Milk snakes are part of a large family of snakes, with more than twenty recognized subspecies. Each has bright, colorful scales that are ringed like a coral snake. But unlike coral snakes, milk snakes are docile and not venomous.
How do you take care of a milk snake?
Milk snakes are easy to care for as a pet. They are a non-venomous constrictor snake of small to medium size. They require an enclosure with heating and light, at a certain temperature and humidity that depends on the subspecies. They are difficult to handle because they find humans threatening, but their bites don’t hurt. If you want to have one, keep in mind that they are not always a good beginner snake. They are more suitable for experienced owners who know exactly how to handle and calm a nervous snake.
Milk Snake Apperance
Milk snakes are tricolor snakes, which means they have three colors that appear in bands along their bodies. The width of the bands and the exact colors vary among the subspecies, but as a general rule, all milk snakes have similar patterns.
There are exceptions, such as the black milk snake. However, when they hatch for the first time, you will see that a black milk snake has similar marks to those of other species. They will gradually darken and lose their marks as they grow.
Life Span Of A Milk Snake
Milk snakes do not live as long as other snakes. In captivity, the life span of a milk snake is about 10-15 years. They can live up to 22 years. Of course, this is still a long time for a pet, but not as much as the boa constrictors or ball pythons that can live up to thirty years in captivity.
Milk Snake Cost
You could buy a basic morph for $ 50. The more interesting or rare the morphology, the more the snake will cost, up to thousands of dollars or more. A tangerine morphine, for example, can cost between 750 and 1000 dollars. These snakes are a bright orange color that the owners have created through selective reproduction. There are other costs of snake ownership . You also have to consider the tools and equipment you need to keep a milk snake. In total, it is likely that you spend between $ 200 and $ 300 on everything your snake needs. This includes an enclosure, a heating or lightning system, substrate, foods, thermometers and hygrometers, and some decorations.
Character of A Milk Snake
Milk snakes generally behave well, but there are some exceptions to the rule. When they are young, or freshly caught in nature, they will not enjoy being handled at all. It takes time to teach them that you are not a threat. Some milk snakes can also be picky about their food, and some do not start eating. Before buying a milk snake, always make sure you have they have eaten their first meal. It is unlikely that milk snakes bite. However, they can be difficult to handle, since they are nervous and very active.
Are milk snakes Venomous?
No, milk snakes are not venomous. Milk snakes are harmless to humans because they are small constrictors. This means that they have no venom. People might think they are dangerous because they look a bit like coral snakes, with bands along their body. This leads people who kill them to think they are a threat when they encounter one in nature. But no matter what subspecies you encounter, they are completely harmless.
Do Milk Snake Bite’s Humans?
They can do it if you mistreat them. If you bought a newborn (a baby), then they are probably not used to handling at first.
It is unlikely that they will bite when they are handled for the first time. Instead, they are more likely to do something called “musk.” This is where they release a smelly (liquid) musk from their anal glands. The point is to scare away and disgust any potential predator. Your milk snake will do this because it thinks you as a threat. If it is the first time they are handled, they will have no idea that you are not a predator, so it is expected that they react as if you were. Over time, they will realize that you are not a threat.
Caring Of Milk Snake
The exact care requirements of your snake will depend on the subspecies. This is because, as a group, milk snakes have one of the widest geographic areas among snakes.
Thus, for example, you can find species:
- In the woods
- In open meadows
- In rocky areas
- In farmland
You can find them almost everywhere. You can find them anywhere from California to western Canada. A subspecies native to Canada would be more comfortable in colder climates than one in California.
Milk Snake Enclosure
If you want to have a milk snake as a pet, you need a place to put it. Is it possible that you have heard the terms nursery, enclosure, tank or cage before? All this refers to the thing in which you keep the snake.
You have many options, each of which would be suitable for a milk snake:
Glass. These look good, but they can’t keep warm well. They are also quite heavy, which can make them harder to assemble.
Plastic. These are the cheapest ones you can find, but they don’t seem very professional. They are an excellent option for a beginner tank, that is, a tank in which to keep a young.
Wooden. These look good, but you can’t see the inside through the wooden sides. They usually have a sliding panel in the front to see through it.
