Guess what, baby garter snakes are the young ones of a garter snake, and while garter snakes rock the pet world, its a slightly different scenario when it comes to baby garter snakes (they are more demanding to manage). This guide features virtually everything there is to know about these little reptiles.
Let me first of all begin by saying that I love garter snakes. That's because I have been keeping them as pets for more than 10 years now, and as I write this guide, I have two adults in my home which I have raised since they were born. Yes, Tom and Millie, I have them. So, I have a wealth of experience under my belt as far as rearing snakes, especially garter snakes, is concerned. Whether young or old, I have kept them all, and that's why I'm in a better position to pen this guide. Stay tuned!
A garter snake is a garter snake. Yes, this is true, but only to a certain degree. That's because baby garter snakes are not exactly like their parents when it comes to care requirements. Physically, baby garter snakes also differ from mature garter snakes. Let's now dissect baby garter snakes by looking at various different aspects as follows.
Just like a child, a baby garter snake has different dietary requirements than the mother or father. You don't expect a baby garter to eat a frog, toad, or rat whole. This is because of the obvious; the snake is still small and these foods are too big for it. In the wild, a baby garter snake usually begins with tadpoles because that's what suits their age and size. Once the snake becomes big, it will automatically switch to toads, frogs, and other full-grown amphibians.
If you're keeping a baby garter snake at home, you don't have to go hunting for tadpoles. Go for alternatives instead. When my Tom and Millie were still babies, I started with earthworms, and then slugs, before upgrading to mice. When I introduced mice, it took a while before my snakes would ingest a mouse whole.
With so many pet stores in my locality, I did not struggle finding worms for my baby garters. I suggest that you too find earthworms from a pet store. If you can't find one in your locality, then the internet won't let you down. Picking earthworms from a garden is highly discouraged, especially for baby garters because such worms may be toxic or may transmit parasites to your snakes.
There are many kinds of earthworms, but you will need to be choosy since you want what is best for your baby garters. I used to treat my little Tom and Millie to nightcrawlers, which are actually touted as the best for baby garters, and I can attest to this claim with absolute confidence that these kind of worms never disappoint. At first, I could chop the worms into halves for easy swallowing. Of course, these worms are healthy and big, and your baby garter may not be able to swallow it whole.
Drawback? Earthworms are not as nutritious as you may think. For instance, their level of calcium is only low; I used to look for supplements. Besides, you will need to withstand your snake's smelly fecal matter. If you want the best for your snake, I suggest you go for slugs. These are scarce though, and if you find them, they are likely to set you back some good money.
Mice? Well, once a baby garter snake graduates to eating mice, you can be sure your pet will be getting a balanced diet. One mouse would sustain my baby garter snake for almost a week. So, I had to purchase two mice every week since I had two babies. But how do you convince your baby garter snake to switch to this frozen food? It can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Just a little patience will pay off.
While I used to keep my baby garters together, I would separate them during feeding time to ensure that none harasses the other. If you don't know, some baby garter snakes may try to outmuscle others during feeding, and the weak ones may go without food, especially if what you're offering is not plenty for all the snakes. I have my friend who breeds garter snakes and he tells me that if you feed baby garters together, some may be underweight while others may be overweight. That is a sign that stronger babies are elbowing the weaker ones on food.
How much food does a baby garter snake eat? Well, too much food may cause overweight, which is not healthy to your snakes. But again, you should feed your baby garter more often than you would feed an adult one. Giving your snake a small meal on a daily basis during its first few days is not a bad idea at all. You can tell that your snake has eaten enough by simply looking at its stomach. Typically, a baby garter snake will have a slightly bulging stomach when sated.
Captive-bred garter snakes are prone to stress. Hence, the best thing to do is to house your baby garters in groups. This will make them happier and keep stress at bay. In terms of the tank size, I started with a five-gallon tank, since I had two babies. If you have one, a three-gallon tank would be good for a start. When your snake grows to a point where it cannot fully stretch in the tank, you will need to upgrade to a bigger tank.
In the tank, your snakes will need to occasionally hide, so you will need to install some hideouts in the tank. The more baby garter snakes you have, the more hides you will need. Ensure that one or two of the hideouts are moist. Moisture offers a good environment for those baby garter snakes that want to shed.
Temperature gradient? Yes, the tank needs to be both cool and warm. The cool and warm sides should be around 76 and 86 degrees F. Use a basking lamp in the warm side of your snakes' tank; it works.
Instead of climbing, baby garter snakes prefer burrowing, and this will dictate your substrate choice. You can use aspen. Clean the substrate daily and replace it at least once a week to prevent the risk of bacterial infection. Remember, if your baby garter is feeding on earthworms, the substrate will have a foul smell, and it will be watery. And, there has to be a water bowl, which you will need to refresh every day. Your baby garters will drink the water and swim to stay hydrated.
Baby garter snakes can have health concerns, which include internal parasite infestation, shedding problems, and thiamine deficiency. Internal parasites usually come from diet, such as feeding your snakes on worms collected from a garden. The parasites can be roundworms, tapeworms, or pinworms. To tell if your baby garters have parasites, simply check their skin for small lumps. The first thing you will want to do once you realize that your snakes have internal parasites is to administer anti-worming drugs. Once you do that, ensure you obtain your food from a reputable dealer.
Baby garter snakes shed skins within 10 days of birth (my Tom and Millie shed after 5 and 7 days respectively). During this time, your snakes may lose sight and refuse to eat. So, don't panic as this doesn't last for long unless your pets have other health issues.
Thiamine deficiency usually occurs if you're feeding your baby garters on fish. And that's why I discourage you to steer clear of fish even though some pet stores may advise you otherwise. One sign of thiamine deficiency among baby garters is frequent convulsions. Call your pet doctor if your snakes are showing these signs.
Differences Between Baby and Adult Garter Snakes
I will begin with the obvious, which is physical differences. First, baby garter snakes are smaller than their adults in size, and this is something that doesn't need any further explanation because you already know why. The second physical difference is that baby garter snakes have a smooth skin, while adult garters are scalier and rougher.
Also, baby garter snakes need to eat more often than adult garter snakes. For instance, I used to feed my young Tom and Millie every 3 to 4 days. Today, I feed them every 7 to 8 days.
Feeding a baby garter snake is more difficult than feeding an adult garter. Some babies may experience problems recognizing food. Besides, you don't expect a 10-day old garter snake to swallow a mouse whole. Adults can do this with ease though.
Can Baby Garter Snakes Be Good Pets
As we have seen in this guide, its very possible to have baby garters as pets, and they can be fun to have in your home. However, you must appreciate the fact that these little reptiles are more demanding than adult garters. In terms of feeding, you will need to start small and upgrade gradually. Their housing also needs upgrading. Besides, baby garter snakes are more vulnerable to health problems than adults. If you can get all these things fixed, then you will have a wonderful time with your baby garters. Won't you?