Are you fascinated by snakes but turned off by the idea of feeding them rodents?
There’s good news for you: Some of the friendliest pet snakes don’t have to be fed mice or rodents.
In fact, there are some small, manageable, exotic pet snakes that can’t eat rodents.
There is no such thing as a vegetarian snake, but there are snakes you don’t have to feed mice.
In this article, we will introduce you to potential pet snakes that eat eggs, fish, and insects, along with an alternative to feeding rodents to all the others called Reptilinks.
Let’s start with a rundown on the two kinds of snakes that feed exclusively on eggs.
Snakes that Don’t Eat Mice
While most of the snake’s diet includes mice (especially pet snakes), if you don’t fancy feeding mice to your pet snake, there are some options.
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at these snakes that you will never have to feed mice:
- African Egg Eating Snakes
- Indian Egg Eaters
- Rough Green Snakes
- Smooth Green Snakes
- Water Snakes
We will also take a look at snakes you don’t have to feed mice all the time, including California King Snakes, Corn Snakes, Garter Snakes, Milk Snakes, and Rosy Boas.
Two Egg-Eating Snakes
There are two kinds of snakes that feed exclusively on bird eggs.
One is the African Egg-Eating Snake. The other is the Indian Egg Eater. They are not very common pets, so you may find them under different names.
African Egg-Eating Snakes are also known as Western Forest Egg-Eating Snakes or the Central African Eggeaters.
They are also occasionally offered at snake shows and in exotic pet shops under their scientific name Dasypeltis fasciata.
Indian Egg Eaters are also known as the Indian Egg Eating Snakes and by their zoological name Elachistodon westermanni.
You may also see them advertised as Westermann’s Snakes, after their scientific name.
Of the two, African Egg-Eating Snakes are easier to find. They are also easier to keep as pets
What You Need to Know About African Egg-Eating Snakes
African Egg-Eating Snakes are native to the cooler, temperate-zone woodlands of Central Africa.
They live at elevations of 3,300 to 3,700 feet (about 1000 to 1125 meters).
Preferring temperatures that are neither too cool nor too hot, they live in trees where they can raid bird nests for eggs.
These snakes are most active during the day. In the wild, broad daylight is when they are most likely to find birds’ nests unguarded.
One of the unique anatomical features of African Egg-Eating Snakes is that they don’t have teeth.
Instead, their mouths are lined with rough, bony plates that allow them to grasp eggs and shove them down their throats.
Once the egg is in the snake’s throat, a spike comes down from its spine and breaks the eggshell so the contents of the egg can be digested.
African Egg Eating Snakes regurgitate (these snakes can’t spit) out the shell.
Before you start looking for African Egg Eating Snakes, you need to know that they are too small to swallow chicken eggs.
They are absolutely too small to be fed duck or turkey eggs. They don’t have a way of lapping down eggs that you have taken out of the shell for them either.
They can only eat small eggs, like quail eggs.
Moreover, African Egg Eating Snakes are picky eaters. They don’t eat fertilized eggs. That is, they don’t keep any bird from being hatched.
And they don’t eat stale eggs. They will starve if you don’t give them fresh eggs at room temperature.
But you don’t ever have to give them mice. Live mice could actually kill this small snake.
African Egg Eating Snakes take a while to get to know you. At first, they may roll into a ball and make a raspy sound with their scales when you approach their cage.
After you have fed them a few times, they will let you handle them.
Just be sure to avoid picking up your snake for about two days after it has eaten, to give it time to digest the egg and expel the shell.
What You Need to Know About Indian Egg Eaters
Indian Egg Eaters are native to tropical locations in Bhutan, Nepal, and, of course, India. They prefer regions with hot summers and monsoon rains.
Indian Egg Eaters are mid-sized snakes, longer than African Egg Eating Snakes. Indian Egg Eaters can grow up to 31 inches (78 cm) long.
They are extremely agile climbers, as well as skilled escape artists. They writhe and wriggle in an S-curve when they feel threatened, but they do not bite.
To feed your Indian Egg Eater, you need to find turtle eggs, not bird eggs. You cannot, of course, feed your pet Indian Egg Eaters the eggs of any endangered turtle species.
All Indian Egg Eaters need a hiding place in their enclosures. A piece of driftwood or a short section of a log with a hole in it will work.
Because female Indian Egg Eaters jealously guard their territory, it can be a disaster to keep two of them in the same cage.
Egg-eating snakes may lose their appetite when they are placed in a new home. If they don’t eat after two weeks, ask your veterinarian about force-feeding to keep them alive.
Sometimes It’s a Bad Idea to Try to Feed Eggs to Your Snake
Pythons and Boa Constrictors (with one exception, mentioned below) swallow their food whole.
They don’t have a way of cracking the shell of an egg so they can digest its contents.
An egg can sit in its stomach, blocking the flow of other food, so the python or boa starves to death.
Snakes That Can Eat Eggs Occasionally
There are several kinds of snakes that don’t always have to eat rodents. They can eat an egg occasionally.
These snakes shouldn’t be fed eggs more than about once every month because the egg white can deplete the B vitamin biotin.
These snakes need meat-meals to replenish their B vitamins:
- Corn Snakes mostly strangle rodents for food. When rodents are scarce they can climb trees to feed on bird eggs. Corn Snakes should be fed quail eggs
- California King Snakes usually eat small birds and hatchlings in the wild, but they will also feed on bird eggs and the eggs of other snakes. An adult California King Snake is able to eat chicken eggs, but younger California King Snakes should receive quail eggs.
- Garter Snakes eat eggs when live animals are scarce.
- Milk Snakes mostly feed on small rodents. They can also supplement their diets with the eggs of birds and other snakes.
