So you are wondering “When do corn snakes breed?”. Well the answer to this question-in short-is simple. They mostly breed in late spring/early summer, when they have reached optimal temperatures. Between eighteen and twenty four months is the best age to breed corn snakes. There are also many other factors to consider that make up a much more longer, complex and detailed answer.
Corn snakes are amongst the easiest to breed in captivity and as a result, they are quite possibly the most bred snake out there. There are thousands bred every year across the world. Let’s find out a little more on “When do corn snakes breed”, throughout the year.
When Do Corn Snakes Breed? – What Happens Differently Every Month
In this article we will explain what will happen on a month by month basis relative to when do corn snakes breed. Additionally we will explain in detail the different events that can occur and what you should do when they happen. Also we will explain to you what preparing you should do at specific times of the year.
You must remember that breeding corn snakes is not something that can be done without proper planning and preparation. Remember that corn snakes spend their entire lives in the wild preparing for this one annual event. Of course mother nature can be a cruel mistress and there may be some differences in the timings. Just remember the sequence of events, as that is what is important.
Corn snakes have become one of the most popular snakes to be bred in captivity. Techniques and processes have become more refined and simple over time. Anyone can breed corn snakes if they follow the right programme and take care. Just remember that although the process is straightforward, it is not without the need for care and consideration of mother nature.
Brumation Has Already Begun
In the month of January your corn snakes will need to be brumating, simply put this is just hibernating for lizards. Following a good annual cycle, your corn snakes will already be a month into this process. You will have done this at the beginning of December in preparation for the next breeding cycle. Which begins in late spring/early summer. As you gain more experience and become more familiar with this process. You will begin to realise that it may look like there is not much activity, however your corn snakes will be active. Albeit little movement will be seen, you will see some crawling and your corn snakes drinking water also. The corn snakes may even shed their skins on occasion.
Water and Humidity
Despite your corn snakes being relatively inactive, you will still need to pay close attention. You must be aware of the humidity in your corn snakes environment. If your corn snakes becomes dehydrated they will then soak in their water bowls. You do not want them to do this for any extended period of time, as it is too cold for this in the winter months. If they do this then simply move them to their hide boxes. You also need to maintain adequate and clean drinking water at all times. Checking for dry shed-when a snake is to dehydrated to shed it’s skin effectively- should be done regularly. If your corn snake has plenty of drinking water and is still having problems shedding then make sure that the temperature is between fifty to fifty five degrees Fahrenheit.
You should also provide them with a separate bowl of water to bask in if they are still struggling to shed. However you must only do this for a few hours at a time and until your corn snake has shed it’s skin.
Correct Temperature Maintenance
You need to get rid of all bright light sources with just a few dim lights to stop complete darkness. The optimal temperature for the space where you are keeping your corn snakes whilst in brumation, is between fifty and fifty five degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures can be maintained through the use of a thermostat to control exhaust fans situated on the ceiling. These fans will extract the warm air from the room and replace it with cooler air from outside via air intake ducts. You will need to check temperatures throughout the day, adjusting and finely tuning until the desired temperature is reached. At this point the temperature will stabilise. We also recommend using a fan for air circulation. This will help in preventing having one end of the room warm and the other end of the room cold.
If this setup is impractical for you then you have another option. Only opening one of your outside windows will bring in the cold air. Just make sure to cover it completely to prevent any light getting in. Make sure to check the temperatures even more regularly. This will be fine until you can get a more professional setup.
Later, Inactive Stages of Brumation, Fertility and Pairing
Still in brumation your corn snakes will still be relatively inactive. Over the course of a whole year this will be a welcome brake for you as a breeder. Also, and more importantly, it will give your corn snakes a much needed rest.
In the males spermatogenesis (the production or development of mature spermatozoa)is taking place and in the females egg follicles (small sacs filled with fluid inside the ovaries) are developing. While your corn snakes are inactive it is still important to maintain the same conditions. This is to give your corn snakes the best chance of producing fertile eggs. Now is a good time for you to choose which corn snakes to pair for mating. This will let you choose which colours and morphs you would like. Some breeders will breed corn snakes at any reasonable age. I however recommend no earlier than two years for males and three years for females.
Waking Up From Brumation
Now is when everything changes. Your corn snakes will need to wake up from their docile state. Some breeders do this gradually over a few weeks. This is not advisable as we and many other breeders, believe that during this period there is a chance that dormant bacteria and diseases can activate. This is because during a long period of cooler temperatures, your corn snakes immune systems are compromised. Instead you should warm your corn snakes up at the beginning of March. Do this by turning on the lights, removing the sun block from the windows and turning off the cooling system (or closing the windows). Then allowing the room to self regulate the temperature naturally.
