Honduran Milksnake Care: A Helpful Guide

Honduran milk snakes are of the most popular snakes of the milk snake family kept as pets. This is because of their low maintenance requirements, ease of breeding, and beautiful different color phases. They are also known for their usually docile temperament but hatchlings are nervous wigglers.

Honduran Milksnake Care: A Helpful Guide
A beautiful Honduran milk snake.

Honduran milk snake as a pet

Honduran milk snakes generally make good pets. While hatchlings are nervous and flighty, they usually grow into even-tempered adults. As with any individual snake, exceptions do occur. I once had an extremely nervous female tangerine Honduran milk snake.

While I thought she’d grow out of it, she never did. She ate well and grew like a weed. In fact, she was one of the fastest-growing snakes I’ve ever kept.

Handling was messy

My biggest problem with her was handling. Every single time I’d go to handle her she defecated. The amounts of feces were incredible. The longer I handled her, the more she continued to defecate. She was like a fire hose with an endless reservoir.

She did, however, become a prolific breeder. I traded her to a friend of mine several years back and he continues to get (small) clutches out of her every year.

On the flipside

On the other hand, I had a male who was a normal phase Honduran milk snake. He was the complete opposite, easy to handle and he made a great pet. This one didn’t grow as fast and while his appetite was decent,  he periodically skipped a meal every now and then.

In contrast, you would never know these two snakes were of the same species.  Anyway, they are one of the most popular milk snakes on the market, if not the most popular. The most beautiful of the milk snake family without a doubt.

Honduran Milk Snake Facts

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Usually docile
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis
  • Constrictor: Yes
  • Average adult size: 4 to 5 feet
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Venom: No
  • Hardiness: Hardy once acclimated
  • Stress level: Moderate to low
  • Food: Small rodents
  • Reproduction: Egg laying
  • Breeding level: Easy
  • Average Temperature: 80°H/70°L
  • Humidity: 50 to 60%
  • Habitat: Terrestrial
  • UVB lighting: No, optional
  • Enclosure size: Adult - 3'L x 18"W
  • Average price range: $125 - $250

Proper snake handling for positive interaction

Gain trust from your snake through gentle handling. Be confident, handle confidently. Always treat your snake with respect. Don't be overly forceful.

Honduran milk snake care

This is a hardy milk snake and their care is rather simple. A basic set-up will do in either a tub rack system or a display enclosure. This snake does well in both setups so it’s really a matter of choice on your part. If you’re a breeder or have a really large collection of snakes, a rack system is a logical way to go.

If you have only a few specimens, feel free to show them off in beautifully decorated enclosures. Just make sure to always offer a bowl of fresh water and a hide box. Keep them at about 80°F at moderate humidity, perhaps a little higher since they’re a tropical species.

While babies roughly up to a year are kept in various smaller enclosures, keep adults in enclosures at least 3’L x 18″W x 2’H in size. Provide a warm spot in the enclosure to help with proper digestion. 

Shedding

It’s especially important to keep humidity somewhat higher during shedding although I’ve never had any problems with them in this area.

Size

These are one of the largest milk snakes. While four foot is common, I’ve seen a few five-foot specimens in my time. Those with voracious appetites grow quickly though power-feeding and overfeeding isn’t recommended.

Lifespan

While they’re probably the longest milk snake they are also one of the most long-lived. Over twenty years in captivity is not unheard of for healthy specimens. The biggest deterrent to snakes reaching their full lifespan in captivity is obesity compounded by lack of activity/exercise.

These tend to be active snakes by nature and remember, originating close to the equator means they’re active all year-long (or close to it).

Diet

Similar to kingsnakes, milk snakes are opportunistic feeders meaning they dine on anything that moves and fits in their mouths. This includes lizards, birds, eggs, and rodents. They also eat other snakes so house them separately outside of breeding season. Yes, they’re yet another cannibalistic snake.

Feeding

In captivity, this snake eagerly feeds on rodents. Either mice or small rats will do. Feed hatchlings and younger specimens appropriately sized mouse pinkies, rat pinkies, or rat pups. In my younger days, I  used to stick with mice primarily. I now see the nutritional benefits of feeding most of my snake’s rats. If the snake starts showing signs of obesity, switch back to mice. 

If feeding problems should occur with this species, whether hatchling or adult, scent the rodent with a lizard. An anole or gecko will suffice. That’ll usually does the trick. If worse comes to worst you can feed them lizards until you’re able to switch them over to rodents. Such a predicament takes time and patience but it does eventually work. 

