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Tips for Breeding Corn Snakes

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Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

Tips for breeding corn snakes

Tips for breeding corn snakes

Breeding Snakes

Corn snakes are one of the most easily bred snakes in the reptile market. It's estimated that thousands are produced by hobbyists every year. When you decide to breed your snake, you need to remember that if you're going to sell the offspring, how will you compete with thousands of other snakes and hobbyists?

I do understand that by breeding your snakes, you will get the pleasure of seeing babies born, and in some cases, the surprise hatching of unusually attractive snakes. Just remember that as you acquire new snakes and sell the offspring to offset the expenses, it's still going to be an expensive hobby and more than likely you'll never make real money.

Think carefully before you decide to breed your snakes, as making an income is going to be very difficult and competitive. It's best to keep it small and fun, as it'll be easier for you to manage, and you'll see less expense.

If you really think that you'll make money and earn a large profit breeding snakes (or any reptile), you probably don't have a clear idea how the industry works. So it's best to start off small and enjoy it as a hobby before you find yourself selling your entire collection because of the burden.

(I don't mean to discourage anyone from breeding their reptiles, just remember that you want to do it because you have a passion for them. Make sure that you're not focusing on money because you'll never get anywhere, as it truly is a competitive market. I can relate this from personal experience, as I am a small-hobby breeder of select gecko species.)

Now let's talk about how to breed corn snakes.

Many suggest that if you cool them and put pairs together in early spring, corn snakes will breed more readily.

Motley corn snake

Motley corn snake

Prebreeding Conditions

First make sure that your snakes are in perfect health before you attempt to breed them. Any health defects and concerns can cause complications with the female and the offspring. Plus, when you set the snakes in a hibernation state, any sickly snakes will quickly deteriorate.

Before starting the brumation, put a little weight on the snakes, as they will lose a few grams or more. Either feed them larger prey or feed them at a higher frequency. Make sure to do this throughout summer and fall.

Right before you start brumation, make sure that the snakes have completely emptied their digestive tract.

Once you're sure that the snakes have emptied their digestive tract, you can set them at a pre-cooling state, in which you set them up in another tank with temperatures of about 65-70F for about 5-7 days.

Next, set them at temperatures between 55-60F for about a month, and then set the temperatures around 50F for another month or two, making the full brumation period about 2.5 to 3 months.

The slow decrease in temperatures helps to prevent shock to the snake's body, going from his normal temperatures to 50F would be a great shock and would probably cause more complications than a normal cooling process.

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After Cooling

After the snakes have been at 50F for at least a month, you will basically take the process in reverse. Set them at 65-70F for about 5-7 days, and then put them back in their regular enclosures or just up the temps to their regular level—however you have worked the cooling process.

After leaving them at their regular temperatures for about 2-3 days, go ahead and try to feed them a small meal, and after about 5 days start your regular feeding schedule and regimen.

When putting the male and female snake together, you have essentially two options.

  1. Wait until the female sheds once after coming out of brumation. This is considered the optimal breeding period because during this time, the skin of a freshly shed female may contain pheromones that can elicit courtship and breeding.
  2. Wait until the female has eaten 3 or 4 times after brumation. Many breeders prefer this method because it ensures that the female has recovered fully from brumation.

Once you've placed the male and female together, continue your regular feeding schedule, separating them for feeding.

Although most copulations occur at night, sometimes they will start to copulate after being fed and after shedding.

You can either separate the male and female after they have copulated a few times, or you can wait until you notice swelling in the females abdomen. Once you do notice the swelling, feed the female often to help boost her body's nutrition and to help reduce substantial weight loss.

By HGHjim

By HGHjim

Egg Laying

The female should lay the eggs about 20 to 30 days after copulation.

About 1 to 2 weeks (7-14 days) before the female lays, she will shed; after this point, she will not eat until after she lays the eggs.

This is the optimal point at which you should prepare the lay box. You can use a bucket or plastic storage box that is large enough for the female to coil in with an access hole in the side.

Fill the container half-full (or 1-2 inches) with moist (not saturated) medium (either peat moss, sphaghum moss, or vermiculite). This will help the eggs from dehydrating as well as from getting rolled around by the female's body.

In most cases the female will lay in the lay box, but otherwise, she may lay in another shelter under landscape.

