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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Kellog Posted - 12/03/2013 : 04:37:07
I don’t have any experience with handling hatchlings or little ones, but I have had a juvenile that was not handled at all well by her previous owner so had to ‘start from the beginning’ with her, the way I would imagine you would with a hatchling. I hope these notes I made about handling will be of some use to you if you are starting out. I’ll be calling the snake ‘she’ as I don’t like using ‘it’.

One thing you need to remember is that corns are not used to being handled and, to start with, don’t really want to be. They do adjust to us handling them and then come to 'enjoy' the time outside the viv, being able to explore etc.

Ideally it is best to leave your new snake for a week to get over the stress of the move and settle into her new home. That means just changing her water and not feeding her. Don’t worry about the missed feed; even baby corns can easily go for a while without food. After the week is up you need to decide whether you are going to handle your snake before you then feed her. Personally I would do a feed first, because that way the snake is feeling safe having been left alone and is more likely to feed….and it is always good to get that first feed done successfully.

I always fiddle with my snakes' substrate whenever I change their water, just airing it and checking for poo, but it’s a really good way to spread my smell around their viv. When I go to handle them I go in slowly, and again I fiddle with the substrate a bit because that way I am getting their scent on my hands, which I think must help in keeping them calm. It also warns them that I am in their viv so they are not surprised. If you don’t have substrate you can stroke the kitchen roll she is on, the hide she isn't in….slowly and quietly, just spreading your smell around and letting her know she is safe with your hand there. Another trick is to carry an old sock or napkin around with you for a day then put it in the viv. It will pick up your scent and help familiarize the two of you when it comes to handling.

None of my corns come onto my hand....wanting to be picked up, although one does try to slip past me every time I open his door! It is a case of me choosing to pick them up from wherever they are in the viv. I know some people’s corns do come to them, but not don’t worry if yours doesn't. When you do pick her up try not to come at her from above, but rather scoop her up from the sides....that will scare her less. If she is in a hide, remove the hide from the viv if possible and then go to pick her up. Don’t try lifting the hide with one hand and catching her with the other, too much juggling when you need to be concentrating on one thing only….your snake.

Very calmly and confidently scoop her up, using both hands and being careful to support her so she isn’t dangling. Hold her firmly and gently as she WILL try to escape from your grip - but that is a natural reaction for her and you must not react but continue as you are. Hold her fairly firmly but gently to bring her out of the viv. Once you have her out, sit with her and just let her run through your hands, moving one to the other to the other and so on. Covering your lap with a towel is a good idea in case she decides to poo on you. She may seem flighty and scared to begin with...but again, you have to realise it is natural and something both she and you have to get used to. Just be very calm and steady with your movements. I would suggest you don’t have her out for more than 5 minutes (twice a day is fine), and return her gently and calmly to the viv. Repeat again and again and again....and you will begin to notice a difference in her behaviour as she gets used to being handled and will begin to tolerate it more. As she gets used to it so will you and your confidence will grow. You can then lengthen the amount of time you have her out and allow her to begin to explore your body and then around you...but that is a little way off! At the moment it is a case of quality not quantity. All snakes will respond differently, and the same snake may respond differently at different times. You will learn how much handling your snake can tolerate, and she may be happy with more than 5 minutes straight away. Go by how you think she is reacting….and how you feel as well! If you are getting tense and stressed then return her to her viv, if both you and your snake are relaxed then carry on longer.

Another way to approach handling your snake is called "patting down”. Open the door, approaching her slowly. Touch the top of her head with the palm of your hand so the snake knows it is not being fed. Then lift her out using two hands to support her weight. This is especially useful with viv defensive snakes. Like anything else though it has to be done correctly. You present the open palm with fingers together, so the snake has nothing to bite. Once you "pat down" most snakes see they are not being fed etc and you can pick them up.