Because milk snakes are stressed quite easily, we recommend a wooden enclosure. With a glass or plastic cover, they can get nervous as they feel they are in a large and open space. Milk snakes like small and cozy spaces, so they need to hide in their enclosure . A wooden enclosure makes them feel safer because they can only see on one side.
What size tank does a milk snake need?
In terms of size, the same problem applies. If the enclosure is too large, your pet will get nervous. If it is too small, they will feel locked up and stressed. As a general rule, if your snake can stretch up to 2/3 of its length, then the container is large enough. Start hatching in a small plastic container instead of an adult size one. A 10 gallon tank is fine, make sure there are enough decorations and two places to hide so that the baby milk snake does not feel insecure. Once they grow, increase them to an adult-sized tank. Based on the size of your snake, choose a tank from the following list.
- If your snake measures between two and three feet, choose a 20 gallon tank.
- If your snake is between three and four feet, choose a 30 gallon tank.
- If your snake is larger than 1.20 m, choose a 40 gallon tank.
In particular, pay attention to the length of the terrarium from one end to the other. A typical 20 gallon tank is 30 inches from one end to the other, which is approximately two and a half feet long. That means that it is fine for any snake between two and three feet. Milk snakes are not arboreal snakes, but they will still appreciate the things they can climb on, so height is not of the utmost importance.
Enrichment For Milk Snake
Your snake tank needs decorations to make your snake feel happy and safe. First, you will need two hides. The hides are places for your snake to hide and are large enough to fit. Think of a coconut with a 2-inch piece cut from the front – that’s what snakes prefer. They feel safe in small and enclosed spaces. You need one for the cold side of your tank and one for the hot side of your tank.
You should also get some cover, for example, fake or real plants that are safe for snakes that allow them to move without feeling overwhelmed by space. A bowl of water for bathing, allowing the to cool down if they want to.
It is important that your snake has a place to hide, even if they are only in a “temporary shelter.” If you keep them in a small enclosure during your first year, for example, you should have the decorations and furniture up there.
Milk Snake Heating
Milk snakes have a wide range of heat needs. This is because there are milk snakes that live in the Canada, which are accustomed to a colder climate, but there are also subspecies that are native to warmer parts of the world such as Texas or Mexico. That is why it is vital that you find out what subspecies you have before setting the temperature in your enclosure.
To help you determine how warm your enclosure should be, use the following table:
Honduran milk snakes such as a temperature of 86-90 and a regular temperature of 78-82 degrees. A small drop at night at 72-75 is fine.
Andean milk snakes such as a temperature of 75-78 and a regular temperature of between 68-70. A small drop at night at 63-65 is fine.
Mexican milk snakes such as a temperature of 83-85 degrees and a regular temperature of 78-80 degrees. A small drop at night at 72-75 is fine.
These three examples illustrate how varied milk snakes are. It may seem strange that two subspecies of the same type of snake have such different requirements. But the Andean milk snakes live in a very mountainous region, where the average temperature is about 68 degrees, quite cold, despite being close to the equator. So they don’t like temperatures as high as the others.
Honduran milk snakes live in subtropical areas that are naturally warmer, and Mexican milk snakes live in drier grassland habitats. These snakes, therefore, require more heat in general, and even warmer areas for sunbathing. Learn more about your snake’s natural habitat and adjust its temperature accordingly. You will also have noticed that milk snakes need two different temperatures. That’s because they need a place to enjoy and warm up, and a place to hide and cool off. Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they cannot regulate their temperature. They need your help to do it. You can heat using a heat lamp, a heating mat.
Milk Snake Lighting
There is a subsection of snake owners who think that snakes need lighting in their enclosures, but that is not necessarily the case.
However, snakes do not need UV light for the formation of vitamin D or other. In terms of its health, it is not necessary.
If you want to see more of your tank, you can use a heat lamp. This provides heat and light. If the heat lamp is inside the enclosure, make sure it is out of the snake’s reach. If this is not possible, surround it with a protective metal mesh or similar.
