Are corn snakes picky eaters?

Table of Contents

Hognose snakes are popular snake species known to be selective of food, especially when they are young. Their natural diet consists mainly of tadpoles, toads, and frogs. The eating habits of the Eastern hognose snake, the Mexican Hognose snake, and the South American species are very similar.

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They mainly feed on amphibians such as large tree frogs and small or medium-sized toads and lizards. These snakes may also hunt after birds and small rodents.

are corn snakes picky eaters
Are corn snakes picky eaters

General Eating Habits of Snakes

All snake species are carnivores. Snakes feed on fish, rodents, insects, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and eggs. Venomous snakes prefer to kill or paralyze their prey by injecting venom through their fangs, thereby paralyzing their nervous system and resulting in heart and lung failure or internal bleeding in prey.

Constrictor snakes like anacondas and boas kill by squeezing their prey, and the pressure does not always crush their victims but rather prevents them from breathing and choking it. Snakes do not chew or break food when eating but rather swallow it whole. After eating, snakes usually become inactive as their body is digesting the food.  

Digestion in snakes is usually an intense activity, especially after eating very large prey. In some species that feed at irregular intervals, the entire small intestine shrinks between meals to preserve energy, and their digestive system is fully regulated. The digestion process requires so much metabolic energy that in some species, such as the Mexican rattlesnake, the body temperature rises 14 ° C above ambient temperature.

As a result, the snake that has been anxious after eating will often vomit the prey to avoid the alleged threat. When not bothered, their digestion is very effective; It breaks down and absorbs everything except the hair and paws, which are excreted in the uric acid waste. Snakes have sometimes been known to die trying to swallow a large animal. Snake digestive fluids generally cannot digest much plant matter; thus, they pass through the digestive system intact.

A large food will keep a snake full for a long time. Anacondas can live on a large meal for a year. Most snakes prefer to hunt at night.

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Eating Habits of Other Species of Snakes

The California King Snake

Lampropeltis getula California, also known as California king snakes, are very popular in the pet world because they tend to grow well in captivity. The most common species of king snakes in the United States is only found in the wild in southwestern California; They are also present in Mexico’s Baja. These snakes give good results in once a week feeding sessions. Regular feeding sessions of at least twice a week will generally encourage faster growth.  

If your adult California snake is beginning to become overweight, it is the right time to reduce its food consumption. If you have any issues with your snake’s health or eating habits, talk to a vet for expert advice.

Snakes are carnivores on a general note, but their feeding habits vary based on their species. Some are only predators to warm-blooded animals (such as rodents, birds, and rabbits), and others mainly feed on insects, amphibians, eggs, snails, worms, fish, etc. 

The Milk Snake

Milk snakes in the wild usually feed on birds, reptiles, small mammals, and amphibians- their diet varies according to their hunting ability, subspecies, and geographic area.

On the other hand, domesticated milk snakes are kept as pets in enclosures, eat already killed mice, day-old chicks, and quail. They can be fed with a meal of only mammals but won’t do well on a birds-only diet. Like most snakes, they swallow their prey completely; therefore, the prey should be purchased frozen, thawed in the refrigerator for approximately 24 to 48 hours, warmed in water, dried with a cloth, and fed immediately. Snakes need as much food as the bulk of their bodies and not their heads.  

Milk snakes in the Wild eat their prey wherever they find it. However, for pet milk snakes, to prevent aggression in their enclosure, they should be made to eat outside of it. Feed the milk snakes in a small fodder bowl. 

A Terrarium of 5 to 10-gallon basin with newspaper spread below works well. Do not feed them with substrates like bark, as they can suffocate or choke on it. Their food can also be put in a cardboard box or grocery bag placed in the living room for the snake to move comfortably. Do not touch a regenerated snake. Feed snakes only when they are warm enough -a cold snake cannot eat or digest at all.

Young milk snakes eat approximately every five days.  

It slowly decreases as they mature into adulthood, where they eat once every three to six weeks. Milk snakes in the wild eat during the day when there is sunlight. Some species need some amount of moisture available for them to eat and digest.  

Snakes need to stay hydrated to be able to ingest and digest their meal. Pet snakes should always have clean, pure water in a bowl large enough to allow the snake to curl. Some herpetologists recommend putting baby snakes in warm chlorinated water for about ten minutes before each meal to stimulate digestion and provide hydration.

Many snakes do not eat while preparing to shed their skin. The main sign of shedding in snakes is the milky coloring of their eyes. Some snakes hibernate for three months in winter. Snakes stop eating when sick, in pain, in poor conditions, under stress, or in contact with parasites. If the pet snake refuses to eat for over six weeks and is not hibernating, it needs immediate vet attention.

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Why is my Hognose Snake not Eating?

There are quite a lot of reasons why your milk snake may reject a meal but to sum it up, let’s consider the following points: 

They do not like the food. Offer them a diet that they have developed an affinity for eating, or at least make it taste like the food they would eat if they were to roam around searching for prey themselves. 

As with other popular animals kept by humans, many people buy these animals without having the basic information about the behavior of the new pets. Indeed, it is important for the owner to possess this basic knowledge of how the animal normally behaves in its natural habitat.

Although there are many problems that we encounter when making a diagnosis of hogsnakes refusal to eat, the biggest problem so far for most people is the inability to feed newborns for the first time or the inability to get the more adult animals to continually provide all through the year. 

Feeding The Right Kind Of Prey

Although rodents are extremely common prey used in reptile breeding, they are not the best option. Most snakes in the wild today do not eat rodents.  

