Do you have a baby snake and you want to know what to feed it?
Or are you simply curious?
Either way, “how do baby snakes eat?” is a good question.
They are not mammals, so they obviously do not feed on their mother’s milk.
Does that mean they emerge ready to go out and hunt immediately?
Not quite. But it’s not far off either.
While it does depend on the species, snakes are incredibly self-sufficient from a very young age.
Keep reading to learn how baby snakes eat. We will also cover what they eat, what you should be feeding your baby snake, and how much.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do Baby Snakes Eat?
- 2 How To Feed A Baby Snake
- 3 How Baby Snakes Eat: Final Thoughts
How Do Baby Snakes Eat?
Baby snakes have evolved jaws with stretchy muscles, tendons, and ligaments which help them swallow their prey whole.
Newborn baby snakes usually don’t eat for up to a month and have adequate nutrition to sustain them during this period.
After this period, they eat small foods like snails, frogs, eggs, insects, etc.. Basically, they eat things that can easily fit in their mouths.
How Hatchlings Eat
The hatchlings (as newborn baby snakes are known) feed upon the yolk sac from their eggs. Most species of mother snakes leave their babies to find their own way into the world.
As a result, that is their only nourishment for a while. Baby snakes do not eat much until they are about a month old. They have adequate nutrition from the yolk sac to sustain them during this period.
How Baby Snakes Eat At 1 Month Of Age
Once they are about a month old, baby snakes start feeding on the same things that adult snakes eat. Naturally, the size of the prey is important.
Baby snakes prefer smaller prey such as snails, frogs, small mice and rats, eggs, insects, etc. . In other words, food items that can easily fit in their smaller-sized jaws.
Many species of snakes are born with teeth. The teeth are not always easy to see, since they are concealed by gums.
Snakes do not use their teeth for chewing. Rather, they swallow their food whole and use the teeth as a grip to draw and hold the prey and prevent it from escaping.
The teeth also help them pull the meal inward once it is swallowed. The throat muscles then continue pushing the food deep into their stomachs.
Baby snakes use their super stretchy jaws to swallow their prey. Snake jaws are equipped with stretchy muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help them stretch their mouth wide.
Snakes also have two independently moving lower jaws that help them accommodate larger prey. This is why species like pythons can easily swallow large prey like gazelles and deer.
Most species of venomous baby snakes, like their adult counterparts, are ambush predators. This means that they do not actively seek food. Instead, they hide, wait for their prey to walk past, and then strike.
Depending on their species, they may prefer warm-blooded prey such as rats, moles, etc. Water snake species prefer cold-blooded prey like reptiles or fish.
The baby snake’s habitat will also determine its diet. For example, snakes living in trees might eat birds and bird eggs while those in deserts will eat lizards, insects, etc.
How To Feed A Baby Snake
If you want to know what to feed a pet baby snake, it is best to consult your vet. In general, the following guidelines can be useful. We also have an article specifically on what garter snake babies eat.
The species of your baby snake is the most important factor when it comes to feeding it. For example, a small, noodle-thin baby snake (like the Western Hognose or Children’s Python) should only be fed insects and small larvae.
On the other hand, if you have a baby anaconda or python, you could feed it larger prey like birds or rats.
Never feed your small baby snake large food items, because it could result in health issues including organ damage.
A good thumb rule to follow while feeding a baby snake: select food that is as wide as your snake’s widest part.
Most pet baby snakes can be fed a diet of pinkies and fuzzies. Pinkies are the youngest and smallest of feeder mice. They are less than 5 days old.
Fuzzies are older than Pinkies (between 5 days and 2 weeks old) and have developed a fuzzy hair coat. For baby snakes of large snake species, you could feed hoppers, adults, or jumbo adult feeder mice.
Always choose healthy prey to feed your baby snake. Make sure there are no pesticides or parasites in the prey. If your baby snake were to eat parasite-infested or pesticide-treated mice, it could get very sick.
How Often Do Baby Snakes Eat?
