Housing Your Pet Milk Snake
Properly housing a milk snake isn’t difficult – it only requires adequate space, knowledge of your species of milk snake, and some time to put everything together. Not only are you providing your milk snake with a habitat in which to live, the process can be fun and educational.
Not only do you need to acquire the right type of housing for your milk snake, you also need to purchase the right equipment to meet the requirements of your particular species of milk snake. For an average environment without all of the bells and whistles, you will need:
•Lighting and Heat Source
Types of Housing
The most commonly used type of housing used for a milk snake is a glass aquarium or fish tank. Not only does the glass leave you with great viewing of your pet but aquariums are also fairly easy to clean with only soap, water, and vinegar. Of course, you can always opt for a wood enclosure or one you have built yourself.
Some milk snake handlers keep their pets in wood enclosures however; wood doesn’t hold up as well as glass to repeated cleanings. Wood can also become wet and it will retain odors. If you are going the route of a wood enclosure, look for the type that has a covering like laminate. This covering is easier to keep clean thus reducing the chance of illness being spread to your milk snake.
Whether you choose a store-bought cage, aquarium, or make a homemade enclosure, you need to ensure that the door or opening to the cage is secure to prevent your milk snake from escaping. Snakes are notorious at escaping so extra precaution should be taken by using extra latches and security clips. It’s also important to choose the right size of housing to fit your pet’s needs – the larger the better.
A milk snake needs some type of source of humidity. This doesn’t mean turning on a humidifier. This can be easily achieved by placing a wet sponge in a bowl in the bottom of the snake’s enclosure. The bowl should be placed on or directly under a heat source. The heat draws the moisture from the sponge, creating a light-humid environment.
To create extra humidity, a light misting can be done each day. Misting machines are also available at most pet stores however; for most species of milk snakes, this type of misting is not required. Enclosures that have a lot of ventilation will have more humidity escape from the snake’s environment. This is an advantage of glass aquariums. On the other hand, too little ventilation can promote bacteria and disease. The enclosure should have some type of ventilation like screening but not too much that the enclosure becomes too cool thus not allowing humidity to form in the cage.
When you see all of the different types of heating elements available at the pet stores, remember that not all of these are suitable for a milk snake – especially hot rocks. The preferred method of heating by milk snake keepers is gradient heat. Your snake needs an area where it can warm itself if needed or cool down somewhat. Some snake keepers prefer to place an under-the-tank heating pad under their snake’s aquarium. When placed correctly, one end of the snake’s enclosure will be warmer than the other end.
An overhead incandescent light can also provide warmth for your snake or you can use a combination of a heating pad and overhead lighting system. The room in which the snake is kept also makes a difference. The room temperature should not drop below about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The objective is to get the enclosure to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit on one end and to 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit at the other end. This gives your milk snake the opportunity to adjust its own body temperature depending upon its needs.
If using overhead lighting, do not place the lights too close to the enclosure. If you find your milk snake hanging out in its water bowl for long periods of time, more than likely it is too hot. Thermometers should be placed in different areas of the enclosure to monitor the temperatures at the different areas.
A proper substrate for your milk snake is as important as its heating source. A substrate is the material that is used to cover the floor of the snake’s enclosure – and there are dozens of substrates to choose from.
Newspaper shredding and paper towels are inexpensive and safe for use as a substrate. However, these materials are not very absorbent and need changed fairly often. They also are not very attractive. Pine or aspen shavings are commonly used with aspen costing more than pine. A natural wood shaving is not only attractive but it helps hold some of the humidity inside the enclosure. Whichever substrate you choose, it should be non-toxic and safe to use for a snake. Cedar is not safe for most small animals including snakes.
The bottom of the enclosure should have around two inches of substrate. Depending uponthe size of your enclosure, the substrate should be changed at least once a week to no more than once a month. The substrate can be touched-up regularly if only monthly changing is needed. For a small snake in a large enclosure, once a month changing should be all that is needed.
For many years, snake owners have used sand and rocks as substrates which is suitable. The downfall to these materials is their weight and the ease of cleaning – or lack thereof. Sand and rocks do have a more natural look if appearance is more important to your aquarium. Peat moss is also suitable and helps provide a place to put plants.