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Health Issues/Feeding Problems Anything related to general or specific health problems. Issues having to do with feeding problems or tips.

Do underfed babies ever reach their true potential?
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Old 07-20-2020, 10:35 AM   #1
hypnoctopus
Do underfed babies ever reach their true potential?

One of the snakes I currently own is 6 years old. Although I hatched him and he was a good feeder for me, the person who ended up taking him fed him only sporadically. When I took him back about 6 to 8 months ago, he was about the size of a 2 year old snake, maybe a little smaller. Not skinny though, just small. Since then, I've been feeding him an adult mouse once a week, thinking that a schedule and feeder size like that would help him get to a proper size. He has grown a lot under my care. I haven't weighed him, but I would consider him adult size now, but definitely a small adult. When I took him out for some handling recently, I noticed that he's actually looking a little bit chubby, which was surprising to me since he's a fairly small adult! So I'm thinking I'll have to slow down his feeding a bit. I guess that even though he's small, he no longer has the youthful metabolism of a younger snake, so his large and frequent meals are now starting to make him fat rather than longer.

My second example is a corn snake that I got as nearly a yearling. His breeder had fed him a maintenance diet, so he was only 10 grams when I got him. He also had some feeding issues at the start, with a few food refusals and also a few regurges. After that, he ended up being a good eater, but it did take several months to get him on track. I had him for 5 years and he never got as large as my other adults. I don't have him anymore, so I can't say what he's looking like now, but I have a feeling he would still be about the same size.

Those are the only two snakes I've had that were underfed during their formative years and both of them never got to be very large adults. Has anyone else ever experienced this?
 
Old 07-20-2020, 06:44 PM   #2
Rich Z
Well, I guess it depends.

I believe that most people over feed their snakes. I base this on the wild caught corns I have personally seen in the wild. None are really all that huge, and certainly not fat, like many captive corns I have seen, by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, you will sometimes find an animal that wants to push the record books, but they are an anomaly, not the norm.

Seems most people try to pork up their animals, particularly the females, in an effort to get them as big as they can, as quickly as they can, in order to breed them as soon as they can. I'm not real sure that is a real good idea, for the long term health of those females. Even though they may be large enough to pass eggs, are the internal organs matured enough for the stresses of breeding and producing eggs? They don't have the mental capacity to consider such things, but YOU really should.

Also, bear in mind, that just like humans, not all corns will reach the same exact maximum size, no matter how well they are fed. I would say that as an average, corns from the Florida keys area are going to be smaller, as an average, than the average corn you would find in say, Okeetee Plantation. Of course there will always be exceptions to any rule, but again, like people, there will be centralized populations of animals differing from the norm in many ways, including maximum size.

With that being said, can you stunt the growth of an animal by severely underfeeding it? I would have to say that yes, I believe you can. And I also believe that this might have a detrimental effect on the long term health of such an animal from nutrient deficiencies. Baby snakes need calcium to build their skeletal structure. If that calcium is missing or severely restricted, what might be the overall outcome for that animal? My guess would be a weakened skeletal structure. But the point here is that don't have unrealistic expectations of what is "normal" for the growth of a corn snake. Big, fat corn snakes are NOT normal.

Speaking of which, vitamin supplements should be on your list of requirements for your snakes. Yeah, I know, people will say that the captive snakes get everything they need from the whole mice they eat. But are they really? Are the mice getting everything from a dietary standpoint that a wild mice might have available? Hardly. Does this matter to the predators eating them? Quite likely.

This might be particularly important for your breeding females, because they need a LOT more calcium in order to put that extra calcium into the development of the eggs and egg shells during breeding season. If you don't give that to them via dietary supplements, where will it come from? Leached from their own skeletal structure? Perhaps. Just excluded from the development of those eggs and egg shells? Possibly. So are vitamin supplements really a good idea? Yeah, I believe so.

You take on a whole lot of responsibility when you keep captive animals. They are TOTALLY dependent on you for everything they need to be healthy, stay healthy, and thrive. If you breed them, well, you are instigating even more requirements of a dietary and health nature on those females that you really should take into consideration.

Oops, sorry, went off a bit on a tangent. <soapbox OFF>
 
Old 07-20-2020, 10:47 PM   #3
hypnoctopus
Rant away! I do agree though, that a lot of corns are overfed, especially compared to their wild counterparts (although of course we try to give them a better life than what they would get in the wild). I've seen some people powerfeed females so much that they are up to breeding size at a year old. It was not my intention to imply that I'm trying to fatten up this current undersized snake; in fact, his feeding frequency will now have to be reduced since I think he's looking a little flabby. But hopefully he'll still be able to grow in length!

When you were breeding, did you supplement your females? I thought I remembered reading somewhere that it can be dangerous to give a breeding female calcium?
 
Old 07-21-2020, 01:13 AM   #4
Rich Z
Quote:
Originally Posted by hypnoctopus View Post
Rant away! I do agree though, that a lot of corns are overfed, especially compared to their wild counterparts (although of course we try to give them a better life than what they would get in the wild). I've seen some people powerfeed females so much that they are up to breeding size at a year old. It was not my intention to imply that I'm trying to fatten up this current undersized snake; in fact, his feeding frequency will now have to be reduced since I think he's looking a little flabby. But hopefully he'll still be able to grow in length!

When you were breeding, did you supplement your females? I thought I remembered reading somewhere that it can be dangerous to give a breeding female calcium?
I gave ALL of my animals supplements, from babies on up through adults, both males and females. Combination of Osteoform, some bird multivitamin power (which I cannot recall the name of at the moment), and a mineral supplement. All mixed together as powder, and then the back half of the feed animal dipped in it. Every meal. With babies I waited for the feed response to be well established before adding a new taste/smell to the pinky mice. Never had any recoil from it.

I believe it is important to use a supplement that provides vitamin D3. Not D2, but D3. Some people will supplement with calcium but neglect that important additive.

And no, I wasn't interpreting what you were asking as implying you were over feeding your animals. Once I got on that tangent, I went WAY on it.

BTW, I found the supplements above VERY important when I was working with gray banded king snakes. I heard so many other people at the time having disappointing fertility results with their breedings, but I sure as heck didn't have that problem. My problem was I was producing too many babies that ALL refused pinky mice and wanted lizards. Burned me out of liking working with them REAL quick. They were SUCH a pain in the ass! Gorgeous as all getout, though.
 
Old 07-21-2020, 01:16 AM   #5
Rich Z
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich Z View Post
some bird multivitamin power (which I cannot recall the name of at the moment),
SuperPreen!! I finally remembered. And the mineral supplement was called "Minerall" or something like that.
 
Old 07-27-2020, 10:14 PM   #6
Myca
Okay Rich, I am planning to pick up a few babies soon, so I read everything carefully. I have never supplemented but I plan to now after I read this. Thanks to you both. Olivia, I picked up a starving Corn Snake. He had feeding issues and kinks and a history of regurgitate. He never caught up. He was always frail even though he ate okay for me.
 

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