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Daily Classroom Special
Critter Corner: Meet the Corn Snake: Corn Snake Questions???  
About this Daily Classroom Special
Critter Corner allows teachers and students to learn and share experiences about organisms that can be kept in the classroom. Critter Corner is maintained by Judith Jones, teacher at East Chapel Hill High School (NC) and Teachers Network web mentor. E-mail Judith. Make sure to visit Judy's other Daily Classroom Special, The Time Travel Interviews with Famous Scientists

To the Critter Corner Directory.

You have questions about the corn snake,
Judy has answers about the corn snake!

The Corn Snake
Miss Judy,

My name is Robbie and I am in 6th grade. I want to do a science project with my 1.5 year old corn snake, Precious. I wanted to see if I could train Precious to come to the sound of my voice through vibrations. I would feed him after I talk to him. Kind of like Pavlov's dog. My project is due in one month and my mom doesn't think this will be enough time to train the snake. What do you think? Do you have other science experiments that I can do with my corn snake that I could do in one month? Thank you for helpling me. I love your website. I know you're busy teaching but please help me as soon as you can.

Robbie

Dear Robbie,

Thank you so much for your interesting email about your corn snake. I do agree with your mom that a month is probably not long enough to train your snake to recognize your voice - especially since they can only eat once a week at the very maximum. I will tell you though, that I have noticed that my snakes seem to "know" me. They might be familiar with my smell or perhaps with the way that I handle them or even my voice vibrations. Also, when I start to open their cages, they frequently come to the corner of the cage where the door is or to the top of the cage if I am opening a lid. I think that they associate the opening of the cage with food - but I am only hypothesizing. I really like your idea. I think if you had a longer time you could collect some great data on this interesting issue. My students ask me often if my snakes know me - a question related to your question of whether you could get your snake to come to the vibrations of your voice.

It is not easy to design experiments for a single snake - especially ones that won't harm the snake. One idea I have is to design a "T" maze made out of plexiglass (it’s shaped like a “T,” hence the name). The maze would have to be fairly large and would need a top so the snake could not escape. If you put the snake in the bottom of the maze, you could try some different effects in the right and left hand sides of the "T." For example, you could put a mouse at one end (in a little cage). Then put your snake at the bottom of the "T" and see which side of the "T" it goes to. You could tap on the right or left side, you could use your voice at only the right or left side. There is a product called "mouse odor" (or something like that) that is a liquid that smells like mouse - you could use drops of that at one end. You could even put a heating pad under one side or shine a light on one side. You could test all sorts of responses! Be sure to test each response several times and collect lots of data so you can analyze it.

I hope this helps you. Good luck on your project. I would love to hear from you again. You can email me any time.

Sincerely,
Judy Jones

Dear Ms. Jones,

I saw your webpage at TeachersNetwork.org and hope you can help me out with a question. A friend has a pair of corns (1 snow, 1 amel.) and the female recently started laying eggs. To our knowledge the snakes have never hibernated, but the eggs appear healthy. (I was told that fertile eggs have a bright white color.) We have the eggs in a shoebox filled with moss (we're having trouble finding vermiculite), and are spraying them with water daily and keeping the box on a heating pad. I've never bred my snakes, so I haven't had any experience with this. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Sonja F.
NCSU - Physics

Dear Sonja,

Corn snakes (and others) will breed without hibernating. Congratulate your friend. I am worried that misting them will promote mold growth. I have found that the vermiculite method that I wrote about is the best. I just buy a plastic shoe box, fill the box with the vermiculite to about the half way mark, soak the vermiculite so that it is damp but not dripping, and nest the eggs on top, keeping the eggs separated from each other. I replace the lid (no air holes), and place it on a rack about 3-4 inches above a heating pad. I place a thermometer inside the box and keep the temperature at about 37 degrees Celsius. You can get vermiculite at plant nurseries. Good luck. Corn snakes are truly beautiful creatures.

Judy Jones

Another fan asks

Hi Judy

My name is Sara and I have a couple of questions.

  1. Is it all right to have two different breeds of corn snakes in the same cage?
  2. If they were both male/female would they fight?
  3. How do you tell that the snakes are male/female?
  4. What is the average amount of eggs laid in a clutch? How many clutches can be laid in one year?
  5. What breed of corn snake would be the lowest price?
  6. How many pinkies do you feed a hatchling a week? How many mice do you feed an adult a week?
  7. If I were to use an incubator using a fish tank, water, bricks, a solid lid and a water heater how high would the temperature have to be? Also how do you incubate your eggs (if you get any)?
Please answer soon. Maybe even some time today.