Health Check and Feeding
Make sure to check each corn snake. Looking for general good condition and no signs of diseases. Then begin feeding them small meals at first, gradually building up to full sized meals by the end of March. Any corn snakes that do not take to feeding should be excluded from breeding.
Skin Shedding and Breeding
Ideally all of your male corn snakes will have shed their skin around the end of March. This means that your male corn snakes are ready to breed, so make sure to make a note of the ones who have shed already.
More Feeding, Cleaning and Skin Shredding in Preparation for Breeding
Now you will be glad that you had that rest at the beginning of the year in January. Your work load will increase dramatically with all of those hungry mouths that you now have to feed and of course, plenty of cage cleaning to do. Usually around two weeks after the males have shed their skin the females will also shed their skin. Something truly remarkable happens at this time almost all the females will shed their skins simultaneously. We believe, as do many corn snake breeders that this is because the brumation period resets all of the corn snakes internal clocks and natural cycle. The same as with the males you will have to make a note of when this happens. The shedding of the skin for the females signifies that both the sexes are ready for breeding.
Male corn snakes will become restless always moving around their cages. This is because they can literally smell all of those freshly shed females that are around them.
Pairing Your Corn Snakes For Breeding
Now it is time for you to introduce the shed females to the shed males. Corn snakes are not particularly territorial, so you can do this either way round, in either ones cage. If both corn snakes are healthy and fertile the courtship begins. The male will show interest in the female right away gliding past her and smelling her at the same time. His interest will grow even more once he realises that she is full of developing eggs. At this point he will begin to chase the female around the cage. It is a good idea to remove the water bowl before this begins as things can sometimes get a little crazy at this point.
Any of your more mature corn snakes will spend less time chasing and just begin the mating process straight away. Male corn snakes will often try to position themselves on top of the females. Additionally males will force their tail under the females tail to help with a successful copulation. If things go well then all of your corn snake pairings will copulate soon enough after being introduced to each other.
Continue to pair the same corn snakes together for a couple of days at a time. Until the female shows that she is gravid (showing that she has eggs and is pregnant)
Knowing When Female Corn Snakes Are Gravid
Being able to tell when your corn snakes are gravid can be difficult as a beginner breeder. Here is few signs for you to look out for. Gravid females will become heavier and larger at the tail half. This is easier to spot from a birds eye view. Easy to spot from lower angles is a curve along the spine that is raised from the rest of the snake. This is where the female stores excess body fat during pregnancy. Female corn snakes will amass extra muscles due to producing the eggs, which they store in their tail end. You will usually see the raised part of the snake below the normal curvature of the body before the tail. The swelling from the excess fat and muscle will close above the vent.
By lifting the corn snake gently off the ground you will be able to feel the increased weight and also see the swelling in more detail. If you happen to have a paler or lighter coloured corn snake then you can sometimes actually see the white of the eggs through the body.
You will see the snakes around the part of the corn snake that is swollen. Protruding ventral scales will also become easy to spot when your corn snake is carrying eggs. When not gravid these ventral scales at the bottom of the corn snake are flat. When gravid however they become curved and protrude giving a rounded appearance to the corn snakes belly.
Last Shedding Of Skin Before Laying Eggs
Once you know that your female corn snake is gravid you no longer need to continue introducing it to any male corn snakes. Now is the time to wait for the females next shedding of her skin. You will know when she is ready to lay her eggs. Around seven to ten days before she is ready she will shed her skin for the second time of the year. At this time she will begin to seek out somewhere to lay eggs and will begin to become restless.
Preparation For The Female Corn Snakes To Lay Their Eggs
You can ease your female corn snake’s worries by providing them somewhere to hatch their eggs. Simply put a small container in their cage or box. Depending on her size, you will want between a half-gallon to a whole gallon sized container. Then you will need to fill the container half way with some damp sphagnum moss. This is to make her more comfortable. Make sure that you cut a hole around double the diameter of the thickest part of her body. This is so she can easily leave the container when she wants to. You should remember though, that as she gets closer to hatching she will rarely leave the container and will no longer be feeding.
You can if you like, still feed her after her last shed and her laying. Only offer very small meals and take note of when she stops feeding altogether as this will be very close to when she hatches.
You will need to place place a water bowl very close to the container. Your pregnant corn snake will mostly only have their neck and head exposed. Having some drinking water close by will make the whole process easier for her. Be careful when adding water to the moss, you want the moss to be a nice light color and just lightly dampened. When the moss is too wet it will have a dark brown and black color. If the moss is too wet it can cause discomfort for your pregnant corn snake.
Female Corn Snakes Beginning To Lay Their Eggs
Despite some pairings still being determined most of your females will be starting to show eggs by now. The majority of the females will lay their eggs in the second half of May while those females that took longer to pair will lay their eggs a little later.
