A juvenile snake, a neonate, a hatchling, or a snakelet; a baby snake is known by a whole world of names. While most of us shiver when a snake (an adult one) is mentioned, the words "baby snake" tend to calm our nerves a little bit. Reason? That's because babies are limited in one way or the other. For instance, no matter how lethal a cobra or black mamba is, their young ones won't bite or kill you the very day they're born. It takes time for baby snakes to mature to a level where they can become deadly. Back to the gist: what do baby snakes eat?
A baby snake's diet is not too far from what its parents eat, I must admit. In fact, baby snakes eat the same food as their parents, with the size of food being the most significant factor in this regard. Generally, they eat small insects, eggs, small animals, eggs, and small mice, as long as these foods fit in their mouth.
Just like my two-year old Jeff (my second-born son) won't eat as much bread as his dad, it's the same for snakes. It doesn't matter what kind of baby snakes we have in our homes or there are in the wild, one hard fact that's there to stay is, all snakes (both young and adults) are carnivorous by nature. So, don't plant vegetables in your home thinking that your snake will eat them. Or, don't find a snake in your grass and try to imagine that it's eating your green.
To get to the bottom of the answer to the above question, allow me to look at baby snakes from two different perspectives. In the first perspective, I'm going to discuss what wild baby snakes eat, while the second perspective will contain what pet baby snakes eat. And of course, there will be a bonus: the difference between feeding an adult and baby snake, as well as some interesting facts about how baby snakes feed. Let's go!
Wild Baby Snakes: What's Their Diet Like
Wild baby snakes don't enjoy the utmost care that their pet brothers enjoy. These snakes are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Once their parents bear them, they leave them to survive on their own. In fact, some snakes abandon their eggs even before the hatchlings come out. At best, mothers may stay around their babies for a little while after birth, but they will leave them as soon as after their first shedding. This explains why you may have come across a very young snake struggling with some mouse. So, if you see a python constricting its prey, let it alone; you just don't know what these reptiles go through in the wild while they are still young.
Do you prefer a certain kind of food? Snakes too may have preferences when it comes to diet. The food preference of a wild baby snake depends on a plethora of factors, including the snake species, the size of the snake, the parents' food, and its habitat. On top of mice, wild baby snakes eat moles, rats, birds, and other warm-blooded preys, as longs as the size of the food is manageable to them. We must also mention bird eggs, slugs, and earthworms; they all make a wild baby snake's diet.
Snake species: Baby rattlesnakes in the wild tend to eat lizards, gophers, and birds. Of course, they don't spare rats and mice. Another, species, the python, eat mice, rats, small rabbits, small birds, and baby monkeys. Garter snake babies, which naturally occur in abundance in most parts of the world (you must have set your eyes on quite a number of them in you lifetime), have a wide variety of dishes, including leeches, earthworms, slugs, baby mice, baby toads, baby frogs, and small insects.
Baby snake size: The anaconda is the indisputable king of size, and their babies too are large. As such, their babies eat larger preys like caimans, small mammals, fish, and birds. A threadsnake, which is perhaps the smallest snake in the world, is so small that it can only eat insect larvae. If you know the size of a spaghetti noodle, then you shouldn't struggle to figure out how small a threadsnake is.
Parents' food: Typically, most baby snakes in the wild prefer eating the food eaten by their mothers. Hence, a baby wild snake born of parents who like to eat mice, for instance, has high chances of eating mice as it's most preferred dish.
Habitat: A wild baby snake in the wild may eat what is available in its habitat, not because that's what it prefers but because that's what is within its reach. So, if the habitat has more insects, mice, or slugs, then that's what the baby snake will eat. Baby arboreal snakes, for instance, like to eat birds eggs because they live on trees, and bird eggs is what is readily available on trees. They also prey on small birds.
Size of food/prey: If you find a wild garter snake baby struggling to swallow an ostrich egg, then you will probably be hallucinating. Likewise, a python's baby can't swallow a mature pig. While the pig is a delicacy for a python, its too big for the snake's baby. Thus, the size of food determines weather or not a snakelet will eat.
In a nutshell, wild baby snakes feast on such things as mice, earthworms, rats, small birds, small bird eggs, slugs, leeches, insect larvae, baby frogs, baby toads, and small insects, among other foods.
Pet Snake Babies: What's Their Diet Like
The type of food that pet snakelets eat depends on the same factors that affect what their wild brothers eat. As such, it may not be appropriate to repeat those factors in this section. Therefore, on top of those factors, the food for your pet snake baby will depend on the following:
The health of the prey: The health of a pet snakelet is as good as the health of its prey. For instance, if a pet baby snake eats worms full of parasites, the parasites will be transferred into the snake's system, depriving it of good health. Why don't you save your little snake that trouble by simply offering it parasite-free dishes?
Affordability: Some pet snake foods are more expensive than others. For instance, slugs may be more expensive that earthworms because the former are scarcer to find. You don't want to break the bank in the name of caring for your pet baby snake. You can still take good care of your little snake without going for that expensive food.
Note: As a precaution, avoid feeding your baby snake live preys. Retaliation from these preys may harm your pet even if it wins the fight. Mouth injuries may translate to mouth rot, and your snake may not be able to feed anymore. In this regard, join me in applauding pet stores for offering frozen preys, such as rats and mice, in various different sizes. You simply purchase what's suitable for your pet.
Water: Did you know that water is life? Baby snakes need water to live, and unlike many other animals, snakes don't hydrate by drinking water. Instead, they soak themselves in water. For baby snakes, you don't need a 30-liter bowl in your vivarium. A small bowl of water is enough to allow your small pet immerse itself and absorb water. As for wild baby snakes, they take advantage of the natural water bodies they find out there. So, water is not really an issue to them.
How Baby Snakes Eat
While different snake species may eat different foods, there is one thing that runs across all snakes. That is, the way they eat. Snakes, weather adult or baby, have no claws which they can use for tearing food apart. As such, snakes generally swallow their food whole, and so are their babies. As long as the food in question is of manageable size, a snakelet will swallow it whole. But what facilitates the swallowing?
The mouth of a snake, including baby snakes, is made of elastic tendons, ligaments, and muscles, which make it possible for the reptile to swallow a prey with ease. A story is told of an Indonesian woman who was swallowed by a python. Now, you don't have to wonder how that became possible given that you already know what makes a snake's mouth. Baby snakes are no different. Even in their smallness, these reptiles can swallow their foods whole, as long as what enters their mouth is of the right size.
Does a baby snake chew food? No. Snake throats have special muscles which complete the task of swallowing food. So, there is no need for baby snakes to chew food, just like their parents.
Feeding an Adult Snake Vs. Feeding a Baby Snake
Baby snakes have to begin with easier dishes, such as earthworms and slugs, before graduating to rodents and amphibians, such as mice, rats, toads, and frogs, which adult snakes eat. Quantity will also matter. Baby snakes eat smaller amounts of food but more frequently. Adults, on the other hand, eat big but less frequently. Adults are also used to larger preys because they have the physical ability to swallow them whole. Do you see the difference? You should.
Baby snakes are not much different from adult snakes when it comes to what they eat. The primary difference is the size of food. With thousands of snake species in the world, I can't be able to list here all the foods that baby snakes eat. But I strongly believe that the information I have shared in this blog post will be of immense help to anyone looking for information on what baby snakes eat.