Choosing a King/Milk Snake as a Pet
King Snakes come in a huge variety of subspecies, but some of the most popular ones are:
- Common King Snake
- Grey Banded King Snake
- Mole Prairie King Snake
- Mexican King Snake
- Milk Snake
King Snakes come in every colour imaginable; which is one of the reasons they have become such popular pets. Common King Snakes are the largest ones and can grow up to 6ft in length, with the average being about 4ft.
However, Milk Snakes grow from 51cm to 150cm long. They have smooth and shiny scales and their typical colour pattern is alternating bands of red-black-yellow or white-black-red. They come in a variety of colours depending on their subspecies; in addition, are constrictors, suffocating their prey before eating.
Both King and Milk Snakes will try to eat cage mates, so should be housed on their own.
Company for King/Milk Snakes
Cannibalism is normal for King and Milk Snakes; so never keep more than one per enclosure. Also, be sure to leave your snake alone in its new home for a few days before you start handling it.
The average lifespan for a King / Milk Snake is 15 years, but they have been know to live to up 20.
Where King/Milk Snakes Like to Live
Your Snake should be kept in a very secure environment; they are known to test their space and find areas to escape from. A large vivarium is recommended for King or Milk Snakes with plenty of features. For example; branches, leaves, bark and rocks, while a box to hide in is a must.
Generally, your King or Milk Snake will need a temperature of about 24-30*C in their cage during the day, and 21-23*C at night.
Give your snake a couple of days to settle in before you stand handling it. Be gentle and persistent; with short sessions at first to build trust. It shouldn’t take too long for the snake to get comfortable and settle on your hand and arm. Remember, these snakes are constrictors so they may try to wrap themselves around you; therefore always unwrap them from the tail end.
Their level of exercise will depend on how large their enclosure is; if they have more room and areas to burrow or climb they are less likely to become obese; which can be a common problem for snakes.
Diet & Nutrition
King and Milk Snakes are strictly carnivorous; meaning they only eat meat; and prefer small rodents like mice and rats. Feed your snake every 4-5 days for juveniles, or every 7-10 days for full grown.
The Milk Snake, because of its secretive and coy nature, can often be a problem feeder. If the snake is stressed it will not eat; try to give it as many hiding places in its home as possible, to alleviate stress. Feed your snake small frozen mice that have been defrosted.
Frozen food is available from your local Petmania Store; however, because of its sensitive nature, it is not displayed on the shop floor; so please ask for assistance.
Make a bowl of fresh water available at all times. It will be used for drinking and sometimes for bathing. If the snake defecates in it, the bowl must be cleaned and disinfected.
Health & Hygiene
King/Milk Snakes are a tough species; so are generally quite resilient, and with a good diet and a routine will remain quite healthy.
As a reptile grows, its old skin become too tight; therefore a new skin awaits just below the old one. As a snake gets ready to shed, its body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. To assure proper hydration, providing additional misting during the shedding process will help them along.
These are small black parasites that live on your Milk Snake and feed on their blood. If affected by mites, they will be visible around the eyes, mouth and under its scales. Symptoms will include lethargy and loss of appetite. If mites are discovered, bathe your Milk Snake immediately in warm water. Remove all the contents from the vivarium and full disinfect. Replace substrate with kitchen roll and keep furnishing to a minimum. You will need to use a mite treatment to rid the tank of all mites, and medical attention is recommended.
Bacterial infections are typically caused by poor cage conditions, low temperatures or too much humidity; but they can also be transferred between snakes. Symptoms include a wheezy sound when breathing; excessive saliva, and nasal discharge. Mild infections will generally go away once living conditions are improved, but veterinary advise is recommended for serious infections. If you are concerned about your Snake’s health, our Pet Care Advisors are on hand to help, although veterinary attention may be recommended.
This may occur if your Milk Snake is handled too soon after eating, or if their food is too large; although it may also be a sign of digestive problems. If regurgitation occurs, monitor it closely for other symptoms. If your Snake repeatedly regurgitates it’s meal, shows signs of excessive weight loss or shows any other signs that are worrying; seek medical attention.
Cleaning the Habitat
Snakes generally require little cleaning as they rarely defecate. Remove faeces and soiled bedding as necessary; and if your snake defecates in its water bath, it should be disinfected straight away. A full deep clean every four weeks, with a mild disinfectant will ensure your Snake remains healthy.
Hand washing is very important when owning any reptile. Washing your hands before and after handling your Snake will help keep you and your pet healthy. If you wash your hands before handling you reduce the risk of passing anything on to your pet.
As with all reptiles, Milk Snakes have the potential to carry pathogens such as Salmonella; so children under five should not handle them and hands should be thoroughly washed before and after handling.
Take Me Home Checklist
Before you take your King/Milk Snake home, it is important that you have a habitat set up for it to move straight into. This list will help you identify what you need, and if you have any questions, our Pet Care Advisors in-store will be only too happy to assist.
• Suitable vivarium
• Heat Mat
• Substrate & Bedding
• Water dish
- Decoration and hides
- Misting bottle