Tips for Breeding Corn Snakes
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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. So 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?
But, 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. It's completely understandable, but remember that as you acquire new snakes and sell the offspring to offset the expenses, it's still going to be an expensive hobby that more than likely you'll never make real money at.
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 expenses.
If you really think that you'll make money and earn a large profit breeding snakes, much less any reptile, you're a very disillusioned person (no offense). So please it's best to start off small and enjoyable before you find yourself selling your entire collection because of the burden.
(Note: 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. By the way, I speak this from personal experience, as I am a small hobby breeder of select gecko species.)
So, on with 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
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 with 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 2-1/2 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.
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 temps, 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 regiment.
When putting the male and female snake together, you have essentially two options.
- 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.
- 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.
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 un 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.
Corn Snake Hatchlings
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.