Under captive conditions, most snakes will thrive on a diet consisting of frozen/thawed rodents. For example, generations of captive breeding have made it where snakes that only eat birds in the wild will easily accept a frozen/thawed mouse in captivity. It is ultimately the owner's responsibility to understand the dietary requirements of the animals in their collection. The following article is intended to provide you with advice on feeding frozen/thawed prey items to your snakes. To learn about safe handling procedures of frozen/thawed prey items please read: Food Safety/Best Practices When Handling Frozen Foods for Captive Animals.
When selecting the appropriately sized prey item for your snake, start by choosing the size that shares the same circumference as the thickest part of the snake’s body. If you are not 100% certain on what size to order, you can contact us and a RodentPro customer service representative will gladly assist you in making the correct choice. If you would rather make the choice on your own, remember that it is better to offer a prey item that is too small as opposed to one that is too large for your snake to ingest. If you receive an order and are concerned that the feeders you ordered are too small, it is safe to offer your snake two smaller prey items per meal instead of one regular sized prey item.
Most baby snakes in captivity will eat a frozen/thawed neonate mouse within 7 to 14 days after birth. When feeding a baby snake it is critical to offer it the correct sized meal, a prey item that is too large could cause the young snake to regurgitate its meal and die from the stress of doing so. Some species of baby snakes will only eat pinky mice that have been scented with lizards or toads, normally it takes several months for these babies to readily accept a non-scented pinky mouse. As young snakes continue to grow, the size of the prey item will continue to get larger. Some adult snakes will never eat a prey item larger than a Weanling Mouse while other snakes will eat much larger prey items such as Guinea Pigs or Rabbits. Most reptile owners feed their snakes once every seven days but the frequency of meals can vary based on the species of the snake. You may witness behaviors that indicate your snake is hungry such as the snake becoming more active in its enclosure or an increased number of tongue flicks.
One of the biggest challenges that a snake owner may face is when their reptile refuses to eat. Snakes are ectotherms meaning that they cannot regulate their own body temperature, they are solely dependent on the ambient temperature of their environment which can directly affect their appetite. If your snake is not eating, it may be too warm or too cold, so it important to constantly monitor the temperature in your snake’s enclosure. Timid snakes may require that you place their frozen/thawed prey item in front of their hide box so that they have a sense of seclusion when eating. Some snakes will not eat during their shed cycle, normally it is easy to tell if a snake is in shed by their milky colored eye caps. If your snake refuses to eat over an extended period of time you may consider trying a few of the following tips:
Feed at Night
Most captive snakes are nocturnal so try feeding your snakes at night before going to bed. If your snake does not take the prey item immediately then try leaving it in the cage overnight. Check the snake's enclosure the following morning to see if the frozen/thawed feeder has been consumed, if not discard it immediately.
Offer a Different Prey Item
Some snakes may be intimidated by the size of the prey item and prefer a slightly smaller meal. As mentioned before, you can easily feed two smaller prey items at once instead of one normal sized prey item. Some snakes prefer mice to rats or vice versa. Also, try feeding your snake a guinea pig, hamsters, gerbils, chicken or quail. Most snakes will readily accept these items when all other attempts fail.
Mimic Live Motion
Pick up the prey item with a pair of tongs or forceps and move it across the cage mimicking a live animal. The movement could entice your snake to follow the feeder around the cage. Observe the snake for increased movement and tongue flickering. If your snake begins to follow the prey item around the cage, hold the feeder still and allow your snake to come to the food item. Be careful to minimize your presence, as you may intimidate the snake causing it not to eat.
Cupping the prey item is another great way to persuade a reluctant eater to accept a meal. Place the frozen/thawed feeder item in the cup along with the snake. Once the cup lid has been firmly secured, place the cup in a warm, dark area and check back every two hours.
Scenting with a poultry item is also a great option. Start by thawing out a feeder item for your snake along with a chicken or quail to scent with. Take the chicken or quail and rub it on the prey item for two minutes. Move the feeder item around the cage as instructed in the Mimic Live Motion section above. The snake should be enticed by the scent of the chicken or quail and hopefully consume the prey item.
Most zoos, serpentariums, and commercial breeding facilities do not feel that it is necessary to give vitamins or minerals to the snakes in their collection. These organizations order their frozen food items from established and respected companies such as RodentPro.com. You know the old saying “you are what you eat”, this is especially true for snakes so ordering from a company that offers the highest quality frozen thawed snake food is imperative.
RodentPro carries a complete line of frozen mice, frozen rats, frozen rabbits, frozen guinea pigs, frozen hamsters, frozen gerbils, frozen chickens and frozen quail to meet your snake’s dietary requirements as well as a complete line of feeding supplies. Contact us today if you have questions about any of our products.
To learn more about the benefits of feeding frozen/thawed prey items you should read Feeding Frozen/Thawed Food vs. Live Prey to Captive Reptiles.