Everyone is scared of the dreaded first bite. It is barely a noticeable 'grip' with a baby corn, in fact they may bite you without you even being aware of it. If you do feel it, it will be like a pin needle *****, nothing worse. A corn snake does not bite and hold on, unlike some other snakes. IF they do bite, they let go immediately. The biggest thing is to try not to jerk away. This is for the snake’s sake, not yours! Their teeth are not strong and would easily snap off if you responded like that. I know it’s difficult, because it is an almost immediate response to the shock of it happening, but it’s something you need to be aware of. Very few corns are ‘bitey’ and when it does happen it is usually down to the handler surprising/scaring them. For them it is a defence mechanism and they will be trying to pretend they are big and can get you….but they can’t! There are occasionally corns with ‘attitude’, who will strike just to show off, but not many. With these it is a case of ‘grin and bear’ the bites and prove to the snake that it isn’t going to ‘get you’, that you aren’t going to hurt it and it should slowly respond by calming down. But, as I said, these sorts of corns are few and far between.

I, personally, would avoid gloves if possible. You want your snake to get used to your smell and the touch and warmth of your skin, and gloves are just a barrier. Having said that, if you are so scared about being bitten that the only way you are happy to handle her is to wear gloves then that is the way to go. Hopefully, in time, you would be able to feel confident enough to handle her without the gloves. I must admit that I would miss the feel of the snake gliding through my hands - they feel so amazing!

As far as them pooing on you….it is going to happen! I actually prefer my snakes doing it while I am handling them because it keeps their vivs nice and clean. You do learn to look out for the signs and are ready with some kitchen roll to ‘catch’ whatever comes out, you just have to hope you have predicted where your snake is aiming correctly! Usually the snake will go still for a few seconds, their tail will lift up at an odd angle and then you can slip the kitchen roll underneath ready for whatever comes out. Be aware that they can fire it quite a distance….and it stinks!

Your snake will be able to tell you are not confident and that will make her more stressed. It is a case of you needing to 'fake it until you feel it'....behave calmly and gently, with no sudden movements, and she will respond positively to that. Remember, her reaction when you go to pick her up will be a fear response....but that will lessen with time.

Now I can talk from actual experience. When I took on Silvi her previous owner only handled her a couple of times a week if she was lucky, with a glove after being bitten, and she was very obviously underfed. When we went to see her the owner got her out with the glove and Silvi was all over the place, striking and trying to escape....I immediately took her from her owner (with my bare hands) and within a few minutes her movements had calmed down. I think she was truly picking up on the vibes of her previous owner that he was scared of her. When I got her home I treated her as a hatchling, giving her the week to settle in and then only handling her twice a day for a maximum of 5 minutes. To begin with she would try to escape when I went to get her out of her viv (and caused total chaos spreading substrate everywhere!) but after 3 months she would let me pick her up without fleeing from me. The handling sessions lengthened and she became accustomed to me running her through my hands and letting her roam my body. I was able to let her explore a bit, although I always kept a hand on her because she is exceedingly fast and I know that if she decided to she could escape before I could get near her to catch her. I do that with all my snakes, keeping a hand either on or near them, and would advise others to do the same. Now she is just like my other 2, you wouldn't believe she was the same snake.

The Golden Rule - No handling of your snake for 48hrs after she has been fed. Once you know your snake you may be able to change this as some snakes metabolise their food quicker than others, so could be handled after 24hrs but I have always stuck to the 48hrs golden rule as I don’t want to risk disturbing their digestion and causing stress….just so I can have a handle!

It really is a case of time and patience and quality of handling rather than quantity. Take it slow and trust yourself...only when you do that will your snake trust you.

20   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Spacetastic Posted - 03/04/2015 : 18:22:04
Hi Kellogg, this is really useful, thank you.
Hockeystu83 Posted - 23/03/2015 : 22:39:12
Awesome!! I shall try that shuffling the substrate about so kianna can get used to my smell and won't dart off too often lol :) i always pick her tail/lower body up then quickly put my other hand under her body to support her then up and towards with me :)
Verhus Posted - 09/12/2013 : 01:41:48
Hi Razee, I've added your tips to the pages I have from here already -I've got quite a shopping list now!! Thanks everyone for your help My wee boy might be living like an urchin at the moment but things can only improve once I get him the set-up he deserves.
Oh, and I can't claim any bravery at all in starting with one his size, first off the seller lied to me but I was shaking like a leaf the first few times I went near him
smart bunny Posted - 08/12/2013 : 17:44:17
Thanks for filling in the gaps I forgot about with the stat and the hides Razee!
Razee Posted - 08/12/2013 : 09:34:13
Sorry for double posting - only just noticed that SB has already answered the food size question.

