Jami has experience caring for corn snakes and enjoys offering advice on basic corn snake husbandry.
A Beginner's Guide to Snakes: Corn Snake
Perhaps you've reached a point in your life where you've realized that reptiles are convenient pets, and you're interested in keeping these docile, tame, loving, and intelligent creatures. You've finally decided to take the plunge on getting a reptile and want to purchase your first pet snake, but you are unsure what to buy since you are only a beginner.
If you are a beginner (or even an expert) looking to make your home feel whole by purchasing a pet reptile, you should really consider purchasing a pet corn snake. They make the perfect pets for any person and family.
Why a Corn Snake Is the Best Choice for a Beginner
All snakes are different, just as you are different from me. Some snakes are very temperamental while others are very tame, docile, and tolerant to human handling. Some snakes are more high maintenance while others are very easily maintained. If you are a beginner, you never want to buy a snake that you cannot take care of. If you desire to be a snake owner, you must start small, and you must be able to choose a healthy animal that you will be able to house, feed, and care for throughout the animal's life span.
A corn snake is the best first snake any person(s) can buy. These snakes are one of the most common captive-bred snakes, and they're also one of the most docile. These snakes can be found in many different morphs (color patterns), are easy to keep and handle, and are widely available.
What to Learn Before Buying Your Snake
Now that you lean towards buying a corn snake, there is a lot you must now consider before purchasing your new pet. Corn snakes are widely bred in captivity (and some are wild caught and sold, even though this is frowned upon) and come in a large variety of sizes and morphs, and you will be exposed to many different vendors. You must know how to find a healthy corn snake that is aesthetically pleasing to you (and your family), and you must be willing to care for this awesome creature for years to come.
Where to Buy a Pet Corn Snake
Luckily for you, you can purchase a corn snake anywhere that sells reptiles. Since there is a large market and demand for corn snakes, they are easily found and very easily kept. You can find corn snakes at a local pet shop (one that sells reptiles), a corporate pet shop (such as Petco), reptile conventions and expositions, private sales, and online breeding companies.
There are several places you can buy your first corn snake. Most people buy corn snakes at the local pet shops in the area. Most pet shops, whether they are a small "ma and pop" pet shop or a large corporation, will carry, distribute and sell corn snakes. Buying your corn snake in a pet store can be rewarding because you will be able to hold, handle, and inspect the snake prior to your purchase.
Along with the pros of buying in a pet shop, there are cons as well. If you decide to purchase your corn snake from a pet shop, the owner (or employees) will most likely not know the gender or the genetics of the snake (so if you plan to breed in the future, buying your corn snake from a pet shop may not be the best option for you).
One of the most convenient places to purchase a corn snake is on the Internet. Finding a corn snake on the Internet is fast and extremely easy. If you decide to purchase a corn snake on-line, you will most likely be exposed to an extremely high amount of options when it comes to coloring and morphs of corn snakes, and this can become overwhelming.
Buying a snake on-line is convenient because many on-line vendors are the producers and breeders of these snakes and offer a wide range of information on these creatures before a purchase is made. It is also most likely that you will be able to find exactly what you are looking for for the price you are willing to spend (corn snakes are generally no more than forty US dollars).
The Internet also provides first time owners with the exposure to reptile and corn snake forums which allow you to ask questions and gain insight from experienced corn snake owners and breeders (while allowing you to find the best breeder and corn snake for you).
Conventions and Expositions
The most fun and exciting place to buy a corn snake is at a reptile expo (or convention). Reptile expos are where a large amount of different vendors from all over the country get together in one space to sell all different kinds of species of reptiles and supplies.
Reptile expos are not only fun and exciting but they give you an opportunity to hold, handle and inquire about the snake before purchasing. An added bonus to expos is that the people who you will speak to about the snake you are about to purchase is the breeder of that particular animal, so they will know the gender, the specific morph, and the genetics of the snake as well as answer any specific questions you may have about the corn snake.
If you decide to purchase your corn snake at an expo make sure to get the breeders contact information (business card) so that in the future they will be able to answer any questions, provide tips and advice, and just in case the animal becomes ill or dies within the first few days of owning your new corn snake.
Some Questions to Ask Prior to Purchasing Your Corn Snake
Before you decide to buy an animal, there are several questions you should ask the seller (whether you are buying from a pet store, online, or at an expo).
What to Ask the Seller
Some questions to ask prior to purchasing your corn snake are as follows:
- How long has this snake been in the store?
- How old is this snake?
- Has this snake eaten yet (if it is a baby)?
- Are you aware of any health issues that may affect this snake?
- Does this snake of a history of being hostile or biting?
- What is the temperament of this snake?
- What should I be feeding this snake?
- How often should I be feeding this snake?
- Do you know the gender of this snake?
- Do you know the genetics of this snake?
- Do you have the supplies I need for this snake?
- What kind of supplies do I need for this snake?
- How big of an enclosure should I buy?
- Do you have any health guarantees or warranties?
