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What Do Corn Snakes Eat In the Wild & as Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’re looking to keep a snake as a pet, then the corn snake makes a great choice. These snakes can be found in North America and are available for purchase in a variety of different colors. Corn snakes are usually easy to tame and generally quite docile.

The fact that they rarely ever bite and are usually pretty active and curious makes them the perfect pet for adults and children. One thing that you need to know before purchasing a corn snake as a pet is what to feed them. In this guide, we’ll go into what these snakes eat in the wild, what you should feed them as a pet, and quite a bit more.new snake divider

What Do Corn Snakes Eat In the Wild?

two fancy rats
Image Credit: Colin Seddon, Shutterstock

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

  • Mice
  • Moles
  • Rats
  • Other small mammals
  • Bird eggs

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

As he matures and gets stronger, his tastes will turn towards larger and challenging prey such as bats, rats, mice, birds, and eggs. Corn snakes get a lot of their hydration from their prey, but they also bathe in water and drink water as well.

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. However, a pet corn snake will depend on you to provide timely and appropriate meals for him, as he can’t get out there and hunt himself.

What Should You Feed Your Pet Corn Snake?

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, 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.

A heavy, shallow dish will work to offer water to your corn snake, but it needs to be fresh at all times.

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.

What Should You Feed a Baby Corn Snake?

A baby corn snake can be fed small mice until it’s older. Always make sure the mice are dead, as a baby corn snake could be attacked by his prey. You can thaw the mice to give the appearance of them being alive, but never feed your baby corn snake live mice. It’s also never a good idea to microwave any prey for your corn snake.

How to Choose the Right-Sized Prey

corn snake
Image Credit: Frauke Feind, Pixabay

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 mice, then come fuzzy mice, then adult mice.

Within these three major categories, you’ll find options for peach fuzzies, small and large pinky mice, and regular fuzzies as well. 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 his body.

It’s also important to remember that larger mice could prove too difficult for your young corn snake to swallow, so choose wisely. Measure your snake before heading out to get him food, and 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 since 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 this way and that to get away from the snake, which makes instincts kick in. In captivity, the mouse is actually 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 that it appears to be alive and kicking. Use tweezers to do this for your own safety, as the snake doesn’t know the difference between your fingers and its food.

Read also: 12 Fascinating & Fun Corn Snake Facts You Never Knew

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:

  • Fear from rehoming, insecurity, and anxiety issues
  • The environment isn’t right. It’s either too hot and humid or too cold for the snake to be comfortable and want to feed
  • Your snake isn’t feeling well. This could be from an illness that he’s preparing to shed, or he has an injury somewhere
  • The food might not be right. In this case, you might want to try changing up food suppliers

If correcting all of the above doesn’t improve your snake’s appetite, then 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. First, you need to do your research 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.

new snake dividerFeeding Corn Snakes

This concludes our guide on what corn snakes eat in the wild and as pets. If you’re considering purchasing a pet corn snake, then you can’t be squeamish about feeding him the protein he needs. Make sure that you feed him the correct size mouse for his size, and never feed the mouse to him if it’s still frozen. A corn snake can make you a good pet for a long time if handled, fed, and taken care of properly.


Featured Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.