Re heat - your most important things would be a thermostat ( either on/off, or pulse - I much prefer pulse, keeps the temperature well ) , and a digital thermometer, so you can monitor the temperature exactly. You can easily get them online - somewhere like "Swell reptiles", or "Blue Lizard", it's cheaper than the shops. Mat goes in the viv, plugged in the thermostat, then thermostat plugged in the wall socket. Thermostat probe, ( together with the thermometer probe, just to be sure the thermostat is working correctly ) goes on the top of the mat, weighed down by something ( hide, or decorations ), so that the snakey can't move the probes of the mat.
You're aiming for around 28 - 29 C on the mat. If you can only fit one hide, you could maybe have a long tube, half of which would be over the warm area, half over unheated bit, that way he can have a nice rest, at whatever temperature he wants. Hope this helps :-)
Razee Posted - 08/12/2013 : 09:07:37
Hi Verhus - just to say well done at handling him, I was very nervous with my super fast, tiny wizzy hatchling, when it came to handling her ( almost 3 years ago :-) - and couldn't find any info, either! You're 10 x braver than me, starting with a big one!

Re feeding - at his size and age, he could easily eat large, or even XL mouse. I'd be tempted to start with a large, if he's only been on small mice before. Don't worry, they can't choke when eating, they have a reinforced ( cartilage ) breathing tube, that they can push out of the side of their mouths when swallowing. At his size and age, a large mouse every 10 - 14 days ( probably 14 as you don't want him fat ), or XL every 14 days ( or even 3 weeks ) would be ok.

He actually doesn't look in bad shape at all, lovely snakey. Enjoy :-)
smart bunny Posted - 08/12/2013 : 07:38:35
Ooooh he's a bit longer than you thought as well lol! That's good though, means he probably wasn't as underfed as I was thinking, he looks a goos size - and very pretty :)
Verhus Posted - 07/12/2013 : 23:23:11
Kellog!! I actually did it Totally faked it and was terrified at first but he was sooo sweet he pretended not to notice. Thank you so much for this advice, we actually had a proper sitting-still cuddle at one point, he was so relaxed!

Smart Bunny, I just realised what you meant by "stickied thread" and Thank You too for the advice, any help at all in using this type of forum is much appreciated as i've never used these things before. Have started a new thread to see what sort of snake I have but after tonight's wee cuddle he's just amazing whatever type he is

smart bunny Posted - 06/12/2013 : 10:02:10
Ok the first thing is - you are NOT a bad owner, you are a good owner who has come on here to find out the PROPER way to look after a snake. As far as I am concerned you have rescued him from a bad owner, and although things may not be ideal for him at the moment give it a bit of time and you'll get it all sorted for him.

As for the things the previous owner has done wrong, it's difficult to know where to start! The thing I am most concerned about is that you have a heat mat under a wooden viv which is unstatted and a fire hazard. As you have just fed him you need to keep things warm for a couple of days, but as soon as it's OK I would get rid of the mat (unless you can get all the tape off totally as any tape/other sticky substance is dangerous for snakes). The mat needs to be inside the viv and take up 1/3 to 1/2 of the floor space. I think the best thing to do is direct you to the stickies to be honest. There is a good thread on setting up an adult viv, but I can't find it at the moment, not sure why it's not a sticky, Kellog always finds it so hopefully she'll be along soon!! In the meantime the hatchling setup will give you a better idea of how things should be:

Edit: Found it! Any chance a mod could make this a sticky?!,set,up

No wonder the poor thing is only 3.5 ft at 4yrs if it's only being fed on a couple of fuzzies :( I wouldn't offer more than 2 food items at once though - better to go up a size. You could always give 1 small plus 1 medium for a while. I'd just say up the feeding amount gradually though, as his tum is not used to it!

May be worth for future questions starting a new thread of your own (not having a go or anything) as more people may respond if it's not on a stickied thread :)
Verhus Posted - 06/12/2013 : 03:05:21
Hi Smart Bunny, Thamks for getting back to me. I don't know much at all about his life with his previous owner, I did send e-mails but think maybe they were a bit too long and she got bored reading them because she ignored half of my questions.