Eggs Laid And Caring Mothers
Eventually you will be greeted with the wonderful site of a happy mother resting around her newly laid clutch. She will be wrapped around the eggs so that she can keep them warm and protect them from potential predators. In the wild there are many potential dangers to a new clutch of eggs. Your corn snakes however will be safe in their enclosures. Naturally your female corn snake will be protective of her eggs, if you do need to go inside the enclosure be careful not to startle her. She is very unlikely to bite although she will hang on!.
The last Of The Gravid Female Corn Snakes
Most of the females will have laid their eggs by now. Chances are though, that there may still be a few ‘gravid ones’ around. After your female corn snakes have laid their eggs it will be a day or two before they start feeding again. Remember to to offer very small meals to begin with. Then increase the frequency and size of their meals gradually until they have started feeding at a healthy portion size again. After around two weeks or so from laying the eggs, the female corn snakes will shed her skin. She will already have regained the previously lost weight.
Attempting A Second Clutch
More experienced breeders will recognise that this is the time when it is possible to reintroduce the male for a attempt at a second clutch. The ability to judge if this is a good idea or not will come with a few years practice. After a few years practice you will gain the ability to judge a females body weight and condition. We do not recommend this for beginners as it can be dangerous especially for young, small, and first year females. When a female produces just one clutch of eggs it can take a huge toll on her body, you should not push her too hard.
Removing The Eggs For Incubation
Next it is time to remove the female corn snake and the eggs from the enclosure. Be careful as the mother, of course, will want to protect her eggs. Make sure to keep the eggs upright, as not do unsettle the unhatched baby corn snakes. If you have someone to help you then this is great. As with the mother wanting to protect her eggs this can be quite a delicate process that needs a lot of care to be taken. Ideally you will have your incubator already set up for the eggs. Next you just wait patiently for the eggs to hatch.
All over the internet you will find information about the perfect setup for incubation. Truthfully though, if the clutch is healthy then it will hatch in almost any condition other than under your kitchen sink. The things that you need to pay attention to are the humidity is kept high and that the temperature is kept warm enough.
We recommend that you keep the temperature between 78-80 degrees as an ideal range keeping the eggs and hatchlings in the most comfort. However the temperature can even stretch to between 72 and 90 degrees without any problems. While stable temperatures would be ideal it is not as important as some breeders believe. There has even been some recent research that indicates variation in temperatures can lead to a more even sex ratio in the hatchlings. As well as producing larger stronger hatchlings, likely as a result from the hatchling having to endure the slight changes in their environment.
Which Median To Use
Vermiculite mixed with some water is fine to use as your media. You will find it at garden centres. Like the best incubation setup, you will find a lot of information out there on the internet about the correct amount of water to mix with your media. All you need to know is that you just need to add enough.
Do this by adding enough water so that you can make a ‘snowball’ out of the vermiculite then squeeze it as hard as you can. If only a few drops of water come out then you have the right ratio of vermiculite and water. Next it is time to put the eggs in their containers. Any clear plastic boxes will do, about the size of a shoe box if fine. They do not need any holes in the boxes, just remember to open the boxes once a week to recycle the air, also check for any dead or rotting eggs.
Checking For Healthy Eggs
If things are going well then all of the eggs should have a clean white appearance, be well full and have some weight to them as well as being smooth to the touch. They should also adhere together in a clump. Yellowish coloration will indicate infertile eggs and will feel wet to the touch. Infertile eggs will also not adhere together in clumps like healthy eggs.
If you have any doubts set them up for incubation anyway and discard them at the first sign of mould. Keep them separate from any healthy eggs to prevent the mould from spreading and ruining the whole clutch. With infertile eggs being less adherent they will be easier to separate from the healthy fertile eggs. Any adhered healthy eggs should be left alone and not separated as they will most certainly tear each other apart. If you do have infertile eggs stuck to fertile eggs they can be gently separated using waxed dental floss, be very careful when doing this.
Removing Infertile Eggs
If you ask some breeders whether you should remove any infertile eggs they would say that it is not necessary because of the natural fungus inhibitor contained in healthy eggs. Although this is true, we believe that to give your clutch the best chance of survival, you should remove any infertile eggs, even just to remove the bad odours. We have seen entire clutches die from more aggressive and bad fungus types. So just make sure to remove them to ensure the best survival rate for your clutches.
Increase In Work Load
Depending on how many corn snakes you have, your work load could increase at this stage. This is because now is the time that the eggs start to hatch. If any of your female corn snakes have second clutches then they will also add to the work load. It can be quite a lot of activity in a small amount of time. On occasion the second clutches can be laid as late as August, so this will help with spreading out the work load.
