Milk Snake Care
There are 24 subspecies of Milk Snake but how to care for a Milk Snake is very similar across the board. Make sure you are familiarizing yourself with the certain subspecies you own as they can vary in care based off of their locality.
Just like other colubrids, Milk Snakes require an appropriate sized tank, substrate, food, heat and lighting.
The following information will help you learn how to care for a Milk Snake.
Milk Snake Diet
A Milk Snake diet is carnivorous, meaning they only eat meat. In the wild a Milk Snake will go into a mouse den, eat all of the babies in the den, and then leave.
Milk Snakes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat when they can because they may not for a while in the wild. Milk Snakes are very prone to becoming obese due to their “garbage disposal” eating habits and their body’s ability to store fat for the winter. You will see it in the separations of their scales and you will see it in the tail.
When feeding your snake remember that they can eat a prey item that is 2.5 sizes bigger than the largest part of their body. Although, just because they can eat something this big, doesn’t mean that they should on a consistent basis.
You must always provide water for your Milk Snake. Your snake won’t just drink it, they use it to help them shed, take a bath, or remove pesky insects that are bothering them.
Best Tank Size for Milk Snakes
When choosing your tank for your Corn Snake you have several things to consider. Can your snake escape, what heating element you will use, aesthetic, and the size that your snake is.
It is suggested that a snake needs to be able to stretch out from nose to tail and not touch glass on either end. When keeping an adult Milk Snake you will want to have at least a 40 gallon glass tank.
You will want to make sure that you have a locking lid on your tank or use a tank with the doors that open and latch. I feel like the front opening tanks are prettier and can be used as a room decor item.
A tank that is too large for your baby snake will make it harder for them to thermoregulate, or maintain a correct temperature for them to survive. The ideal size of tank for a baby Milk Snake is a ten gallon tank.
Many breeders use plastic totes and heated racks to keep their snakes in as they don’t have room for dozens of tanks. Totes are not heat tolerant and can melt if you place a heat mat or light on them.
Best Substrate for Milk Snakes
The options for a Milk Snake substrate can be really confusing when you are trying to set up your pet’s cage.
- Paper Towels- Paper towels are used for several reasons. The first is you are dealing with some kind of sickness or ailment. If your snake has mites, it is much easier to see the mites on paper towels than it is to see them on a natural type of bedding. Paper towels are deemed more sanitary, as you are changing the entire cage instead of spot cleaning. But paper towels are only absorbent to a certain point. They are also harder to keep moist and hold proper humidity for your pet. Many large scale breeders use them or newspapers as they are quick and easy to clean.
- Aspen/Pine Bedding- Tree wood chips is a very common type of substrate for ball pythons. It’s cheaper, and you can spot clean, which makes your bedding go even farther. One of the biggest issues with Aspen or Pine wood chips is that it does not retain moisture well and can become moldy. It is difficult to keep a higher humidity snake, like the ball python, in wood chips without shedding issues. If you provide a humidity hide it can be done though! Wood chips hide pests, like mites, and also can come with their own wood mites. Wood mites aren’t harmful to your snake, but I would imagine having lots of little bugs crawling on you would be quite annoying! Wood chip bedding is one of the easiest to find in pet stores or farm stores. If you are going to use wood chips, NEVER use Cedar. Cedar has oils in it that can be toxic to your snakes.
- Coconut Husk- There are different variations in the texture of coconut husk bedding. There are bricks of compressed husk, which are very fine and have almost the texture of dirt. Then there’s shredded, which is closer to the texture you would find in the wood chips. Last is large chips of husk, which will look like bark. Coconut husk is a great option for your snake. It holds the humidity well, you can spot clean it and it looks more natural. Downfalls of coconut husk are that it can mold, but not as much as the wood chips, and it will hide pests very well as it is a dark substrate. It can be more on the expensive side but lasts the longest in my opinion. It can be harder to find depending on where you live.
