How to Breed Corn/Rat Snakes
Pre reading notes:
-Corn snake babies will eat A LOT, sometimes upwards of 25 pinkie mice a week for an average 12 egg clutch. Make sure you can afford all housing, food and care before breeding.
-I like to make sure all females are well above 300g before ever attempting to pair them up with a male. Males should be above 240g.
-There is not a very large market for normal/wild type corn snakes, so make sure what you are breeding is worthwhile, sought after, and popular to make a profit.
-Females can be injured during egg laying, or even during the breeding process itself. Make sure you have a reputable exotic veterinarian nearby. Egg binding is a somewhat common issue seen amongst North American colubrid like corn snakes.
-If you have decided breeding is okay and right for you, feel free to continue reading!
The month of October and some of November, double feedings, so feed an adult (the one you wish to breed) twice a week. This would mean 2 large mice a week or 1 small rat a week. Then, the last 2 weeks of November, fast them. Do not feed them anything! Once they have cleared out their digestive systems, place them into brumation (a restful and quiet period for reptiles). This should ideally be a colder environment, around 55-65 degrees F. DO NOT feed your snake during this period, as it can possibly kill them to have to digest food in such a cooler than normal temperature. Only go into the snakes bin/terrarium to water them and check on them weekly. Also, it would be ideal to shorten their daylight hours- to mimic daylight savings time. Cover their bins with a dark towel or piece of cardboard. This brumation period lasts from the beginning of December to beginning of March.
SPRING WAKE UP
After exactly twelve weeks, put them directly into their normal heated enclosure. (86-88 on warm end and 75 on cool end). Some people choose to do a gradual warmup. This is completely up to you. Give them two days to get their core body temperature up, then offer food. Feed a medium or large mouse one size smaller than normal), no rats if possible. For the females, double their food for the entire breeding season (March-August). Also, dust the females meals with a D3 calcium powder until she lays her eggs.
After two – four weeks after you wake your snakes up from brumation, you will see a shed. This is called the “pre-breeding shed”. At this time, start introducing your males to females. Males often refuse food during this period, as they are too preoccupied with the females. Males will become very restless and will often rub their nose in the front of their tubs, but do not worry, this won’t last long. Ideally, pair the snakes at least 2-3 times, and get visual mating, “locks”. A good sign that mating will occur is twitching of both or one snakes, and the male almost violently chasing up the female’s back. Also, the male may bite the females neck, this is completely normal for a dominant male breeder. For the first pairing session, keep an eye on them for 10-20 minutes, although rare, female corns can become aggressive to males. Once you see a visual lock, and they are finished, take the female out 10+ minutes after.
After you are confident that multiple (2+) matings took place, start feeding your female twice as much as usual, dusted with a vitamin D3 calcium supplement. Keep her in her own enclosure. Within three-four weeks she will shed. This is called the “pre lay shed”. Once you see her in blue, offer her a lay box as soon as possible. Try to use a shoebox sized container, with a hole cut on top large enough for her entire gravid (pregnant) body to fit through. For substrate- use 2-3 inches of sphagnum moss. Add luke warm water to the moss and mix until moist/damp. 8-12 days after she sheds, she should start laying eggs, however this is sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Wait 24 hours after she starts laying to take her out of the box, and before you get the eggs, feel down her belly to make sure no eggs are left in there. Typically corn snakes do not protect the eggs so you shouldn’t worry about taking them.
Eggs are laid in clumps, with a sticky substance made by the mother. If you wish to keep them together for incubation you can, or you can separate them. Just know if its hard to separate them, its smarter to keep them as a clump, as this means she laid a while ago and the substance hardened. I use a hovabator/reptibator type incubator. Have this setup before you put them into incubation (so at least when you first see her start laying), so you can monitor all temps and humidity are correct. Use perlite, vermiculite, sphagnum moss, or hatch rite as an egg incubation medium. If you so decide to separate or pull apart the eggs, make thumb sized indents in the incubation medium, so the eggs do not get rolled around. You can also make an “X” on the top of the egg with a sharpie to make sure it stays in the same orientation as when it was laid. And no, the sharpie will not hurt it. The range of temperatures is anywhere from 78-87. Just know that higher temperatures, while they will hatch faster, can cause aggression and neurological issues. Stick to a happy medium of 81-83. The recommended humidity level is 75-90%. Place a hygrometer and thermometer in the perlite right beside the eggs, as the one that came with the incubator isn’t always 100% accurate. If the eggs dent in, this means they are too dry (humidity too low). Place a paper towel on top of the eggs and spray around them and in the perlite. After 55-70 days, the eggs will pip (start of hatching!) Do not help the eggs hatch, they can get out on their own. And try to keep opening the incubator to a minimum, as this will lower the humidity drastically.
24 hours after fully hatching (at least), it’s time to move the babies! Try to house every hatchling alone, in a small bin or container. Put paper towel down for the first couple of weeks to make sure they are having bowel movements after eating. The other reason for this is because they are still susceptible to infection while being so young with their egg yolk. Provide a small hide- can be as simple as paper towel or toilet paper tube. After they shed for the first time, (7-10 days after hatching), offer food. This should be a pinkie mouse. If they refuse, this is normal. Try again in a couple days, or scent with anole lizard. Temperature and humidity are the same as adults. Provide them a small water dish, hide, and spray them down once a day. After 4+ meals, its time to find these guys a new home or hold them back!