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 Neil Lawler
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Chris (a teen-age Corn Snake keeper and main contributor to the site) speaks of his experiences of keeping Corn Snakes in this informative and slightly moving account, which is split into five parts. Please note that any items Chris mentions in his writing will most likely be available in our shopping section.

A Teen’s Story - Foreword
A Teen’s Story - Beginning

I had just come home from Primary school, excited as can be. I dashed into the house, begging my parents to get into the car.

We drove to our reptile shop. I could hardly contain my excitement. There was so much to choose from. I looked at the Royal (or Ball) Pythons, gasped at the many lizards and then I saw the tiny baby Corn Snakes. There were loads of them, all in separate little compartments, almost stacked up to the ceiling. They were so small with miniature drinking bowls and tiny little ceramic hides. The shopkeeper came to explain his range. He showed me two of the cheapest, a dark-coloured one and an Amelanistic Corn Snake. The bright patterns on the Amelanistic won me over, and I made my decision immediately.

I took the new snake home in a small container along with a supply of Pinkies. I then put the snake in the vivarium of our old Leopard Geckos.

{This is the point where you would put your Corn Snake in a small container if you opt for this method.}

My first task was feeding. I took a small tub and poured moderately warm water into it. I placed one of the frozen Pinkies inside. I then left it for around 15-20 minutes and checked if it seamed that the unfortunate creature had defrosted. If it had, I would wrap it in kitchen roll and take to my snake which I had decided to call Kaa after the famous snake off Jungle Book. Kaa seamed to be getting on quite well in his large vivarium, so I didn’t worry about size.

The shopkeeper had told me that when feeding, I could put the Pinkie on the surface of the vivarium and wait for my snake to take it, or hand feed holding the end of the tail and teasing the creature towards my snake.

I wouldn’t suggest feeding by hand to start with. I remember using the first option and laying the Pinkie on the substrate and allowing Kaa to come over himself and eat it. (After a while, I realised that it would be better to thoroughly dry the Pinkie off first before putting it on the bark chips as they tended to stick to it and sometimes Kaa swallowed them.)

The reason why I wouldn’t suggest hand feeding to begin with is because your Corn Snake is only just getting used to you. As mentioned previously, Corn Snakes see heat, and your snake may become confused between its prey and your own hand. After a while though, it should be able to distinguish the difference as it will understand your notions. Remember to always wash your hands after feeding, as the next time you handle your snake, it my scent its prey on you! (Also, always wash hands before and after handling to prevent possible illness.)

If you realise that your snake does not like to take food directly from the ground (perhaps because it thinks the food’s already dead which sort of ruins the effect), you will have to use method two slightly differently. I recommend the purchase of feeding tongs which should entice your snake a little more. If this still doesn’t work, there was another trick that we used with Kaa. He was completely uninterested in his food until we did this. With a sharp knife, we cracked the skull of the food! This made it smell of blood which completely enticed Kaa and brought back his appetite.

I do remember that I used to love watching Kaa eat. I was simply fascinated by the way that such a little creature could have such a huge mouth when consuming his food. It just stretched and stretched and stretched and didn’t seem to stop!

Just recently, I found out how snakes do this. Snakes’ jaws are very adjustable; they actually have four main pieces as shown:







A Teen’s Story - Gone

Around this time, my brother (who was eight), got a pet Fire Salamander. Bizarrely, he named it Daniel. (Don’t ask.) It was fun, Daniel and Kaa outside in the garden – we used to make them race each other and Kaa always won.

Also around this time, we took Daniel and Kaa to the pet-store, just to make sure they were both males. Daniel was a boy, but Kaa was a girl! Previously, I had decided that if Kaa was in actual fact female, she would be called Kaala (like Carla). And so she was from then on Kaala.

October came and Kaala was due for a rat. I went to the fridge, took out a small box that said ‘Kaa’s Lunchbox’ and defrosted one of the biggest rats – we hadn’t fed her for a while. I went to give it to her. I unlocked the vivarium and checked the hide she usually hid in.

She wasn’t there.

Then I checked the other and she wasn’t there. I fished under the bark chips but she was not hiding there. I panicked. I yelled for Dad to come and see and I immediately felt guilty. The vivarium had a lock. The doors were locked shut when I came. How could she have escaped? Was it somehow my fault?

