BEFORE BRUMATION

I donít brumate any snake younger then eighteen months. The first week of October start doubling their offered food every seven days, for me thatís usually two or three mice, or one small rat every feeding or so, average for adults. For juveniles two smaller food items, whichever size rodent is appropriate for smaller snakes. I like to feed juveniles one food item twice weekly, because of their faster metabolic rate. You may have to start heavy feeding sooner depending on your regular feeding frequency and overall appearance. My adults are fed usually one to two food items every seven to ten days depending on size. Continue this heavy feeding schedule until mid November. Some breeders dust the females you plan to breed last four feedings with a calcium d3 supplement for healthy egg development. Itís not nessicary but canít hurt. You need fourteen days before brumation of no feeding so your snake will have nothing to digest, which it canít while at lower temperature during brumation. Note: I do not lower temperatures at all before brumation, the thinking behind this is that a period of unstable dropping temps can decrease the snakeís immune system and not allow proper digestion. If you do lower temps., do it gradually over the last ten days before brumation. Make sure your snakes have defecated. Give each a thorough look over and make sure they look healthy and not skinny, if a animal is questionable in any way keep them out of brumation and start feeding them normally, try again next year.

BRUMATION

December first after the fourteen days of fasting is when I put my snakes in brumation. Have your brumation room or enclosure ready and at the proper temperature before placing your snakes inside. The recommended temperature is between 52-58 degrees F. I always try to maintain the room at 55 degrees day and night. I used a window fan for this purpose and checked temps regularly. My temperatures did fluctuate sometimes, even going up to 65 degrees on a few occasions! As long as your snakes are healthy a little fluctuation wonít cause any problems, so long as the majority of the time the temps. are in the desired range. My setup is simple, I place the snakes in 32 quart sterelite tubs with ventilation holes in two sides, two to three inches of aspen, as they do like to burrow. Their hide and water dish, remember to change the water every two weeks, to ensure fresh water for your snake. The bins are stacked on each other, and also covered with a breathable material to decrease light. (I used a cheap bamboo blind.) I used ĺĒ insulation Styrofoam to create the brumation chamber. I placed this so that the upper corner of the chamber was over the room window. By cracking or closing the window you can adjust the temperature.I also used a window fan on occasion on hot days for slightly better air circulation. (I always kept the speed on low, you donít want to dry the snakes out.) I monitored the temps. at least twice a day with a digital thermometer with a probe hanging in the air next to the first stacked binThey stay in brumation for twelve weeks. Some people brumate for eight or ten weeks with success. I check on all the snakes twice a month, usually the same time I change water dishes. Make sure they appear healthy and that they have not lost a lot of weight. Keep it brief and do not handle.

Here are some pics: (it is also important to let your kids draw on them)

SPRING WARM UP

After exactly twelve weeks, which was February 23rd this year they are taken out of brumation. I put them right into their normally heated enclosure, which is 86 degrees on the warm end to 75 degrees on the cool end. I donít do a gradual warm up, some people raise temps gradually to the desired temp over seven to ten days. Give them two days to get their core temperature back up, then offer food. I give them just one, appropriate sized rodent for the first feeding so they can adjust to eating and digesting normally again. Some people even feed smaller then regular size of rodent for the first feeding, such as a hopper for a snake who usually eats an adult mouse. The next week I double the amount of food offered. A snake that eats one mouse will be given two. I also dust the food with a calcium vitamin d3 supplement for the females, to promote healthy egg development. This is probably not necessary but helpful. I keep feeding heavy like this as long as they will accept food. I also lightly misted their enclosures twice weekly to simulate spring. I donít know if this is needed but I like to try to duplicate nature if I can. I misted bi-weekly until the females pre-breeding shed.

BREEDING

After about three to four weeks the female sheds for the first time of the season. This is the pre-breeding shed; you should start introducing the male to the female now.My male snakes refused to feed at all, starting about three weeks after they were taken out of brumation. The males were extremely restless and kept wandering about their enclosures. They actually didnít eat for about a month, as they were too preoccupied with the females. I introduced my males to my females three separate times, I saw copulation each time, but I wanted to be sure. Here is a picture from my successful breeding:

 

The female, which is florescent orange amelantistic (albino) on bottom shed on March 23. I put the snakes together April 12th, 13th, and 17th. You can put them together sooner, my male was going through a shed cycle, and I waited for him to finish. They both had very jerky movements and copulated almost immediately. The mating was not violent at all. I noticed the femaleís jerky movement first, and then the male just slid on top of the female and started to tail wrap until they were lined up. He did not bite or hold her down at all. All three breeding sessions only lasted twenty to thirty minutes. I left them together until they showed no interest in trying again. Then I put the male back into his cage. Each time the total time the snakes spent together, including copulation was around an hour.

