Milk snakes hatch out at approximately 10 inches in length. Adults range from 4 to 5 feet, though some can get up to 6 feet.
In captivity, with proper care, milk snakes can live 15-25 years or more. There have been records of milk snakes even living over 30 years old.
When designing your milk snake’s enclosure make sure to remember that they are commonly found in rural, temperate climates. Hatchlings can be kept in a rack system or 10 gallon tank. Adults can be housed in 32 quart racks or 30”L x 12”W x 12”H tanks but larger is ideal.
Temperature & Humidity:
Providing a heat gradient with lows in the mid 70s and a basking spot of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit is very important as reptiles are cold blooded and must be able to regulate their body temperature. Humidity should be kept around 40-50 percent and increased during shedding.
A great way to help control and maintain humidity and make your milk snake’s enclosure more natural is with mosses. Golden Sphagnum Moss, Green Sphagnum Moss, Sheet Moss, Pillow Moss, and Royal Pillow Moss are all excellent at storing and maintaining humidity and work well with hides to create humidity hides during shedding.
Newspaper and paper towels are the least expensive bedding but be sure to keep a close eye on temperature and humidity as these options do hold up as well as other substrates. Milk snakes love to burrow which is why Aspen is the most popular substrate for this species. Cypress Mulch, Orchid/Fir Bark, and Coco Husk are also great naturalistic substrate options that help maintain and control humidity. Lastly, Coconut soil is another option that is very good at holding moisture. No matter what substrate you decide to use make sure to keep an eye on humidity as too much or too little can cause problems.
Providing a safe hiding place for your milk snake is extremely important to the overall health of your reptile. Milk snakes need a secure, dark cave or hide that they can retreat to in order to reduce stress and feel safe. It is best to have two hides in the enclosure with one placed on the hot side and one on the cold side. This is so the milk snake can properly control its temperature and feel safe no matter which side they choose. There are a variety of hides available on the market (Sapa and Moss Domes are popular naturalistic options).
Lighting is not necessary but can be used if desired. However, only use lightning up to 12 hours a day as too much lighting can be stressful.
You will want to feed your milk snake an appropriate sized rodent every 7 days when they are hatchlings or juveniles. “Appropriate sized” meaning the same size as the largest girth of the snake, normally the mid section. Do not handle the milk snake for at least a day after feeding so it can properly digest the meal.
Feed adult milk snakes every 1-2 weeks. Milk snakes are known for going off feed during winter months so do not be alarmed if your milk snake stops feeding for a month or two. Simply keep an eye on the snake’s overall condition and weight. Snakes generally do not eat during shed cycles.
Always provide fresh, clean water for your milk snake. Make sure to check water daily as snakes will occasionally defecate in their water dish. The size and style of the water dish is up to you.
After the necessities, milk snake enclosures can have any variety of decor that help to add enrichment. Spider Wood, Grapevine, and Driftwood are popular climbing implements that provide a different texture and aid in shedding. Natural stones, perches and vines are also a great addition for general stimulation and enrichment with the added benefit of a naturalistic look.
- Milk snakes are non-venomous and pose no threat to humans. Their color and pattern resemble those of a highly venomous coral snake. This mimicry protects milk snakes from predators as they do not want to fight with a deadly coral snake.
- Milk snakes play an extremely important role in the ecosystem by preying on rodents, which destroy crops and carry diseases.
- There are dozens of “morphs” available as pets. Morphs refer to the various colors and pattern mutations such as: albino, leucistic, and anerythristic.
- The milk snake is often mistaken as the venomous coral snake and often killed as a result. You may have heard the rhyme “Red on yellow kills a fellow. Red on black, venom lack”. This rhyme refers to where the colors are touching on the coral versus milk snake. However, this can be unreliable due to pattern and color mutations.
- Milk Snakes are primarily terrestrial but love to burrow and climb when given the opportunity.