A Difference In Temperature And It’s Affects
Your environmental conditions can affect the timings of the clutches being laid. Corn snakes that experience higher temperatures, usually situated higher on any shelves or racks, will tend to lay their clutches sooner than other lower and cooler ones. As you will remember from earlier in the season, after brumation most of your corn snakes were in synchronisation with each other. Now you will begin to notice differences in their schedules. There is no need to worry if some of your corn snakes begin to slow down compared to the schedule shown here. It just means that your conditions are unique to your own setup, and remember that the slightly warmer snakes will naturally produce their eggs slightly sooner.
Time For The Eggs To Hatch
Soon enough you will begin to see the first signs of the little corn snakes coming through. Eggs will begin to brake open and the baby corn snakes will take their first look at the outside world. Once you see the first signs of the hatchlings it won’t be more than a few days until all of the batch are moving around inside their box. If there are any babies that are taking a little longer to come out, then just let nature take it’s course. Do not remove them yourself as the babies are very delicate this early in their life.
What To Do When The Babies Hatch
When all of the baby corn snakes have hatched it is time to carefully remove them from the box with the empty egg shells into a new box. Some breeders will leave them in the incubation box. You can do this as well, we just prefer to separate them from the old egg shells into a new cleaner box. Whilst doing this we check each one to make sure that it appears healthy. If you live in a dryer climate then it is ok to give them a misty spray of water every day just to help them out at this early stage.
Within a few days the babies will shed their first ever skins, revealing their bright and shiny new skins. Now it is time to give each baby it’s own small cage, in preparation for it’s first meal.
More Feeding For Female Corn Snakes After Laying Their Eggs
Although some of your female corn snakes will still be laying their second clutches, most of them will have finished laying their eggs for the year. Female’s who lay their eggs certainly build up an appetite!. Over this month especially, and also the next two months they will be eating a lot. So much in fact that they will be eating a small meal every two to three days. This extra food is well deserved as the females have just laid many eggs. Your male corn snakes will only need the standard amount of food, which is about standard feeding every fortnight. Of course if any of your females finish earlier than August you can start the extra feeding straight away.
Increased Weight Of Female Corn Snakes
With the increased feeding you will need to keep on top of the cleaning needed to maintain a clean and hygienic enclosure for your corn snakes. Most of your females will have fattened up substantially by now. Do not be alarmed at how quickly your females have gained weight. This is a good sign and is an indication that they were not stressed from any overproduction of eggs. Any females who do not regain their weight should be marked and observed for any signs of ill health and if necessary, be taken to the vets.
Easier Schedule And Final Checks On Female’s Weight
Most of your females will now have returned to a normal feeding schedule. Now the maintenance of their enclosures will become easier and less of a work load. If any of the females have still not regained their weight, then they will need to make vast improvements in their appetite and subsequent weight gain to be considered for breeding the following year.
Preparation For The Next Brumation With Increased Feeding
There is easier times ahead for you, coming in December. November is all about preparing for the next brumation. Trust us when we say this, your snakes will be looking forward to the rest just as much as you are. Now it is time to feed them heavily, males and females alike. How much more food?, you should aim for one small meal around the two or three day park. Start with a similar amount of food as what the females had after they laid their eggs back in July and August. Use this as a guide, then see how they get on.
Give Your Corn Snakes Time To Completely Digest Their Food
Only feed them for two weeks at the start of November, you must then stop all feeding for the two weeks at the end of November. Importantly these last two weeks will give your corn snakes a chance to empty out their digestive systems. If any of your corn snakes have any food still undigested this will definitely cause serious problems when they are being cooled for brumation. Lower temperatures affect the corn snakes ability to correctly and completely digest their food. Over time the undigested food will begin to rot and cause serious health complications.
Return To Brumation
In the first week of December it is time to return your corn snakes to their winter brumation environments. You must watch them closely during the first two weeks, as this is a gradual process and progress towards brumation will be slow and subtle. It will most likely take a couple of days before your room or will cool down to the right temperature.
Keeping Your Corn Snake Dry
Over these couple of days you need to make sure that none of your corn snakes become wet. Additionally make sure that they do not spend to much time bathing in their water bowls. Obviously if your snakes are wet or damp as the temperature is dropping as well as, still being wet when the enclosures have become cooler. Then this will be detrimental to their health. To prevent your corn snakes doing this, you can remove the water bowl for a short time. If you then provide a good, secure place for your corn snake to hide and rest. It will prevent them from resting inside their water bowls. Then you can safely replace the water bowl, knowing that your corn snake has a much better place to rest and hide.
So there you have it. A complete yearly breakdown of what to expect on the topic “When do corn snakes breed”. Remember this is a huge process throughout a corn snakes life, so please take the time to do your research on breeding corn snakes before you go ahead and do so.
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