Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and a 2019 bride!
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. First, 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.
Easy-Care Snakes for Beginners and Kids
- Corn Snakes
- California King Snakes
- Ball Pythons or "Royal" Pythons
1. Corn Snakes
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.
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.
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.
2. California King Snakes
There are different types of king snakes, 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.
Tri-Coloured King Snakes vs. Coral Snakes
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).
3. 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.
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.
Temperature, Lighting and Humidity
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.
Cleaning the Enclosure
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
Would You Buy a Snake for Your Child?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Anna on June 08, 2020:
I would really recommend a ball python - they are absolutely wonderful snakes, live a long time and will get REALLY BIG which, when you’re a kid is awesome whereas corn snakes, while lovely, stay fairly small. I also think ball pythons deal with being handled really well because of their size. When you go to a reptile breeder make sure your child can meet the snakes and maybe have your child hold and meet 2 or 3 different species before they decide on “the one”
No name on June 05, 2020:
What do you think is the best one for a 13 year old?
juliana on April 22, 2020:
ive always wanted a snake at my old school rattle snakes lived in the sewer
luke on March 25, 2020:
i think rubber boa is another good oe
Haylee on October 09, 2019:
i think that corn snakes are nocturnal. just double check your snake and do extra research before you get your snake. other than that this site has helped.
Saydee on September 14, 2019:
I love snakes
Dan on May 31, 2019:
All honesty all the snakes you listed make great starter snakes know me personally I preferred boas and African rock pythons I also been raising snakes for the past twenty-some years
w on April 24, 2019:
mom cheese is good
Gghgfgbg on April 10, 2019:
Hi I do not think a ball python is going to make a good starters snake maybe small ones but not that big like a garter snake would be good
jade brown on March 22, 2019:
I have a corn snake. she came from the desert.
asly toress on March 22, 2019:
I love this I ca learned more about snakes. I have a corn snake.
Tomarion on March 13, 2019:
I what a snake really really bad
Damiand on February 18, 2019:
I want a snake
amber cat on October 09, 2018:
a good website to get snakes id underground reptiles
Hi no name on October 08, 2018:
My daughter is 11 and she wants a snake she would like to be able to handle it/ for it not to be aggressive which do you think is best for her
Geniveve on September 09, 2018:
Shouldn't a garter snake be on the list???
dMartens47 on August 16, 2018:
Seen a Scarlet king snake in person, beautiful scale!
Aaron Dartez on August 05, 2018:
I have 3 snakes, 2 ball pythons and a western hognose. The ball pythons are more friendly and love to be held but the hognose is a great pet as well. Just have to make sure to keep something for them to burrow into
no on July 07, 2018:
i am going to get a milk or corn or king snake.
you dont need to know on April 11, 2018:
i want a white snake soooooo bad and i cant find any info on it and i have a ball python
Reese on December 01, 2017:
My have brother Ball python
Snakelover 222 on November 27, 2017:
I really want a ball python and THIS helped me a lot thanks!!!
Little Girl on August 26, 2017:
This article helped me!
I have wanted a snake for soooooo long, but my dad won't let me.
I already have a Blue Tounge Lizard, but I want a snake.
I'm going to show my dad this article, and hopefully he will let me get a snake.
Oh and my Step-Mum LOVES reptiles like me! :)
Jmk on February 26, 2017:
Great comparison, except the ball python checklist. They shouldn't have lights or climbing branches.
snakes arccol on February 10, 2017:
corn snakes are cool
corn snakes on December 08, 2016:
This was the best thing ever
MILKSNAKES :) on November 11, 2016:
Milk snakes should really be on here too, they are completely harmless, have great atutudes, and they don't grow to be very big ( 36 to 48 inches )
Sheilamarie from British Columbia on March 28, 2015:
I remember when my kids were in middle school and we took home the very large (!) boa constrictor over Christmas break.
Anna (author) from chichester on March 16, 2015:
Thank you everyone for your comments - actually the hog nose should be on his list you're absolutely right - they're easy to care for and really fascinating creatures! Can't believe I forgot to include and I'll amend that straight away :) thank you for the suggestions! :)
Butch Tool from Southern California on March 16, 2015:
I used to play with garter snakes I found in the yard. I never was allowed to bring a snake into the house, though (at least, not that anyone knew about). However, I think my spouse would murder me if I asked for a pet snake now.
Suzie from Carson City on March 15, 2015:
Anna....I'm gonna have to parrot our friend Flourish. While your work on this hub is outstanding & extremely well-written, "snakes" are not at all my notion of a pet. I have all the typical fears & aversions you've ever known of...and don't ask me WHY. I just do.
If anyone approached me with Tsad's "hog-nose snake" it would be ME who rolls over and plays dead. I may not even be playing! LOL
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 15, 2015:
Although snakes are not for me, this was an excellent and well presented hub -- very well presented. Voted up and more.
The Logician from then to now on on March 15, 2015:
Great hub page, only I was disappointed to not see one of my favorites listed, the hog nose snake, which was my first snake as a child. Their ability to roll over and play dead was interesting.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 14, 2015:
Good article. I bought a California King Snake for my daughter when she was old enough to have a first snake, and I am glad to see you included such a good review of them on your list.
Voted up and interesting. I enjoyed looking at several of the hubs on your profile page.