During the laying process, do not disturb the female. This is a very stressful period. You may have to remove her from the box to gather the eggs, but make sure to give her at least 2 or 3 hours to rest after she's completed laying. At this point you should go ahead and offer a small meal to help boost her nutrients.

Incubation

The last thing that you want to do is lose the eggs after all this trouble, so make sure that you are able to get appropriate 1) temperatures and 2) humidity levels. You can't do this without proper incubation, so don't leave the eggs in the enclosure. It is not so common to see eggs successfully hatched when they are left in the enclosure with the female snake.

You can either use a hovabator incubator, or any poultry style incubator (WITHOUT the egg turner); a homemade incubator made from a styrofoam cooler, heat tape, and a thermostat; or a shelf in a room that has a stable temperature of 76-86F. Yes, that means if you purchase or make an incubator, you need to have the incubation temperature set to 76-86F.

Typically, the higher the temperature, the sooner the eggs will hatch, but that can also cause problems with hatchlings that grow too fast. Setting the temperature to about 80-84F should be ideal, and the snakes should hatch around 50-55 days (give or take).

When incubating the eggs, you'll want to use a medium that will hold the humidity well. Many people recommend vermiculite and perlite. Mix the medium with water, using a 4:3 ratio (medium:water). Some breeders prefer a 1:1 ratio. Just make sure that the medium is moist, but not overly moist so that you can squeeze water out of a clump of the medium.

The container that you decide to use needs ventilation holes (small ones) that allow air exchange.

Bury the eggs so that one-half to one-third of the egg is still visible. Be very careful not to turn the eggs over, as you risk drowning the embryo.

After about 40-45 days many breeders will take a moist paper towel or newspaper and cover the eggs. This is thought to keep the egg shells soft to give the hatchlings an easier time breaking through.

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.

Comments

Hayley4tino on August 25, 2013:

I thought you might find this information useful. I know the usual incubation time is 60-70 days but one of the snake eggs in my incubator hatched after 92 days and now two more are hatching as well !!! the temperature and humidity is correct I think, the babies seem healthy and they hatched naturally.

Nixy on April 20, 2012:

I have a 4 yr old female who is getting ready to lay her second clutch. She shares a large cage with the male and another female who is only about 18 months old. she wont let the male in her lay box so now he has taken up chasing the younger female all over the cage. Should i remove him and only join him for breeding. My females get along great.

lexy on April 07, 2012:

check out iansvivarium.com there is a corn snake calc. that will tell you what chance % wise you'll have based onwhat you input for the bred of male and female i found it to be very helpful

JOJO on April 04, 2012:

Just sucessfully mated Mabd and Herne, a crimson and caramel corn snakes. Looking forward to gravid?

grant on February 29, 2012:

am a experienced snake breeder and i dissagree on all ur stuff i make a large profit and it dosent coast me a peeny and ur tempertures should always be at 102c bredding teps sits at 70c 1month then 50c the next

Cheyenne on February 27, 2012:

I have a female corn and she is not eating its been about two weeks she has been seen by the vet and he thinks she could be getting ready to lay eggs is this normal? Not eating.

John on February 12, 2012:

After having a clutch each 2 female corns had lumps near their vents. After about a month they both exiting them. Them being hard eggs (slugs). One of them has more, bigger then the first. Is this normal?

Tristan on August 30, 2011:

Hi, thanks for the article, but there's something I need to know. My corn snakes laid eggs but I don't think they're the right size. They're about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, but they are very skinny (1/2 to 3/4 inch) and they don't look like the ones I see pictures of online. Are they big enough? Do the dents in them mean anything? Thanks

colette on August 21, 2011:

Hi our corn snake has laid eggs about 68 days ago we bought an incubator and are thinking will they hatch they are white and plump and looking very healthy but no sign of hatching there is some pimpling on htem but no cracking also our female is acting strange again and not eating so im sure she is going to lay again is that possible and should we separate her from the male as i dnt want her to keep getting caught by him as i dnt want her to be hurt by him as she is my favourite one

tyler manchen on August 14, 2011:

i seen afew questions in the last bit id like to answer 1 was you do not take the eggs out 1 at a time as shes lays them you wait afew hours after the female lays them because its tiring for her and you half to let her rest for a bit before taking her off the clutch, also it does not matter you can put the male with the female or the female with the male does not matter witch order leave them together until your female is noticibly showing, the female must be no less then 3 years 3 years is the minumum and must be 300 grams this does not apply to the male the male can be a bit younger.