Dad checked with me that the doors were definitely locked when I first came to give the rat and I swore that they were. Feeling helpless, I went to have a shower whilst Dad checked the insides of the vivarium.

I was so worried and felt sick in the shower thinking; “What if she’s crawled up the hose I’m using now?” I know it’s stupid, but I wasn’t thinking straight.

Later, Dad called me to come and see something. I came and he was sitting by the vivarium. He pointed to the back wall of it and I saw that it was slightly wobbly. Now it became clear that Kaala had pushed her way through the back of the vivarium – presumably in search of food.

I wish snakes could speak and tell you when they are hungry.

For days, we tried to find her. We needed proof that she was still alive. Firstly, we knew that she would be hungry and searching for food. Through the Internet, we found a trick to retrieve your missing Corn Snakes – get a bottle with a thin top to it and put a defrosted rat inside. The idea was that Kaala would squirm into it and eat the rat, but not be able to get back out again after having consumed the large meal. We tried a couple of times to no effect.

We went back to our pet shop keeper who advised us not to use this method as it would make Kaala anxious at not being able to get out of the bottle. He reassured us that Kaala would come back; he had had similar experiences with past Corn Snakes. He did suggest putting towels in the corners of rooms – Corn Snakes like the warmth and so would go to sleep inside the towels.

We tried this and it didn’t work. Another website suggested putting small amounts of flour on hard surfaces and we might notice the outline of our snake wriggling through it – this didn’t work either.

As Kaala’s vivarium was in our conservatory, we made sure that the door to this room was closed so that no escape would be made possible.

Months went by and we didn’t expect to ever see Kaala alive again.


A Teen’s Story - Gone

It was Christmas Day and I had opened most of my presents. I had a couple left, and one turned out to be a new pet Corn Snake, DEFINITELY a male, verified by the pet-store! This Corn was sort of Motley and something else; I’m not quite sure, maybe Okeetee. He was around two years old and almost full size. He was extremely calm when I held him which was nice – he was completely unlike baby Corn Snakes that squirm a lot when handled. Don’t feel that you’re doing something wrong if at first your snake squirms about when you’re handling it! As Corn Snakes grow bigger, they become much calmer, like Harvey.

Dad explained that when Kaala comes back (he said ‘when’ but didn’t really believe it), they can be friends, even have babies together. I liked the idea, but didn’t think it would ever become a reality. Meanwhile, I loved Corn Snake No.2.

It was February and I must be honest, we forgot all about Kaala.

Our cousin had come to stay and we were eating breakfast. Mum was going to do a treasure hunt for us. My brother finished his breakfast and went into the conservatory to water his plants. He was going to water his Venus Fly Trap… and then he saw it.

He yelled for us to come. My cousin and I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying but then we saw it.

“I think it’s snake poo! It must be Kaala’s!”

We weren’t sure. It did look exactly like Kaala’s poos.

We went straight to Harvey’s vivarium, but he was safe and sound. It must be Kaala. Kaala must be alive.

We yelled for Mum to come and see, then Dad.

The evidence was on a window ledge, just above a chair.

“If the poo’s here, I wonder if…”

I lifted the cover of the chair and there she was, my beautiful Kaala.

We put her inside a small blue tub with warm towels in. We thought that she must be starving but she didn’t look too weak. Then we decided to defrost a rat and we gave it to her. She ate it in a shot.

We took Kaala to the pet shop, where they examined her and said that she seemed in good health, even though she had been gone for around four months. The shopkeeper said that the time she had escaped was the time when most Corn Snakes go into a sort of winter hibernation period. (Please note – for all Corn Snakes, turn temperatures down slightly in the winter for this period of hibernation.) The temperatures had dropped for Kaala so she went into this hibernation mode – she didn’t need to eat because of it. We bought some more rats and asked if it would be fine to put Kaala in with Harvey. The man said that this would be absolutely fine. He also noted that when we feed them, we must put them in separate containers or they would fight over the food.

We took Harvey out of the vivarium and put Kaala in – she could warm up first.

