Milk snakes are a species of king snake. They are beautiful reptiles of the Colubridae family that you will find in North America, Central America, and South America.
How must you care for these interesting snakes?
In this article, we have compiled the most informative care sheet that will help you with everything you must know about caring for these reptiles.
Feed an adult milk snake 1 mouse a week. House it in a 20 to 70-gallon terrarium with an ambient temperature between 75 and 82°F on the cool end and 80 and 85°F on the warm end. The humidity levels in the enclosure must stay between 40 and 60%. Take it to the vet every 6 to 12 months.
Adopting a milk snake is a big responsibility.
What are the best accessories for the enclosure and where must you put them?
To find the answers to these questions and check out our complete care sheet, keep reading.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need
Here is a list of everything you will need to follow, along with the steps in this milksnake care sheet. Grab everything on the list and then slither on to step one.
- Whole animal prey (pinky mice or regular-sized mice)
- Sturdy water bowl
- 20 to 70-gallon terrarium
- Ceramic heat emitter
- Basking lamp
- UVB bulbs
- Artificial foliage
- Hide boxes
- Climbing branch
How to Care For Milk Snake: Guide for Begginers
Looking after your new pet milk snake is a big task. If this is your first time giving this reptile a home, you might feel unsure about where to house it, what to feed it, and how to handle it.
That's why up next in this article, you will see our complete milksnake care sheet. In this care sheet, you will find all of the tips you need to raise a happy and healthy snake.
Step 1: Feeding
A milk snake’s diet will vary depending on whether the reptile is in its natural habitat or if it is in captivity.
What do they eat?
In the wild, adult milksnakes eat fish, small birds and their eggs, crickets, worms, lizards, small mammals, and even other snakes. Some of the snakes they eat include venomous and harmless snakes.
Young snakes in the wild eat frogs, small lizards, and small rodents.
Now, that was a lot of information about wild snakes.
But how must you feed your pet milksnake?
The following milk snake feeding chart will let you in on everything you must know about your pet’s diet.
|Milk snake size
|They will not eat until 3 to 4 weeks old
|Juveniles (or babies over 3 to 4 weeks)
|Pinky or small mouse
|One every 3 to 4 days
|Large mouse or rat
|One a week
When you follow this milk snake feeding guide, you ensure you will not overfeed or underfeed your reptile pet.
Step 2: Water Dish
Your snake doesn’t only need the right food to eat, but it also needs enough water to drink.
What is the right way to give your snake water?
Make sure your snake always has access to fresh water in a dish.
The snake will use the water not only to drink but to soak its body in. The dish must be sturdy enough for it to slither in and out of without knocking the dish over.
You must put fresh water in the dish every day as the snake might defecate in it.
Step 3: Handling
Because they are afraid of venomous coral snakes and other dangerous snakes, some people are wary about handling milk snakes. They wonder whether it is safe to touch this snake’s body.
Is handling a snake safe?
There is nothing wrong with handling your pet as long as you do so in the right way. Here are some of the best handling techniques for milk snakes.
- Handle your pet milksnake often. Your pet is more likely to get used to you and tolerate handling if you have contact with it often. Some snakes, however, will never settle down. Whether your snake will or not depends on its personality.
- Keep your handling sessions short. Do not handle your snake for more than 10 minutes at a time as your pet needs to maintain its body temperature. If you handle it for too long its body could cool right down and it might struggle to feel warm again. You must also keep your handling sessions short because these reptiles are solitary animals and do not need human affection.
- Do not touch the snake while it is eating. Wait for it to digest its food completely before you handle it. This takes about 24 to 72 hours.
- Do not startle the snake. Make sure it can see you approach it and do not make any sudden movements.
- Do not touch the snake while it is shedding.
- Always wash your hands after touching it.
Step 4: Terrarium Size
Another essential part of good milk snake care is putting your reptile in an enclosure that it will feel comfortable in. Over the next few steps, we’ll cover everything you must know about milk snake habitat setup for beginners.
