King Snake Care Sheet

Juvenile & Adult King Snake Care

BEDDING

A clean dry enclosure with bedding of pine shavings, newspaper or indoor/outdoor carpeting. NEVER use cedar chips or sand as a bedding.  The vapors from the cedar will burn the respitory system of both neonates and adults and the sand can cause irritation or impaction of the digestive system.

HEAT

Temperature should range between 80° F and 90° F. A heating pad under half of the enclosure works best.

HUMIDITY

Humidity should be kept on the low side – between 30% to 50%. If the enclosure is too humid, water blisters will occur, caused by a bacterial infection under the skin. If the enclosure is too dry, there will be problems with shedding.

WATER

An 8 oz. To 14 oz. water bowl is sufficient. This must have water in it at all times. A crock bowl, which is heavier, is not as apt to be tipped over.

HIDEBOX

As a Juvenile: 4″ to 6″ crock flower pot bottom with a small entrance ground out of the side.

As an Adult: 12’ to 14″ crock flower pot bottom with a small entrance ground out of the side.

Always knock an opening out of the side, not though the top.

FOOD

Food mice should be no more than 1.5X the diameter of the head on juvenile snakes. Feed 1 to two pinkie mice every 3 to 5 days for the first 3 to 4 months. Then move on to fuzzy & hopper mice at a rate of 1 to 2 every 4 to 6 days. After your snake reaches 27 – 30 inches, you should be feeding small mice every 6 to 9 days. All frozen mice should be warmed prior to feeding by placing in a glass or bowl of hot water. All live mice, especially subadult and adult mice should be dispatched prior to feeding to prevent injury to the snake.

FROZEN MICE VS. LIVE MICE

Frozen mice have several advantages over live of fresh killed mice:

– live mice can bite, injure and/or disfigure your snake.

– frozen mice are digested approximately 50% faster and are less often regurgitated.

– freezing kills flukes that the mice may be carrying.

– frozen mice are about 50-75% the price of live mice.

– you can store a quantity of frozen mice easier and with less odor than live mice.

ENCLOSURE

Kingsnakes are very muscular and can slip through small cracks with relative ease.   Cages must be made with gaps no more than 1/16″ or more for juvenile snakes. Sub-adults and adults can make it through gaps of 1/8″ and 1/4″ , respectively.   Fish aquariums do not make good snake enclosures as they hold moisture and are difficult to make escape-proof.  Never house additional snakes in a kingsnake enclosure unless you plan on that snake being eaten by your kingsnake.

VENTILATION

One wall of the cage should be constructed of 1/4″ pegboard.

FEEDING TECHNIQUE

By handling your snake on a consistent basis, you will avoid conditioning a Pavlovian feeding response to the opening of the cage. Handling before feeding also helps avoid this feeding response by establishing the opening of the cage door as a time to be handled.

PROBLEM-SOLVING

BAD SHEDS

Humidity within the enclosure is too low. To remove old/bad sheds, place a wet, wrung out towel in enclosure for 1 – 2 days, keeping it damp at all times. This works best when kept in their hide box. Make sure you clean enclosure of all wet bedding and pieces of shed. If shed has not come off by then, call for advise or assistance from local vet or breeder.

SKIN BLISTERS

These are usually caused by enclosures being too damp or wet. You can correct the cause of the problem by increasing the ventilation and using a smaller water bowl to dry out the enclosure. Use an antibiotic salve on the blisters to help with healing. Call for advice or assistance if problem persists.

EYE-CAPS

Hold snake and place wet hand towel on eye for 5 minutes, then carefully work eye-cap off with fingernail or tweezers. If you feel uncomfortable with performing this procedure, call for assistance.

REGURGITATION

If your snake regurgitates, two steps need to occur. One, do not feed your animal for 7 – 10 days, then feed a very small meal. Approximately three days later, again feed another very small meal. As long as he keeps it down, feed every third day a little more at a time till back on normal feeding schedule. Second, do not handle your snake when it has a meal in its stomach. If your snake regurgitates two times in a row, call for assistance from your local breeder or veterinarian.

MOUTH-ROT

Damage in the mouth can cause infections to occur. If you look into the mouth and see a white, cottage cheese-like substance, this is mouth-rot. Call for advice and a check-up.

SLOW LAYING/EGG BINDING

Whenever a female king lays her eggs, she will completely deposit the clutch within 6 – 24 hours. If there are eggs still present within the female after an additional 24 hours, call for advice and a check-up from your local vet or breeder.

INJURIES

Any small injuries where the skin is ripped or cracked can be treated with an antibiotic salve such as Neosporin ointment. Larger injuries should include a call for advice and a check-up.