Then we put Harvey in and they both went wild.

They were just chasing each other round and round, flinching like mad. I felt that we shouldn’t have put them together so soon, but Dad said the shopkeeper was probably right and there was nothing to worry about.

  

Around seven weeks later, I had taken Kaala outside. She stopped to excrete and nothing came out for a while. I felt a little worried. Suddenly, something gory was slightly pushing its way out. I rushed to my dad and said it looked like she was giving birth, but he dismissed the claim.

The next day, my brother rushed into my room. He yelled that Kaala had laid eggs in the vivarium. I couldn’t believe it. Eggs? Eggs? I immediately felt shocked and sorry. They should never have been put together. It must have been stressful for Kaala.

I went to the vivarium, Harvey was hidden away and Kaala was sitting next to the eggs, half in her water bowl. She must have been hot, so we refilled it. She was agitated when I stroked her. I felt so sorry, yet so excited at the thought of new, baby snakes.

Throughout the night, Kaala laid more and more eggs until there were around thirty. And to think we never even noticed she had any eggs inside her.

We had placed all of the eggs carefully into a large tub filled with compost. Kaala was a mum and Harvey was a dad… hopefully.

There is a process you have to stick to when a female Corn is pregnant – certain temperatures have to be maintained and changed, there are many complications, but Kaala skipped all of that. Her being escaped for so long probably meant that she had gone through some of these stages – just a bit early, before she was even pregnant!

We realised that we didn’t have the incubator for the eggs, but our local pet shop let us use theirs.

When we went to show them the eggs, it was a different shopkeeper who seemed surprised.

“Hmm,” she said. “You shouldn’t have put them in together straight away. God, she’ll be so stressed.”

She took the eggs and put them into the incubator.

We hoped that we could sell a few to the shop because we certainly couldn’t manage them ourselves.




A Teen’s Story - End

Now you’re done, perhaps you want to head to our Shopping Section or browse some of

Our Images.

The Corn Snakes hatched from their eggs at last! I kept two of them, the others I left to the pet shop to sell on in the future, as a thank-you for their generosity.


I have many dreams for the future. I would like to own some more Corn Snakes. My parents doesn’t want me getting pets for a while, though. He says it’s the hassle but mainly the costs that go with the responsibility of owning a pet. But I would pay every penny.


I didn’t want to depress you in any way nor did I want to make you think that I was not fit to care for Corn Snakes. After all, I followed the rules, but if only I had been given more accurate information or had known more on the subject. What did I want it for then? Well, I wanted to write this book to teach you. But I also wanted you to learn from my mistakes, create a better future for your Corn Snake. Because you are caring for a living creature.

Perhaps part of me just wanted to get my emotions onto paper, but I didn’t want it to be read this way. I hope you appreciate my story, but also understand that solely, this is a guide. And by no means have I covered everything there is to know. For a start, I haven’t even begun to explain the process to go through when your Corn Snake is pregnant. This is not a definitive guide; you should seek advice online and through your pet-store owner.

  Here’s to the beginning of the future.




Afterword - Breeding

As written at the end there, Chris wasn’t educated on how to breed Corn Snakes successfully and incubate eggs. However, we’ve assembled a short step-by-step guide on how to breed Corn Snakes, because we know it is one of the hardest things to get right with pet Corn Snakes. However, it is important that you check with your :


1. Make sure that your male and female snakes are in different vivariums before brumation. (The reptile equivalent to hibernation).

2. Feed your Corn Snakes twice as much as they normally eat, starting at the very beginning of September

3. Stop feeding your corn snakes for three to four weeks before the brumation period begins. (This is normally around the end of the year).

4. Gradually cool the temperature down to 61 degrees F over a two week period, being certain that their stomachs are completely empty.

5. Reduce lighting. When you’re at the end of the second week, there should be no lighting at all,

6. Previously, you should have been changing your Corn Snake drinking water on a daily basis, but now change the water twice a week. However, when changing the water, be careful not to disturb you snake, as the whole effect of the brumation period may be ruined.

7. After this period of brumation, warm your snakes slowly over a period of two weeks, until they reach their normal body temperature, (Around 85 degrees F, around early March).

