So you have decided to breed your own corn snakes or are already deep into the process and waiting for the eggs to hatch. You may be wondering, how many babies do corn snakes have? Well read on to find out.
What is the average size of a clutch?
How many babies do corn snakes have? A “clutch” (the name for the group of eggs that a corn snake will lay in one period of time) will on average, consist of 12 eggs. Females that are younger or older than three years will produce around two to three eggs in their clutch. Females that are smaller than average or unusually thin will also produce around two to three eggs in their clutches. Larger well fed (usually in captivity) female corn snakes, that are in their reproductive prime can produce 34 eggs-sometimes even more-!
A corn snake egg will usually be about one, to one and a half inches in length and half to one inch in diameter. In the wild she will lay her eggs, in a nice secluded space away from predators. Usually behind rocks, in holes in the ground, inside of tree logs or rotted tree stumps. Female corn snakes will usually lay their eggs in the late spring or early summer and the hatching will then occur in late summer or early fall.
Factors that affect clutch size
With the amount of available food varying the wild, there can be a variation in the size of clutches that a female corn snake will produce. If it is a bad year for available prey then she will produce a lower than average sized clutch. On rare occasions she may even produce no eggs if food is particularly scarce.
On the other hand if there is an abundance of prey then she will produce many eggs in her clutch. In captivity however, with food likely being readily available females will produce larger clutches. The size of the eggs remains constant, regardless of the amount of eggs produced from a clutch. Scientists believe that when it comes to producing the eggs, quality is better than quantity for the corn snakes survival. Scientists believe that having a minimum size for the young gives them the best chance for survival.
What happens with second clutches?
Very rarely in the wild will you see a second clutch of eggs. Only when there is an unusual amount of food available. Females in captivity have a much higher chance of producing a second clutch. In captivity the females will benefit from an abundance of food and therefore have a much higher chance of producing a second clutch. Most often the second clutch will consist of fewer eggs and puts the females body under a lot of stress. Both clutches will develop at a similar rate, with the eggs being laid about one month after mating, and the eggs needing to be incubated for two to three months. After this time they will begin to hatch and you will see those baby corn snakes come out into the world.
Which gender will the babies be?
Corn snakes are different from many other reptiles in respect to how the gender of their offspring is determined. Most reptiles such as tortoises, turtles, geckos and crocodiles gender’s are subject to the temperature surrounding the eggs. In the wild the temperature can vary and can sometimes be unstable. In captivity temperature can be controlled with the incubation of the eggs. Corn snakes, as well as all other types of snake determine their gender with their chromosomes. This is the same as mammals and birds. Being different from humans, corn snake females are the heterogametic sex (forming two kinds of gametes of which one produces male offspring and the other female offspring). Females can contribute either a W or Z chromosome, males however only contribute a Z chromosome.
If you are thinking of breeding multiple corn snakes or if you have any female and male pairs living together then here is a few things that you should know.
As mentioned earlier in this article. Females in ideal circumstances can lay thirty four eggs or more per clutch with average egg counts being around twelve. On occasions and more likely in captivity, females can lay two clutches per year.
Of course it is important to know the amount of eggs and how often a female will lay them. Just remember that factors such as the season and temperatures will also affect the breeding process.
When you breed Corn Snakes…
How does Nature Affect the Corn Snakes Breeding?
When in the wild corn snakes, like many other animals tend to reproduce at certain times of the year. Corn snakes in captivity can be bred at different times. You will want to keep their cycle as close as possible to that of in the wild to improve success. With corn snakes basing their mating schedules around the seasons they will typically only have one clutch per year. In some cases younger snakes can have a second clutch straight after the first clutch. This is very demanding on the females body and should be done with caution and is recommended for more mature and larger females. As the female ages she will naturally, be able to bear more and more eggs.
Of course corn snakes are able to breed at a young age. Breeding corn snakes at a young age is not without complications. Clutches from younger snakes will be low, usually between two to six eggs. Remember the older the female the better equipped she will be to bear a larger clutch of eggs.
When will the Female Corn Snake be ready for Breeding?
You will know when a female corn snake is ready for breeding as she will begin ovulating. You will get more experience with noticing this over time. Basically the female corn snake will begin to bulge and look like she is “well fed” if the bulge is soft to the touch then she has produced eggs and is ready to be bred. The females pheromones will naturally alert an males that she is ready to mate and then he will be ready for the process to begin.
What Happens After Breeding?
Once the corn snakes have copulated the female will become pregnant. Pregnancy lasts for about one month with corn snakes, with the eggs being ready to hatch after around a month or two. As mentioned earlier in this article. The egg count for a clutch can vary a lot, so it is best to prepare for a lot of eggs, just in case. You should remember that females in their reproductive prime are the most likely to produce large clutches.
