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Corn Snake Handling

How To Pick Up A Corn Snake

One of the good things about having a Corn snake as a pet is the level of interactivity you can develop with it: Corn snakes can tolerate being handled for long periods.

Of course, as with any other snake, “interactivity” does not mean “attachment”. Snakes do not develop attachment in the sense dogs or cats do. Snakes do not even require social interaction. However, handling will help your Corn stay tame while giving you a lot of fun!

Corn Snake handling is not a big deal, as they are very docile snakes who don’t have temperamental tendencies, just take it slow at first! In the form of questions and answers, we provide as follows some tricks and tips about what to do before,  and when you are handling your Corn snake.

Quick Reference Section

When Can I Start Picking Up My New Pet Corn Snake?

Once you bring your new Corn home, you need to wait until your snake gets familiar with its new environment. This is because “new” always means “stressful” to a snake, and stress might booster aggressivity.

By giving your Corn snake time to adapt, you will prevent it from lashing out at you when you reach in the habitat to try handling it. A clear indication that your new snake has adapted to its environment is the fact that it starts eating regularly.

Besides the novelty factor, it is possible that your new Corn Snake might not be used to being handled and might not feel comfortable with it. In fact, baby Corn Snakes often don’t like being handled.

However, with time and little patience, you will make your snake feel comfortable with being handled.

Check out our guide on How To Tame A Snake for more.

After you’ve given your Corn time to adjust, start handling your snake for periods of ten to fifteen minutes at a time. You can do this several times throughout the day, but just make sure that your snake doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed or frightened.

How To Pick Up A Corn Snake

picking up a corn snake

Before you pick up your corn snake, make sure it’s awake. Once its tongue starts flicking, you’ll know it is. A wise thing to do is to gently tap it with a paper towel roll or stroke its body with a snake hook (hook training). This will help your Corn realize that it’s handling time and not food time.

Just be careful, if your snake’s tongue is flicking in and out, it also means it is “smelling” the air for potential prey. So make sure to have your hands clean after handling prey items or any food, as the scent might lead the snake to mistake your hands for food.

A practical thing to do is to keep a spray bottle of half vinegar and half water. You can first spray your hands with vinegar water and rub it in till its dry as you would with hand sanitizer before you reach into your snakes enclosure.

Doing this will help remove all the smells from your hands. This should be a general rule for anyone wanting to handle the snake.

Always approach your snake from the side opposite the way its head is pointed— approaching from above may trigger a defensive instinct, as predators often attack from above in the wild.

NEVER EVER pick your snake up by its head or tail.

As you pick it up, hold as much of its body as you can, and avoid grabbing the tail or restraining the head.

How Should I Act Once My Corn Snake Is In My Hands?

corn snake around woman's neck
Corn snake around neck

Once the snake is in your hands, hold it close to your body and gently guide its movements with your hands. Move slow. Let your Corn Snake slip through your hands. Attempt to coil it up; they seem to feel better about things when their body is touching in a couple of places.

Corn snakes like to explore, so expect it to start climbing up your arms. Many like to drape themselves around their owner’s neck. If this makes you uncomfortable, use a hand to gently guide the snake’s head away from your face.

When Shouldn’t I Hold My Corn Snake?

If your snake has taken a meal in the last 48 hours, it’s not a good idea to start a handling session. At worst, handling shortly after a meal can cause regurgitation, which is highly stressful and can even kill it.  At best, it’s a very uncomfortable experience.

You also shouldn’t hold your snake if it is in shed. You will realize that your Corn Snake is shedding as it will appear to have bluish, cloudy eyes.

When in shed, snakes may be extra defensive because they can’t see well.  Wait until your Corn has shed its skin, before resuming regular handling.

Also, pay attention to your snake body language: if your snake is hissing, it is  telling you to “go away.” Also, when your snake shaking/rattling its tail, it means that it feels threatened and is trying to scare you away.

In this case, avoid holding: it might even defecate or use an unpleasant-smelling musk. At the end of the day, respect your snake’s mood. If it seems uncomfortable, let it be.

How Can I Avoid Being Bitten By My Corn Snake While I Am Handling It?

boy holding brown and gray corn snakes
Boy holding brown and gray corn snakes

There are two reasons your Corn Snake or any snake will strike at you; either it feels insecure or threatened, or it thinks you are offering food (or you are food). 

The fear factor will diminish over time; you can’t teach your Corn not to bite as such, but you can make it feel secure enough that it doesn’t need to bite you. Also, take into account a  snake will rarely bite a hand that it’s sitting on if it isn’t being restrained.

 In what has to do with the feeding response, as mentioned earlier, it can be dealt with through proper handling techniques.

Of course, a bite from your own snake can be intimidating, but don’t be discouraged! It won’t hurt more than a cat scratch.

In fact, hatchlings and young juveniles are very nervous and defensive and will strike at nearly anything. If your Corn is very young you can simply give it some time to grow larger.

Learn more about corn snakes and bites here.

How Often Can I Handle My Corn Snake?

To be honest, basically, it is snake dependant. As long as your Corn Snake is still exploring and shows no stress, then all is fine and you can keep handling it.

In general, you can handle a Corn as much as up to 1 or 2 hours a day!  But remember: always handle your snake gently, with minimal restraint.

Taming And Handling A Corn Snake Video


Corn snakes have a much-deserved reputation for being relatively docile snakes. In fact,  they are one of the more “tame-able” snakes, which is why they’re so popular in the pet trade.

As a general rule, Corn Snakes won’t strike out, and when they will, they will not really hurt. In fact, Corns can tolerate human attention for long periods. On top of it, regular handling will enforce the fact that you are not a threat to your snake.

So, if you are a snake fanatic and enjoy interacting with snakes, a Corn Snake would make a great pet. You won’t actually develop a real bond, as snakes are unable to feel attachment, but you will certainly develop trust and confidence.

Just like with all other snakes, the handling trust must be built up over time: your snake needs to learn you are not a threat first to feel secure.

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