- How should I transport this animal?
- How long should I wait before handling this animal?
What to Ask the Online Vendor
Some questions that are more specific to Internet purchases are as follows:
- How long has this web site been in operation?
- Do this web site have a written warranty?
- Did you produce this snake (did the owner of the website personally breed this snake)? If not, who did?
- Has this snake eaten yet?
- How often has this snake been fed and what has it been fed?
- Do you guarantee correct gender?
- What is the gender?
- How do you ship your reptiles?
- What are the specifics needed to know prior to shipping a live reptile?
- When the creature arrives, what should I do?
- How long should I wait before handling this animal?
Where Are Corn Snakes Native?
The natural habitat of corn snakes are in the grasslands and pine forests of the east coast of the United States. Corn snakes' natural range is from the Florida Keys northward to New Jersey, stretching westward as far as Arkansas and Louisiana. The primary range where corn snakes are found are anywhere in the southeastern area of the United States.
Many people find corn snakes in their backyards, homes, pine forests, etc. Corn snakes are not aggressive and can be removed from a place where they are unwanted (like inside your home) quite easily without harming the animal. Corn snakes have adapted and evolved around humans and to live in many different environments; this is due to deforestation and the ruin of their natural habitats. Corn snakes are very tolerant to humans, which is why they make such great pets for the beginner (or expert) snake owner.
How to Select a Pet Corn Snake
Corn snakes come in a variety of sizes, color variations and morphs, so when choosing a corn snake it is important to find one that is aesthetically pleasing to yourself (and any other person whom may be forced to look at it).
Do Not Buy a Wild-Caught Snake
I would suggest never purchasing a wild-caught corn snake. These animals should be avoided because the temperament is unpredictable since they have lived in the wild. It is also best to avoid places that sell wild-caught animals. If it is born in the wild it should be kept in the wild. Also, wild-caught animals are more susceptible to parasites, bacterium, and other illness.
Sizes of Pet Corn Snakes
The size of the corn snake is very important in considering before you purchase a snake. The size of the snake determines the housing and care for the creature. The size of the snake determines the size of its prey, the size of it's enclosure, the snakes temperament and tolerance to handling.
Babies eat small inexpensive prey (pink mice). If you decide to purchase a baby you will be able to watch it grow into an adult and watch as it changes in size, color, watch it change the size of prey and shed (which are very cool to experience).
If you buy a baby, you must know that you cannot handle it as often because babies are more easily started, and handling can cause stress to the animal. Before buying a baby, make sure the animal has eaten at least once before (some hatchlings have issues eating).
Corn snakes that are not hatchlings, but are not yet full grown are great to consider before deciding to purchase your first snake. These animals are already raised to thrive; they are guaranteed to have eaten numerous times and are less likely to have issues. These snakes are more tolerant and used to being handled.
Mid-sized corn snakes are still inexpensive and easy to care for, but they do eat a larger size prey (make sure to inquire what size prey the snake eats before purchasing an animal).
Purchasing or adopting an adult corn snake is always an option as well. When corn snakes reach adulthood, some people no longer want to care for the animal, so many are available for adoption. Another option is to purchase an adult corn snake (which is more than likely to be a retired breeder).
An adult corn snake will eat fairly large and more expensive prey, but will eat less often as a smaller snake would. An adult needs a larger enclosure, but is more tolerant to handling, even if handled by a young child.
Colors and Morphs
There are a wide range of color variations and many different morphs of corn snakes in captivity. This is because corn snakes have been bred and captivity and have been commercialized for many years. Corn snakes are fun to shop for because there are so many different variations and can be very beautiful.
The morph you choose to purchase is completely up to you, but shop around and look into all the different options that are available to you so that you find exactly what you are looking for and are happy to care for this snake for years to come.
How to Select a Healthy Corn Snake
Now that you know where to buy your pet snake snake, what size snake you are interested in buying, and what morph(s) you are interested in, you must now have to understand what to look for and what to avoid to ensure the snake you purchase is healthy.
There is a lot to look for before purchasing a corn snake. You must know that the corn snake is healthy. Ask to hold and handle the snake so you can take a closer look prior to making a purchase. Also make sure to ask if the animal has a history of illness and/or has ever been exposed to bacterium or parasites.
How to Identify Unhealthy Snakes
Never purchase a corn snake if . . .
- It has obvious parasites. Parasites are commonly found around the snake's eyes.
- If it has runny, discolored or foul smelling stools.
- If it has stomach bloating.
- If it has never eaten (this may be a sign of other issues).
- If it is too small or too thin.
- If it has been exposed to any other illnesses.
- if the upper and lowers jaws are uneven or swollen.
- If it has excessive saliva.
- If it has nasal discharge.
- If it "sneezes."
- If it has shedding problems (if it has incomplete sheds).
- If it has any obvious injuries.