MarkMAllen15 on July 01, 2011:

I never thought snakes also need incubation. Thanks for the knowledge you shared! Very good hub!

david brombaugh on June 26, 2011:

hi i have a male snowball corn and a red female corn i want to put them togather in the same tank would anything happen the male is 45 inches long and the female is a little over 2 foot long what do i do my number is 641-919-2127

Tristan on June 12, 2011:

Thank you so much! Such a helpful article!

Tammy21 on May 30, 2011:

Hello :) this page is so helpful and I can not believe how rude some people can be! Anyway I have had a surprise clutch I noticed them this morning I didn't have a clue in what to do so I called the safari park and was told I could incubate eggs in a pot in viv on top of heat mat and under light I rushed out and bought the vermiculite now I have a few questions if that's ok! Am I doing right in completely covering the eggs with vermiculite?a few eggs have sunk a little so I'm spraying them every few hours is this ok? And mum is very slim and weak I have tried feeding her but she won't take,it was not my intention to breed and I have now separated the snakes I had been told one was girl one was boy then both females I also didn't know they could hurt each other at all hence me separating them now I have seen and read this thoroughly your brilliant and your advice is spot on :) x

darrius on May 23, 2011:

I have just bought 2 corn snakes 1 albino and 1 albino snow what color will i get?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 15, 2011:

What substrate are you using? Depending on the substrate, whether you poke hols will vary. Do not poke holes if you are using hatchrite, otherwise, there's no reason why you can't poke small holes for air ventillation.

cornsnakes11 on March 14, 2011:

hi could some one please give me there opinion please as i'm due to incubate my first clutch and i have been told 2 different things some ppl have told me not to put holes in the tubs they need to be airtight. and some ppl have told me to put holes in the side i'm confused which is the best please help me many thanks

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 09, 2011:

You should not keep them together. Colubrids are cannibalistic.

It's not necessarily age, but weight. At least 3-4 years, in some cases. The female should be at least 300 grams.

jessabella on March 09, 2011:

Just got a baby corn snake and i am planning to breed her.

Around what age could I breed her?

How long can I keep the 2 together they are male and female. male is 36cm and the female is 42cm

Lise on February 28, 2011:

Breeding female corns should be 3 yrs, 300 gr. and 3 feet long. Waiting until they're bigger increases chance of healthy eggs and reduces risk of her being unable to lay.

Male should just be old enough to show interest in her and big enough not to get eaten :D

cobained on February 03, 2011:

some good info here, some bad. i would recommend visiting cornsnakes.com to learn all about proper husbandry, breeding, genetics, etc. great info there. females corns should be at least 3 years old, 3 feet long, and 300g before breeding. males can breed much smaller if they're willing. if you breed a butter mot to an albino mot, you'll get all albino mots unless there are hets involved. A reverse okeetee is a line-bred amel/albino, so all the babies will be amels.

Kernel on January 30, 2011:

I can't wait either. What do you think I would get if I bred my female butter motley with either my male albino striped motley or my snow striped. How long do you think it will be before I can breed them. The butter motley is 8 months old, the snow striped is 6 months old and the albino striped motley is a year old.

Ashlee on January 28, 2011:

I cannot wait to breed mine. I have 2 possible places for the babies to go if they don't sell.

I have a Male Reverse Okeetee (gorgeous!) and a Female Amel. I'm curious as to what colors I will get! but they are still young so I have a while to wait :(

ben johnson on January 23, 2011:

do i take the eggs out one by one as she is laying them, or do i wait until she lays them all

frodo_odorf on December 30, 2010:

would u put the male in the females tank, or the female in the males tank?