The environment and the seasons
How the Natural Environment Affects the Mating Routine
The seasons will dictate a corn snakes mating routine in the wild. This is due to the changes in temperature and availability of prey in the wild. When the corn snakes are in captivity you can encourage mating at any time, although for best results you should follow the natural patterns of the seasons.
In the wild the best time for corn snakes to mate is in the cooler seasons, when it is around sixty degrees Fahrenheit. In captivity we recommend keeping your corn snakes in darker rooms before you intend to pair them up for mating. The darkness will help create a feeling of winter which will encourage them to go in to brumation (hibernation for snakes). Corn snakes generally mate in the spring, when they are in the wild. By simulating a winter or better still, letting the corn snakes feel the affects of a natural winter will encourage them to mate in the spring.
Feeding Before Brumation
Leading up to brumation, you will need to slowly feed your corn snakes less and less. You do not want them to have any undigested food inside their digestive system. Undigested food left inside your corn snake for months can make them very sick and even cause death. In the wild nature takes care of this with prey naturally becoming less available in the winter. Your corn snakes only need water during brumation so be sure to keep their drinking water topped up. Just make sure that they do not bask in the water bowl. The last thing you want is a wet and cold corn snake.
After the winter it is time for spring and the mating to begin. You will have kept the females and males on the same lighting and temperature schedule’s so that they are in sync with each other. Doing this will mean that they are both prepared to mate at the same time. Now that it is spring, or you are simulating spring. It is time to gradually increase the exposure of light and heat to your corn snakes. Spring time means mating time.
When your corn snakes shed their skin it will be an indication that they are ready to begin the mating process. Females that are ovulating can now be paired with the males.
As long as the males are paired with ovulating females then mating will occur. The males will detect the pheromones from the females and this is enough to begin the process. This begins the reproduction process and will eventually lead to some baby corn snakes.
When the mating begins, the male will attempt to align his body next to the females. You will know when he has succeeded as their body’s will be touching and their tails will intertwine. This is when the mating happens. Usually this will happen for twenty minutes. Afterwards they will no longer be touching and will carry on like normal.
The female will most likely become pregnant after the first time of mating. Pregnancy in corn snakes lasts for one month with her laying the eggs up to a month after the end of pregnancy. You will to make a suitable nesting place for the female to lay her eggs. It will have warmth, moss and be slightly damp. This will keep her safe and comfortable. You will need to take care of the eggs one she has laid them, while she is birthing you will give her a safe place to nest.
What’s next for the eggs?
Once your corn snakes have mated and the female lays her eggs you will have much work ahead. In the wild the female will look for somewhere with the correct warmth and humidity, if she does not choose well then the eggs will not hatch.
Luckily you can help out your females that are in captivity. The females will not have a lot of places to lay their eggs, so it is best for you to transfer the eggs to an incubator.
Using an incubator
You can just as easily use a homemade incubator as a purchased one. When making a home made one it is important that it will be able to maintain the correct levels of temperature and humidity. Any reputable purchased incubators will be able to do this. You will need to keep the temperature of the incubator between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Slight and short variations in these temperatures will not be fatal to the eggs, but you will do well to keep them in the temperature range for as much of the lead up to hatching as possible.
Heating the Incubator Safely
If you are using a home made setup it is, of course advisable to use safe ways to heat up the incubator. That means no naked flames, no heating pads or anything that could cause a fire and, to have a safe distance from a heat source and the eggs themselves. Also make sure that no egg is next to or touching a heat source as this could potentially kill the fetus. You must keep all of the eggs in the same place as much as possible for the duration of the incubation period. By keeping the eggs in the same place you will help the fetus develop correctly. This is due to not having any changes in temperature due to the height that the eggs are stored at.
What else is needed for the Incubator
You will need to make sure that the incubator has adequate ventilation to prevent the eggs from rotting. It would also advisable to put a water bath inside the incubator to provide some humidity. Another way to provide some much needed humidity is to mist the inside of the incubator.
Substrates are not just used once the corn snakes are born. If you use a substrate of sphagnum moss you will provide the eggs with some dampness for moisture as well. Additionally sphagnum moss is non-toxic.
Two Months until Hatching
The eggs will take about two months to hatch. In this time you will need to maintain the optimum conditions and check on the eggs regularly. Great care must be taken so that you do not loose the eggs.
Average clutch sizes for eggs will range from ten to thirty. Smaller or younger female corn snakes will typically lay less eggs. Any good eggs will be hard, and should survive even if there are also dead or rotten eggs in the clutch. We recommend sphagnum moss or coarse vermiculite as incubation media. As long as the material is damp but is not dripping and is non toxic then it gets our vote.