8. You can now start feeding your snakes again.

9. Once the female has had her first shed after brumation, put your male Corn Snake in with her.

10. Leave snakes overnight to (hopefully!) Mate.

11. Return the male to his original enclosure and leave for a few days, After this time, you can then return him to the female enclosure, and repeat this process up to five times if necessary,

12. Be prepared that a female will shed her skin around 10 to 14 days before she lays her eggs. If you notice this, fill a box with sphagnum moss, cut a hole in it for the eggs and leave in the female’s vivarium. It must be big enough to fit her eggs - probably around twice the size of her.

13. When you find eggs in the box, keep them the right side up before they go into the incubator - moving the eggs about can kill the snake inside. When in the incubator, place eggs on a damp layer of sphagnum moss, and then cover with more moss.

14. Leave the incubator temperature at 80 degrees F. The corn snake eggs should hatch after around 10 weeks or so.









Also as presented, the four sections can ‘pull apart’ from each other and because of this, effectively, the snake’s mouth can grow and grow!





Each separate part completely pulls away.

Feeding was a highlight of mine because snakes don’t chew, so they struggle to swallow the whole rodent in one go! The consumption of the prey generally takes around 10 minutes, give or take depending on the size of the food.

I found out that it was best not to disturb Kaa when he was eating as this could completely put him off his meal and make him lose interest all together.

Digestion after eating the Pinkie can take a while, so don’t handle your snake the day after feeding as it will still have the prey inside it – handling can upset your snake.

Exercise is also important. I always respected animals a lot and couldn’t bear to see them behind glass or bars all week. Corn Snakes need lots of exercise. I used to try to take mine out for fifteen minutes at least every two days. On colder days, I would handle them indoors or let them wriggle around on a large mat we had. I remember I used to curl the corners of the mat as Kaa seemed to like tunnelling through them.

Our pet shop keeper explained that it was fine to take Kaa outside in our garden, but we had to watch and stand by him to make sure that no bird mistook him for a worm. When it was warm, I strived to take Kaa out every day, knowing that the weather wouldn’t stay nice for much longer.

I remember days when Kaa wouldn’t eat, but he was overdue for a meal. I found that Kaa generally was happy for food after exercise however, so I would often let him have a good while wriggling around before he went back in his vivarium.

Make sure you don’t overfeed your snake. Its skin should only be level or slightly lower than the backbone.

Again, make sure that you fill your snake’s drinking bowl every other day (ideally, every day) and clean it every two weeks. Inside the vivarium, the drinking bowl shouldn’t be placed near any heat which could cause evaporation.

On the subject of heat, in our first vivarium, we had the heat lamp over one half and the heat mat on the other half. Please don’t do this as it will freak your snake out – it needs to be able to crawl into a cooler temperature if it overheats. When we discovered this problem, we put the heat lamp directly above the heat mat, leaving half of the vivarium at a cooler temperature. Due to this, you may want to consider purchasing two hides for your Corn Snake (as suggested before) – one in which it can cool down in and the other, it can warm up in.

Cleaning Kaa’s vivarium was a big ordeal for me.  As explained before, Kaa was on the mat whilst my brother watched over him. Throughout the week, if I found large bits of poo….um, whatsits in the vivarium, I would clear them out with the dustpan and brush. But this was the big day, the monthly clean-out. First of all, I took all of the things out of the vivarium. (Decorations, hides etc.) I had a large bag which I scooped all of the bark chips into. Unfortunately, the bark chips really stunk – the urine and other bits of excretion had sort-of dissolved into the chips. Some of the bigger bits of poo (sorry!) were still visible. I apologise for the detail, but some were hard and some were white and liquidy like bird poo! The poo just got worse as the snake got bigger! It was really disgusting, but had to be done. You may want to use disposable gloves for cleaning out the vivarium!

Once the bark chips were gone, I turned off the power and sprayed the inside of the vivarium with anti-bacterial spray and dried it lightly with kitchen roll. Then I put some more bark chips into the vivarium and evened them out. I didn’t put bark chips where the hides would go; instead I left a round space which I would put the sphagnum moss on.

I cleaned any of the objects that were also dirty with warm water and soap. And then I just put everything back, including Kaa!