To ensure your snake's health, you will need to feed it the right food at the right time. In the wild, their diet can vary greatly depending on what is available for them to eat. In captivity, they are dependent on you for food, and their diet will only be as varied as you allow it to be. In this article, we will explore several areas related to feeding snakes, including:
- Type of food that snakes eat
- Where to get food
- Live vs. Frozen
- Thawed vs. Pre-killed
- How much to feed
- How often to feed
What do snakes eat?
Snakes are obligated carnivores (like ferrets, and cats for example) and have to eat meat. Dietary needs for plant matter are met from the digestive tracks of their prey.
Getting food for snakes
Pet stores have feeder animals for a few dollars each. Several online retailers also specialize in frozen rodents for snakes; just look for them with your favorite search engine. While ordering online is convenient, it might not always be the most practical. Sometimes finding a local source will suit your needs much better. If you buy locally or online, keep the following in mind:
- Have a backup plan in case you need an alternate source
- Cleanliness and reliability is important
- The cost of food will vary
Live, pre-killed, or frozen/thawed?
There are three options when it comes to feeding a pet snake. The following section discusses each one of those. Live food
Using this method, you “toss” the living animal in with the snake and let the snake do its thing. Live feeding is the easiest way to get a snake to eat. Here’s a few safety tips when you feed live.
1. Remove the prey
Rats have been known to eat snakes alive if left alone with a snake. If the snake hasn’t killed and eaten the prey item within about 30 minutes, remove it.
2. Never leave it unattended
You want to be aware if the prey has bitten the snake, so don’t leave them alone, even for a moment.
3. Give it a home
Be prepared to give the rodent a home if the snake doesn’t eat it. At least until the next feeding. You could also kill and freeze it to feed it later, and in a bit, we’ll talk about feeding frozen/thawed.
4. Pre-kill the food
Another method of feeding is to kill the animal just before feeding it to your snake. This eliminates the safety concerns mentioned above in regards to feeding live prey. For a smaller animal like a mouse or rat, pin its neck at the skull base using a spoon or something similar.
Then lift sharply up on its back legs. This will break the animal's neck. Because it is so fresh, this is often an excellent way to switch your snake from live to frozen/thawed. If the snake won’t take it, just wrap it up and freeze it. You can always use it later.
First, thaw the food. I prefer to let it sit in the snake room pre-scent it. Some people like to put it in warm water in a ziplock bag to speed up the process. Never use a microwave or any other method that could cook it.
When the food has thawed, you can either present it to the snake using tongs or throw it into the snake's tank and leave it be. You might need to experiment with what works for you.
My snakes take it either way, but sometimes I don’t have the time to sit there with the tongs for 30 minutes while one of them decides if she wants to eat or not.
Finally, you can make your own Co2 chamber. These chambers are relatively simple to build, as you can see by these plans I found on ball-pythons.net
How much to feed
I’ve made a separate guide that will help you determine how much to feed and what size of food to feed.
How often should you feed?
This goes hand in hand with “how much”, but it is better addressed separately. The average snake, being a young adult, is usually fed once every 1 to 1.5 weeks. I know that’s a blanket statement, but that seems to be the average. As you learn your snake’s body langauge, you’ll start to learn how often it should be fed.