Corn snakes are a great choice for a first-time snake owner. They are colorful. They are easy to care for.
They are diurnal, which means they are active during the day, when you most want to watch them and interact with them.
First-time snake owners enjoy their corn snakes so much that they often ask “Why not get two corn snakes?”
Getting a second corn snake is a great idea, but you should plan on keeping your two pet corn snakes in different enclosures.
Corn snakes are not social animals. They do not get lonely. They want to spend their time alone.
If you put two corn snakes in the same cage, one may even eat the other.
In this article, we will tell you the reasons you should keep your corn snakes separated.
We will also tell you what to do if it becomes absolutely necessary to keep two corn snakes in the same terrarium.
You Can’t Feed Two Corn Snakes at the Same Time
Puppies need their mother and their littermates. Kittens depend on their mother, too, and bond with their siblings. We humans, of course, are hardwired to relate to other people.
Snakes, however, react to the rest of the world differently from people and other animals.
Two of the reasons snakes don’t get lonely are the way they perceive the world, and the way their brains react to food.
Corn snakes can only see two colors, blue and green.
Since corn snakes mostly creep along in dark places, they don’t really need to see the colors that would help them distinguish one object from another, because they become aware of the presence of potential food animals by their scent.
When your corn snake flicks its tongue back and forth, it is sampling the air for the scent of prey or predators.
It is in “bite or flight” mode, ready to capture its food or to flee from some larger animal that might want to eat it.
Unlike boas and pythons, corn snakes do not have the ability to detect small animals (or their owners) by their heat signature.
But like every other snake, detecting the presence of food activates the snake’s brain to grab its next meal with its teeth and then squeeze around it to stop its heart before swallowing it whole.
Sometimes, when you have two snakes in the same cage and you are lowering one food animal down into their enclosure to feed them, they miss.
Your corn snake may lunge toward a defrosted pinky mouse it wants to eat and accidentally bite your finger. (This is the reason you should always present food to your snake with tongs, not with your fingers, and you should wear gloves when you feed your snake.)
If you have two corn snakes in the same enclosure at the same time when you are offering one prey animal, they will both automatically lunge forward to get their meal.
Their brains are activated so that they have no choice but to use all of their might to try to get their food when they are hungry and they sense something to eat.
One snake may get the mouse, but the other snake may bite into its cage mate.
Because a corn snake’s teeth are angled backward, to help them hold onto their prey, they can’t let go once they bite.
You will have to physically remove one corn snake from the other, or they will be locked together until one starves or the other is eaten.
Corn Snakes Don’t Get Lonely
Some snakes, like corn snakes, don’t especially mind being held. They appear to be curious, and even playful.
But this isn’t the same as liking you, and corn snakes don’t like each other, either. And they don’t get lonely.’
Humans and many other pets, like dogs and cats, are pre-programmed to bond with others by the presence of a hormone called oxytocin.
Scientists have confirmed that snake brains do not produce oxytocin. Female snakes do not have any kind of drive to bond with their offspring.
Snakes only experience fear and aggression. You can desensitize them to fearful situations to make them easier to hold.
For instance, corn snakes instinctively react with fear to anything acting like a predator.
Predators approach them quickly, and usually swoop down from above. If you make a point of approaching them slowly and picking them up from the side, they will overcome their fear of you.
You can’t really train a corn snake to be less aggressive. You can only get out of its way. In nature, corn snakes lead solitary lives except when they are mating.
What About Keeping Baby Corn Snakes in the Same Cage?
The one time that it makes sense to keep more than one corn snake in the same enclosure is when you are taking care of hatchlings.
A female corn snake typically lays a clutch of 10 to 30 eggs, and it just isn’t practical to keep them in 10 to 30 separate enclosures.
They will probably get along well until it is time for their first feeding.
You must give neonatal corn snakes their first feedings in separate cages.
For a hungry hatchling corn snake that has never eaten before, anything that smells or looks like food is on the menu.
