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Home > Snakes > What Do Corn Snakes Eat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Facts & FAQ

What Do Corn Snakes Eat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Facts & FAQ

red corn snake

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Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re looking to keep a snake as a pet, a corn snake is a great candidate. They can be found in the wild in North America and are available for purchase in various different colors. Corn snakes are usually easy to handle and generally quite docile.

They rarely ever bite their handlers and are usually quite active and curious, making them interesting pets. However, one thing that you need to know before purchasing a corn snake as a pet is what they eat. Corn snakes eat small rodents and other small mammals.

In this guide, we go over what these snakes eat in the wild, what you should feed them as pets, and much more.

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What Do Corn Snakes Eat in the Wild?

What a corn snake eats in the wild can vary according to the food available and the season. The most common prey that corn snakes hunt in the wild are:

  • Mice
  • Moles
  • Rats
  • Other small mammals
  • Birds and their eggs
two fancy rats
Image Credit: Colin Seddon, Shutterstock

It is possible that on occasion, a corn snake will eat other corn snakes. However, as a corn snake in the wild gets bigger and stronger, the type of prey they eat will change. For example, a hatchling might start out eating lizards and small vertebrates, which are relatively easy to catch and swallow.

As they mature and get stronger, their tastes will turn toward larger and more challenging prey, such as bats, rats, mice, birds, and eggs. In essence, like many snakes, corn snakes are opportunistic hunters. Corn snakes get a lot of their hydration from their prey, but they also bathe in water and drink water.

How Often Should a Corn Snake Eat?

Wild corn snakes eat whenever they can find prey. This means they most often eat every few days, depending on their luck. However, a pet corn snake will depend on you to provide timely and appropriate meals for them, as they can’t get out there and hunt their own food.

What Should You Feed Your Pet Corn Snake?


Please note that many states and jurisdictions have legislation that prohibits owning, breeding, purchasing, or selling snakes or certain snake species. Always make sure you have permission to legally own an exotic pet before deciding to adopt one. If you are in the U.S., please refer to state laws before deciding to adopt an exotic pet. Elsewhere, please refer to the relevant laws where you reside.

Capturing wild animals to keep as pets is not advised, as this disrupts local ecosystems. Likewise, releasing exotic wild pets back into the wild is also not advised, as this can disrupt the balance of local ecosystems.

Snakes are a long-term commitment and are generally not considered safe around children. They are also not compatible with other pets, including cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and other exotic pets. They are opportunistic hunters that may attempt to strike or constrict anything they perceive as a potential meal, including their handlers.

Pet corn snakes, of course, will eat the same creatures that wild corn snakes eat, but they can’t go hunting for their prey. Most snake owners don’t want to go out and hunt for small mammals to feed their snakes, and it’s not a good idea, anyway, because you have no way of knowing what diseases or bacteria those creatures might have.

A good option for pet corn snakes is frozen mice or even frozen rats, as your baby corn snake gets bigger. It’s important to remember that corn snakes are carnivores and need protein in their diet to be healthy, active, and grow. These snakes eat protein exclusively, and that’s what you should feed them at every meal in order for them to thrive.

Some corn snakes will eat lizards, but they can be hard to find as a commercial food source, and you don’t want to feed them lizards from the wild because of possible parasites. A heavy, shallow dish will work to offer water to your corn snake, but it needs to be fresh at all times.


What Should You Feed a Baby Corn Snake?

A baby corn snake can be fed small mice until they are older. Generally speaking, it’s best to offer snakes dead prey, as live prey can inflict wounds and injuries on pet snakes. These wounds almost always require veterinary care and can get progressively worse if they’re not tended to promptly.

You should properly thaw frozen mice before feeding them to your snake. You should not microwave, cook, or boil the mice to expedite the thawing process.

How to Choose the Right-Sized Prey

Corn snake on a branch
Image Credit: KAMONRAT, Shutterstock

If you’re wondering how to choose the right prey for your corn snake, it’s not as hard as you might think. Frozen mice come in different sizes, so you can always choose the right option. Pinky mice are the smallest, then it’s fuzzy mice, and finally, adult mice.

Within these three major categories, you’ll find options for peach fuzzies, small and large pinky mice, and regular fuzzies. For adult mice, the options usually range from small to extra-large.

It’s important to note that the size of the mice will vary according to where you purchase them. A good rule of thumb is to never give your corn snake a mouse that is larger than the width of their body.

It’s also important to remember that larger mice could prove too difficult for your young corn snake to swallow, so choose wisely. It may help to talk to the provider of the mice to see what size they would recommend based on the measurements of your snake.

How to Feed a Pet Corn Snake

red corn snake
Image Credit: Sipa, Pixabay

Since baby corn snakes in the wild tend to fend for themselves because their mothers don’t teach them how to hunt their food, many snake owners are astounded that their baby pet corn snakes don’t know how to eat the prey they are given.

One reason for this is that in the wild, the prey would be darting to get away from the snake, which makes their instincts kick in. In captivity, the mouse is already dead, so it’s not moving. Also, since the food isn’t scampering about, the snake might not realize it’s food.

Remedy this by dangling the mouse in front of your snake and making it move so it appears to be alive and kicking. Use tweezers or tongs to do this for your own safety, as the snake doesn’t know the difference between your fingers and their food. Corn snakes are constrictors, and your snake may choose to constrict an already dead mouse prior to eating it.


What If Your Pet Corn Snake Stops Eating?

Lavender Corn Snake on a rock
Image Credit: Diane Hawkins, Shutterstock

If your pet corn snake refuses to eat or suddenly stops eating, there are a few reasons experts attribute this to:

Reasons that your snake might not be eating
  • They’re experiencing fear from rehoming and being brought to an unfamiliar environment.
  • The environment isn’t right. It’s either too hot and humid or too cold for the snake to be comfortable and want to eat.
  • Your snake isn’t feeling well. This could be from an illness, or they have an injury somewhere.
  • The food might not be right. In this case, you might want to consult the breeder to ask what food your snake is accustomed to.

If correcting all the above doesn’t improve your snake’s appetite, it’s time to make an appointment with your local exotic vet for treatment.

There are quite a few places where you can get the proper food for your pet corn snake. You need to do your research, though, and find a local supplier that has frozen mice or rats that your snake will eat. Whether it’s a packet of frozen mice ordered online or from your local pet store, make sure that the food is responsibly sourced.

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Feeding Corn Snakes

Both wild and pet corn snakes are carnivores and typically eat small mammals as food. If you’re considering purchasing a pet corn snake, you can’t be squeamish about feeding them the protein that they need. Make sure you feed them the correct size mouse for their size, and never feed the mouse to them if it’s still frozen. A corn snake can be a good pet for a long time if they’re handled, fed, and taken care of properly.

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Featured Image Credit by: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

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