Milk Snake Bedding (Substrate)
Aspen is the best bedding for most snakes. Aspen is made from shaved poplar bark. 2 inches of substrate is fine for a young. This gives them enough space to dig, but at the same time, they will not be using too much. Try 3 inches to be a mature snake. Aspen is ideal for absorbing odors, and good quality thing is it have no dust. It is also has a nice apperance more eusthatically pleasing.
However, it is not the cheapest substrate that can be found. If you cannot pay the poplar, you can choose between:
- Paper towels
- Orchid Bark Mix
- Coconut shell mix
Paper towels and newspapers are especially cheap, and they are also easy to clean. However, we would not recommend getting any substrate or bedding in which the milk snake cannot dig.
You might think that sand would be an excellent substrate for snakes, but it is not. It can reach below its scales, and they can even swallow it by accident. This is bad for its health. In addition, it is a nightmare to clean.
Milk Snakes Diet
Milk snakes have a very varied diet, compared to other snakes. They are opportunistic eaters, which means they will eat whatever they find.
In nature, they eat soft-bodied insects such as worms and caterpillars, as well as slugs. They also eat hard-bodied insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. If they are large enough when they grow up, they can also eat small mammals, birds and lizards. However, in captivity they mostly eat rodents.
In captivity, milk snakes are very easy to feed. They are a very greedy snake, and rarely reject food. Start with a pinkie diet. When they are large enough, you can feed them with larger prey such as bigger rodents if necessary.
Here is a basic diet for a milk snake that you can follow:
For a snake of newborn milk, you can start with earthworms if they are unusually small. If they are large enough, feed them with a pinky mouse every 5-7 days. For a one-year-old milk snake, feed it with pinkies or rodents according to its size. Feed them once a week, as they are still growing. For an adult milk snake, decrease the feeding frequency, but increase the amount of size of the prey. An adult mouse every 10-12 days would be appropriate.Keep in mind, however, that the diet is based on size and not on age. If your snake is very long and wide for a year, without being overweight, then you can feed it more often and in larger quantities.
If your snake is very short and wide, without being below its weight, then they cannot eat larger prey. In addition, your snake may not show interest in food until one day after its scheduled feeding. If so, adjust the schedule accordingly.
Initially you might be surprised by the size of the prey that can feed a snake. Anything up to one and a half times the width of your head is perfectly fine. Snakes, including milk snakes, can stretch their jaws wide to fit large prey.
My Milk Snake Is Not Eating
If your milk snake does not eat, it could be for one of the four main reasons.
It could be because they are entering brumation . The brumation is similar to hibernation, where the snake enters a period of low activity.
This is during the winter months, when a) the snake would get too cold if it were active and b) it would be much harder to find food. As such, your natural eating instinct decreases or disappears in late autumn and early winter. Alternatively, it could be because your new milk snake has never lived on a captivity diet before. Newborns can sometimes have trouble adjusting without a clear reason.
Adults trapped in the wild are not accustomed to being given food that has no body temperature and is already dead. Your snake could be about to enter the blue phase, where they lose their skin.
During this time, they don’t like to eat.Your snake could be stressed, either because they don’t like you to handle it or approach it, or because its enclosure is too small. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do. Try to heat the food, not until it is hot, but until it is at body temperature. Use a heat lamp or a mat, not a microwave.
You can also try to feed them with live prey , but if they don’t eat it, be sure to remove the object of prey, or it could damage your snake. Another idea is to try to rub a rodent with a dead frog or lizard in a process known as “sniffing.” This gives the rodent the smell of a favorite prey.
If these ideas do not work, try again. If even this is not enough to induce them to eat, you should visit a veterinarian. The problem could be an underlying disease.
Determining The Sex Of The Milk Snake
There are two ways to determine the gender of a milk snake including. These are: “popping” and “polling.”
Popping is the best way for an “amateur” to find out the gender of a the snake. This is where a constant pressure is applied to the snake’s tail. Find the place approximately 1 inch below the snake’s opening and apply gentle pressure on it. If nothing happens, move your thumb towards the opening, very slowly, applying a constant pressure.
