Cool snakes for pets
Milk snakes are a popular choice for pet snakes, and with good reason. They meet all the criteria that makes for a good pet snake. They are small enough to be housed in a standard-sized cage, but they are large enough to please most snake keepers.
Most of the subspecies do very well in captivity and will eat frozen / thawed rodents on a regular basis. They also have good temperaments and, with regular handling, can become quite tame.
But there’s another reason why milk snakes are such a popular choice for pet snakes. They are beautiful snakes that come in a wide variety of colors, depending on the subspecies.
There are about two-dozen different subspecies of milk snakes throughout North and South America. Most of them have colored bands down the length of their bodies, in alternating colors. In many cases, there are three distinct colors present within these bands, which is why the milk snakes are sometimes called tri-colored snake.
The Pueblan and Honduran milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli and L. t. hondurensis, respectively) are among the most popular subspecies kept in captivity. That’s a Honduran crawling down from the corner of this blog post. Like most milk snakes, these two subspecies are attractive, brightly colored, and widely varied in their appearance. They both make excellent pets when cared for properly.
The Mexican milk snake pictured above (Lampropeltis triangulum annulata) displays some of the physical traits that are common to many of the milk snake subspecies. It is a tri-colored species with alternating bands. In this case, the bands are red, black and yellow. It also has glossy scales and a small head (relative to the body). The small, tapered head is indicative of a burrowing snake. And that is certainly the case with the milks — they love to burrow. So if you choose one of these beautiful snakes as a pet, provide a substrate that allows for burrowing, such as aspen shavings or care fresh litter.
Milk Snake Care
Like I said earlier, these snakes are fairly easy to keep and care for in captivity. And if you meet the few simple needs they do have, your milk snake will live a long and healthy life. As a keeper, you benefit from this in two ways — you get the pride of knowing your animal is properly cared for, and you also get years of enjoyment from watching your milk snake and handling it from time to time.
The size of these snakes varies from one sub-species to the next. The Honduran milk snake is one of the largest of its species, reaching an average adult length of about five feet. I recommend using a cage that’s 4′ wide x 2′ deep for adult specimens, as they tend to burrow around their cages actively. Obviously, babies can be kept in smaller cages.
I have always believed that more space is better for adult snakes (generally speaking), because it allows the snake to get some exercise. But just know than an adult milk snake will do just fine with an enclosure that offers around six square feet of floor space (3′ x 2′). I prefer Vision cages for animals of this size, but there are some other great options available too.
You can keep temperatures in the low to mid 80s for most of the milk snake subspecies. It’s even better to provide a temperature gradient or range, with the warmer side in the low to mid 80s, and the other side at room temperature (low 70s). This lets the snake thermoregulate by moving from the warmer to cooler side as necessary — it should be able to cool down or warm up as necessary. This is the type of habitat you should create for your pet milk snake.
Be sure you put some hides in the cage as well, especially for a baby milk snake. It’s also a good idea to choose a substrate (cage lining) that permits burrowing. Care Fresh litter works well, and so do aspen shavings. This species is very secretive in the wild, hiding under things and burrowing for safety. They should be able to duplicate this behavior in captivity. Remember, the more closely you can duplicate the natural world of your milk snake … the healthier it will be in captivity.
As for feeding, you can offer an appropriate-sized mouse about once every 7 – 10 days. Feed baby milk snakes more frequently, about once every five days. Babies can eat pink mice, or “pinkies, ” while adult milks can handle sub-adult mice. a full-grown Honduran, one of the larger subspecies, can probably handle full-sized adult mice with ease. Here’s a general rule of thumb to keep in mind when feeding your milk snake. Try to offer prey items that are about the same size as the snake’s thickest part, at its mid-body (or slightly larger than the snake’s mid-body). Lastly, make sure your pet has access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.