Knowing how to feed your corn snake is vital to the reptile’s overall health.
In addition to feeding the snake the right type and size of prey, the feeding frequency is also important.
A baby corn snake needs to be fed once every 5-7 days, increasing to once every 7-10 days for a juvenile. When the snake is an adult over two years old, decrease feeding to once every 10-14 days. The size of the prey should never be larger than 1 ½ times the size of the corn snake’s midsection.
Not feeding your snake often enough will cause malnutrition, while overfeeding will lead to obesity and digestive issues.
If the size of the prey is too small for the corn snake, the animal will be hungry and possibly malnourished.
When the prey is too large, the snake will regurgitate its food, and the negative experience will cause a loss of appetite.
Read on to learn more about how to feed a corn snake, including diet and feeding guidelines.
Corn Snake Diet
Corn snakes are strict carnivores, meaning they only eat meats and proteins.
The corn snake in the wild has a diet consisting of almost exclusively small rodents and birds.
In captivity, we want the same thing.
For corn snakes, this means small rodents like mice.
But you don’t have to go hunting for it yourself.
There are many pet stores and online suppliers available to take care of this for you.
With baby corn snakes, you want to look for pinkie mice.
Check out our article on how many pinkie mice to feed baby corn snakes for more info.
These aren’t a special breed of mouse at all, but pinkie mice are baby, hairless mice.
Their small size and lack of mobility make them perfect for the baby corn snake.
Corn snakes should only eat food smaller than its girth or width at mid-length.
For babies, this is tough, but pinkie mice will fit the bill nicely.
Live pinkie mice aren’t very mobile.
This makes them easier to hunt for the young snakes, and it avoids injury.
For all corn snakes, you never want to leave live prey in the tank because they may bite back as they’re hunted.
With pinkies, you won’t have this problem.
Mice are usually fed to a adult corn snake in live form or frozen and the fully thawed form.
While baby corn snakes can eat frozen and thawed pinkies, they’re less likely to.
The baby corn snake is very instinct-driven, and its instinct isn’t to eat food already dead.
It wants to eat something live.
So, the baby corn snake diet consists of pinkie mice (live preferably) fed once every 5 – 7 days.
Read more about how often to feed corn snakes.
Feeding A Corn Snake
This section tells you step-by-step how to feed a corn snake.
It also applies to feeding baby corn snakes.
Baby corn snakes are fed after their first prenatal shed.
Many will eat right away, but sometimes they wait for a little while.
Follow these steps to feed a corn snake.
#1 Choose The Right Prey
As we mentioned in the section above, the best choice for corn snakes is mice.
Make sure they’re smaller than the corn snake’s width at mid-length.
For baby corn snakes, use pinkie mice.
If you’re worried about even a newborn pinky mouse size, use a baby spiny mouse or a baby pygmy mouse.
Live is better than frozen and thawed, but make do with this if it’s all you have.
For maximum safety, look at our guide on picking the right size mice for a corn snake.
#2 Place The Mouse In Front Of The Corn Snake
Take the mouse and put it right in front of the corn snake.
Watch to see if the corn snake notices the mouse.
If you see the snake notice and watch the mouse, keep your hands back.
Corn snakes have a hard time telling the difference between prey and fingers.
Most adult corn snakes will strike the mouse right away and begin to swallow it.
For those whose snakes do this easily, skip to step #5.
You don’t ordinarily need to feed the corn snake by hand as you do with other reptiles.
These keen carnivores prefer to hunt themselves whenever they can.
If your corn snake seems uninterested, you need to move to step #3.
#3 “Brain” The Corn Snake
When your corn snake isn’t interested in your mouse, what’s happening is the snake’s natural hunting instincts haven’t been triggered yet.
So we need to help those instincts along.
While it may seem gross, one almost-foolproof way to get a snake’s attention is to brain the mouse.
In other words, use a knife to cut into the skull of the mouse and squeeze.
This is done so some brain matter comes out of the cut or nose.
Another way is to cut the mouse in half, so the corn snake won’t have to eat the whole thing in one bite.
The smell and sight of the insides work wonders for triggering the hunting and eating instincts.
#4 Tease The Corn Snake
If braining is too gross or it’s still not pleasing, perhaps tease the corn snake.
When you tease the snake, you take half of the mouse and tap it to the nose of the corn snake.
You may want to do this while holding the snake, so you have more control over its movement.
Once the snake strikes put it down in the tank and let it enjoy its meal.
#5 Remove The Prey Remains
Once your snake has ingested its meal, go in a clean up any remains.
There aren’t usually too many with snakes, but it’s still a good idea to check.
