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Feeding Your Snake

Feeding your snake involves knowing not only what to feed, but when and how. Snake nutrition is fairly straightforward: snakes are carnivores that eat whole prey. In the wild, snakes generally eat live prey such as small mammals, birds, and other reptiles. When feeding your snake in captivity though, it is best to limit your snake’s diet to dead prey, since it is safer for both you and the snake to handle.

Most small captive snakes eat small mice, commonly referred to as “pinkie” mice. Pinkie mice are generally babies. Because they are not fully developed, their skeletons consist more of cartilage than bone. As the snake matures, the diet should grow as well. Mature snakes that feed on only pinkie mice can easily develop calcium deficiencies, since cartilage does not contain as much calcium as solid bone.

Since live prey can fight back and harm either you or your snake, feeding your snake a diet of dead prey is best. Snakes in the wild eat live prey, though, so it may take some training to convince your snake to eat dead prey. One of the best ways to do this is to hold the food with tongs or a hemostat and make the prey appear to move. Always use some sort of tool to do this, since a hungry snake will strike at anything that moves – including your hand!

When feeding your snake, proper frequency is important. In general, juvenile snakes such as pythons and boas should be fed once every six or seven days. Mature snakes do not need to be fed as often; once every seven to fourteen days is usually sufficient for mature boas and pythons.

When purchasing a snake, it is important to observe the animal to be sure it is eating before you bring it home. Dealing with acclimating a snake to a new environment (and acclimating yourself to a new snake) can be challenging enough without compounding that with problems feeding your snake.

Some snakes prefer a bit of privacy while eating, {mosimage}so be sure to provide a hide box in the snake’s enclosure. Because many snakes are nocturnal by nature, they may prefer to feed at night rather than during the day. After feeding your snake, do not handle him for a few days, to help prevent regurgitation. If your snake refuses to eat when repeatedly offered prey, consult a reptile vet. Feeding your snake the right foods in the right ways at the right time can help ensure a healthy and happy snake.

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