Milk snakes are brightly colored and come in gorgeous patterns, lengths, and subspecies.
You want one, don’t you?
But are milk snakes good pets?
Listen closely; you need all the information you can get to decide if you want a milk snake as a pet.
Milk snakes make great pets! Their manageable size, calm nature, and resilience make them no-brainers for snake enthusiasts. Most types of milk snakes enjoy being held, too. However, they do need proper housing to thrive as your pet.
Ready to learn more about milk snakes?
Stick around as we pull back the veil and reveal all there is to know about making a milk snake your new pet!
Table of Contents
Are Milk Snakes Good Pets?
Honestly, the answer to that question depends on you. Are you someone who prefers a more lively, aggressive pet snake? Or do you prefer a slithering companion who’s content to be held all day long?
What about environment size? Do you have the space for a large tank, or can you only handle something on the smaller side?
Feel overwhelmed? Sit back, and relax. We’ve got you.
Here’s what you should know before you make a milk snake your new pet.
What Are Milk Snakes?
Milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) are found in the wild throughout the United States and are a subspecies of the King snake. They are commonly bred in captivity to be kept as pets. They are really popular due to their passive nature and gorgeous appearance.
These nonvenomous snakes have small teeth, which means any bite they inflict is virtually imperceptible to humans. Even so, their vibrant coloring can inflict fear into the hearts of uneducated snake lovers. This is because some milk snakes look like coral snakes.
Milk snakes are available in various shapes and sizes, which is another reason for their popularity. You’ll love milk snakes if you like bright colors in your pet snake.
But what if you’ve never had a pet snake before? Do milk snakes make good beginner pets?
Let’s consider the facts to help you figure it out.
The following pointers will help you decide whether owning a milk snake is right for you.
Are Milk Snakes Good Beginner Pets?
Milk snakes are one of the most popular snakes to own. They are small enough to keep in a cage but large enough to satiate most pet owners.
They can be skittish. So if you hope they’ll curl up in your lap and watch your favorite action TV series, that’s probably not going to happen.
While this snake species rarely bite, they can emit musk as a defense mechanism. This stinky self-defense strategy typically involves them coiling up and vibrating their tails until they strike.
Overall, milk snakes make good first-time pets for novice reptile owners.
Are Milk Snakes Confused with Venomous Snakes?
Some types of milk snakes are confused with the venomous coral snake because their coloring is similar. They evolved to mimic venomous snakes as a defense mechanism. It’s known as Batesian mimicry.
Both milk snakes and coral snakes have alternating color bands. Coral snakes have red and yellow bands next to one another, while nonvenomous milk snakes have red and black bands next to each other.
So, do milk snakes look like venomous snakes? Yes, but they are completely harmless to humans.
Do Milk Snakes Like Being Handled?
Generally speaking, milk snakes are easy to handle! Great news for anyone who wants to show off their super cool colors to guests, friends, and reptile-loving family members.
Most milk snakes aren’t known to bite you unprovoked, but you should still give them time to warm up.
Once you bring them home, give them a few days to get used to the environment before you try to handle them. You can increase their desire to be held by placing their terrarium in a room where your family hangs out.
You can also feed the snake by hand to get them to warm up to you.
So, do milk snakes like being handled?
The answer is yes if you give them space and tempt them with tasty bits of food.
How Aggressive Are Milk Snakes?
Milk snakes aren’t the most aggressive snakes, but they have no problem letting you know if they don’t like something.
They’re big on boundaries. And if those boundaries are crossed, expect a vibrating, coiling reptile. They may even bite if provoked.
If you learn how to handle them and respect their boundaries, you won’t likely see their aggressive side.
How Big Do Milk Snakes Get?
Depending on the subspecies of milk snakes, they can grow anywhere from 20 to 60 inches (1.52 m).
The largest milk snake is the Black milk snake, which can grow up to 7 feet (2.13 m)!
Most milk snakes fall in the 2–3 feet range, however.
How Long Do Milk Snakes Live?
Once you fall in love with your new pet milk snake, you might have an existential crisis thinking about how long they live. Don’t!
Healthy milk snakes live up to 22 years, and most live an average of 12 years in captivity.
This breed of snake matures at around age 3 or 4, which means you can live with your new snake anywhere from 8 to 18 years!
So, expect your milk snake to live anywhere from 12 to 22 years.
Based on what we discussed above, do you think that milk snakes make good pets?
We do. If you give them their space and handle them with care, you could enjoy them for many years to come. But first, you need to learn how to care for them properly. In the next section, we’ll look at the best ways to care for adult milk snakes.
How to Care for Your Pet Milk Snake
Your pets can only be as good as the quality of care they receive from you.
And if you’ve recently adopted one, then you need to know what they eat, how to create a comfortable environment, and how to keep their enclosure clean.
