Milksnakes one of the most widespread snakes in North America. Their bright colors make them popular pets, and many buy baby milk snakes from breeders.
Within the Lampropeltis genus, there are 25 species of milk and kingsnakes, plus several dozen subspecies. Milksnakes are simply a type of kingsnake and are often mistaken for copperheads or coral snakes, which are venomous.
Milksnakes can grow up to 6 feet and have bright red splotches down their bodies. These splotches have a black border, and the rest of the body is usually tan or gray. They also have a patch on their neck in the shape of a “V” or “Y.”
Some of the most common varieties of milk snakes include the eastern milk snake, Honduran milk snake, red milk snake, and black milk snake.
Want to test your knowledge of milk snakes before continuing reading? Take this milk snake quiz.
Didn’t know as much about milk snakes as you thought? Keep reading to learn some amazing facts about baby milk snakes.
1. People Used to Think Milksnakes Drank Cow’s Milk
Where did people come up with such a tale?
Well, milk snakes love to eat rodents, which are abundant in barns with farm animals. The snakes are common visitors to farms, leading to the tale that the snakes came to barns to drink cow’s milk.
There is no truth to the tale; milk snakes do not have lips and couldn’t drink from a cow’s udder even if they wanted to.
2. Baby Milksnakes are Brightly Colored at Hatching
Baby milk snakes have bright bodies when they first hatch. Their colors dull to reddish brown as they age. It takes about three to four years for a milk snake to mature fully.
As babies, these snakes have bright red splotches or bands down their bodies.
These tiny snakes are only about 6-7 inches when they hatch.
3. Milksnake Eggs Often Hatch in Rotting Logs
Mother milk snakes try to find the safest places to lay their eggs, which often ends up being a rotting log. If rotting logs aren’t available, she may lay her eggs in loose soil instead.
Breeding occurs from March to June, and the mothers lay their eggs between mid-June and July. On average, female milk snakes lay 13 eggs, but they can lay between 6-24.
The eggs incubate for about one and a half to two months, and the babies hatch from August to October.
4. Baby Milksnakes Eat Small Invertebrates
Milksnakes are powerful constrictors that suffocate their prey, causing heart failure. They do NOT “squeeze” their prey to death.
Baby milk snakes aren’t quite big or strong enough to hunt these bigger animals. Instead, they stick to smaller invertebrates, like slugs, crickets, earthworms, and other insects. They are also known for eating other small snakes.
In captivity, baby milk snake owners typically feed tiny “pinky” mice.
5. Milksnakes are Independent at Birth
Many animals need help from their parents, but milk snakes aren’t one of them. Baby milk snakes can take care of themselves as soon as they hatch.
The parents don’t even stick around to ensure the eggs hatch. The male leaves right after mating, and the female leaves after she lays her eggs.
Although they are small, baby milk snakes can defend themselves against various predators. They can also hunt for their food.
6. Milksnakes Mimic Rattlesnakes to Survive
Milk snakes are very popular pets.
To fend off their attackers, milk snakes vibrate their tails like rattlesnakes do. They sound like a rattlesnake, and their bold colors make them look like a copperhead or coral snake. These mimicked defenses scare off many would-be predators, often saving the snake’s life.
Unfortunately, their mimicry is convincing to humans, too. Many people mistake them for copperheads and coral snakes. Fearing these venomous snakes, people often kill harmless milk snakes.
How do You Care for Baby Milksnakes?
According to the reptile seller ReptilesNCritters, it’s okay to keep baby milk snakes in a plastic shoebox until they grow to about 2 feet long.
The Northampton Reptile Center recommends using a wooden vivarium rather than a plastic or glass one. Wood is an excellent insulator. It is better at maintaining the warm temperatures that milk snakes need. Make sure that the wooden vivarium also has good ventilation.
Note: Wood enclosures are often more difficult to keep sanitary, so be aware of your snake’s needs.
Keep upgrading the snake’s tank as it gets bigger. Each snake should have its adult-sized tank by 6-8 months of age.
Adult milk snakes should have a vivarium at least 34 inches long.
You can keep several baby milk snakes together as long as they are similar in size. Larger babies will bully smaller ones, so don’t keep babies together if they are different sizes.
You’ll also need a warm basking area on one side of the tank that you can create with a clear basking bulb. Keep the temperature between 85-90°F.
Switch the basking light off at night. Use an under-tank heat mat to achieve a nighttime temperature of around 80°F.
Feed baby milk snakes about once every five to seven days. Give them a defrosted “pinky” mouse.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Siarhei Kasilau/Shutterstock.com
Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda
Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.