If the snake is a male, then one or both of its hemipenes will appear, hence the name. Hemipenes are the sexual organs of a male snake. If nothing comes out, then the snake is probably a female. This does not harm the snake, neither the male nor the female. However, this method does not always work, especially if it is the first time you try it.
The other method to determine the sex of a snake is called probing. This is where a small, thin probe designed specifically for this purpose is inserted into the anal of a snake. The probe will go deeper into the snake’s tail if it is a male than if it is a female. You have to be very careful if you probe a snake because it can damage its tail, or hemipenes. That’s why it’s better for a veterinarian to do it.
Breeding Of Milk Snakes
If you are interested in breeding milk snakes, they are not so different from other snakes, especially other collubrids. They are egg laying snakes (oviparous) instead of snakes that incubate the eggs internally before they also hatch internally (ovovivores) or those that do not create eggs at all and give birth to live (viviparous) offspring. You must also ensure that the female is in reproductive age before attempting to reproduce. Milk snakes reach sexual maturity between 3 and 4 years of age.
If you want to breed two milk snakes together, use the following guide:
Like all collubrids, milk snakes reproduce after the brumation. After the brumation, the female begins to produce pheromones. Placing the male snake into the female’s enclosure after the brumation. Then they will mate, with the male crawling first on the female, before wrapping it. Mating can last up to a few hours.Make sure the female is not unhappy or upset. If she doesn’t want to mate, she hurt the male, and the male can hurt her again. They could cause serious injury to each other without wanting to. If they are not happy together, remove the male safely, either by hand or with a stick.
Incubating milk snake eggs
Milk snakes will lay eggs about a month after mating if the mating was successful. In nature, this is in June or July. In captivity, it’s a month after you chose to mate with them. The exact date doesn’t matter, but try to make sure it’s quite early in the summer. Otherwise, the offspring would have difficulty starting to eat, since their first meal would be just before winter.
Milk snakes lay a varied amount of eggs , anywhere between 2 and 20. Most likely, you will see around ten. Once the female lays the eggs, you should immediately move them to an incubator.
If you did not know, the purpose of an incubator is to keep the eggs at the correct humidity and temperature. In nature, milk snakes lay their eggs under logs or rocks, or simply buried in the ground, so that there is little temperature variation.
Be careful not to shake them. When you pick them up, do not tilt them anywhere. The side that was facing up after the egg was laid should be the side that looks up into the incubator. This increases the probability that the egg will hatch successfully.
If you wish, you can use a marker to place a point on the side that should be facing up. This will help you keep them firm and ensure that is kept straight.
The incubation lasts two months for the eggs to hatch in August or September. When hatching, babies are about 7 inches long. During the first 7-10 days of their life, they will not eat, because they will be going through their first shed. Feed them once the molting process is done.
How To Handle Milk Snakes
Milk snakes are difficult and can be a challenge for beginner snake enthusiasts. That is because they can be quite nervous with people.
Milk snakes are not very aggressive, but do not feel comfortable at first with handling. You have to teach them over time to accept that you are not a threat. So, let’s find out how to handle one properly.
How To Handle A Milk Snake
Milk snakes will only understand that you are not a threat if you handle them correctly. Follow the following guidelines so that both you and your snake can enjoy your driving.
- Keep calm when handling a milk snake.
- Do not tremble and shudder, because your snake will interpret these movements as a threat.
- Do not move them too fast. Again, you will make them nervous.
- Do not handle them while they are hungry, or shortly after eating. When they are hungry, they could try to mistake you with food. Also If they just ate handling is not adviceable as their instinct is to regurgitate their food so they can leave faster.
- Keep both hands on them at all times. They are very active and can quickly get away from you if you are not careful. A hand underneath for support and a hand over like a skin can soothe them.
- Keep your handling sessions short. Because they are nervous and easily stressed, prolonged handling is not good for a milk snake.
To make the milk snake get used to you, start by standing near your enclosure, without reacting if they get defensive or even try to attack. Once they feel comfortable with you, try to put your hand inside their enclosure.
Repeat the process, again, until you feel comfortable. Once you have become accustomed to your hands, hold them 1/3 and 2/3 of the distance along your body for maximum support and follow the guidelines above.
That will be all we cover for this article about milk snake.