Milk Snake Care Sheet (A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Milk Snake)

In this post I am going to show you my version of how to care for milk snakes. There are in my opinion multiple successful ways to raise a snake or any animal for that matter. This is just my way; other people might do it differently but as long as the snakes have all their needs met then it’s a good way.

General Information

Milk snake’s Latin name is lampropeltis Triangulum and they’re actually a species of king snake. There are a few different subspecies of milk snake that are very commonly kept in captivity including the Honduran, pueblan, Sinaloan, Mexican and Nelsons.

The care for all the subspecies of milk snake is relatively the same but keep in mind that subspecies of milk snake can range all the way from southern Canada to Central America. So, you may need to alter the husbandry just a little bit depending on subspecies.

The name milk snake actually comes from a myth that milk snakes would sneak into farmers barns at night and latch on to the cows udders and drink their milk. But obviously this has never been confirmed.

Milk Snake Size

Their size generally ranges from two to six feet with the Honduran milk snake growing slightly larger than the other subspecies.

Milk Snake Lifespan

They can live anywhere from 12 to 20 years in captivity so this is a big commitment with a long-life span.

Milk snakes come in a wide variety of colors and the reason they are banded the way they are is because they actually use mimicry to avoid predation. They closely mimic the coral snake a highly venomous species of a lapid.

They are ectothermic meaning that they have to get their heat from the sun in the wild. and they are poikilothermic which means that their body temperature will fluctuate with the environments. For snakes this usually means moving to a warm spot to bask and then moving back somewhere cool to cool down.

Do Milk Snakes Make Good Pets?

Before getting any pet, it’s important to evaluate the suitability of a potential pet. When considering a Milk Snake as a pet, make sure to weigh the benefits against any potential challenges.

Milk Snakes: A Pleasure to Pet-Keep

Milk Snakes can certainly make excellent pets, especially for reptile enthusiasts or those looking to embark on their reptile-keeping journey. Here’s why:

  1. Low Maintenance: Compared to other pet reptiles, Milk Snakes require relatively simple care. Their diet consists primarily of rodents, which are readily available in pet stores. Also, their enclosures don’t demand complex setup or lighting systems, making them a less burdensome choice for beginners.
  2. Non-Venomous: Milk Snakes are non-venomous, posing minimal risk to their human caregivers. This feature can provide peace of mind, especially for novice snake owners.
  3. Small to Medium Size: Their size ranges from 2 to 5 feet in length, depending on the subspecies. This makes them a manageable size for most keepers, and they don’t require a massive terrarium.
  4. Variety of Colors: Milk Snakes are known for their vibrant colors and distinct patterns. They are undoubtedly one of the most visually striking reptile pets you can own, adding a dash of nature’s artistry to your living space.
  5. Long Lifespan: With proper care, Milk Snakes can live up to 20 years. This long lifespan allows for a strong bond to develop between the pet and the owner over time.

Potential Challenges of Owning a Milk Snake

Despite the many advantages, potential pet owners must also be aware of the challenges associated with Milk Snake ownership:

  1. Feeding Live Prey: Milk Snakes, like many reptiles, consume live or frozen-thawed rodents. Some individuals might find this feeding requirement unsettling.
  2. Escape Artists: Milk Snakes are known for their ability to escape if given the opportunity. A secure enclosure is a must to prevent any unscheduled adventures!
  3. Handling Sensitivity: While Milk Snakes are generally tolerant of handling, over-handling can lead to stress. Learning to read their behavioral cues is crucial to ensure their well-being.
  4. Specialized Veterinary Care: Like all exotic pets, Milk Snakes require veterinary care from an exotics-specialized veterinarian, which can be more costly and difficult to find than a standard vet.
  5. Initial Setup Costs: The initial cost of setting up an appropriate terrarium, including heating elements and hiding places, can be relatively high, even if the ongoing costs are minimal.

Milk Snakes Cost

Before leaping into the world of milk snake pet ownership, it’s important to understand the financial commitment involved. Caring for these creatures requires an investment in their habitat, food, health, and maintenance.

Initial Purchase and Setup Costs

Typically, a milk snake itself will cost you anywhere between $20 to $200, depending on the specific breed and age. However, keep in mind that this initial price is just the beginning.

You will also need to set up an adequate environment for your new pet. The initial setup can range from $100 to $300, including the cost of:

  • A proper enclosure or terrarium
  • Heating equipment
  • Substrate material
  • Hideaways and other tank decorations
  • Water dish

Recurring Costs

After setting up your pet’s living quarters, you should prepare for the recurring costs. These can vary but generally include:

  • Food: Milk snakes mainly eat rodents which can cost around $2-$3 per mouse. Depending on the snake’s size, you may need to feed them once or twice a week.
  • Substrate change: To maintain cleanliness, you’ll need to replace the substrate material every month, costing around $10-$20.
  • Veterinary care: Annual check-ups or unexpected health issues can add to your expenses. Costs here can vary widely depending on the specific health needs of your snake.

Milk Snake Care Guide

One of my first pieces of personal advice is for new snake owners. When you bring in your snake for the first time to your house, you should put it in its enclosure immediately and leave it alone. I know it sounds like the most difficult thing in the world especially when it’s your first snake because you just want to hold it so bad. But it has to be left alone for at least five to seven days.