Is It Easy to Care for Milk Snakes?
Milk snakes are relatively docile, easy to handle, and responsive to being held. As we discussed above, this snake species is a good fit for beginners and fairly easy to take care of.
So, what should you know to care for them properly?
Let’s take a look at what and how to feed them, how to create a comfy environment for your sleek new friend, and how to keep their space clean.
What Should You Feed Your Pet Milk Snake?
The answer depends on how old your snake is.
For example, young milk snakes should be fed a diet of pinkie mice every 3–5 days.
Snake owners can gradually increase their diet as needed.
Adult milk snakes can eat mice or small rats once every 5–7 days.
Remember, adult milk snakes reach maturity at 3 or 4 years.
But should you feed milk snakes live or dead prey?
Pet snakes should be trained from the juvenile stage to eat dead prey. Experts agree that feeding snakes dead prey is more humane, reducing the likelihood of your snake being traumatized by its prey. Freshly killed prey or frozen thawed food is best for your snake.
What About Water?
Provide your snake with a heavy ceramic water bowl filled with fresh and clean water all the time. Not only is this important for hydration, but it also helps with the humidity levels inside their environment to promote healthy shedding.
Speaking of humidity, what about setting up your snake’s new home? Next, we will look at the best way to set up a home for your adult milk snake.
What Type of Habitat Do Milk Snakes Need?
All snakes need room to move around, and milk snakes grow up to an average of 3 feet (0.91 m). However, too much space can actually stress them out.
Fancy baby milk snakes?
If you adopt a baby milk snake, they’ll only need a 10-gallon tank. Expect them to outgrow it in a couple of years. Once they reach maturity, they’ll require a 20–30 gallon minimum tank for smaller species.
Humidity and Lighting
On average, milk snakes require humidity levels of 40-60%.
You can keep their humidity levels in these ranges by misting your snake’s enclosure 1-2x daily with a spray bottle. Spray their tank in the morning and in the evening for the best results.
But what about lighting?
In terms of lighting, milk snakes do best when given at least 15 hours of lighting per day during the summer and some 9 hours of lighting during winter.
To achieve these levels, you can invest in something like a smart power strip, but you can also do this with a programmable digital power strip.
Milk snakes are nocturnal, so they don’t require bright lighting.
Like other snakes and reptiles, milk snakes rely on external temperatures to regulate their body temperature. These cold-blooded creatures require the following temperature grades:
- Basking Light: 85–90 Degrees Fahrenheit
- Cool Side of the Enclosure: 75–80 Degrees Fahrenheit
- Evening Time Temp: 70–75 Degrees Fahrenheit
Your milk snake’s enclosure should include its favorite substrate materials. Milk snakes are happiest and healthiest when their tank imitates their natural habitat conditions.
- Sterilized Reptile Bark
- Aspen Bedding
- Paper Towels
You can also check out pet supply stores for other substrates like Zoo Med Reptisoil, Zilla Jungle Mix, or Zoo Med Eco Earth. Give your pet substrate that’s at least 4 inches (ca. 10 cm) deep.
Hides & Decor
Most snakes require safe places to hide and get away from it all. Milk snakes are no different.
To be a good snake owner, make sure their enclosure is complete with hides and appropriate decor.
Give your snake a secure, dark cave, or hide to retreat to reduce stress and feel safe. Provide your snake with at least two hides, one on the warm and one on the cool side of their enclosure. Anything from moss domes to Sapa hides will work.
For decor, milk snakes enjoy having something to climb on, and decor items like Grapevine, Driftwood, and Spider Wood all work well. Perches and natural stone elements are also good to add to their enclosure.
Keeping their Tank Clean
Snakes get dirty like everyone else, and cleaning their cage helps them stay healthy.
You can clean their cage with paper towels, some spray disinfectant, water bottles, and trash bags. Once you’ve gathered your cleaning gear, move your snake into a temporary cage. A medium-sized Rubbermaid box with a removable lid with air holes will work fine.
Next, remove all hides and decor and place them in a bathtub. Clean all furniture items, hides, decor, and the water bowl thoroughly. Then unplug all electrical items like lighting gear.
After that, dispose of all substrate in the cage. Then you can thoroughly clean the cage using your disinfectant. Spray it down with water to remove all chunks of nastiness, then use your antibacterial spray to cleanse it from top to bottom.
Once these steps are complete, leave your cage wide open to air dry it. Then, put down your fresh substrate and put their enclosure back together.
So how often should you clean the enclosure?
We recommend cleaning their enclosure at least once a month. In the meantime, spot-clean their cage, removing feces, old meals, and shed skin.