Apparently he ate 3 mice the day before coming to me and, as they were the next size up from pinkies, i figured he would be ready to try small mice now (which i've bought). I only defrosted 2 on the off chance that he might be hungrier than usual as it had been 14 days since his last feed but, like I said, I think he'd have taken another if i'd had it ready for him.

The small mice I gave him are about as wide as his head, longer though, and I barely noticed any bump as I tried to follow it's path down his body. You should see the food going down, right? I'm thinking I should offer him 3 of these at his next 2 feeds then change to offering 2 (or 1?) medium mice? The people at the Pet Shop I buy the mice from say he should be on a bigger size for his age too but they've never seen him so say I'll just have to judge it for myself in the end. If I do offer him a too-big mouse, will he choke or suffocate?

About his hides, I found out online that he should have two but there's just no space left for another one in this viv. I've left a log in at the cool side which already stretches across to on top of his hide on the warm side of the viv, but i figured it might provide at least a token space to hide in the meantime (?).

I also read lots online about temperature regulation but then when he arrived with his viv I found out that his heat matt doesn't seem to have any way of regulating the temperature! It's just either plugged in or it's not. No thermostatic controls at all. No viv thermometer either to see how warm it is in there. I asked the Pet Shop about what sorts of heat matts they had and apparently theirs are the same. The matt is just a strip of plastic with black lines on it and a power cable, is this normal? It does get quite warm to touch (but not exactly hot)and smells because there's the remains of sticky tape all over it. Is there something better I can buy for him?

The previous owner said to place it under the (Vivexotic laminate wood) viv at one end, which I've done, but the size of the tank means that it's also under his hide - his only hide - am I doing wrong here? If I move it out from under his hide it'll be under his water and I know he needs cool water. God, Now I'm just angry. He needs more space.

What about if I wrap the heat matt along the side wall (instead of under the viv) on the same side of the tank as his hide? That way that side of the viv will be generally slightly warmer but the heat won't all be concentrated inside his hide?

As I fed him on Wednesday I can't disturb him until Saturday (when I'm going to put Kellog's handling tips into practice) so I'll remove some of the substrate from his hide area then too. Depending upon how the handling goes I'll also try to measure him and see if I can measure his thickness too.

Apparently this tank set-up I have him in is exactly what he's been used to living in but now i'm really worried that it's inadequate, and that i'm going to make him ill or kill him with too much heat and not enough space. Maybe not enough food even! Why would someone do that? Why would someone sell him with an inadequate viv to an inadequate owner who believes it's all ok? I've never hurt an animal in my life and I'd never forgive myself if I killed him with stupidity.

I know that I'm not an expert but he looks happy enough. He flicks his tongue a lot and looks interested when i first go into the viv and only became nervous (I understand now) because I was so hesitant with him. He tends to move calmly and, I think, quite confidently and only shows his speed when he's out of the viv and sees how much open space is out there. (or at feeding time when he was lightening fast)
He does have lovely bright eyes and his skin is like silk, shiny and smooth with no rough bits. I've read about how underfed snakes can look concave along the top of their bodies but I didn't look for that, I will check it out on Saturday now that I know what to look for.

The poor wee thing. He's relying on my care and I feel I'm letting him down. Please tell me truthfully if his viv set-up here is going to make him ill, or worse. Animals shouldn't be allowed to be sold to just anyone, like an ornament or a piece of furniture! I don't know whether to feel as if i've rescued him from a bad owner or I AM a bad owner. The sooner he gets a bigger viv the better, then I can set it up with everything he needs.
smart bunny Posted - 05/12/2013 : 09:51:24
Hi Verhus and welcome to the forum. :D

Don't worry about the handling side too much - you and your (daughter's) snake will get used to each other and he'll soon settle down! Handling every other day is absolutely fine (as long as you are leaving alone for 48 hrs after a feed to allow him to digest properly). You'll probably find he'll start to settle a bit after being out for a few minutes, so try to increase the length you hold him by a couple of minutes each time - if you only ever hold him for 5 mins then he won't get chance to get used to it :)

Feeding wise - an adult would usually be on much bigger than small mice to be honest so it's good you gave him 2. Most adults (which he is if he is 4 yrs old) would be on a large mouse every 14 days, so what I would recommend (others may differ!) is: if you have bought some smalls which you need to use up, then continue as you are, 2 smalls every week for now, then try giving him a medium for a couple of weeks, then up to large every fortnight. It is definitely possible to overfeed snakes, and once they are in 'feeding mode' they will often look about for more even though they don't need it.

