Incubating Corn Snake Eggs – The Process For Healthy Hatchlings
Through this article we will try to answer all the questions you need in relation with incubating corn snake eggs. So let’s begin from the moment your corn snaked has laid her eggs…
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Okay, so once your corn snake has laid her clutch of eggs, they will need to be removed as soon as possible and moved into an incubator. This should be within 24 hours of the eggs being laid. The reason for this is, when the eggs are at rest, the embryo will slowly begin to move to the highest point inside the egg. Once this process has started, it’s crucial you don’t move the eggs at all, as this may cause them damage and have some severe consequences on the healthiness of the hatchlings.
Once at rest the embryo will move to the top of the egg and perch on top of the yolk. At this point (24-48 hours) the embryo will attach itself to the inner cell membrane. This specific membrane is important for oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release, calcium absorption, and storage of harmful waste. Any movement or rotation of the eggs after the first 24 hours of incubation, may cause the embryo to sheer off from the inner cell membrane. This could subsequently cause its death.
When handling the eggs, make sure not to rotate them. Keep this in mind when first removing them from your snake enclosure.
A great little tip you can use is, gently putting a little black dot on the top of each egg, from a permanent marker pen. This way you will always be able to tell which way up the egg should be. This will help you through transportation and, if for any reason an egg rolls over, you’ll be able to put it back up right.
Growing In Size
Hopefully, you will start to see the eggs grow in size. Eggs increase in size as the embryo develops. This is a sure way to tell if your eggs are fertile or not. If you can’t see any recognisable change in size, another method you can use is called ‘Candling’.
Candling is a method used by many which involves shining a very bright light through the egg. If the embryo has increased in size, then a clear shadow will be visible. However this is often only visible at the end stage of incubation. Again, do not rotate the egg whilst handling.
Corn snakes abandon their clutch of eggs as soon at they are laid. So your eggs will not need any maternal care. Unlike birds, who need to turn their eggs over throughout the natural incubation period, corn snake do not. This makes using an incubator pretty straight forward.
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Incubators And Apparatus
Incubators and incubator kits are available from any commercial reptile shop. However, some people like to make their own, as this tends to keep costs down but isn’t recommended as keeping correct environment levels becomes much harder. Often breeder have a much lower success rate with home build incubators.
Any heat resistant container can be used for an incubator. The necessary heat source can be in forms of small heat bulbs, ceramic heaters or vivarium heat mats (which is attached to an accurate thermostat). The temperature probe of the thermostat should be placed next too, or as close to the eggs as possible. This will give the the most accurate temperature reading for the eggs.
It’s recommended to have TWO thermometers which read the incubator temperature, because if one fails, then you have another to reply on. This will settle any confusion if a thermometer stops working, as this could cause you to increase or decrease the temperature when it isn’t needed.
You will also need an electronic hydrometer, which measures the humidity within the incubator. Humidity should be kept between 70-90%. These tools are available from most garden centres and reptile stores.
The incubator must not be permanently sealed as ventilation is necessary. Lifting the lid off the incubator to check the eggs will allow the old air to be released and the new air to fill the incubator. Lifting the lid every so often will be sufficient. The change in oxygen levels will aid the incubation process.
Containers And Substrates
You can use a small container, such as a microwave tub and place some clean water retentive substrate at the base. By this we mean a substrate which can hold a lot of water, which will cause the high humidity levels and keep the humidity constant. Substrates such as Perlite or Vermiculite are great choices and can both be purchased from garden centres.
Place the chosen substrate in the bottom of your tub. Then, with your finger or thumb, create a shallow depression in the substrate. Once this is done you can carefully place the clutches of eggs into it. Remembering to keep them upright, with the black marker pen spot facing up.
Finally, you’ll need to stick a label to the outside out the tubs. On them should identify the morphs or cross ID and the date the eggs were laid.
A clutch of corn snake eggs will incubate over a range of 21-32 Degrees Celsius, or 70-89 Degrees Fahrenheit. This can give an incubation period variation of 45-90 days depending on the temperature. Cooler temperature give longer incubation times.
Optimum temperatures for incubation are around 29-30 degrees Celsius. Within this range, the incubation length will likely vary between 55-60 days.
At 25 degrees Celsius, the incubation length will be roughly 70 days.
Incubated Corn Snake Eggs That Fail To Hatch
There are many reasons why your corn snake eggs may not hatch. Attributes such as temperature, humidity and oxygen levels could all play a crucial part in the success of your eggs hatching. Be sure to check the following;
Check the temperature is at the correct level. Temperatures which are too high or too low can lead to embryonic death.
The humidity of the incubator should be monitored to be maintained at 70-90%. A low level of humidity or contrasting high air flow over the eggs can lead to an excessive loss of water. If this happens, the snake eggs will be exposed to dehydration, causing embryonic death.
Note: An egg that loses 25% or more of its weight during incubation isn’t likely to hatch at all.
Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Levels
A corn snake developing inside an egg does still breathe. It breathes not through its lungs but across/through the eggshell. Just inside the eggshell are membranes. These membranes have tiny blood vessels, that pick up oxygen through even smaller, microscopic holes in the shell. Whilst taking in the oxygen, they also release the carbon dioxide from the eggshell.
This is why you have to regularly oxygenate the incubator. Otherwise, the egg will have no oxygen to draw in, causing the carbon dioxide to reach dangerous levels. This can cause suffocation of the embryo.
Incubated Corn Snake Eggs The Hatching Stage
Towards the end of the incubation period, usually the last week, the eggs will appear slightly collapsed. This is completely normal, so you have nothing to worry about. Once you have noticed the collapsed egg, it will usually be around 36 hours until they will hatch.
Corn snakes have an “‘Egg tooth’. This is a tiny tooth on the nose of the hatchling which is used to aid its escape. The tooth is used to pierce the softened egg shell, and slit a hole in it. From here the hatchling will break away at the egg shell until big enough to squeeze through.
It can take up to 24 hours for a hatchling to break its way through the egg shell. When it does, you‘ll have a miniature of your female adult corn snake. Hatchlings are usually about 25cm in length and very skinny. Commonly the hatchlings will group together to start off with. This is mainly due to safety in numbers. Hatchling corn snakes feel safe and secure in group with other hatchlings, however this won’t last long.
Hatchlings Struggling To Break Free
Sometimes a hatchling may seem like its struggling to break free from the egg shell. Specially if its been 24 hour already trying to break out. The temptation to help them out and pierce a whole in the shell for them will cross your mind.
But you should NEVER do this.
The reason they may seem like they’re struggling is because some often have large yolk sacs. These yolk sacs need to be absorbed, which will need a longer time for incubating the corn snake eggs. The yolk is in contact with the blood vessels that line the inside of the egg shell, which are still fully functioning whilst the yolk is still present. Piercing a hole in the shell could damage these structures and cause serious risks of haemorrhages and deep wounds. Both of which can have serious consequences including death.
Where Do Corn Snakes Lay Their Eggs?
Where do corn snakes lay their eggs you ask. Well, corn snakes will find a safe nesting location to lay their eggs. Similar to where corn snakes like to rest, they will choose a nesting spot which is warm, moist, dark, and completely covered. Keeping the eggs hidden is the only chance of survival for them to actually hatch. After laying their eggs, corn snakes will abandon them, never to return. In the wild, there are many predators that will feed on snake eggs. So finding a safe spot to lay their eggs is crucial. Corn snakes still have this instinct in captivity, so you will need to recreate this as closely as possible when breeding your corn snakes.
With your pet corn snake, you will need to incorporate a nesting box into their enclosure. A few reasons for this is that you will need to be able to take the eggs out of the enclosure once they have been laid. Also you don’t want the eggs to be laid in your snakes hide as you will have to them remove this, which will cause your corn snake some unwanted stress.
You’ll need to prepare your nesting box appropriately for your corn snake. First of all, you will need a nesting box. This will give your snake plenty of room, and offer more comfort throughout this pre-laying stage. The nesting box should have moist substrate in it. Damp peat moss is most commonly used as it holds the moisture for longer. You have to keep the substrate damp as your corn snake will be shedding its skin 10-14 days after breeding. After the pre-shedding phase is completed, your snake will lay its eggs, again with another 10-14 days. The total time between mating and laying eggs, is usually between 30-45 days.
It’s useful to know that snake eggs are prone to drying out very quickly, meaning the eggs never actually hatch. So keeping them in a damp environment will ensure their safety, and increase their chances out hatching.
What To Do With Snake Eggs Which Have Been Laid?
So, your female corn snake has laid her eggs. Now what do you do?
From here on, these eggs are now completely reliable on you. Unfortunately, the female snake will have nothing to do with the eggs once she has laid them, abandoning them soon after.
You will need to move the eggs into an incubator as soon as they are laid. You should already have your incubator set up ready to go. Incubators need to maintain a constant level of warmth and humidity. The temperature should hover between 80-88 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could seriously damage the eggs, so please keep the temperature below the stated value. Keep track of these levels with thermometers and digital hydrometers.
Heating mats shouldn’t really be used, as they offer a higher danger factor, with risk of creating fires. You want to keep the eggs away from direct heat. If the eggs are sitting on/in a hot spot, they could actually start to cook, killing the foetus. So placing the eggs as far away from the heating element as possible, but still to be within the 80-88 degrees Fahrenheit range is crucial.
Your snake eggs should stay in the same place and position as much as possible throughout the incubation period. If they are being moved around frequently, then the foetus may not develop properly. In some cases, not at all.
The incubator should have a water bath, purely to help keep the humidity at a constant level. So this will need to be topped up every day, maybe even twice a day, to ensure the perfect conditions. With all the moisture in the air, you will need to have your incubator ventilated. This is so the eggs don’t rot.
Most Recommended For Corn Snakes
Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here
Heat Lamp and Guard – Click Here
Reliable Thermometer – Click Here
Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here
Climbing Branches – Click Here
Hydrometer – Click Here