How often you feed a baby snake depends on its size, weight, species, age, and overall health. In general, you can feed your baby snake a pinkie mouse every 5-7 days.
Here is a table for reference:
|Snake Weight||Food Size||Feeding Frequency|
|4-10 grams||1 pinkie (2-3 g)||every 3-4 days|
|10-15 grams||1 pinkie (2-4 g)||every 4-5 days|
|20-30 grams||1 fuzzy (5-7 g)||every 5-6 days|
|30-50 grams||1 regular fuzzy (7-10 g)||every 5-7 days|
|50-90 grams||1 hopper (~10 g)||every 5-7 days|
|100-150 grams||1 adult mouse (15 to 20 g)||every 7 days|
Do Baby Snakes Need Water?
Yes, like all living beings, snakes need water. Without water, they can get dehydrated and even die. Most snakes can go longer without food than they can without water.
A snake’s water intake depends on its species, size, diet, and also its environment.
In the wild, most species of snakes can go without water for a few weeks. However, in captivity, you should not restrict your baby snake from water for more than a week.
In fact, you should keep a steady supply of fresh water for your baby snake at all times, no matter what species it is.
Some species of snakes like to soak in water baths and they get adequate water from the soaking action. Your baby snake might also get water from the food it eats, like mice, fuzzies, etc.
Some species of snakes are even equipped to acquire water from the mist or the surrounding atmosphere, and sometimes even by licking their own scales.
All snakes are equipped with tiny sponges on their lower jaws. These sponges use a capillary action to help them absorb water. The snake’s throat and jaw muscles then push the water into its belly.
How Long Can Baby Snakes Go Without Eating?
Newborn baby snakes or hatchlings can easily go without eating for up to a month. They get adequate nutrition from the yolk sacs they have hatched from.
After about a month, they start finding their food. In the wild, some species of snakes can go without eating for prolonged periods. If a recent report is to be believed, some snake species have even learned to survive without food for up to 2 years!
In captivity, your baby snake depends on you to feed it. Typically, a healthy baby snake needs feeding once every 3-5 days, depending on its age, size, and overall health.
A baby snake will starve without food after a week. A baby snake that doesn’t eat for more than 2-3 weeks could even die.
Sometimes your snake may not eat, even when you give it food. There are several reasons why a baby snake might not eat.
- Stress: If you have recently moved your snake or the lighting/temperature has changed, your snake could get stressed and might refuse food.
- Environment: For your baby snake to thrive, you must provide it with optimum temperature and humidity. This depends on the snake’s species. Do your homework and provide your baby snake with the right environment.
- No hiding areas: Snakes are inherently shy creatures. If you keep your snake in an enclosure that is in the open, has too much traffic, or provides limited hiding spots, or you are handling your baby snake too often, it could get anxious and scared and refuse food.
- Bad food/picky eaters: The kind of food you feed is also a factor. A picky baby snake might not like the smell or feel of frozen food. Try placing the frozen food in warm water prior to feeding. When feeding dead food, jerk it a bit so it resembles live food. This might stimulate your baby snake to prey on it just like it would in the wild. You can also scent the food with other prey scents before feeding.
Do Mother Snakes Stay With The Baby Snake?
Snakes are solitary creatures. They only come together when they want to mate or hibernate. They don’t do much else together and that includes mother and baby snakes as well.
Mother snakes rarely stay with their babies. Almost 30% of the snake species that birth live snakes do not wait around to care for their offspring. They abandon their young ones right after birth.
A few species of mother snakes might stick around for a short period of time, but mostly, they ensure that their babies can independently take care of themselves right from the start.
Snakes that lay eggs usually just cover their eggs with dirt before slithering away and hoping for the best. A few species of snakes only stick around long enough to incubate the eggs.
How Baby Snakes Eat: Final Thoughts
Now you know that baby snakes can live off the yolk of the egg sac from which they emerge for the first month or so of their lives, until they are ready to hunt down their own food.
Some species are actually ready to hunt immediately. Pretty impressive, when you consider how long it takes many humans to become self-sufficient. And some never do!