Dragonfly on December 30, 2010:

Okay so I recently purchased two corn snakes, from a breeder who has been doing it for about 20 years, he took the time to let me handle them, feed them, and basicly see everything it took to care for them along with matching me with two beautiful snakes I adore. The problem is he told me it was ok to house them together as long as I dont mind suprise babys, which he said he would buy back from me in the event this happened or we could trade so I would have non-related in the case I wanted to continue breeding. I got one massive tank for them to live together in, and by massive I mean the tank is 6ft at least, I can lay down in it. Can I possibly split the tank in half, I was out a lot of expense to have that one built and get everything for one on that scale.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 12, 2010:

I wouldn't recommend it

tom on December 11, 2010:

do you have to do all this or can you just get a male and female and just put them togrther and then see what happens

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 08, 2010:

Online. Sometimes you can find them at feed stores. You want one without a fan.

frodo_odorf on December 08, 2010:

do you get them online or from a store? if you get them from a store, what store

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 07, 2010:

About $50 plus shipping, give or take depending on where you get it.

frodo_odorf on December 07, 2010:

thankyou, and how much would the hovabator incubator cost at most?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 07, 2010:

No you cannot mix the species to house together or to breed together. corns with corns, and rats with rats.

I like the hovabator incubators.

frodo_odorf on December 06, 2010:

is it possable for a corn snake to breed with a rat snake?

frodo_odorf on December 06, 2010:

out of all the incubators you suggested, which would be the best for the eggs? and which one is the easiest to control the temp?

Tods albino on November 23, 2010:

I have a 4yr old albino corn snake was told it was a male to my knowledge it's never bneen around another snake buttoday when I was going to clean it's tank I found 4 wierd looking things in it's favorite hollow rock hideout.They are yellow semi oval looking things anyone have any idea what they might be?

chas on November 08, 2010:

Hi I have had a corn from a baby,(female I think) who is now snake 2 Ft long aprox and is about to outgrow her enclosure, and now I am used to her, would like to get another corn about the same size. Will I be able to keep them both in the same enclosure at this size if I buy another female, I do not want to breed yet. And how big do I need to get an enclosure.

Guston on November 06, 2010:

hi my corn snakes mated about a month ago and now the female is gravid with 17 eggs my question is, my female is a florescent and my male a sunglow, what morph will the ofspring be. thanks.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 01, 2010:

Feed appropriately sized feeders. No need for a special diet.

Leanne on October 31, 2010:

After the snake lays eggs, how soon does she eat afterwards and get back to eating normal? and what sort of foods do you give to boost calcium?

Siri on October 26, 2010:

The biggest problem you come across when "popping" a snake that is too old is damage to the muscular system. It is very common to see snakes that have what looks like a divet near their genitals, which is the result of dead muscle in the area. The muscle gets squeezed too hard, and the blood vessels become damaged and can no longer take blood to the muscle, so it dies.

And yes, it is perfectly possible for a snake to be unable to breed after being "popped" the wrong way. Think about it this way....how do you think you would feel if someone put your ovaries in a vice grip....

peaches on October 18, 2010:

question for Siri, on popping what kind of damage? will the be unable to breed? what are the chances of not hurting the snake? and why has nobody els said this?

Siri on October 05, 2010:

One more note on sexing. Please for the love of God, Do not "pop" a snake that is over 2 weeks old. Esp, if you do not have extensive experience in doing so. You are very likely to damage, not only the sexual organs, but also the muscle stucture of the snake if you are inexperienced or the snake is too old.

Siri on October 05, 2010:

Quick question. I know HOW to breed snakes, been doing it my whole life, my father many years longer lol. Im just not sure on colorings. A male Creamsicle and female Bloodred can produce Amelanistic correct? Possibly with some more Creams in the mix since both are resessive traits.

(Yes I know the chance of a difficult clutch with the Bloodred)

And to those who are wondering about the sex of your snake. Simple way to tell, no vet needed, but can only be done on an older jueve (at least 6 months.) If the end of the body tapers very sharply into the tail (at a 45-90 degree angle on the bottom of the body) it is a female. If the body very slowly and gracefully tapers to a tip it is a male.

meeah on September 20, 2010:

Hi my baby snake is really active but she hasn't eaten anything yet. we have been told that we shouldn't worry about it since she is active and growing bigger. Is there any thing i can do to get her to eat?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 30, 2010:

They will breed. You are risking one eating or harming another.

