5 of the best snake species for beginners: How to look after your first pet snake
Are you looking for a small easy to manage pet snake? A pet snake that doesn’t eat mice, or doesn’t require feeding all the time? Or just a friendly snake that won’t bite and doesn’t mind being handled? Find out which are the best pet snakes for beginners in our snake species guide:
Are snakes good pets?
Snakes can make great pets if cared for properly and can be an easy way to introduce you into reptile husbandry. Out of all reptiles available to buy as pets in the UK, snakes seem to have the upper hand as the most popular pet of choice. Different snake species can have different personality traits, some snakes are friendlier than others, some snakes have very specific dietary requirements and don’t get us started on the battle of venomous vs poisonous.
Regardless it’s important to start your reptile venture with an easy going, beginner-friendly pet snake, it would be unfair on you and the snake to be thrown in at the deep end with a 20ft long Burmese python.
Here are 5 of the best snake breeds to begin caring for, suitable for young adults, supervised children and adult snake hobbyist alike. We will go over the costs of keeping a snake, resources for buying your first vivarium, any dietary requirements for each snake breed we recommend and crucial information on each snake to help you decide which pet snake is best for you.
What Are the Best Pet Snakes for Beginners?
There are roughly 3,700 snake species in the world, so would-be snake owners have a number of options available to them. However, the vast majority of these species are difficult to care for and best left to experienced keepers.
Beginners should stick to those species that are docile, easy to feed and remain relatively small. Additionally, beginners should only acquire snakes that were born and bred in captivity, as wild-caught snakes often present a number of challenges.
Snakes are like no other animal:
- They eat strange foods, like frozen dead mice
- They require very specific vivarium conditions
- They interact with humans much differently than warm-and-fluffy pets do.
Although snakes are fascinating creatures, these differences in snake behaviour and care compared to that of a cat or dog can leave many people wondering if snakes make good pets, but with the right care and background knowledge snakes are easily looked after.
In this article we’ll talk about:
- Some of the smallest snakes that make good pets
- The best pet snakes for beginners
- Snakes that don’t require mice for food
- A few of the friendliest snake species available
- Corn snakes
A corn snake is by far the most popular first-time snake buyer’s choice. Corn snakes are small, thin bodied and generally don’t get bigger than 5ft. They will feed regularly, meaning they are easy to fit into your lifestyle and a routine. Corn snakes make good beginner pets because they are docile and they rarely present feeding difficulties or costly health problems. The set-up costs for corn snakes can vary, depending on your budget a vivarium kit can start at £30
but you also have to consider the upkeep costs of the substrate and other elements. You can buy corn snakes from reputable reptile shops, rehoming centres and breeders from £100. Click here for a corn snake husbandry guide
- Ball pythons
Now this one may sound scary at first; although pythons are constrictors, they are non-venomous snakes. Ball pythons are also the smallest of the sub-Saharan species making them one of the best snake breeds for beginners. As a small constrictor a human would not be considered prey in their eyes, you are too big even as a big meal, they will wrap themselves around your arm or wrist, but they can easily be removed, this is just how ball pythons like to sit comfortably. A royal or ball python vivarium set up will set you back around £120 for a starter kit and purchasing a ball python itself from a reputable breeder or reptile shop will cost anywhere from £60 upwards.
- Green Snakes
There are two species of green snake that are available to hobbyists: the smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis) and the rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus). Both make good pets, remain pretty small and will thrive on an insect-based diet. Although green snakes are rarely aggressive towards humans, like other snakes they can become stressed if handled too much. Green snakes are insectivores and only along with a few other snakes, don't eat mice only a diet entirely consisting of insects. In the wild, they mostly consume a variety of insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, moths, caterpillars, fly larvae and spiders. In captivity, it is most practical to feed a diet primarily of crickets, although it is extremely important to make sure the diet is still somewhat varied. Add in items such as grasshoppers, spiders, moths, and earthworms as much as possible.
- Sand Boas
Sand boas are small boa constrictors who are much easier to maintain than some of their larger cousins are. Sand boas can be tame, and they are a typically easy to feed, living off mice. To hunt, they pounce on the (dead) mice and bury it into the sand, twisting and turning as they constrict their prey. Some species are quite colourful and attractive, but they do spend most of their time buried beneath their substrate. There are several species of sand boa, but Kenyan sand boas are the most readily available to buy in the UK and will set you back around £90, a nice set up
for your boa would start at around £400.
- Western Hognose snakes
The hognose snake is most famous for their upturned nose used for burrowing in the wild but they actually have some very interesting personality traits that you do not see in other similar snakes. Not only are hognoses quite small compared to other snakes coming in at 4-5ft, and that’s a big hognose snake, they are also rear fanged and spend a considerable amount of time burrowing. They are one of the most passive snakes and are very unlikely to bite anything that isn’t food however they are also one of the most vocal. When feeling threatened hognose snakes spread their neck like a cobras hood, they hiss quite loudly and imitate a defensive position. This is all a complete bluff though. If they strike they will tend not to open their mouth and usually bounce off things. Their main defence is to run away and if that doesn’t work they roll over and try to play dead.
What do I need to know before buying a pet snake?
Snakes are much cheaper to feed than dogs or cats of similar size, as their cold-blooded metabolisms operate at only a fraction of the speed that a dog’s or cat’s does. And although sick or injured snakes will require veterinary care, they won’t need regular vaccinations or check-ups. Snakes won’t act the same way a cat or dog would, they won’t crave your attention and nuzzle up to you for warmth; snakes are very much independent animals. But they will still possess personality traits that can mean a bond is still there, and some species of snake even like being handled by humans. They are certainly interesting and rewarding pets, and come without the guilt of leaving their sad little faces at the door every morning when you go to work.
For inspiration on finding the perfect vivarium you can view our collection of vivariums for reptiles here.
What do pet snakes eat?
The diet of a snake depends on the species. Some snakes will only eat warm blooded prey, rodents, whole rabbits, birds for example. While others eat insects, frogs, earthworms, or other reptiles such as lizards, amphibians, snails, fish, or even slugs. Snakes swallow their food whole, but every snake is different so it's important to do your research on each specific breed, and their dietary requirements. Although you can feed live baby mice (pinkie mice for short) to smaller or younger snakes, it's not recommended to feed live prey to snakes. Don't worry - you don't have to kill the mice yourself, as most pet shops will supply large quantities of dead mice, frozen to preserve and are usually pretty cheap as you are buying in bulk.
What if my pet snake has a health issue?
For the most part these species of snake listed don’t often get health issues but occasionally you might find yourself with a snake not eating or skin not shedding correctly. For this it’s always a good idea to seek advice from your reptile vet, as they will have the most knowledge on your issue. If you’re worried about this as a long-term problem for your snake you can consider insurance which will cover vet bills up to £5,000. To get a quote for your snake click here
, or give us a call on 01444 708840.