Like most reptiles, corn snakes shed their skin from time to time, wiggling out of their old skin to reveal shiny, beautiful new scales.
If you own a corn snake as a pet, you probably have lots of questions about this process, like what it means, how often it happens, and if there’s anything you need to do for your pet on your end.
Baby and juvenile corn snakes shed more rapidly than adults, or every couple of weeks since they are rapidly outgrowing their skin. Adult corn snakes shed less frequently, or every 4 to 8 weeks on average. Most baby corn snakes shed for the first time when they are about a week old.
Follow along to learn more about the fascinating process of shedding, how corn snakes shed, and everything else you need to know to make things as smooth and painless as possible for your little scaly friend.
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Why Do Corn Snakes Shed Their Skin?
Corn snakes, just like virtually all other reptiles, must shed their skin periodically to accommodate new growth.
Their rigid, scaly skin is not as flexible as, say, a mammal’s skin, so it doesn’t stretch much or grow along with the snake’s body.
Even fully-grown adult snakes must shed from time to time since they are constantly regenerating a new layer of skin even if their bodies aren’t growing much in weight or length.
Technically, they aren’t the only animals who shed their skin, though!
All animals regenerate new skin and shed old skin, but reptiles do it much more quickly.
Even humans shed their skin, but instead of doing it all at once, we lose tiny bits of skin cells here and there without noticing it.
If you’ve ever noticed a flake of dandruff or a piece of dead skin flaking off after a wound heals, you’ve just observed yourself shedding–just not quite in the same way your corn snake does.
When Do Baby Corn Snakes Start Shedding?
Baby corn snakes begin shedding very quickly after they hatch!
Once a baby corn snake has emerged from its egg, its tiny body is already beginning to grow rapidly in size.
This means its skin must shed pretty often to keep up with this sudden, rapid growth rate.
On average, the typical hatchling corn snake sheds for the first time only a week after hatching.
After its first shed, a baby corn snake will continue growing very quickly for the first year or so of its life.
While it is less than one year old, you should expect your snake to shed every two to three weeks or so.
As it grows older, the frequency it sheds will gradually slow down.
How Often Do Corn Snakes Shed Their Skin?
Fully-grown adult corn snakes typically shed once every 4 to 8 weeks, or roughly every other month on average.
Shedding anywhere from once a month to once every two months is generally considered a normal rate.
Baby and juvenile corn snakes, as we touched on above, shed about twice as often, but this rate slows down considerably after the snake’s first year of life.
Since they are growing much more quickly and significantly in size, babies and juveniles must shed their skin more often than adults.
Keep in mind if a snake is healing from an injury, it will shed more frequently regardless of its age.
Some snakes will even shed weekly to heal wounds like lacerations or burns.
This is normal and intended to speed up the healing process.
Why Is My Corn Snake Shedding So Often?
Corn snakes will shed more often than usual if they recently sustained an injury like a cut or a burn.
This is normal behavior and a defense mechanism intended to speed up the healing process.
Very young snakes shed more often than adults since they rapidly outgrow their skin with every new growth spurt.
Since reptile skin isn’t stretchy like ours is, they must shed it entirely all at once to accommodate new growth.
How Long Is The Shedding Process For A Corn Snake?
The shedding process for most snakes is fairly slow, typically taking place throughout anywhere from 4 to 7 days.
Baby corn snakes sometimes take a bit longer as they are still getting used to the process of shedding.
Before going into a shed, you’ll likely notice your snake’s eyes looking cloudy or even bluish.
Additionally, their scales will look duller and/or lighter than usual for a few days beforehand.
This is normal and a good sign the shedding process is going smoothly!
Your snake will also either be more lethargic or more antsy than usual and will likely rub its body against rough surfaces in its tank to help loosen its old skin.
If the shedding process takes longer than a week or so, your snake likely just needs to soak in some warm water to ease things along.
Alternatively, if you notice some stuck shed left behind on your snake’s tail or body, use a warm, wet cotton swab to gently remove the shedding skin.
Ensuring your snake has a comfortable, moist/humid hide to rest in will also help them shed with no issues.
Can You Handle A Corn Snake While It’s Shedding?
While you are technically able to handle your corn snake very gently if you need to while they’re shedding, we highly recommend avoiding handling or touching them at all for the entire process unless they need assistance with removing the old skin.
For starters, your snake is likely more tired and agitated than usual while they’re shedding, so they probably want to be left alone anyway.
Additionally, your snake’s skin is extremely fragile while it’s shedding, so touching it will often either hurt or irritate them.
To avoid damaging the new skin or accidentally tearing at the old skin before it’s ready to shed, hold off on handling your snake unless it’s necessary for their health, i.e., a vet visit or you’re helping to remove a piece of a stuck shed.
Related: How to handle a corn snake
What Does “Corn Snake In Blue” Mean?
“Going into blue” is a term used by reptile hobbyists to describe the beginning of the shedding process.
Just before a snake starts to shed, their skin will become lighter and duller than usual, and their eyes will appear a cloudy, bluish color.
The process of the snake’s eyes turning this ghostly shade is referred to as “going into blue!”
While this looks a bit spooky to novice reptile owners, it’s normal and a good sign a snake is about to begin shedding.
Do Corn Snakes Need Help Shedding?
Most of the time, most healthy snakes don’t need any kind of assistance with shedding.
However, babies and very old snakes and snakes who are ill, injured or disabled sometimes have a bit of difficulty and end up with pieces of stubborn stuck shed remaining.
“Stuck shed” is exactly what it sounds like–pieces of old skin stuck to the snake’s body because it is having trouble shedding for some reason.
Aside from being very young, very old, injured, or disabled, other potential causes of difficulty shedding or incomplete shedding include nutritional deficiencies (usually a lack of calcium) or stress due to incorrect humidity or temperature settings.
If you notice your snake cannot remove a piece of stuck shed, soak its body in a container of warm (but not hot!) water.
This is usually enough to get the skin to come off on its own, but if it still doesn’t come off, use a warm, wet cotton swab to very gently rub the stuck shed off.
If the shed is still not budging, it’s best to seek the help of an exotics vet.
Commonly Asked Questions
If you want to know more about the corn snake shedding process, below are some answers to the most common questions asked by reptile owners.
Is It Normal For A Corn Snake To Not Eat While Shedding?
Yes. Most corn snakes will have a significantly decreased appetite just before they go into the shed and throughout the shedding process.
It is also normal if your snake doesn’t eat for a week or two after a shed.
Shedding is a bit uncomfortable, after all, so even if you own a healthy snake, it makes sense their appetite would be lower than usual.
Check out our guide on why corn snakes aren’t eating.
Do Corn Snakes Need Shedding Products?
Shedding products aren’t necessary for your corn snake to shed properly, but they are helpful if your snake has shown difficulty with the process before.
Many products are designed to make shedding easier and more comfortable for reptiles.
Still, we highly recommend using something like Zilla’s Shed-Ease Bath if your snake sometimes struggles with abnormal shedding.
Putting a warm, moist hide in your corn snakes enclosure lined with a moist substrate like moss or wet paper towels will also make shedding easier for them.
Do Corn Snakes Shed More During A Certain Season?
If the humidity and temperature are consistently kept at the right levels in captivity, most snakes shouldn’t shed more during any particular time of year.
However, wild corn snakes tend to shed a bit more frequently during the warmer months since they are more active and usually grow and eat more during this time.