Rabbit01 on August 29, 2010:

Hi! i have a beautiful 13 month old albino corn snake named Eve and have been offered her 2 brothers and have been umming and arring about having them, can i keep them together?, will they breed etc etc?! and i'd just like to pass on my thanks (and Eve's) for the fantastic info on this site it's brill!! :)

lynne on August 20, 2010:

okay thxs very much

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 20, 2010:

They will be infertile if she's never been with another snake. You can just trash them.

lynne on August 20, 2010:

i thought i had a male corn snake , but woke up this mornin went out to work come home and the snake as had 24 eggs, its never been with another snake what od i do plz first time having a snake

lahoriamplifier from Lahore on August 10, 2010:

well lovely images of snakes

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 04, 2010:

It should have had at least 3 successful feedings. Personally, the older the better, as they're more established. If this is your first snake, I'd try finding one that is around 4-6 months and out of the finicky stages.

mand on August 03, 2010:

Hi-

How old should a hatchling be before you bring it to a new home. Looking for a young corn snake for my daughter and a local breeder has 2 week old hatchlings for sale. That seems young. Should they be eating already and should they have shed first

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 30, 2010:

Give it some time before trying to regularly hold them. You may stress out the hatchlings if you try to handle them too much right off the bat

Meeah on July 30, 2010:

hello

one of the baby snakes has hatched. He/she is so small, and was wiggling quite a bit when i transfered him/her to a seperate box. So how do i calm the snake down enough to hold him/her safely.

thank you.

Meeah on July 26, 2010:

ok thank you i will change it

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 25, 2010:

It's not ideal to use sand as an incubation medium. Try changing to perlite, vermiculite, super hatch, or even hatch rite.

Meeah on July 25, 2010:

Hi Whitney

when i top up the humidity in the incubator, the sand dosen't absorb it very well, so i so now i don't top it up incase the eggs over hydrate in the little pools of water. Is that ok (humidity 65).

thank you.

Internetwriter62 from Marco Island, Florida on July 14, 2010:

Hi Whitney05,

I don't know a lot about snakes, because I fear them greatly. Your article is fascinating, I never realized the amount of work involved in breeding corn snakes. The brumation process alone is pretty complex. I guess this gives even me a new appreciation for snake breeding. Thanks for a fascinating hub.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 14, 2010:

Rob, thank you for the extra information

Rob on July 13, 2010:

Also Temperature dictates if it is female or male to high of a temperature and the snakes will be overly aggressive and no one will buy them.

Rob on July 13, 2010:

One very important piece of info you are missing is prior to breeding taking the mouse and coat it in a calcium powder you will get much healthier eggs and far more i have had as many as 32 eggs (31 hatched, I usually get 20-24. I do find your post helpful for beginners but you spend an awful lot of time talking about separating your snakes and not nearly enough time talking about finding the home first before breeding.

Ps I have 5 snakes in one huge cage (3ft deep, 15 ft long and 4 ft high 3 hot spots and 4 cold)

Also breeding twice a year is the max it is hard on your snake. you can get 4 per year but it is very hard on your snake and your get less eggs.

Also it is important that people know corn snakes can live 20 years and only breed for a few of them so this is not a business it is a very interesting hobby.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 12, 2010:

gemma, they should swell a little. You should be able to candle them to see if they are good or not. If they glow a pink they are fertile. Sometimes, though, if the eggs are near hatching, they will be very dark and not necessarily pink. The loose moss will be fine. Let them incubate full term and a week or so longer. Sometimes they take a little longer. Some breeders will pip the eggs to help the snakes along, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend that if you don't know what you're doing.

arose, it sounds like the snake had more problems than just parasites. I would avoid getting a snake from a pet store. Try finding a breeder. Properly disinfect the cage and all accessories. If you had any natural decor, like wood, you want to make sure to either throw them out or find proper cleaning methods.

arose on July 11, 2010:

earlier this year i received a female snow corn snake as a surprise from my uncle. but the store we got her from i think gave her a parisite. her mouth turned yellow all around the mouth, and her skin was sagging. she pooped out something that looked like a worm and then she died. i was wondering if you know what this is, beacause i am thinking about getting new snakes. but i don't want this to happen again. i'm only twelve, but what do you reccomend?

gemma on July 08, 2010:

sorry just one other thing, i understand if the temp is lower it takes longer, but how long do i wait till i throw the eggs away if they are dudd and nothing is happerning?

thank whitney

gemma on July 08, 2010:

hi my corn snake laid 14 eggs and they are due to hatch this week, i have been told they swell? is there any other signs that i could look for, they have been incubated corectly, we lost one right at the begining but just left it, they have gone discoloured but i think that may be the moss,