Now I will tell a little about myself. I love animals, in fact I have quite a few. I have two dogs, two ferrets, a Peublan Milksnake, lots of fish, and a pair of budgies. I hope you can answer my questions quickly because I may be getting my corn snakes tomorrow.

Yours truly,
Sara

P.S. I'm only 12. When I do get my corn snake(s) I will e-mail you and tell you what breed they are, their names and their gender. For some reason I wish that I lived there so you could be my teacher. You really seem to be a nice person.

Dear Sara,
How nice to hear from you. In answer to your questions:

  1. It is perfectly acceptable to put two different breeds of corn snake in the same cage.
  2. It is also fine to put a male and female in the same cage. They certainly won't fight. They might even mate and lay eggs for you. If that happens, you can remove the eggs and incubate them and you could have little hatchling corn snakes!
  3. It is difficult to determine the gender of snakes. Usually, an expert can put a probe into the cloaca of the snake. If the probe encounters pouches, then the snake is a male. Some experts can gently bend back the cloaca and the hemipenes will evert indicating that the snake is a male. I recommend that you find an expert to do this for you!
  4. Corn snakes have quite variable clutches - but about a dozen might be average. They have one clutch per year.
  5. Usually, the regularly colored corn snakes are the least expensive. The unusual genetic variations are more money. The amelantistic (no black) or the aneurythristic (no orange) or the white (no black nor orange) cost more. When my pet store has corn snakes, I can get regularly colored hatchlings for about $30. The other ones (genetic variations) I have gotten in California for about $100.
  6. Hatchlings eat one to two pinkies every seven to ten days. Larger corn snakes eat two to three mice every 10 to 14 days depending on their size.
  7. The best incubator for eggs is a plastic shoe box with a lid. Put vermiculite that has been soaked in water but which is NOT dripping. Lay a thermometer on top of the vermiculite. Set the box on a frame about 4 inches above a heating pad. Put the eggs gently into little depressions in the vermiculite and make sure that they are not touching each other. Put the lid on and wait for about 55-60 days. The baby snakes should begin hatching one by one over about a weeks time. Keep the temperature at a steady 37 degrees Celsius. You can raise or lower the box over the heating pad to achieve this.

    To keep your corn snake, a simple aquarium, water dish, newspaper on the bottom and a heating pad under one half of the aquarium should be fine. Make sure you have an escape-proof screen lid and a climbing branch.

    You sound like you are very interested in all kinds of animals. Soon you will be able to take biology in high school. I hope you enjoy it! I am a high school biology teacher.

    Judy Jones


    I am 10 years old and just got my first albino corn snake. My friend says that pine is the best bedding for them. Is this true? I have alpine bedding in my aquarium. The reptile store said alpine is more easily digested if accidentally ingested. Also, should I have a peg board top or is a screen top sufficient? Please help!

    My reply:

    Congratulations on getting your corn snake. They are wonderful creatures! I prefer not to use pine or other shavings for my snakes because I worry about them swallowing the shavings when they eat. I like to use newspaper and clean it often. But you can probably trust the pet store's suggestion. An 11 year old student that I know keeps his corn snakes and yellow rat snakes on a combination of shavings and rocks with lots of branches for them to climb on. They seem to be doing fine. It really doesn't matter which top you use; just make sure that it is very secure. Corn snakes (along with other snakes) are truly escape artists!

    Good luck and please feel free to contact me again.

    Judy Jones


    We have a red corn snake in our sixth grade classroom. He shed about 2 weeks ago. He seems very healthy, active, no problems. But he hasn't eaten in 4 weeks. We are not sure whether to be concerned or if it's OK. He really seems fine, but just won't eat. We try to feed him every week. We also have a Ball Python who eats 2 mice every week, no problem.

    Any ideas, or is this normal??

    Mrs. French's 6th grade science classes

    Dear Mrs. French's sixth grade,
    Thanks for your question about your corn snake. Sometimes mine are sluggish about eating - particularly in winter. In the wild they would be sort of hibernating under the ground and waiting for the warmth of spring. I find if I keep the snake warm, it will eat better. You can put in a reptile hot rock or put a heating pad under one half of the aquarium (not inside). Keep trying to feed it once a week. It should eat soon. Let me know how it goes. It is amazing that snakes can go for months sometimes without eating. But of course, we do worry about them a lot!

    Good luck,
    Judy Jones

 

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