Egg Laying

†††††††††† After you are confident that a successful breeding took place keep the female alone in her own enclosure. Feed her heavily, dusting with calcium d3 supplement. I even offered hopper mice two at a time when she refused a large mouse. Within three to four weeks she will shed. This is her pre egg-laying shed. (The pictured female shed April 30th that was twenty-six days from their first successful breeding on April 12th.) Now you should put a nesting box in her enclosure. I use a shoebox-sized bin with a hole cut in the lid. For substrate I use two to three inches of sphagnum moss. I add luke warm water to the moss and mix until moist. You may have to add water with a spray bottle in a few days if it dries out. Almost always the female will start laying eight to twelve days after she sheds. My female laid eggs on May 8th thatís eight days from her pre-egg laying shed. Do not disturb her or the eggs until you are sure she is finished. I wait at least twenty-four hours from when I first saw her laying eggs before gently taking her out of the nesting box. Here is a picture of a female laying eggs:

 

Egg Incubation:

††††††††††† You should have the incubator set up at least a day before eggs are to be placed in it, to allow for the temperature and humidity to remain constant. There are many different ways to incubate eggs, buy or make one such as a ďhovabatorĒ type, aquarium set up where there is heated water underneath the egg box providing the desired temperature and humidity. I just used my rack caging system for an incubator with good results. (All fertilized eggs hatched, for ease of use I do recommend a hovabatortype incubator.) I make thumb sized indentions in the substrate then place the eggs on them being careful not to turn, flip, or try to separate any that have adhered together as you can damage the eggs or kill the embryos.

††††††††††† I use perilite as a hatching substrate, vermiculite also works well, and I have seen a commercial hatching substrate called ďhatch rightĒ that is ready to use out of the bag. I put two to three inches in a shoebox size plastic bin and add tepid, water and mix until the perilite is damp throughout. I didnít measure how much water I just kept adding water slowly until it was damp and slightly sticky feeling, never add so much water you can squeeze more then a drop or two out of the perilite. I put the lid, which I drilled one tiny hole into each corner to allow a small amount of air exchange. I add a hygrometer and placed the hatch box in my sweater box sized rack, which is heated on one end with under tank heat tape.

After an hour or so I check the temperature. I continue to check until it is stable and in the desired range. The range of temperature that has successfully hatched corn snake eggs is: 79- 86 degrees. There have been studies to suggest that eggs incubated at the higher temps. (84-86) May hatch 10 to 15 days sooner, while being maybe smaller and more aggressive. While those hatched at the lower end 79-82 degrees are larger calmer and hardier. I havenít heard of any studies to suggest any color variation due to higher or lower incubation temperatures, such as ďlavenderĒ albinos in leopard geckos that retain more melenim (dark pigment) when incubated at lower temperatures. I tried to keep my temperature in the 80-83 degree range but it did fluctuate slightly and on hot days would maybe reach 85 degrees.

The other key factor is humidity. The recommended humidity level is 75% to 90%. I placed a hygrometer right on the perilite close to the eggs themselves. Initially the humidity seemed very stable at around 75% to 80%. Around 35 days or so it did drop steadily, I waited until it was just above 70% and then misted. When I mist I cover the eggs themselves with paper towel, then mist around them with a fine mist spray bottle with tepid, (luke warm water). I remove the paper towel then place the lid back on and recheck the humidity in four to six hours. I feel you should be careful not to over spray especially at the later stages of egg incubation, remember if the humidity is 70%, that is better then over watering and killing the eggs.I also remove any slugs (infertile eggs) after seven to ten days in the incubator. I wait this long just to make sure they are not going to develop.