Hmmm - I just re-read your post and he doesn't sound very long for an adult? Do you know the previous owner's feeding details? I think you will have to judge for yourself whether he is ready for large mice or not as he may have been underfed previously... see how he gets on with the mediums first - you could always post up a feeding/bump pic for us to look at to see if the food size looks about right. You are definitely right about him needing a bigger viv though poor thing, but don't worry, he'll cope for a few more months ;) But hey, that means you'll then have a spare viv free for your to put your own snake in when you've saved up mwahahaha!!!

You mentioned increasing the depth of the substrate - that is good for the cold end but I just wanted to check your heating method? If you are using a mat (which I hope is on a thermostat) then it is important to make sure the substrate is only very thin over the mat to prevent thermal blocking. If on the other hand you are using a lamp (which would also need a thermostat) then it won't matter about the substrate depth. Also you mention 'his hide'... he should have at least two - one at each end so he has the choice of a warm or cold hide

Not sure if I missed anything! Feel free to ask any more questions you have, we won't bite... but we do like to see pics!!! :D
Verhus Posted - 05/12/2013 : 00:31:15
Thanks for this post Kellog!! I've been searching the web for handling tips and advice for three weeks now and nothing has been as detailed or as useful as this post. I just joined the Forum earlier tonight and I think it's going to be my home for the forseeable future!

I just got my corn snake two weeks ago and, reading the posts, I went about it all the wrong way: buying him from a total stranger via a local online marketplace instead of a proper breeder or petshop. I did manage to get a little info. from the seller (his age, 4-ish, and that he's used to being handled) but it was hard work and most of what I learned about corn snakes, their care and viv. set-ups came from a week of intense online research after i'd agreed to buy him - then he arrived!

I've had him just two weeks now and know that his viv is a)overcrowded due to the size of the hide and water dish he needs for his size, and b)I need to invest in a bigger viv asap. The viv is 1'x 2' and he's about 3' or maybe 3.5'. He seems happy enough in it at the moment but i'm hoping to have the bigger viv in about 4 months. (just need some time to save up for it)

I put about half an inch of substrate in the viv but earlier today topped that up to about one and a half inches after reading that corn snakes like to burrow. I've a viv lock arriving tomorrow but have used tape to secure the doors in the meantime.

I left him alone for 4 days after he arrived then spent about 5-mins handling him, badly and nervously. I've handled him very briefly every second day since then but i'm still a bit (okay, a lot) nervous and angry at myself as I think it's making him nervous too. I just need to get over it for his sake, he's such a lovely natured wee thing and has never actually tried to strike or anything like that. I know that I just need to stop being an idiot and allow him to feel safe and relaxed with me. I want him to feel at home here.

He's absolutely beautiful!! I can't stop looking at him. It's like having a new child, I keep watching him and smiling and thinking "Wow! He's really ours!" So cute and small and shy. But then, when it comes to handling him, I just can't ignore that he could bite and he is so strong! (I wasn't expecting that.) And fast! Really fast! I think that's what scares me most, I'd rather he just bit me and then I could get over it and not worry about it anymore but not seeing it coming is quite scary.

I fed him for the first time today, two weeks after he arrived and two weeks and a day since his last feed. It was the most terrifying experience I've subjected myself to voluntarily but weirdly also the most exciting. (I was almost shaking.) I managed to transfer him to his feeding tank (it's just a bare plastic box, don't know if I should put something in it) and used tongs to offer him the small mouse (which I'd defrosted at room temp since the night before).
He took it immediately, fast as lightening. I didn't even have time to see him take it before it was half inside his mouth! He sort of chewed side to side until it all went down, rattling his tail as it went (wasn't expecting that either, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up). I didn't know how long to wait before offering him the second mouse but as he seemed to be in 'feeding mode' (he seemed to be enjoying it) I only waited about 1 - 2 minutes and he again took it straight away. How would I know if he wanted more? It seemed to me he would easily have taken a third one but I was worried three might make him sick if I overfed him. Can you overfeed a snake?

