Care Guide - Housing Corn Snakes Together

There is one question I frequently get asked, which has warranted me putting up this guide on it. This is an extremely volatile subject with debates ranging with pros and cons across the community. What you decide you must decide to do after being aware of all the information, and not everyone will agree with what I write here.

Can I keep more than one corn snake in together?

My short answer is, yes, BUT...

The first question to ask is why do you want to. If you think your corn snake needs company, he doesn't. Corn snakes will sleep in piles, but this is generally for safety, security and warmth, not companionship. Corn snakes are not known for staying together in groups or pairs in the wild, and do not stay with their young. They do not need to be kept in a group situation for their happiness. If you want to do it because YOU want to keep more than one together, then before you make that final decision, just consider the following:

Cannibalism

Corn snakes are not cannibals in the way that some snakes are. They do not eat their own species, they do not even feed primarily on other snakes in the wild. But corn snakes are opportunistic, it has been known for corn snakes to feed on other snakes. It has been known for a corn snake to attempt to consume a cagemate - this is almost exclusively as young hatchlings in captivity, or in the case of a large snake being kept with a considerabley smaller snake. It may be a one in a million chance, but you should be aware that it is still there.

Therefore I would personally recommend that very young hatchlings be housed seperate, and if you are going to keep two together, do so after 6 months of age, and only with very similar sized corn snakes.

Stress

Snakes are very competitive animals. They are not family orientated, they do not look out for each other - not even their own babies. They will fight with them for food, for safety, for warmth - they have to, those that aren't fighters will be killed by natural selection, it's a tough world in the wild and corn snakes are always competing for survival.

Two corn snakes will compete with each other even in an artificial environment. They will compete for the warmest and more secure spot, which often results in them all trying to pile into the same hide, but it is inevitable that one will become dominant.

If you do keep two together, you need to ensure that there are adequate hiding spaces in both warm and cold ends of the tank for both snakes without them feeling they have to compete with each other for somewhere to sleep. You need to monitor very carefully for signs of stress.

Feeding

You should never feed two snakes in the same enclosure. You can turn away for one second and the same mouse can be consumed by one snake. This has resulted in the past in the snakes dying, as they cannot let go for the mouse once it is locked onto their teeth and they will continue to consume the other snake too! It is an extremely dangerous business so please if you are going to keep two snakes together you MUST feed them seperately. You can do this by feeding them outside the tank in tubs. Ensure that the snake has no bits of mouse on them when they go back into the viv - a hungry snake may attack another snake if it smells like mouse because it's just been feeding.

Some people wipe their snake down with a damp cloth before returning it to a vivarium with another snake, to ensure that there are no smells that could result in a fight or accident.

Health Problems

Sometimes the best way of finding out about your snakes health is monitoring their shedding and their pooping. If you find diahorrea in the cage, a regurgitated mouse, or a bad shed - can you be sure which snake it came from? You may end up taking both snakes to the vet to be treated instead of just one, increasing the costs.

Some problems, such as infections (respiratory, mouth rot, scale rot), mites, and internal parasites, can be spread from snake to snake. You can almost guarantee that if one snake has a problem, all of the snakes in that tank may have that problem. It's something you need to think about, as monitoring health, and keeping snakes healthy, is sometimes easier to do if housed seperate. You're going to have to be willing to accept that increased veterinary bills will be on the cards should one of the snakes fall ill.

Breeding

There is no way of stopping a male and female corn snake breeding. You can choose not to incubate the eggs, but the breeding will still have taken it's toll on the female. Corn snakes can be fertile from as little as 12 months of age. At 12 months, you have huge risks of causing egg binding (a serious health problem that can lead to death), and stunting the female corn snakes growth for life. Corn snakes should not be bred until they are mature and large enough to do so, but your male corn snake will not understand this.

If you have a male and a female corn snake, it is in my opinion irresponsible to house them together permanently. Even if your snake is big enough and survives the first breeding, immediately after she lays her eggs, the male will be mating with her again. This can result in a second, or even third clutch. By the time the third clutch comes around, most corn snakes will be weak, stressed, lethargic, and extremely unwell. It is never recommended to breed a corn snake three times, even those in peak condition - but it has happened, and can result in death, or a very ill snake.

Even a second clutch can be disaster for a young or low weight female. Think about it - why take the risk? The cost for a second vivarium would be around 150 at the most. The cost for vets bills can be 200-300 if egg binding occurs and surgery is needed.

Two males will fight during the mating season. This is done using a series of jerking movements and sparring with neck shape. It does not use the mouth, and although is not damaging to the snakes, will cause them to go off their food, and use a lot of energy as they spar around the tank all night, resulting in weight loss. Furthermore, males are sometimes not that discerning during breeding season. It is not uncommon for a male to "rape" another male, which as you can imagine, is uncomfortable and stressful for the less dominant male.

Therefore, if you want to keep two corn snakes together, I would strongly advise that it be two females, as these are the only pairing that will not result in potential problems during breeding season.

 

Care Information

Please select which section you would like to navigate to.

Introduction
Housing
Heating
Handling
Feeding
Health
Breeding

Incubator Guide
Egg Binding
Housing Together

If you are thinking about purchasing a corn snake, and require a setup, please visit Reptile Cymru in Cardiff, who sell plastic starter kits from 30, and full setups for adults in 3 foot wooden vivariums from 125 (including heating/lighting).