Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How Do You Keep A Snake?

Part 2: Housing

Snakes can thrive in a variety of enclosure types. Glass aquariums are very popular among most consumers and some entry level breeders. They are most suited to small collections where space is not at a premium and there aren't too many cages to clean. Among breeders and those with larger collections, plastic shoebox/sweaterbox enclosures are more popular. These are easy to clean and can be placed in racks to save space.There are also more expensive plastic cages specially designed for reptiles. These are probably the best, but are more expensive.

Many baby snakes will do well in a 2 1/2 to 5 gallon aquarium or a plastic shoe box (approximately 6 quarts). As the snake grows, the size of the enclosure should grow as well. Adults should be kept in an aquarium at least 2/3 of the length of the snake or a plastic box of 41 quarts or larger (Rubbermade and Sterilite storage boxes designed to fit under a bed are the perfect size for this).

It is vital to make your snake's enclosure escape-proof. For aquariums, a tight-fitting screen top with some form of fastener is essential. For plastic boxes, there are two ways to keep your snake from escaping: stacks of books or other heavy objects (which is not visually appealing or convenient) or a rack designed to hold one or more boxes of the size you have chosen. In this type of rack, the boxes slide out like drawers and the shelf above each box acts as a lid. This method, while ideal for most large collections is generally not practical for the average pet owner. If you use plastic boxes, make sure to punch/drill air holes in the sides!

The majority of my snakes get four enclosures throughout their lives:

First is a small Ziploc brand food container with a snap on lid (about 2 quarts). I use this smaller box to establish new baby snakes so that they will feel secure and feed well. They come in packs of two for about $2.50 and can be found at just about any grocery store, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.

The second enclosure is a 6 quart Sterilite plastic shoebox in a rack setup. These cost $1 each. The rack cost me about $50 to build, but it has housed about 20 snakes already and doubles as a set of shelves when not in use.

Third is what I call an intermediate cage. I use 15 quart Sterilite (#1924) plastic boxes. These are the ones with the green latches. I use the lids for these and place them on shelves with weights on the lids. These cost $3.50 at Wal-Mart. These have proven very versatile, and house snakes between 20 inches and 3 feet long. They are good for transporting reptiles and I even use them for larger snakes when I cool them for the winter.

Finally, for my adult snakes, I use 41 quart Sterilite (#1960) under-bed boxes in a rack setup. These cost $7-9, or $5 if you catch them on sale. The rack cost me about $200 to build, but houses ten snakes at a time.

You can do the same thing with aquariums if plastic boxes aren't to your liking.

So why all the different sizes? Why not just put the snake in the biggest cage and be done with it? Snakes like cozy, confined spaces. Putting them in larger enclosures often stresses them, causing them to lose their appetites. They also seem to have trouble finding food left in a larger cage sometimes.

Sound complicated? It's not, really. Just start small, step up as the snake grows.

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