This includes the pinky mouse you intend to feed them, but also your fingers. Hatchling snakes that have no prior experience with food will instinctively attack the first food item they are aware of.
Like adults, they are unable to let go of the first thing they bite if they miss their intended meal.
The only way to avoid these problems is to give hatchlings their first meal in a separate cage, away from the rest of the brood.
Don’t pick up a hatchling corn snake with your bare fingers. Your corn snake may mistake them for food.
Don’t pick up a hatchling corn snake if you have rodent scent on your clothes. The snake may try to bite your clothes, breaking its tiny teeth.
Feed each tiny snake in a separate enclosure and then rinse it in cool water for 30 to 60 seconds before returning it to the community cage. This removes the rodent scent on your corn snake, so it is less likely to be eaten by its siblings.
Even with this precaution, about 1 to 3 percent of hatchlings in a community cage will be eaten by their siblings every time you do a feeding.
Hatchling corn snakes may attack each other when they detect the scent of food near their cage.
They may attack each other when the lights come on suddenly, when their cage is moved, or when something jostles their enclosure.
Once corn snakes reach a length of 30 inches (about 75 cm), however, they are unlikely to attack each other at feeding time, once they realize they cannot win a fight.
What Else Can Happen When Two Corn Snakes Are Kept Together?
We have already mentioned that when two corn snakes are kept together, the larger one may eat the smaller one.
Even a small corn snake may bite into its cage mate and not be able to let go.
But cannibalism is not the only potential problem when you keep two corn snakes in the same cage.
Corn snakes are susceptible to a condition called infectious stomatitis, better known as mouth rot.
This infection starts as pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums. The snake’s immune system tries to fight the infection by isolating it with pus.
In this stage, the corn snake may look like it has cottage cheese in its mouth.
As mouth rot progresses, the corn snake will have trouble breathing through its nostrils, and start breathing with its mouth open.
This makes feeding impossible. Eventually, without veterinary treatment, the snake will starve.
Mouth rot enters the gums of a snake after injury. Corn snakes that injure themselves while fighting in their cage are more susceptible to the infection.
Also read: Do Pet Snakes Carry Diseases?
Corn snakes caught in the wild almost always have parasites.
Introducing them into the cage where you already have a captive-bred corn snake almost guarantees that both snakes will become infected.
Corn snakes can have both external and internal parasites. Just about any corn snake that spends time moving through tall grass will pick up mites or ticks.
These skin parasites persist in the substrate even after you remove the affected corn snake, waiting to hop a ride on the next occupant of the cage.
Mites can transmit the bacteria that cause mouth rot, and also cause severe skin irritation.
The intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium can give your corn snake severe diarrhea. It is spread by contact with feces or fluids left from feces in the substrate of your corn snake’s cage.
Your corn snake can come down with a respiratory infection that is similar to colds or flu in humans.
These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Affected snakes may produce lots of mucus and make a gurgling sound when they try to breathe.
Common Questions About Keeping Two Corn Snakes in the Same Cage
Q. I have seen two corn snakes rolled up together in the same hide. Does that mean that they like each other?
A. Corn snakes in the same hide may mean that they both want the same space, and neither is large enough to chase the other out.
Corn snakes do not go into the same burrow for companionship.
Q, When do I have to separate hatchling corn snakes from each other?
A. It is important not to allow hatchlings to try to mate. A female that is not mature enough for mating may be killed if a male tries.
Q. Is it safe to keep two male corn snakes together?
A. Two male corn snakes of the same size may not injure each other, but they will be severely stressed. They may refuse to eat and they will probably try to escape.
The Bottom Line on Whether Two Corn Snakes Can Live Together
Corn snakes don’t have the instinct to harm or kill each other.
They just can’t control their responses to food, and they instinctively try to protect themselves when they are startled.
It is always a good idea to house corn snakes separately unless you intend to mate them.
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