Temperature and humidity

When taking the origin of the snake into consideration, one must remember that a tropical rainforest isn’t as hot as a desert. A tropical rainforest is, however, more humid, which may actually feel hotter than the arid air of the desert to humans.  Nevertheless, their ambient temperature in captivity ranges between  75 and 80°F while humidity is kept at 50 to 60%.

Temperament

As stated earlier, while hatchlings squirm about, musk, defecate and may even nip, they usually grow into easily handleable adults. Of course, there are exceptions with any snake’s temperament but they’re generally known to make good pets. As they grow a bit and surpass the hatchling stage, handling can increase.

By the time they’re yearlings, they should handle relatively easy. If not and they’re eating well, outwardly healthy and not stressed, try handling them once a day at ten-minute intervals to get them used to gentle handling. Remember to allow 48 hours to pass after your snake has a meal before handling. 

Honduran milk snake bite

Although the Honduran milk snake is the largest of its cousins, a bite from one is no big deal. It may draw a little blood but simply wash the wound with warm water and soap. Use an antibacterial ointment to prevent secondary infection (which is rare). The Honduran milk snake and milk snakes, in general, are completely harmless to humans.

Always remember smart feeding habits to avoid accidental food response bites. This means using tongs, forceps, or hemostats to offer your snake food and not hand feeding it. While hand feeding may give some sort of personal satisfaction or enjoyment, it’s a poor feeding practice which is best avoided.

Breeding

The Honduran milk snake is easy to breed because it only needs a slight dip in temperature to trigger propagation as opposed to something like an Arizona mountain kingsnake which needs at least a four-month-long dormant period at 45 to 50°F.

Introducing a pair

After a cooling period, place the male in the enclosure of the female after she sheds. After she sheds, she’ll release pheromones to stimulate breeding.

Keep a close eye on both snakes during this encounter because of their cannibalistic tendencies. You certainly don’t want one eating the other when the intention is producing more milk snakes. Although we’re not dealing with black widow spiders here, feed both the male and female a few times before any breeding attempts.

Vitamin D3 supplementation

It may also be beneficial to supplement the female with vitamin D3 powder for added calcium. This always comes in handy before snakes become gravid. Continue to supplement her with vitamin D3 throughout the gestation period until she stops eating.

Refusal to eat usually means egg-laying is near (after about six weeks) so keep a shoebox in the enclosure with a hole big enough for her to fit in.

Getting the shoebox ready for eggs

Fill the shoebox with moistened vermiculite and check back a few times a day to see if she laid her eggs. When the time draws near, remove her water bowl for most of the day/night to prevent her from laying the eggs in the water. Such eggs quickly die. Offer her water for an hour or two a day during this important period.

Carefully remove the eggs once they are laid being careful not to tip them over from their original upright position. It’s helpful to mark the top of the eggs with a water-felt pen. Place them in an incubator of your choosing and in a shoebox of moistened vermiculite or HatchRite.

Incubation temperature

I like to incubate my eggs at 80°F. It takes between six to nine weeks for the eggs to hatch.

Congratulations on your new litter of Honduran milk snakes! 

These snakes go for a pretty penny. Selling them quickly shouldn’t be a problem if you’re in the correct market range at the time. 

Cleaning snake enclosures

Keep your snake’s enclosure clean for both its health and to prevent unpleasant odors from forming. Snakes have no hair, therefore, produce no dander. If a snake enclosure smells, it’s due to bacteria buildup and needs proper cleaning.

The way and frequency of cleaning depend on the enclosure, the snake, the substrate, and most obviously, the smell. Spot cleaning is okay as long as all the bacteria is scrapped up in the process. If you still smell an odor, you didn’t get it all. While spot cleaning works in some situations, clean the entire enclosure when necessary.

A more thorough cleaning is required when unfortunate events such as regurgitation occur. Simply scrub down hard on soiled areas and decide by your own sense of smell if you eliminated all odor-causing bacteria. It’s not hard to keep a snake enclosure from smelling but you have to stay on top of it. I highly recommend high-quality air purifiers for snake rooms.

Conclusion

The Honduran milk snake is the largest of the milk snake family. They often exhibit truly beautiful colors that are so vibrant, they almost don’t seem real. Morphs exist as well.

Hondurans are usually one of the more pricey milk snakes but you get what you pay for. The brighter and more extravagant the coloring, the more expensive the snake is. This also goes for the more rare morphs that are sometimes available. 

What’s your experience with the Honduran milk snake? If you have anything to add to this article feel free to leave your words in the comments section below!

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