After at least 7 days’ time you can offer it a meal. Once it’s settled in a little bit more and you know it’s comfortable enough to take food then you can start the handling process.


Baby milk snakes will usually take pinky mice while adults can usually eat adult mice and even small rats. Milk snakes are comfortable with eating once a week. My favorite frozen feeder provider is South Florida rodents.

Problem Eaters

Sometimes you get a snake who just won’t eat. That’s pretty common, especially with babies. There are a few things that you should try before you freak out.

The first thing you should do if you have a snake that’s not eating is you should check your husbandry. Check the temperature, make sure you have enough hides in your enclosure, and check the humidity level. If all that is right and they’re still not eating you should wait another seven days after you tried to feed them. Offer them a mouse but just put it in their enclosure, cover the enclosure completely so that there’s no light shining through and leave it alone for 24 hours.

Nine times out of ten when I’ve had a milk snake that doesn’t eat that is what fixed the problem. They’re just feeling a little insecure and they need that added bit of security.


Baby milk snakes usually do just fine in a 6 quart tub. I like to hold my snakes in plastic tubs because they’re way less heavy than glass, they hold humidity better and they’re more secure than the mesh lids that you get on a glass terrarium.

If you would like to use glass babies can be held in a 5-gallon to 10 gallon terrarium and then adults usually do fine in a 32 quart tub or a 10 to 20 gallon glass terrarium.

If you do choose to use glass make sure that you have several locks on the screen because milk snakes are masters at escaping, do not underestimate their abilities.


As for substrate they do tend to burrow, you can use Aspen sand chips which I really like because it’s so easy for them to burrow in the Sandy chips. You can also use Aspen shavings or reptile prime would be good for them as well. I would stay away from cedar and untreated pine.


Milk Snakes should have at least two hides in their enclosure. One hide on the warm side and one on the cool side. You can also add Decor but just as long as everything has been sanitized.


Milk snakes should have fresh water added daily and I recommend taking the water bowl out about once a week to clean it and disinfect it.


As I said milk snakes are ectothermic which means they need to have a way to thermoregulate. So, there needs to be a warm end and a cool end of the enclosure. The warm end needs to be mid to upper 80s and the cool end should be about 78 to 80 degrees.

There are a few ways you can use to heat the snake’s enclosure. You can use a heat lamp that usually works best for glass or terrariums. I don’t personally use a heat lamp I find that I like belly heat much more it’s much more convenient for me but if that’s what you want to use you can go ahead and use that. If you’re going to use a heat lamp make sure that they still have a diurnal cycle meaning the heat lamp is turned off for 12 hours a day.

A lot of people will also use heat mats that you get from the pet store like the zomed heat mat. With the heat mat you will need to use a thermostat. If you only have one snake and you’re using a heating mat you can get the JumpStart thermostat which is really good and very simple to setup.

If you have a lot of snakes or you plan to have a lot of snakes, I recommend investing in a herp stack thermostat.


For humidity milk snakes are generally fine with the ambient humidity that you have just in your house. If it’s especially dry you may want to give the substrate a mist about once a week or if they’re going into shed you may want to miss more often or even provide them with a shed box.

Milk Snake Handling

I’m a believer that snakes merely tolerate being handled and if you don’t like my opinion that’s totally fine. But I recommend handling once a week and not really much more than that and not really more for an hour at a time. That’ll be enough to keep them docile keep them used to being handled but it won’t be too much to stress them out.

Common Milk Snake Health Issues

As a reptile enthusiast and owner of several milk snakes myself, I’ve become well-versed in the common health issues these creatures can face. Here, we’ll tackle them head-on, arming you with the knowledge needed to keep your slithering companion as healthy as possible.

1. Mites and Ticks

Infestations with mites and ticks are, unfortunately, fairly common in milk snakes, but rest assured, these parasites can be effectively treated. It’s crucial to keep an eye out for tiny black or red spots on your snake’s skin. You might also notice your snake soaking in its water bowl more frequently than usual, as this can provide temporary relief from the itchiness.

Treatment often involves using a snake-safe mite and tick spray, and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the enclosure to ensure no parasites remain. Regular monitoring is a must.

2. Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections in milk snakes are often the result of incorrect humidity levels or temperatures in the snake’s environment. It’s important to ensure your snake’s enclosure has the right environmental conditions. A snake with a respiratory infection might show symptoms like wheezing, excessive mucus, and lack of appetite.

Veterinary care is essential in these situations. A vet experienced with reptiles can prescribe the appropriate treatment to help your snake recover.

3. Shedding Problems

Incomplete or improper shedding, also known as dysecdysis, is another health issue that can affect milk snakes. It’s typically caused by inadequate humidity. You might notice patches of old skin that haven’t been shed or issues with the eye caps not shedding.

To combat this, you may need to adjust the humidity in your snake’s enclosure. Additionally, a vet can help remove any retained skin or eye caps to prevent further complications.

4. Nutritional Deficiencies

Just like in humans, nutritional deficiencies can also be a concern in milk snakes. These deficiencies often stem from an inadequate diet.

Milk snakes primarily eat rodents, but it’s important to ensure these meals are nutritionally complete. Deficiencies can lead to problems like stunted growth, low energy levels, and weakened immune system. Feeding your milk snake a balanced diet and providing any necessary dietary supplements can help prevent these issues.

Filled under: Snakes

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