Best Pet Snake Species for Children and Beginners
Do Snakes Make Good Pets For Children?
The answer really depends on the following three things:
- What kind of pet your child wants
- The type of relationship your child wants with their pet (obviously a pet snake isn't going to welcome you home every day with a warm greeting)
- The species of snake
There are certainly a lot of perks to keeping a pet snake for adults and children alike - firstly, snake keeping is not time consuming - in fact the species listed in this article require very little fuss providing their initial set up is correct.
Black And White Corn Snake Colour Morph
This species of snake is relatively small and slender with an average length of about 24 to 72 inches (61 to 182 cm). They are usually orange or dark yellow in colour and usually have black edged red blotches down their backs. Their bellies have a checkerboard-like appearance with black and white marks.
Corn snakes are normally active during the day and sleep at night. Wild corn snakes are known to be good climbers and will even manage to get up small trees, so providing rocks and logs is a great way to keep your corn snake happy whilst he is in his tank/vivarium.
Because these snakes are not venomous or aggressive they are one of the most popular pet snakes and are easy to care for, handle and feed. They make great pets for people who don't have much time to dedicate to their pet and also for beginners/children.
The typical lifespan of a corn snake is around 6 years in the wild - but up to 23 years when being cared for as a pet! This means that getting a corn snake is a long-term commitment and you may want to consider re homing one that is already a few years old.
Generally corn snakes are timid, but can easily become used to being handled and will crawl up and down people quite happily - they usually have good temperaments and it isn't in their nature to bite. It is worth noting that any snake will become bad tempered and is more likely to bite if it is cold or hungry - so to keep the happy pet-owner relationship alive you will need to ensure you have the correct heating, housing and food available for your snake.
Most captive corn snakes will eat a small mouse once every few days, though the exact size of the mouse depends entirely on the size of your corn snake. After being fed, a corn snake can become unwell or distressed if handled too soon and owners are advised to give the snake a day or so to digest the mouse.
California King Snake
There are different types of king snake and within these subspecies there are a huge variety of colours to choose from including albinos and rare colour morphs that are not found in the wild. Most people think of the tri-coloured scarlet king snake as one of the most commonly kept type of king snake, but there are many more colours available.
The tri-coloured king snakes can sometimes be mistaken for coral snakes, which are venomous and not advised as pet snakes. Coral snakes have the same three colours present on their bodies in the same ringed appearance too - but in a different order. If you see a coral snake you will note the ring order is red, yellow, black, yellow, red. A king snake's colour order is red, black, yellow.
A short rhyme was created to help people remember;
"Red to yellow - kill a fellow, red to black - venom lack".
The average lifespan for a king snake varies depending on the species. The Californian king snake will often pass the age of 20 years, but other species tend to average at around 15 years old.
There are 10 different species of "common king snake" and this group of snakes (considered the largest of all king snakes subspecies) grow to 4-6 ft in length. That said, providing you can afford a large enough enclosure and have done your research about the requirements of this species, I would strongly recommend this as a first snake. They are naturally energetic and make a very interesting addition to any household. They rarely bite as adults if they are handled often and appropriately (hatchlings do bite often if cornered, but calm down with regular handling - their bites don't hurt much), and they are easily tamed.
King snakes will feed on other snakes, amphibians, birds and rodents in the wild, but do well in captivity on mice, starting on "pinkies" (very tiny baby mice), as hatchlings and gradually eating larger and larger mice. Never feed your snake live mice - apart from being extremely cruel and unnecessary, the mouse may bite your snake which can lead to health problems (infections can be fatal).
Coral Vs King Snake
Ball Python or "Royal" Python
Ball pythons get their name from the way they curl themselves into a tight ball of coils with their head in the middle when they feel threatened or afraid. Cleopatra apparently used to wear these snakes (alive), coiled around her wrists, hence why they are sometimes referred to as "Royal" pythons.
It may surprise you that a python is on the list of easiest snakes to keep, but it's true - they really are wonderful pets. Not only are their needs simple, but they are also not prone to aggressive behaviour and bites are rare.
Housing Your Ball Python
Very young ball pythons will only need a 20 gallon terrarium, but remember it is cheaper as well as much better for the snake to buy a larger enclosure which you know will last for more than just a few years. A fully grown adult python will require a 40+ gallon tank and this needs to be extremely secure as ball pythons are renowned as masters of escape.
Substrates come in a range of different styles and offer different benefits. You should never use wood chips or shavings as these can be eaten and cause serious illness or death. Appropriate bedding for a ball python includes:
- Cypress mulch
You will need to include a water bowl or pool large enough for your snake to submerse itself in, but this needs to be heavy enough that it cannot be over turned or knocked over by the snake.
Your ball python will benefit from being kept at a temperature of around 80 degrees in the day time with a basking area of 90 degrees. This temperature should drop to about 72 or 73 degrees Fahrenheit at nighttime. Never use heat rocks - they can burn your snake.
The snake's enclosure should be lit for 12 hours and made dark for 12 hours to imitate day and night. You can gradually lengthen the light hours to 14 a day to imitate summer months. Humidity should be kept between 50% and 60% but needs to be increased to 65% when your ball python shows signs of shedding.
As with most snake species, ball pythons require very little cleaning out, though fresh water should be given daily and soiled bedding should be removed and replaced as and when it happens.
Please note that this snake can live for 30 years and the oldest one recorded was 48 years old when it died, so deciding to get a ball python really is a life commitment!
Ball Python Enclosure Checklist
- Fluorescent strip light with UV bulb and a timer
- Hiding house, hollow long or hollow rock
- Water pool
- Branches, for climbing
- Safe substrate
- Artificial plants for cover
- Dome light with reptile bulb
- A secure, large terrarium
- An under tank heater