- Rosy Boas can feed on eggs (ublike other boas).
Some Snakes Tolerate an Occasional Meal of Fish
Fish is a problem food for most snakes because most kinds of fish contain an anti-vitamin that destroys vitamin B1, also known as thiamine.
Snakes need abundant amounts of thiamine to make the glucose (sugar) that powers every cell in their bodies, the same it powers every cell in our bodies.
Instead of making glucose from carbohydrates, snakes make glucose from excess amino acids in the proteins they eat.
Without thiamine, this process shuts down, and snakes can get sick and even die.
Fish get their revenge on snakes for eating them with their body content of thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down thiamine.
Not all fish, however, have equal amounts of this toxic enzyme.
There are certain kinds of fish and shellfish that contain enough thiaminase that they are toxic to fish. These include:
- Brown bullhead
- Channel catfish
- Lake whitefish
- Red snapper
- Skipjack tuna
- White bass
- Yellowfin tuna
There are also fish and shellfish that are non-toxic to snakes if eaten only occasionally, say, every three months:
- Atlantic cod
- Atlantic halibut
- Atlantic salmon
- Black crappie
- Black sea bass
- Brown trout
- Coho salmon
- Hardhead catfish
- King whiting
- Lake herring
- Lake trout
- Largemouth bass
- Lemon sole
- Northern pike
- Rainbow trout
- Red perch
- Rock bass
- Rose fish
- Silver hake
- Silver seatrout
- Smallmouth bass
- Southern kingfish
- Winter flounder
- Yellowtail flounder
- Yellow perch
- Yellow pike / Walleye
Cooking fish deactivates thiaminase and makes it safe for your snake to eat.
However, your snake may refuse to eat cooked fish that it doesn’t recognize as prey.
There are three kinds of pet snakes that are more tolerant of fish in their diets than other snakes because they live near or in water: Garter Snakes, Ribbon Snakes, and Water Snakes. In nature:
- Garter Snakes that eat mice and small rats, gophers, moles, voles, worms, and small water-dwelling organisms like minnows, tadpoles, water bugs, and snails.
- Ribbon Snakes that eat crickets, mice, guppies, earthworms, and tadpoles.
- Water Snakes eat small frogs, insects, worms, mice and small rats, and small fish.
Even these snakes can’t tolerate certain kinds of fish that can be fed to other reptiles, particularly goldfish.
They also can get very sick if they are fed carp, flathead minnows, or chub.
Some Snakes Eat Insects and Worms
If you are more comfortable feeding your snake insects and worms than rodents, eggs, or fish, here are some more snakes to consider.
Rough Green Snakes
Rough Green Snakes are slender, bright, long (up to 31 inches/80 cm) green snakes with yellow or white bellies.
When they are fearful of something in their surroundings, they freeze. Staying stationary helps them blend in with the green background of their natural surroundings.
In nature, they spend most of their time climbing scrub and trees to search for small animals and insects to eat.
Rough Green Snakes thrive on caterpillars, grasshoppers, grubs, moths, fly larvae, earthworms, and spiders.
You can feed them mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers every few weeks, but not more often than that.
These insects have a rough exoskeleton that can cause severe constipation if eaten too often.
Mealworms that have recently molted are easier for your Rough Green Snake to digest. Rough Green Snakes are easiest to feed at dawn and again at dusk.
Smooth Green Snakes
Smooth Green Snakes look a lot like Rough Green Snakes, except they have smooth scales on their tails.
Smooth Green Snakes need a diet similar to what you feed Rough Green Snakes, with the addition of ants.
Water snakes, as you might guess, feed on fish, shellfish, frogs, and insects that live on, in, and near the water.
It is important to give them farm-raised food because frogs and tadpoles you catch in the wild carry parasites that your snakes can get by eating them.
Water snakes are more aggressive than most other kinds of pet snakes. They may bite you if you try to feed them by hand. Put food into their enclosures with tongs.
Gut-Loading Your Snake’s Food
Gut-loading refers to feeding the animals you feed to your snake.
The better nourishment you provide the insects and amphibians you are holding to feed to your snake later, the better nutrition they will provide your pet.
Gut-feeding insects is easy. Sprinkle food in their container, and they will find it.
Pet supply shops have gut-feeding mixes you can give to crickets, mealworms, and earthworms before you feed them to your snake.
You won’t need to gut-feed fish or amphibians that you feed your snake. You probably won’t want to, because fish and frogs can feel like pets, too.
But there is another way to feed your snake without feeding mice.
Feeding Your Snake Reptilinks
Reptilinks is a whole-animal food for carnivorous reptiles. There are Reptilink meat blends made for meat-eating snakes, turtles, lizards, crocodiles, and alligators.
Reptilinks look like sausages. They are made from farm-raised and humanely slaughtered frogs, chickens, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl, and rabbits, or mixtures of those meats.
The manufacturer treats Reptilinks with animal scents to give snakes a sensory experience similar to eating a live animal in the wild.
You can feed almost any snake Reptilinks.
Be sure to give your snake the right size Reptilink, since they will need to be able to swallow it whole without damage to their throats or digestive tracts.
Don’t pick up or handle your snake for a day or two after you feed them Reptilinks, the same way you would avoid picking up your snake after they ate a rodent.
Never Try to Put Your Snake on a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
No matter how much you object to feeding animals to your pet animal, you must not ever attempt to make your snake eat a vegetarian diet.
There are no tofu Reptilinks. There are no plant foods that a snake can digest.
Every snake is an obligate carnivore.
They eat animal flesh and only animal flesh. You may be able to avoid feeding them mice and other rodents, but they will starve if you try to feed them plant-based foods.
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