn snakes tend to be larger than males, but the opposite is true with milk snakes because the males are usually larger than the females.

Natural Habitats

Corn snakes and milk snakes are both very versatile when it comes to their natural habitat. Both snakes can live in a variety of areas. Milk snakes and corn snakes are found in grasslands, forest edges, and rocky hillsides.

Corn snakes are also drawn to living in artificial structures, particularly abandoned buildings.

Corn snakes are slightly less versatile than milk snakes because they do not live near the sea.

Milk snakes are frequently found near bodies of water such as rivers, swamps, and streams.

Both snakes prefer to stay on the ground, but they will occasionally climb trees, especially if food is involved.

Milk snakes are mainly found in North, Central, and South America.

Corn snakes are native to the Eastern United States, but they are frequently found in Southeastern states like Florida and South Carolina.

Enclosure Requirements For Corn And Milk Snakes

Corn snakes and milk snakes have similar enclosure requirements for tank size, temperature, and lighting. The only difference between them is corn snakes need slightly higher humidity levels than milk snakes.

Any enclosure for a snake needs to be as long as the animal, so it can stretch out completely.

A 75-gallon tank would work well for either an adult corn snake or an adult milk snake.

Corn and milk snakes also do well with a temperature gradient in their enclosure.

The cool side for both snakes is around 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) with a basking area of 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).

While snakes do not generally need UVB lighting, providing them with a proper day and night lighting cycle is crucial.

A day and night cycle is necessary to maintain a snake’s circadian rhythm.

One habitat difference between corn snakes and milk snakes is their humidity requirement.

While milk snakes will do well with humidity levels between 40%-60%, corn snakes need higher humidity levels ranging from 65%-75%.

Learn more about corn snake humidity needs in our article at the link.

Behavior and Temperament

corn snake milk snake temperament

Behavior and temperament are other areas where corn and milk snakes are different. While both snakes are docile, milk snakes tend to become stressed easier than corn snakes. This stress may cause an ordinarily calm milk snake to release its musk at you or become aggressive.

Corn snakes do not become stressed easily, and they rarely strike or show aggressive behavior towards their owners.

There are also behavioral differences between corn snakes and milk snakes in their daily routine.

Corn snakes are diurnal, which means they are more active during the day.

On the other hand, milk snakes are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night.

Both snake breeds enjoy being handled once they are used to you, and letting them out of their enclosure regularly is a great way for them to stretch and get some exercise.

Diet Needs For The Snakes

Corn snakes and milk snakes enjoy the same diet consisting of small rodents. Even though these snakes eat live prey in the wild, it is much safer to feed your snake frozen-thawed rodents since live mice may cause injury to your pet.

Never feed your snake anything larger than the circumference of its body, or the reptile will have difficulty swallowing and digesting the food.

Hatchling snakes will eat small fuzzy or pinkie mice, and adult snakes will eat adult mice or small rats.

Frozen mice always need to be properly thawed before feeding them to your snake.

Always provide your snake with fresh, clean water every day as well.

When it comes to feeding these two snake breeds, corn snakes are much easier to feed.

Corn snakes will happily eat anything offered to them with tongs, while milk snakes tend to avoid tongs altogether.

Attempting to feed your milk snake with your hands may result in getting bit, but the animal will learn to be fed with tongs with some patience.

Even if your corn snake or milk snake bites you, it would likely not hurt very much since they have small teeth.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about corn snake teeth here.

Lifespan Differences

Corn snakes and milk snakes both have similar lifespans in captivity. With proper care, both can live for up to twenty years. These snakes live much longer in captivity than they do in the wild.

Corn snakes will generally only live for 6-8 years in the wild, and milk snakes may live for 15 years.

The longest captive life span recorded in a corn snake was just over 32 years old.

The shorter lifespans of these two snake breeds in the wild are largely due to predators.

Older milk snakes are prey for coyotes and raccoons, and young milk snakes are often preyed upon by bullfrogs and birds.

Predators of corn snakes include: 

  • Foxes
  • Coyotes 
  • Bobcats
  • Hawks
  • Raccoons 
  • Possums 
  • Weasels 
  • Other Snakes


There are some differences in breeding corn snakes and milk snakes. In general, corn snakes are easier to breed and lay more eggs. It is more difficult to breed milk snakes, and they also lay fewer eggs.

Although corn snakes are easy to breed, they will need to enter brumation for 90 days to prepare their bodies for breeding.

Female corn snakes will lay between 12 and 24 eggs in a clutch, and they will take close to 10 weeks to hatch.

When baby corn snakes are born, they are around 5″ inches long.

Milk snakes are a little more challenging to breed, and they mate between early May and late June.

Female milk snakes only lay up to ten eggs in one clutch, and they take two months to hatch.

Baby milk snakes measure just over 8″ inches long.

Is Either Snake Venomous?

Neither corn snakes nor milk snakes are venomous. Like most non-venomous snakes, corn and milk snakes have round pupils and smaller teeth. Since they do not have venom to protect themselves in the wild, both breeds of snakes have to rely on other defense methods.

In the wild, corn snakes will typically flee if they are in danger, but they will bite if necessary.

While a corn snake bite is not very painful, bacteria in the snake’s mouth will cause the wound to become infected.

Corn snakes usually kill their prey by constricting their bodies around them until the prey is either subdued or no longer breathing.

Milk snakes rely on mimicry to protect themselves from predators since their coloring is similar to venomous coral snakes.

While humans can easily tell the difference, predators in the wild see the milk snake’s bold colors and associate the reptile with danger.

A milk snake may also mimic a rattlesnake by flicking its tale in leaves to make a noise similar to a rattle.

Purchase Price and Availability

corn snake milk snake purchase price

The purchase price of corn snakes and milk snakes is slightly different. Corn snakes are more common, so they tend to be less expensive, even for morphs. Milk snakes are rarer, so they are usually a bit more expensive.

The average price for a regular corn snake is around $50.

Rare corn snake morphs may cost up to $1,000.

The average price of a milk snake is between $50-$100.

Prices of milk snake morphs range from $250-$1,000, depending on the rarity.

Both corn snakes and milk snakes are easily found through online breeders.

You may find a corn snake at a local pet store, but milk snakes are not as common.

Commonly Asked Questions

Are corn snakes and milk snakes part of the same species?

No, these two snakes belong to different species.

Corn snakes belong to the rat snake species, and milk snakes are a part of the kingsnake species.

How can you tell the difference between a milk snake and a coral snake?

While they are similar colors, you do not want to confuse a non-venomous milk snake and a highly venomous coral snake.

The difference in appearance between the two is the color order of the red and yellow markings on their bodies.

A milk snake will have black bands between the red and yellow stripes on its body.

However, on coral snakes, the red and yellow bands are right next to each other.

Do milk snake bites hurt?

Because they are non-venomous, milk snakes have small teeth.

Their bite is not entirely painless, but you will likely only feel a stinging sensation rather than pain.

If a milk snake bites you, there is no cause for worry because nothing terrible will happen to you.

The only thing you need to be concerned about is cleaning the wound to prevent it from becoming infected.

Do milk snakes drink milk from cows?

Milk snakes do not drink milk at all.

Farmers who mistakenly believed the snakes crawled underneath cows and drank their milk gave their name to them.

Milk snakes cannot even drink from a cow’s udder, but their name was never changed.

Can a corn snake strangle you?

The non-venomous corn snake will constrict or strangle its prey before swallowing it in the wild.

There is no need to worry about your corn snake strangling you, however.

Corn snakes are quite small, and they recognize humans as being much too large for them to swallow whole as food.

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