- Bioactive- A bioactive substrate can be a really cool addition to your snake’s terrarium. Bioactive usually has several different layers of substrates, from rocks to coco husk and plain topsoil, and usually a carbon layer that helps filter the water. Bioactive terrariums also have live plants and organisms that help break down your snake’s waste. This is one of the most expensive setups but I think it’s the most fun! You get to add isopods and springtails that will eat your snake’s poop, though you should spot clean it as well, and you can have live plants with water features for your snake to drink from.
Best Tank Decorations for Milk Snakes
Milk Snakes are native to a vast geographic area, ranging from Canada all the way to Mexico. Many subspecies are congregated in the deserts near New Mexico, but there are also several subspecies on the eastern coast of the US. They are very adaptable to terrain, from beaches to forests and almost everywhere in between.
Milk Snake terrarium decorations are some of the funnest things about building an environment for your pet! Milk Snake’s love to hide in logs, rock caves and even in a pirate ship! You can make the terrarium look however you want to so it matches your home. Let your imagination run wild.
Plants are another decor for your terrarium. You can use live or silk/plastic plants. Live plants help hold the humidity but may break when your snake crawls on them. They also require watering and pruning, while plastic plants just need to be washed on occasion. But plastic plants are not as pretty or realistic as live plants. It really depends on what you want the aesthetic of your tank to be and also how much time you have to maintain your enclosure.
The thing about tank decor is making sure that your pet can’t get stuck in them. When choosing a hide look at all of the holes and compare them against the largest part of your snake. Checking periodically that your snake hasn’t gotten too big for their tank decor is very important. While snakes are flexible and can smush themselves into small holes, they can get wedged into things and need to be helped out of them. If your snake ever gets stuck in decor you may need to break the decor open or use coconut oil to grease them up so you can get them out.
Milk Snake Temperature
The ideal Milk Snake temperature is similar to other colubrids. Many species of Milk Snakes are native to North America where it is both warm and cool. They are a species that will brumate in the winter.
Brumating is the reptile’s equivalent of hibernation, though it is different. During brumation reptiles do still require food and water, while mammals do not when they are in hibernation.
Brumating should only be purposefully done if you are breeding and have a mentor or a veterinary professional that you can ask for advice. It is not necessary for your pet Milk Snake to live a long and healthy life.
- Basking surface: 90°F (32°C)
- Ambient (air temp): 78-82°F (25-27°C)
- Cool zone: 75°F (23-24°C)
Milk Snakes will bask in the sunlight to get warm, but they also are absorbing the UVB lighting from the sun. UVB helps snakes utilize calcium and synthesize vitamin D3. It was believed for many years that snakes do not need UVB lighting. And while snakes will survive without it, there are starting to be many studies that are proving that snakes need UVB in their environment. They are showing that even though snakes will not get the classic symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease like lizards will, they do suffer from it in less obvious ways like broken ribs or arthritis. We found this thread very interesting and provided many studies and papers written on this subject.
We suggest that you provide UVB light for your snakes, which you can turn on with your basking light on a cycle. Milk Snakes are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. This can vary depending on the season. Many snakes hide out during the heat of the summer days but come out when it is cooler at night to hunt their prey.
Tips for Owning A Milk Snake As A Pet:
Mastering Milk Snake care will help ensure that your pet will live a happy and healthy 20 year long life!
Milk Snakes benefit from regular handling outside of feeding time. This is to deter their high food drive. Tap training is a very good resource for high food drive snakes.
Milk Snakes are prone to obesity, especially because their bodies are built to put on weight before brumating. Make sure to keep your snake lean by monitoring their weight. If you ever question if your snake is at a healthy weight, make an appointment with your nearby exotic veterinarian to have them evaluated.
Milk Snake FAQ
Milk Snakes are one of the easier species to care for. They normally are fantastic eaters, are fairly non-aggressive, and are tolerant of temperature changes.
Milk Snakes make wonderful pets, but I would suggest them for adolescent to adult keepers. Milk Snakes are flighty, wiggly, noodles — especially as babies.
The price of a Milk Snake can vary from species to species, color variation to color variation. It can range from $150-$600+.
Milk snake diet is mice and smaller rats, preferably frozen/thawed but some snakes will only eat live rodents.