If you have ever seen a mother mouse protecting her babies, you will agree that it is not usually pretty at all. They will do anything within their power to prevent predators that pose a threat to their offspring and often endanger their lives in the process.  

It turns out they are downright stubborn and wicked when it is necessary. As a consequence, it will not be easy for the little milk snakes to pass the mother mouse. 

Additionally, even if they succeed, the young mice are only an adequate feeding size for a few days after birth.

In contrast, small reptiles, such as juvenile and adult lizards, small snakes, and/or amphibians, live alone from birth. 

With their smaller size, slower growth rate, and overall abundance, they can be a better candidate than other reptiles. 

Western snakes appear to have a special love for toads and frogs. Amphibians are also a favorite victim of eastern snakes – generally in the form of frogs. Yes, Hognose (especially Westerners) love to have a rodent diet in captivity.

How Long can a Hognose go Without Eating?

A common feature of these snakes is that they can all be left without food for one to three months, depending on other factors. It is important to note that you are still trying to make an offer every week or two to see if the snake is hungry.

Remember to monitor the weight of your reptile to ensure that it is not losing too much weight. If you are concerned in any way, you can always contact your local vet for more information. However, hognose snakes will usually eat when ready. If your snake refuses to eat for weeks or months, its enclosure temperature may not be right. It could also be about the type of food you are trying to give it. They might also be in their shedding period, which makes them unwilling to eat.

A hog snake may hit it with its head and play with food instead of eating. Hognose snakes are known for their interesting personalities. It is important to exercise patience when trying to change something about snake behavior. You can only make changes one step at a time. Do not change many factors at once, causing stress and more problems for the snake. 

What Does a Hognose Snake eat?

For most types of hognose snakes, their diet consists mostly of rodents and lizards. Heterodon platirhinos is an exception and specializes in frog feed, but it can account for up to 50% of the diet of other foods such as eggs, insects, and mice. Hognose snakes are not constrictors indicating that they are generally not strong enough to grapple and strangle their prey. It is best to offer frozen/defrosted catch for the comfort and safety of your snake.

A baby hog snake can be fed with one pinky mouse every three days while an adult requires like three rats every 5days.

Hognose snakes differ from other expanding snakes, perhaps because they do not have the strength of constrictors and have to adapt to a smaller, slower predator. Their prey should not be larger but should have the same diameter as the head of a snake. As the snake increases in size, the size of the prey it can consume increases gradually.  

If it is too big for the snake to handle, it the may end up vomiting it out again, which is very stressful for the Snake and can be dangerous to its health. This is why it is better to offer a large number of small meals rather than a single large one. Just wait until the snake finished swallowing a meal before introducing another. If the snake is hungry, it will take it. 

However, if your snake starts gaining a lot of weight, you need to reduce the number of prey per meal.

It is best to feed the hairless rodent to your hognose snake than the old ones with hair. Hair is noted to cause digestive problems. 

How to Prepare a prey for a Hognose snake

Unlike pythons, which rely on the heat and scent of their prey to detect and identify them, hognoses rely on their sense of smell. 

If you are using frozen prey as we have recommended, defrost it in the refrigerator the night before. Thawing slowly in a cool environment prevents bacterial growth because frozen meat needs to be thawed.  

Then put it in a BPA-free plastic bag like Ziploc for 15-30 minutes, putting in a bowl of warm water before feeding your pet with it. Hognose snakes are more visual than most snakes, so you may need to simulate “live motion” by swinging the prey before allowing it to get to the snake. 

Hognose snakes will hunt on all sides, thus introducing their prey on long, fluffy ends. Do not touch your hognose snake 24-48 hours after feeding it. Otherwise, it may vomit its meal. Hogsnakes still living in the wild mainly eat toads, but studies of stomach contents have shown that they occasionally eat snakes, lizards, mammals, frogs, birds, 

reptiles, salamanders, and insects. 

However, birds and mammals are extremely rare.  

Here are Some non-Rodent Ideas for Feeding your Hognose

Frozen/thawed anoles 

Gray treefrogs 

Quail eggs 


Dropped gecko tails 

Cane toads 


Redback salamanders African clawed frogs 

Cuban tree frogs

If you prefer to use wild amphibians as prey, be careful where they are gotten from. This is to make sure they are not exposed to insecticides or herbicides, which may poison your snake. 

If possible, harvest more “natural” woody areas. If you ever get concerned that your pet snake may get with a parasite from an amphibian, you should freeze it before feeding it. Chunks of meat for human consumption or hard-boiled eggs can be delicious, but they should never be served regularly as they do not contain enough nutritional requirements for your snake. 

Buy thawed or frozen feed in bulk for your snakes if you can, as you are more likely to obtain high-quality prey from online suppliers and reptiles than your local supply store. Buying in bulk also saves transportation costs. 

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What Happens if you Overfeed a Snake?

Allowing your pet snake to Overeat is terrible for its health because it can result in obesity. Overfeeding may also trigger regurgitation in the snake, which is not suitable for its health. Therefore overfeeding is detrimental to the well-being of your snake.

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Hognose Snake are a lovely species of snakes that are suitable as pets. They are usually relatively small in size and not muscular enough to be constrictors. From our discussion so far in this article, Hognose snakes are not only picky eaters, the manner in which their food is served, timing and other factors are also very important. Handling them within 48hours after a meal will lead to them regurgitating the meal which is not good for their health.

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.