Housing for Hatchlings

BEFORE you purchase your snake it is very important to have setup and tested your snake’s home. Hatchlings do not need a huge enclosure or tub. Large open spaces will likely cause them stress and in turn create feeding issues. A wide range of plastic tubs or small glass setups are available to suit the needs of a young snake. Most will work well but remember small snakes are escape artist, any tiny gap or hole will be tested. Finding a tiny snake that has escaped is near impossible. Remember that this enclosure or tub will only be its home for the first 6-12 months. Many people like to make a nice display setup and this is perfectly fine as long as the conditions are correct for the snake.

Temperature is the most important factor. The enclosure or tub must provide a temperature gradient to allow the snake to move to where it feels most comfortable and also have access to more heat while digesting food. A hot spot or hot end of 31-32 degrees Celsius and a cooler area down to 26-27 works well. The hot area is the most important to get right. Too cold and the snake may not be able to digest food properly and is at risk of respiratory infections if kept at low temps regularly. 24 hour heating should be given to hatchlings until they reach 12-18 months of age. At this time they will tolerate a night time drop of heat.

There are many different heat sources available. Heat lamps or bulbs or heat cord are the most common. All heat sources must be controlled by quality thermostat. The thermostat will have a probe that should be placed in the hot spot area and this will control the heat output to maintain correct temperatures. Without a thermostat you can’t safely control the temperature. Changes in ambient room temperature will greatly affect your hot spot temp, even changes in seasons will require more/less heat from your source that only your thermostat can safely control.

Another key factor is hiding place or several hiding places. Hatchlings feel much safer curled up in tight secure space. A hide or hides should be provided in both the hot and cold areas to give the snake choices. The hide should be just big enough for the snake to sit inside. The snake should never be dragged or forced out of it hide, this area should be its safety zone that it always feels secure in.

A climbing perch or mesh is also a great addition for carpet pythons. Some other ground dwelling species will not use perch and are a waste of time. A raised area or hide are often useful for these species, if anything than to create some temperature ranges and also to create a raised hunting platform. Many snakes prefer to sit on a branch or perch and ambush their prey from above. If the snake has these raised areas it may help with feeding responses.

A range of substrates are available otherwise newspaper or butchers paper works well .I don’t use newspaper myself as the ink often rubs off onto the snake. Butchers paper is my choice. Enclosures often look nice with substrates like Kritter Crumble or Chipsi. Care must be taken when using any substrate. If a snake digests these substrates it can be harmful or even fatal. I often put paper towel down while feeding snakes.

Lighting is not necessary for most snakes. The ambient room lighting will be fine. Most snakes are nocturnal and will be happy exploring their enclosure in the dark. There is no need for UV lighting for snakes. It is certainly not harmful and some people believe certain species can benefit from UV such as diamond pythons, but nothing has been proven.

Finally the last important piece of furniture is the water bowl. The bowl should be kept at the cool end to reduce bacteria growth and also be large enough for the snake to bath in if it feels the need to. As a snake enters a slough/shedding skin phase it is normal for it to want higher humidity and may rest in the water bowl for extended periods. Fresh water should be supplied every few days. A snake will not drink water that is more than a few days old. The bowl itself should be heavy; snakes will easily flip over plastic or light weight containers used as water bowls.