How big must the enclosure be?
The best terrarium size for a baby milk snake is 10 gallons. For an adult snake, you will need a terrarium between 20 and 70 gallons depending on how big the snake is.
So far, we have listed the minimum acceptable enclosure size for your pet but it is always best to go for a bigger enclosure rather than a smaller one. So, get the biggest terrarium you have the room for.
If you are going to adopt baby snakes and are considering getting a smaller enclosure, remember that it takes only 3 years for the snake to grow to its adult size. Because of this, some reptile keepers find it better to get an enclosure fit for an adult snake from the beginning.
Step 5: Terrarium Substrate
An important step in making your milksnake terrarium comfortable is putting down the right substrate materials.
Which are the best to use?
Here is a list of them.
- Aspen shavings
- Paper towel
- Cyrpus mulch
- Sphagnum moss
- Pelleted paper
Mix some of these substrate materials together and put a thick layer of them on the floor of the terrarium. Adding a layer of moss to the substrate will help to keep the environment at the proper humidity.
Instead of mixing DIY substrate materials together, it is also possible for you to buy commercial substrates such as repti forest floor.
You must spot-clean the terrarium every day and remove any contaminated substrate from it. Give the terrarium a deep clean with warm water and disinfectant once a week.
Step 6: Terrarium Average Humidity
Your pet milksnake depends on having the ideal living environment to survive.
What are the ideal humidity levels?
The correct humidity levels for these snakes are between 40 and 60%. Your snake also needs access to a humid hide in its enclosure.
This hide must be in the mid to cool end of the enclosure. You must keep the hide humid by lining the base of it with moist sphagnum moss.
Step 7: Terrarium Appropriate Temperature
When setting up the enclosure for your new snake, you must ensure the temperature inside it is correct.
What is the correct temperature for the enclosure?
Your terrarium must have a cool side and a warm side.
On the cool end, the air temperatures must stay between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenly heat the warmer side to between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use ceramic heat emitters and an infrared thermometer to control and monitor the temperatures in the enclosure. Alternatively, use a heat mat connected to a power supply to heat the terrarium from below.
Step 8: Terrarium Basking Area
To mimic the natural behaviors they would display in the wild, your milk snake needs a basking area and a heat lamp.
How warm should it be?
The basking surface temperature must reach between 88 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. You must heat the basking area with UVB lighting to ensure that your snake gets the UV it needs.
Keep an eye on the basking surface temperature with an infrared thermometer. Change the UVB lighting bulbs at the basking surface every 6 months to ensure they are working correctly.
Step 9: Terrarium Accessories
Your snake’s enclosure needs the right accessories for environmental enrichment.
What must you put in it?
Artificial foliage. This helps to create environmental enrichment for the enclosure making it further resemble its natural habitat.
Groups of foliage double in purpose and also serve as nice hiding places for your snake.
Your snake will also need a climbing branch. The branch must be big enough and sturdy enough to support the weight of the snake's entire body.
You must ensure, however, that the branch is not so big that it is dangerously close to the heat lamp. Milk snakes are very good escape artists, so the branch should not give it an easy way out of the enclosure.
Your snake also needs hide boxes. It must have one warm hide and one cool hide.
The warm hide temperature must reach between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit just like the air temperature on the warm side.
Step 10: Housing
Giving a milksnake home is definitely rewarding. You might feel so much joy that you want to get more milk snakes.
But can you house them together?
Milk snakes are solitary animals in the wild and do not like living with other snakes. They are often cannibalistic in the presence of other adult snakes.
To prevent fighting, you must only put one snake in your terrarium. If you dream of keeping multiple milksnakes, you have to house them individually.
Step 11: Health
Looking after your snake’s health is very important. Feeding it the right diet, housing it correctly, and taking care when handling it will ensure it stays as healthy as possible.
