Feeding King Snakes

You should make sure the prey you give your kingsnake is no wider than the snake at its widest part. However, it should still be large enough to produce a lump in the snake’s body once it has been ingested. Large snakes might need two adult mice per feed, while others could be happy with just one. Some kingsnakes may also enjoy day-old chicks in their diet to provide a little variety.

Start hatchling kingsnakes off on baby mice or pinkies, fed twice a week, before graduating to "fuzzy" (or slightly larger) prey as your pet gets bigger. Adult snakes may only need weekly feeds, but use your common sense. If your pet is starting to look a little thin, for example if you can see its backbone or ribs, start to feed it twice a week. Equally, remember that over-feeding will never do your kingsnake any good. It’s perfectly normal for kingsnakes to lose their appetites during the autumn and winter months, when your animal will tend to hibernate, during a pregnancy and at shedding time.

As with other breeds of snake, only ever use pre-killed prey. Mice and rats can gnaw a snake’s flesh down to the bone, and may well do so if they feel cornered. Prey you’ve caught in the wild could have harmful parasites, so should be avoided. If you want to keep your own feeder mice at home, boxes are available which can be filled with carbon dioxide to kill them in an easy an humane way.

Pre-killed prey can be bought from your local pet store or by mail order. Stock up in the freezer and defrost thoroughly in a bowl of warm water before dinner time. This warms up the animal so that your snake will believe it is eating live prey. As with other breeds of snake, ‘braining’ your pet’s food, or puncturing the skull so it can smell the brain, is very helpful in enticing reluctant feeders to eat up.

When feeding, don’t use your bare hands or you’re liable to be bitten. Use tongs or forceps, and wash your hands before feeding time. If your kingsnake smells your own scent, they may mistake you for something on the menu.

Watch out for regurgitation of food. This can happen if you handle your pet immediately after a feed, or if the temperature of the enclosure is too cool, or the mouse you have fed your pet is too large. If your snake is persistently regurgitating, seek veterinary advice.

The final thing to bear in mind is that kingsnakes get their name because they like to be ‘king’ of their enclosure! If you have two in the same tank, the stronger one is likely to feast on the other, so always house kingsnakes alone to stop this from happening.