Here are some pictures of fertile and infertile eggs at different times. of

Hatching

††††††††††† After about sixty to seventy five days(this female laid July 8th, 60 days after laying.) if all goes well you should see pipped eggs. This is when the snakes cut slits in the egg with their egg tooth. They usually donít come out for a day or so after pipping. It is important to keep the proper humidity levels even after piping, so the eggs stay hydrated and soft to allow for easier hatching.

Here are pictures of pipping corn snakes:

After pipping they will usually remain in the eggs for one or two days. Let the snakes emerge on their own; donít try to help them out. They are tired and finishing the nutrients of their egg, they will come out when they are ready. I recommend keeping the lid on the incubator to maintain proper humidity levels. You donít want the egg to dry out making it hard or impossible for the snake to get out.

Here are pics. of a just hatched amel. (Albino) corn snake:

Housing Hatchlings:

††††††††††† I put each hatchling in its own cage, even though corn snakes are usually not cannibalistic I feel they are less stressed and far easier to monitor and feed separately. I recommend plain white soft paper towel as their first substrate. The corn snakes are still susceptible to infection from where they were attached to the egg yolk. I house mine in six-quart size bins with the lid on and place in a rack setup just like the adults. In my opinion you should provide a small, lidded plastic hide. I put a folded plain white paper towel on the bottom of the hide and keep it slightly moist. I find the snakes first few sheds can be slightly hard for them without this humid hide in place. The water dish needs to be a size that small snakes can get in and out of without risk of drowning. After they shed for the first time, which is usually around seven to ten days, offer food. A small frozen thawed pinkie placed in the cage is almost always accepted. I feed my baby snakes one pinkie every three to four days, some people feed only one prey item every week no matter the age of the snake. Temperature and humidity are kept the same as adults.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Quick Reference Table for Breeding Corn snakes

First week of Oct.

Double amount of prey items every week for each snake you intend to brumate. Temp. Remains normal. 75-86 degrees F.

November

First 2 weeks feed as above except put calcium powder on femaleís food. Stop feeding snakes after the first 2 weeks, allowing at least 14 days before beginning brumation. Temp remains normal 75-86 degrees F. throughout Nov.

Dec. 1st

Start brumating. Put snakes in already lowered temp. Brumation area. Use 2 to 3 inches of aspen bedding as a substrate; hide box, and fresh water bowl in each enclosure. Cover with breathable fabric to limit light if needed. Check snakes every 2 weeks and change water, but do not handle or disturb too much. Check temps often. Temps. Should be: 52-58 degrees F. Slight fluctuation wonít hurt them.

After 12 weeks of brumation

Take snakes out of brumation area right to normal temps. (75-86 F). and light. Wait 2 days before feeding snakes. First feeding offer only 1 prey item, so they can adjust slowly, then double food items weekly. Continue dusting calcium supplement on femaleís food. Continue this feeding schedule for as long as the snakes accept food.

Temps. Remain normal 75-86 degrees F. Lightly mist bi-weekly.

Females 1st shed after warm up

After 3 to 4 weeks the females will shed. This is the pre-breeding shed.

Breeding

Start introducing the males to the femaleís encloser. If not interested separate and try again in a day or so. After witnessing copulation at least twice, separate the snakes and feed the female as much as she will accept, dusting with calcium supplement. The males can be put on a normal feeding schedule of 1 food item per week.

 

Pre-breeding shed

The female should shed within 3 to 4 weeks after a successful breeding. This is the pre-laying shed.

Egg laying

Supply a nesting box, shoebox size container with moistened sphagnum moss with a access hole cut in the lid. She should start laying 8 to 12 days after her shed. It may take her at least 24 hours to finish. Feed her as much as she will accept and reintroduce the male to her if she is to double clutch, if not start regular feeding schedule.

Egg Incubation

Have incubator already set up. Temps. 79-86 degrees F. My preference is 80-82 degrees F. Humidity 75%-90%. Use moistened perilite or vermiculite as a substrate. Gently remove eggs, do not turn, separate or flip eggs around. Place in indentions made by you on the substrate. Put lid with 1 small hole drilled in each corner on and monitor regularly using hygrometer and thermometer.

Hatching

After 60 to 75 days the eggs should have pipped. Donít force snakes out of their eggs, let them emerge on their own. Once totally out of their egg remove and place in cage. Feed after first shed.