How to Handle a Corn Snake
Corn snakes are very tolerant to human handling, even some babies do not mind being handled on a regular basis! You should never be fearful or nervous when you go to handle your new pet corn snake because these reptiles rarely (if ever) bite, strike, or cause damage to those whom handle it.
Wash Your Hands Before and After!
Before handling your corn snake, make sure to wash you hands before and after. This will help reduce the transmission of germs or parasites from the animal to any other animals in the household (or within the pet shop). It is also important to know that reptiles can transfer bacteria to humans (as well as humans can to reptiles).
Salmonella is one of the most common bacterium transmitted by reptiles (more commonly in reptiles that are wild caught). Even though it is very unlikely that a captive-bred animal will carry such bacterium, is it always important to know and understand the risk.
Best Practices for Handling
- Never allow the corn snake to come in contact with your mouth.
- Wash your hands after handling and before eating.
- Never let a young child handle the corn snake unsupervised.
- To reduce possible pathogens make sure to keep the corn snakes enclosure clean and free of feces and mildew.
- Never handle your corn snake after it has eaten (wait at least 24 hours to ensure it has fully digested).
How to Avoid Being Bitten
Even though biting is rare amongst corn snakes, it is still a possibility. To avoid being bitten, feed your corn snake with tongs, never handle the snake while intoxicated, never startle the snake purposefully, and handle with care.
My First Corn Snake: Marven
I have an adult corn snake in our home. I bought him as a hatchling from Petco when I was nineteen years old. I named him Marven and took him home. At first, he was only my pet that I kept in my college dorm room for a semester. Now Marven is a full-sized adult corn snake, and I now have a two-year-old daughter.
Marven has never attempted to bite anyone in the four years I have owned him. He is very tolerant to handling, and he's VERY tolerant to my daughter handling him. He has never been an easily startled snake (even as a baby) and has always been very docile and tame.
A baby corn snake was my first pet, and he is still a part of our family and has spurred my love and passion for keeping and caring for reptiles within my household. As a family, we now own eight snakes (three different species) and three leopard geckos. We have future plans of breeding our reptiles.
Choose a Corn Snake, and Enjoy Your First Pet Reptile!
Corn snakes are so tame, docile, cute, intelligent, and lovable creatures. You will be able to handle this snake as much as you'd like. You will be able to easily care for this snake. Corn snakes rarely bite (if ever) and are very tolerant to handling and very tolerant to small children. I highly suggest and recommend that you buy a corn snake for your first (second or third) pet snake.
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.
colton deraud on November 29, 2017:
i like ball pythons i have one there a really good pet
Kalpana Iyer from India on May 12, 2014:
Amazing! We don't have such reptile stores here in India but I was curious to know how it would be like to get a corn snake as a pet, so ended up reading the whole page :) Interesting to say the least, and that last pic of your daughter with the corn snake is an icing on the cake -- really cute!
Nate Wilson on October 02, 2013:
We just found a corn snake in our house last night, and we live in Kansas, so you might want to consider widening the range on your map.
Anahi Pari-di-Monriva from Massachusetts on March 25, 2013:
I'm afraid I can't have pets; I have a mortal fear of snakes (although when I was 8, a friend had a pet boa) ever since there was a baby rattler at the pool in the PGA condo complexwhere a friend and I were staying in Palm Springs.
But you did do a fantastic job, Jami. I really love your pictures and, I, too, almost wanted a pet corn snake!
Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting!
Dr Abby Campbell from Charlotte, North Carolina on March 15, 2013:
LOL, JamiJay. I'm not a dog or cat person. Just let me have fish! :-)
Jami Johnson (author) from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont. on March 15, 2013:
I love snakes and they make very good pets (especially corn snakes)!
@Abby (MaximumFatLoss), haha, your not the only one who doesn't want snakes in the house, most people have some level of fear. Thank you for the incredible compliment as well :)
The coolest snake I ever found outside of my house was a Timber Rattlesnake (in my backyard in Vermont). Probably one of the coolest reptiles I have ever seen and touched.
I have always had a love and respect for reptiles and amphibians (and I've never been much of a dog or cat person) so they make the perfect pets for me (and my family)!
Dr Abby Campbell from Charlotte, North Carolina on March 15, 2013:
Ewwwww... no thank you on the snakes. Hehe! But, I must say this is an EXCELLENT hub, JamiJay! You are a terrific writer, and you touched on all the points that almost made me want to get a corn snake for a pet. We have these in our woods... the really colorful one. When I first moved to North Carolina, one was out by our mailbox. My 11 year old went to get the mail and was playing with it with a stick. I thought it was a copperhead and told her to get away from it. (They look similar.) But, it is nice to have them around the house to eat mice and other nasty things I don't want in my house. However, I will be nice as long as they stay outside. LOL.
Cheryl A Whitsett from Jacksonville, Fl on March 14, 2013:
We have two corn snakes and they are beautiful. Very friendly snakes and a good first pet
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2013:
I've heard good things about corn snakes. We had a boa as our first and he got a tad big and aggressive. :)