But how can you take even better care of your pet’s health?
You must take your snake to the vet for checkups every six to twelve months. This is essential for your vet to pick up on any health issues while they are in their early stages and treat them immediately.
Here are some common health issues in milk snake.
- Mite infestations. Your snake can pick up mites from other snakes that are infested with them. You will need miticides or a natural alternative to clean your snake up.
- Mouth rot. This occurs when your snake’s mouth suffers damage. It sometimes occurs when food becomes lodged in the snake’s mouth.
- Shedding problems. Your snake will suffer from dry skin if the humidity levels in its enclosure are not high enough. This will make it have problems shedding.
- Respiratory infections. These occur when your snake’s enclosure does not meet the right temperature gradient or humidity for your pet.
- Fungal infections. Your milk snake can pick up a fungal infection from infected snakes. This infection causes swelling around the snake’s head and is too often lethal.
FAQs About the Milksnake
Milksnakes are very fascinating reptiles. There is so much out there to learn about them.
Is there something that you would like to know about these animals?
Then check out this next section where we will answer some of the most asked questions.
How Big Do Adult Milk Snakes Get?
The size of an adult milksnake depends on its subspecies. Most snakes are between 14 and 72 inches long.
The black milk snake is the largest of the subspecies. The smallest is the New Mexico milk snake.
Your milksnake’s subspecies will define how big of an enclosure you will need. Smaller snakes within the subspecies will need an enclosure that is 20 gallons.
Larger snakes in the subspecies will need a bigger enclosure that is closer to 70 gallons or even larger if you have room for it.
What Must You Feed a Baby Milk Snake?
Hatchling milk snakes will not usually eat for the first 3 or 4 weeks of their lives. After that, the snakes begin developing quite an appetite.
Baby milksnakes will need feeding every 3 to 4 days. That’s right, they eat more than the adults!
You must feed a baby snake one pinky mouse every time you feed it. If your baby snake is rather large, you must feed it a small mouse instead of a pinky mouse.
When Is Breeding Season for Milk Snakes?
Milk snakes breed during the month of June. In mid June-July the female snakes will begin laying their eggs.
The hatchlings emerge around late August to October.
Are Milk Snakes Easy to Take Care of?
Milk snakes are easy to take care of because they do not depend on humans for attention. They do not need handling.
They are also easy to feed, and you will only feed them once a week. Milk snakes entertain themselves and do not need to be taken out for exercise or grooming.
What makes a milk snake harder to take care of is its housing needs. The surface temperatures, humidity levels, and cool and warm hide temperatures must all be perfect for your reptile.
When the UVB levels in your milk snake’s terrarium are not right, it will quickly affect your reptile’s immune system and make it sick.
What Do Milk Snakes Need In Their Tank?
Here are some of the items that must be inside your milk snake’s tank.
- A large, sturdy dish of water. This is for the milk snake to drink from and for it to soak in.
- Foliage. This provides ambiance and also gives the snake somewhere to hide.
- Hide boxes. These are the perfect hiding places for your milk snake.
- A sturdy basking branch. This will help it soak up UV rays like it would in the wild.
- Substrate. This will make the milk snake feel comfortable and will help to mimic its environment in the wild.
Wrapping Up Milk Snake Care
Milk snakes are common snakes to keep as pets and they come in a variety of different colors, patterns, and sizes. Today, we have had a closer look at how you must look after this animal to ensure it lives a long and happy life.
Looking after a milk snake means housing it in a 20 to 70-gallon terrarium with 40 to 60% humidity. It needs access to a large dish of water and must eat one mouse every week.
Make sure the reptile has access to hide boxes and a climbing branch for basking. The snake must go to the vet once every 6 to 12 months for a checkup.
Did you find this article interesting?
At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about milk snakes and how you must look after them. For more information on taking care of large snakes, green anoles, and other pets, check out our website.
Thanks for reading!