Keeping Hatchling Colubrids

Whether we’re talking about milksnakes, kingsnakes, rat snakes or the classic corn snake, luckily the care of hatchling colubrids is very similar indeed.

Baby snakes can feel vulnerable and the more stressed they are the more likely they are to get ill and/or go off their their food so this is the first thing to consider.

This means that a small cage (around the length of the snake long, by half the snake’s length in width) is generally better than a larger one and ideally you will also provide your baby snake with somewhere to hide where it can feel safe.

Some people include a special hide from a reptile store while others add a toilet roll tube, small cardboard box or plastic plant pot for the purpose.

The next consideration is cleanliness which is vitally important so that diseases and infections do not occur. This is even more important if you keep more than one pet snake.

Because of this it is important to keep the cage spotlessly clean at all times, and ideally to also keep each baby separately. This is of particular importance in kingsnakes which have been known to cannibalize each other.

The substrate of the cage should reflect this level of cleanliness. Many professional keepers and pet stores simply use kitchen paper which is soft, absorbent, cheap and your snake can also hide underneath it. Others prefer a more natural look and will use something like birch bark or corn cob granules. Whatever you choose, ensure that the substrate remains clean at all times and that no mould is allowed to grow.

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While reptiles are adapted for living in dry environments, a small water bowl should also be available at all times so your snake can drink whenever it has the inclination and the water should be changed daily.

Baby snakes typically do not require artificial lighting though some gentle heating to around 24’C is very welcome and will help to encourage feeding. A range of different reptile heaters are available for the purpose though typically a heat mat is the cheapest and easiest option for a baby snake.

And that just leaves feeding. Being carnivorous snakes require meat to eat. For baby snakes this is most commonly fed in the form of dead pinkies. These baby mice of only a day or two old are the ideal size for a baby snake and one should be fed once or twice a week.

Be aware that it is normal for a baby snake to go off it’s food for a week or two either side of a moult so if your snake stops feeding keep an eye out for the tell-tale sign of their eyes going cloudy. A short while after your snake moults he or she should start feeding again without problems but as with anything else if you have any concerns a visit to a specialist reptile vet is recommended.

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