Top 5 Types of Milk Snakes That Make Good Pets
Milk snakes are terrific snakes to make your pet. Compared to other snakes, milk snakes are docile by nature, like to be handled, and are absolutely beautiful.
But there are over 20 types of milk snakes to choose from.
How do you know which one is right for you?
Some are larger, some are more docile, and some have prettier colorings.
We have cut out the middleman and picked the top 5 subspecies of milk snakes to make your pet. Check them out to decide on the right type for you.
Black Milk Snake
Black milk snakes live up to 20 to 22 years, span up to 48 to 76 inches, and prefer a menu of mice, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
Despite their name, black milk snakes aren’t always black. They can also be red, black, white, and even yellow when they hatch. It takes 6-10 months for them to turn black from nose to tail tip. They cost between $75 to $200.
Once they mature, they’ll also have a gorgeous textured pattern.
While most milk snakes are good for beginners, the black milk snake tends to go through a bit of a teenage rebellion in their adolescence, which makes them a better fit for more experienced handlers. Simply put, expect to get a nip or two from a black milk snake if you adopt them as juveniles.
Eastern Milk Snake
Eastern milk snakes are popular because they are among the most docile of all milk snakes. They tolerate handling well, making them a great fit for beginner snake owners.
The eastern milk snake has a gorgeous pattern and coloring that mimics the copperhead. They have a reddish-to-brown oval dorsal splotch pattern with black rings around them.
Eastern milk snakes are typically mild-mannered and they warm up to their handlers easily. The younger they are, the more likely they are to act aggressively. Speaking of age, this milk snake subspecies lives for 12 to 20 years. They tend to cost at least $80.
Eastern milk snakes are good pets for beginners based on how easy it is to handle their adult versions.
Honduran Milk Snake
The Honduran milk snake is among the most popular subspecies of milk snake. Despite not being quite as popular as corn snakes or pythons, this snake subspecies is known for its beautiful three-colored striped pattern. Their pattern runs red with bands of yellow, white, or black.
This subspecies of milk snake is typically best for intermediate handlers, especially for hatchlings or young Honduran milk snakes. This is because the younger the Honduran milk snakes are, the more aggressive they tend to be.
Most snakes in this subspecies live between 15-20 years of age and reach 3-5 feet long. They cost anywhere from $70 to $160.
Are Honduran milk snakes good for beginners?
We recommend having at least some snake-handling experience before you adopt one!
Sinaloan Milk Snake
The Sinaloan milk snake has red bands separated by much smaller yellow and black bands. This subspecies, once again, looks similar to the venomous coral snake that it mimics. They can vibrate and coil up if they feel threatened.
Depending on their care, most Sinaloan milk snakes live between 15 to 20 years. They cost about $50.
So, should you adopt this snake if you’re a first-time snake owner?
Yes! They are hardy, docile, and have simple care requirements making them a good fit for beginners.
Red Milk Snake
The red milk snake is a tri-colored milk snake with saddled-shaped markings bordered with black and separated with pale bands. Younger red milk snakes are brighter colored than adults.
Most adult milk snakes are about 28 inches long, making them a bit smaller than other types of milk snakes. They also tend to be aggressive if they are threatened.
You can expect them to live 15 to 20 years in your care. They cost around $60.
Would we recommend the red milk snake to new snake owners?
Yes, but with a caution sign. They are small but pack a nice bite if they are threatened. Be prepared for a nip or two when handling them.
How to Choose the Best Milk Snake For You
So, you’ve decided a milk snake is absolutely going to be your next pet, but how can you choose the right subspecies for you?
These non-venomous snakes all make good pets, but here are a few areas to consider before purchasing.
What Is Your Skill Level?
Unlike other animals, snakes require a certain level of expertise to handle.
The easiest milk snake to handle is the black milk snake. They are also relatively low maintenance and rarely get sick.
For more experienced handlers, the red milk snake might be good. They tend to be more skittish and don’t love being handled initially.
The eastern milk snake is fun to own, but they don’t exactly have supermodel good looks. However, the Honduran milk snake has some of the most stunning colors of any subspecies. Depending on what coloring you like, either one could be a good fit for you.
Do you want a beautiful milk snake that is rather large? Then we’d recommend Sinaloan milk snake. They can grow up to 48 inches in length.
The smaller red milk snake is also an attractive option if you lack the space for a larger snake.
Milk Snakes: The Reptile World’s Most Colorful Snakes
Milk snakes aren’t for everyone. But if you’re willing to be a good pet owner, learn about the breed, and care for them properly, owning a milk snake can be a rewarding experience. Their striking colors and lovely disposition make them great pets.
So, what do you think? Can you handle a pet milk snake?
You’ll do fine if you feed them correctly, clean out their cage, and meet their handling needs.
Let us know which of the five subspecies of milk snake you adopted in the comments below!
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