You may know corn snakes as docile and colorful Southeastern US reptiles that frequent human settlements in search of food and shelter. These snakes are known rodent killers, which often have them living in urban and suburban areas.
They are non-venomous, so they pose no threat to humans, and they’re friendly and non-aggressive, which makes them ideal pets.
Interestingly, corn snakes have a relatively short lifespan in the wild. Most snakes only live up to 6-8 years in the wild for a variety of reasons, including diseases, predation, human interactions, lack of sustenance, etc.
But the snake’s true genetic potential shows in full splendor in captivity, in controlled environments. Captive-bred corn snakes can live up to 20 or more years with good care.
However, today we will discuss the snake’s size, what influences it, and how you can use this information to provide the reptile with optimal housing and care.
General Size Range of Corn Snakes
Most corn snakes vary in size between 1.5 and 6 feet. These are constrictor snakes, so they must grow larger to improve their success at hunting. The larger the snake is, the more powerful and proficient it will become at hunting.
The snake’s size can impact the reptile’s lifestyle dramatically. For instance, larger snakes can hunt larger rodents and rats, while smaller ones are happy with mice and smaller mammals and birds.
The snake’s potential maximum size depends on numerous factors. You can control some of them but not others, making it difficult to tell how much your snake will grow beforehand.
This is why it’s always recommended to prepare a larger terrarium, just in case your corn snake exceeds your expectations.
Factors that Affect the Size of Corn Snakes
Not all wild corn snakes have the same size in the wild, and the same goes for captive-bred specimens.
Several factors can impact the snake’s maximum size and growth rate, such as:
Each snake inherits a variety of genetic predispositions from its parents, the maximum size being one of them. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to change this aspect. If your snake is only meant to reach 3 feet, that’s what you’ll get, no matter what you try to change that.
This shows that sourcing your snake carefully is key to obtaining the characteristics you want. Whether you want your snake to grow larger or would rather set for a smaller one, always ask for details on the snake’s parents.
A pet shop is unlikely to provide such information due to the lack of control over the breeding process. A professional snake breeder will, though.
Professional corn snake breeders exert more control over each morph and specimen to appeal to various tastes and preferences.
I recommend getting your snake from an expert snake keeper because you’re more likely to get a healthy and perfect specimen compared to regular snake shops.
There’s a distinct connection between the snake’s health and lifespan and its environment.
There are multiple aspects worth discussing here, including temperature, humidity, parameter stability, overall environmental hygiene, predation, habitat limitations, and fragmentation, etc.
All these can impact the snake’s health in one way or another, leading to health issues and lowering the animal’s lifespan considerably. When it comes to home-grown snakes, ensuring parameter stability and pristine terrarium husbandry is essential for the reptile’s long-term health.
Temperature and humidity are especially important because they impact the snake’s physiological functioning more than anything else.
The ideal temperature range sits between 75 and 95 F, with the highest value representing the basking spot.
Humidity should stay between 40-50% to provide the snake with sufficient hydration and comfort. A 12/12 day-night cycle is also necessary for proper UVB exposure and for regulating the animal’s biorhythm.
Diet and Nutrition
Corn snakes are fairly easy to satisfy in this sense. These snakes are born rodent killers, so mice and rats should be an inseparable part of their diet.
Other animals can qualify as nutritious foods as well, including guinea pigs, gerbils, birds, reptiles, and anything that’s nutritious enough for them. Corn snakes also have rather fast metabolisms compared to other snakes, so they need to eat more often.
If you’ve decided to get your first corn snake, here’s what to learn about the snake’s diet and feeding:
- Feeding variety isn’t as important – You already know the standard golden rule when feeding snakes: diet variety is critical. Well, this doesn’t apply as strictly in the corn snake’s case. These snakes are specialized rat killers, so their diet in the wild focuses primarily on these rodents. That being said, you can alternate the feeder animal occasionally, for a plus of nutritional diversity.
- Supplementation may not be necessary – This is a crucial difference between corn snakes and other snake species. Most snakes, and reptiles in general, require calcium and vitamin D supplementation because reptiles are genetically prone to calcium deficiency. That’s because this group of animals uses more calcium than other species. Fortunately, corn snakes aren’t as calcium-dependent as other snakes. Speak to your reptile vet to figure out whether your snake needs calcium supplementation.
- Prioritize dead meals – You should feed your corn snake live prey occasionally to keep its hunting brain active. But I recommend dead meals as a general rule. This is to prevent the animal from injuring the snake, which constrictors can struggle with at times. Venomous snakes don’t have this issue because of their eating method. They simply strike and wait for the venom to work its magic. So, ultimately, they, too, consume dead prey only. But constrictors like corn snakes need to rely on their body to subdue the prey, which isn’t the safest eating method.