#6 Repeat Every 5 – 7 Days
Now you repeat the process every 5 – 7 days.
Adjust the size of the mouse to match the width of the corn snake.
When it can eat adult mice, you may want to switch to feeding every 7 – 10 days.
Don’t ever feed a corn snake within 24 hours of feeding.
It won’t have had time to digest its last meal.
Helpful Tips for Feeding a Corn Snake
While corn snakes are typically voracious eaters, there may be times when your snake does not have much of an appetite or refuses its food.
Corn snakes will experience appetite loss during shedding, sickness, pregnancy, and brumation.
If your snake is not eating as it usually does, seek veterinary care to rule out illness.
Below, we provide some helpful tips on how to make feeding time an enjoyable experience for both you and your snake.
Maintain Proper Temperatures
Corn snakes need heat for properly digesting their food.
Because they are ectothermic animals, snakes rely on outside sources of heat to maintain their body temperature.
Provide your corn snake with the optimal temperature gradient in its enclosure, so the animal has ways to warm up and cool down.
The cool side of the tank should have a temperature range of 75-82° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).
The ambient temperature in the middle of the tank needs to be between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
The best temperature range for the warm basking side of the tank is 88-92° degrees Fahrenheit (33° C).
Regularly monitor the enclosure temperatures to ensure they are correct and adjust when necessary.
Monitor When Feeding
It is always best to monitor your corn snake during feeding time, especially if you are using live prey.
Live prey may bite or scratch your snake enough to cause serious injury, and the risk increases when the prey is not eaten right away.
Even if you are using thawed prey, monitor your corn snake for any signs of difficulty eating or regurgitation.
If your snake is struggling to eat, this is usually a sign the prey is too large.
It is very unlikely for a snake to choke because it has a glottis, which allows the animal to breathe while eating.
However, if the adult corn snake regurgitates its food, it will associate this negative experience with mealtime, and its appetite will be diminished.
No Wild-Caught Prey
Always purchase feeder prey from a pet supply store or another reputable seller.
Never feed your corn snake any wild-caught mice, rats, or other small prey.
Wild prey animals are highly likely to be infested with parasites or other diseases which are very harmful to your snake.
Use Feeding Tongs
Your corn snake may get very excited and strike as soon as it sees prey.
If you are using your hands to feed your pet snake, there is a chance you will be bitten.
To avoid the risk of being bitten by your corn snake during mealtime, use feeding tongs instead of your hands.
Feeding tongs have rubber tips for your snake’s safety, and they are available at most pet supply stores.
Weigh Your Snake
Use a small kitchen scale to weigh your corn snake once a week.
Tracking your snake’s weight allows you to determine if your pet’s growth rate is on track and the animal is maintaining a healthy weight.
If your snake is losing weight or gaining too much, you will need to schedule a visit with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying illness and create a diet plan.
Feed Your Snake in the Morning or Evening
Corn snakes are crepuscular, which means they are the most active during the hours of dawn and dusk.
The best time to feed your snake is during the evening, close to sunset.
The snake will be rested and ready to hunt during this time, so it will be more receptive to being fed.
If you are unable to feed your corn snake in the evening, aim to have morning meal times instead.
Provide a Water Bowl
Place a large, shallow dish in your corn snake’s enclosure and make sure it is filled with fresh, clean, chlorine-free water at all times.
Snakes tend to soak in their water dish, so you may need to change the water more than once per day if it gets dirty.
We hope you enjoyed learning how to feed a corn snake.
It can be tricky, but if you choose the right size of mouse and take care not to feed it too often, it’ll all be just fine.
Look for mice smaller than their width at mid-length.
Babies can eat every 5 – 7 days, while adults should wait every 7 – 10 days.
Follow these guidelines, and your cute reptile will be just fine.
Commonly Asked Questions
How do I know if my corn snake is hungry?
When your corn snake is hungry, it will be more active during the day and will spend more time near the front of the enclosure.
The snake will also flick its tongue in and out more frequently than usual.
Can I hold my corn snake after feeding?
It is not advisable to handle your corn snake for up to 48 hours after a meal.
Handling your snake too soon after eating will cause the animal to regurgitate its food.
It is also essential to handle your corn snake at least 1-2 times per week to keep the animal tame and provide it with some exercise.
However, handling your snake more frequently than once per day may cause the reptile to become stressed and lose its appetite.
How long can a corn snake go without eating before dying?
During brumation, a corn snake is able to survive for 2-3 months without a proper meal.
Outside of brumation, a corn snake is only able to go for two weeks without eating.
If you have issues with getting your corn snake to eat, it is best to seek a reptile veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.