I ended up sort of tipping him slowly back into the viv as i was terrified by then and couldn't touch him at all. (The rattling freaked me out a bit.) He was pretty blase about it though and seemed to slide easily straight to his hide as if he was smiling. I was so proud of him. I'd been worried he'd be too nervous to eat so it's a weight of my mind now that he has. He's just amazing Not least for putting up with me!

Sorry if this sort of novice rambling isn't what these type of forums are meant for but it was just such a relief to read some real and helpful information and, to be honest, I also just wanted to talk about him.

He doesn't have a name yet. Much as I'm loving pretending he's mine, all mine, he's a Christmas present for my daughter so I think she ought to name him. (Privately I'm calling him Cornflake the Corn Snake.) That's the other reason I need to get used to handling him, to have him happy and settled and content in his new home before she meets him. I don't want her to think there's any reason to be wary of him because I know she's just going to love him as soon as she sees his wee face.

Kellog Posted - 11/07/2013 : 07:46:23
Sorry for the last reply Luke. It's great that your snake was so settled with you . It would be fine to handle him every day, even a couple of times a day. Just start out for short periods of time and slowly build up. One point though, it's best to leave them for 48hrs after they've eaten to make sure they've fully digested their food. Snakes differ with how long that takes, so some may be able to be handled before that, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Lukey Posted - 09/07/2013 : 10:55:58
I held my baby snake for the first time today. He's around 2 months old. It had been 36 hours or so since his first feed with me and he was really carm. Didn't try to slip away or anything like that and was actually a real pleasure to hold. I expected to be dealing with a hyperactive crazy snake because of his age.
With this in mind I don't want to over handle him whilst he's young but as long as he isn't show any signs of stress would every other day or so be ok?
Kellog Posted - 27/04/2013 : 19:16:21
I'm SO glad you've read this and it's helped Mariee....and I totally agree with ScalySituation. The fact that your little one was fed on the day he was sold is not good to hear, but also not surprising . You will find that pet shops, and some reptile shops, don't give good advice at all....I know I check everything I'm told on here. Some even say you don't need a thermostat to control the heatmat !

As Scaly said, there is a small chance your little one may regurgitate his food. This will be because he's been so stressed and NOT your fault, but the fault of the shop. HOPEFULLY this won't happen. It's vital that you leave him alone now to get over the stress, to digest and to get used to his new for this first week leave him alone, no handling or feeding, just changing his water. Frustrating for you but necessary for him.

Let us know how he is.

ScalySituation Posted - 27/04/2013 : 16:29:53
Oh no :( sounds like the pet shop didn't know what they were doing Marrie, he shouldn't have been moved after a feed, keep a close eye on him. He may regurgitate his food.
Marrie Posted - 27/04/2013 : 13:46:39
reading this helped my brain a lot to calm down lol
I bought the baby yesterday and it's the first time so was stressed leave my baby ... he must be very as well... anyways.. he got fed yesterday in pet store before I bought him home and like stupid I was bugging him. gosh now think he must be so stressed that's why was getting aggressive last night and since morning it's just hiding not coming out.. at first got worried whether he is okay or not but now can understand he must want to rest...
anyways really appreciate your post.. so helpful x

safe x
Popcorn Posted - 10/04/2013 : 19:17:30
Hahaha 48 hours is up. Just putting daughter to bed then getting him out for handling. Will post some pics on Facebook group. Xxx
Kellog Posted - 09/04/2013 : 20:02:57
Originally posted by Popcorn

I only handle him before feeding to put him in his feeding rub then again to put him back in faun after feeding to avoid him eating his aspen........

That's perfect Popcorn . Sorry, it was the way you said you were going to handle him first and then feed him....thought you meant a handling session rather than just doing the necessary moving .

Hopefully, over time, that response to you getting him out will lessen. I do love his choice of a place to hide !

Popcorn Posted - 08/04/2013 : 20:12:51
I only handle him before feeding to put him in his feeding rub then again to put him back in faun after feeding to avoid him eating his aspen. But as I say he's nervous at being picked up but once we have him he's fine and explores. He loves going in people hair behind neck lol. Or down my missus bra lol

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