- Mind the prey’s size – The prey should be at most 1.5 times larger than the snake’s largest section (typically the midsection.) This is to make sure that the snake can eat it properly.
- Adjust the feeding frequency – Adult corn snakes eat once every 7-14 days, depending on the specimen. Some snakes, juveniles especially, eat once every 5-7 days, while specimens younger than 6 months may require one meal every 3-5 days. Adjust your snake’s feeding schedule accordingly to ensure optimal nutrient intake without risking overfeeding.
Hormonal imbalances are typically the result of a multitude of factors, including genetics, poor housing conditions, inadequate diets, etc.
One health problem that’s often associated with hormonal imbalances is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). This condition is the result of severe calcium deficiency, has no cure, and it’s generally deadly.
Fortunately, hormonal imbalances produce early symptoms, informing you of the snake’s impending health problems.
There are 2 overarching health disorders relating to improper hormonal functioning:
- Hypothyroidism – This concerns you directly if you want a larger snake. Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid gland, resulting in a slower metabolism, slower growth rate, and a decrease in overall size. The snake will simply remain smaller, no matter how hard you try to correct that.
- Hyperthyroidism – This is the exact opposite of the previous condition. Hyperthyroidism translates to an overactive thyroid gland, leading to accelerated growth and a snake of bigger proportions. This may sound great, but it’s actually not. Snakes suffering from hyperthyroidism have faster metabolisms, which means that they grow faster. So, they will also die faster.
The thyroid gland controls the snake’s growth and nutrient intake, and any disturbances in its functioning pattern can have catastrophic consequences. I recommend supervising your snake’s health and discussing any issue with your vet to prevent more severe problems along the way.
Diseases and Parasites
A sickly corn snake will always remain smaller than its healthier counterparts. Part of the reason for it is that sick snakes exhibit low or no appetite, and they need to eat to grow.
Another reason is that various health issues and parasites can cause vomiting and regurgitation, causing the snake to experience nutritional deficiencies along the way.
Corn snakes aren’t particularly sickly, but they can experience health problems due to poor terrarium hygiene, contaminated food, exterior contamination via improper handling, etc.
Given the large pool of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can impact your snake, I recommend providing your corn snake with impeccable care and maintenance.
Always wash your hands before and after handling the snake and provide the reptile with personalized care to keep it in good health.
Benefits of Knowing Your Corn Snake’s Potential Growth Rate
Knowing your corn snake’s potential growth rate beforehand comes with a handful of benefits worth considering, such as:
Appropriately Size Housing and Accessories
Knowing how large your snake can grow allows you to set up the ideal housing. You don’t want to have to upgrade the snake’s terrarium later once you realize that the snake just doesn’t stop growing.
Corn snakes don’t do well in overcrowded conditions, so getting things right from the get-go is always better.
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly easy to know how much your snake can grow. You can approximate it based on the snake’s growth rate and genetic makeup, but you won’t get a precise figure.
So, I say, always prepare yourself for the best-case scenario: a maximum-size corn snake. In this context, you can’t go wrong with a 40-50-gallon tank for an adult specimen.
Safe Handling Practices
Corn snakes are fairly easy to handle, given that they are docile and non-aggressive. But you should learn to handle your snake properly to avoid injuries on the snake’s part.
For instance, you should learn how to support the snake’s whole body weight, compared to holding it by the neck alone.
The larger the snake gets, the more difficult it will be for you to handle it properly. So, always set your expectations accordingly and learn how to handle larger snakes safely and more effectively.
Accurately Measuring Feeding Quantities
We’ve already discussed that corn snakes have different feeding preferences, depending primarily on their size.
Smaller snakes have smaller and more frequent meals, while larger specimens eat rarer but bigger prey. This stands true for all snake species, including the corn snake.
So, you should always monitor your snake’s growth, especially during its juvenile months when it tends to grow faster. You most likely need to weigh the snake weekly during the first several months of life to make sure it grows properly.
You can then drop to one weighing session every 2 weeks or rarer, depending on the snake’s age and growth rate.
Doing so regularly allows you to adjust the snake’s meal size and frequency in real-time to ensure optimal nutrient intake.
Adjust Your Breeding Goals
Knowing your snake’s growth rate and maximum achievable size allows you to determine whether the specimen is fit for breeding or not.
Professional breeders always prioritize the snake’s size, behavior, and color pattern when choosing the right candidates, and so should you.
If you want to breed your corn snake, watch its growth rate and maximum size to make sure it’s worth it.
Corn snakes can get to impressive sizes in captivity with good food, stable environmental parameters, and proper hygiene practices.
These snakes are quite resilient overall, which explains their success as a species in the wild. But you can significantly improve the snake’s potential in captivity by tweaking its diet, housing conditions, and care routine.
And now you have today’s article to help you in this sense.