PNEUMONIA

If your king is lethargic, keeps its head elevated and sometimes has bubbles coming out of its nostrils, any or all of these symptoms show a case of pneumonia. To cure this, the snake needs three things to be done:

  • Make sure the temperature is at 85° F – 90° F.
  • Take the humidity level down to 10% – 30%.
  • Give the snake an antibiotic such as tetracycline.

Make sure you call your local vet for advice or a check-up as soon as possible.

NOT EATING

  • During the breeding season, the males may have a lack of appetite. This is not a problem if the male is healthy and strong.
  • Gravid females sometimes will not eat because of the space the eggs require around the digestive system.
  • Hatchlings can be very picky about their first few meals. Always make sure the breeder guarantees 5 – 10 meals eaten before the acquisition of the hatchling.
  • Some kings will not eat when they are ‘going opaque’ (getting ready to shed).
  • If a king has been eating steadily, then misses 3 – 5 meals in a row, call for advice.

BREEDING, EGGLAYING & HATCHING

SIZE FOR BREEDING

Minimum weight for a female should be approximately 200 grams. Attempting to breed kings smaller than that may lead to egg-binding and other problems. Males should never be smaller than the female otherwise there is the chance of the female thinking the male is dinner instead of a suitor.

PRE-HIBERNATION

All kingsnakes that are to be bred should be brumated (form of hibernation). Brumation stimulates both egg production and sperm fertility. To hibernate your snakes, you must stop feeding your animals a minimum of 20 days before placing them into their cooler hibernation quarters. This clean out step must be done in your pet’s warm room. This allow time for the snake’s digestive system to empty out. If this is not done prior to brumation, the food will begin to decay and poison your animal.

BRUMATION

Place the kings into a sweater box, that has been holed for ventilation, containing about two inches of pine shavings as a bedding. A water bowl needs to be included as well. Close and secure the box and place in a cool area with an average temperature range of 50° F – 65° F. Check weekly that the pine shavings are dry and the bowl has water. The animals should hibernate for 40 – 80 days.

POST-HIBERNATION

To bring your kings out of hibernation, first setup their permanent enclosures, then place the snakes into their respective enclosures at a temperature range of 80° F – 90° F. Start feeding at 7 – 10 days after bringing out of hibernation.

BREEDING

Place the male into the female’s enclosure for 2 – 3 days, then remove for 1 day. Keep repeating this pattern from 14 days post-hibernation to approximately 100 days post-hibernation. If you have more that one female to be bred to a specific male than work with a daily rotation, switching the males each evening. Handling is recommended during all the breeding season. It seems that handling actually stimulates the kings to breed.

EGG CHAMBER

Start with a plastic shoe box and fill ¾ of the way with damp Sphagnum moss. The spagnum is too wet if standing water pools at the bottom of the egg chamber. Place the lid on the shoebox in such a way that the lid is offset wit a gap of 2 ½ inches. Secure the lid in this position with several heavy rubber bands.

EGG-LAYING

The female will start swelling when she is gravid. At about 30 days post-hibernation you will want to place an egg chamber into each of the females’ enclosures. The females will lay their clutch of eggs about 7 – 10 days after their pre-laying shed. It can take 6 – 24 hours to lay all of the eggs. If you encounter slow laying (more than 24 hours) or egg-binding, check the problem solving care sheet. Two or three days after laying, feed the female small meals.

  • Eggs should never be rotated.
  • Eggs should not be moved any more than absolutely necessary.
  • Do not separate the eggs from each other.
  • Do not separate the bad eggs from the good eggs if they are stuck together.

INCUBATION

Close egg chamber completely and place in an area or incubator averaging 85° F – 90° F. Never place in the direct sunlight. Humidity inside the egg chamber should be between 90% – !00%. The egg chamber should have very little ventilation, but should not be air-tight. Eggs will take approximately 60 days to hatch.

  • Never place egg chamber in direct sunlight.
  • Never place egg chamber directly on a heating pad or other direct heat source.
  • Mist eggs to keep the spagnum damp, again watch for standing water in the bottom.

HATCHING EGGS

At about 50 days, the eggs will begin to pucker slightly as the hatchling begins to absorb the yolk. At about 60 days, the first hatchlings will start to “pip” (cut) the eggshell. If all the babies have not pipped, 24 hours after the first pipping, open the unpipped eggs carefully with an exacto knife or razor blade. Be very careful not to cut to deeply and injure the hatchling. Also, widen the pipped egg’s slits so that the hatchling do not hide within the eggs and possibly drown. Let the offspring come out of the eggs on their own.

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