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Old 02-25-2018, 10:38 PM   #1
Shy Cali king Hatchling

So I got my first snake, a Cali king, 6months ago from an online place. When I first got Bandit I knew heíd be skittish and gave him a week or two settle in. After that I worked with him a little bit. Iíd sticking my hand in the terrarium until heíd get used to me everyday. I was able to scoop him up a few times when he was crawling up the side of the cage when he wasnít noticing me. Then he stopped eating for about 2 1\2 months. I just got him feeding again a few weeks ago. In that 2 month period he was under the substrate 24\7 to the point where the rest of my family joked I didnít even have a snake I just made him up. Iím guessing he came out at night to drink. For awhile, he was still quick to hide if anything happened he didnít like, but was spending a lot of time above ground. Then one day I went to scoop him up when he was crawling up on the side of the terrarium, but I hadnít noticed his head was facing me. So he saw me and thought I was reaching for his head. This happened about 2 weeks ago. Ever since then if he was out and I walked past his cage heíd ďrunĒ to his burrow and hide for the remainder of the day. Heís always been shy and would pause if you peered into his cage, but itís never been this bad. Iím usually a very patient pet owner, but Iím starting to get frustrated. If I take one step towards the terrarium, off he goes into his burrow. Itís difficult because I try to be aware of him as to not stress him out, so I basically have to tiptoe around my room not to disturb him.Sorry for the really long post. Does anyone have any advice? Or has anyone been through something similar?
Old 02-26-2018, 01:37 PM   #2
The key word is "hatchling". Hatchlings really aren't the best pet, especially for a first snake, because they are fragile & shy by nature, and for best results, you should not be handling them until they grow stronger & feed readily.

Consider that in nature anything that picks up a snake is a predator about to eat them! Even if captive bred, snakes are wild animals, meaning they rely on their instincts & don't have any concept of being a "pet". Hatchling snakes that don't defend themselves (either by hiding, biting or smearing you with feces, which by the way, most baby kings are notorious for) get eaten by any one of a number of predators, including birds. (they look like worms!)

One other thing to consider is that you got a king snake...they normally burrow & hide more than many other kinds of snakes.

The best thing you can do with a "baby" snake (hatchling or neonate) is to be content to just watch them for quite some time, until they grow stronger & feel bolder. Your snake is behaving normally and you need to be more patient. BTW, I have kept & bred various kinds of snakes, including "Cal-kings". You might have been happier starting off with a yearling+. Also remember snakes are near-sighted & don't identify you don't take it personally when he hides. To him, you are a potential predator heading his way, not his benefactor.
Old 02-28-2018, 05:37 PM   #3
Hi Hotlips,

Thanks for the reply. I understand heís just a baby, and Iíll try to be more patient. Iím just excited to have him. It took a very long time to convince my parents to let me own a snake ( it took a keynote presentation I made on snakes, endless research, and 2 months for my mom to decide).So should I still try to make an effort to make him more handable? Or should I just leave him be until he becomes more confident? I donít want him to feel unsafe. Iíd be perfectly fine if that means only observing him for awhile. Iím new to the reptile hobby and want to make sure my pet is comfortable and happy.
Old 02-28-2018, 06:15 PM   #4
Even adult snakes need a couple weeks or more after shipping especially, & always when entering a new household. Baby king snakes are naturally more nervous than some other kinds of snakes. For a first time snake owner, a healthy yearling or adult is often an easier choice.

I sympathize, we all want to interact with our new pets. But remember that snakes are essentially wild animals: handling too soon or too much can stress them into refusing to eat, & you've already done that once, apparently, & that was a set-back. You'll need to be patient, better to just observe him for a while as he grows up & feels more confident.

I can only generalize anyway...snakes have their own personalities- just like the rest of us. There's certainly no rush to "tame" a young snake, eating & growing stronger is the most important thing for them. I would have loved to have heard your "keynote presentation" lol...I got into snakes only as an adult, so I never had to do that.

By the way, it might seem strange, but snakes feel safer with more cage "furniture" to hide behind...they hate open spaces as instinctively they know they are vulnerable to predators...that's why yours keeps panicking when you walk by. So contrary to what you might think, he might learn to relax more if he has more hiding places to duck into.
Doesn't have to be fancy stuff- you can use the cardboard roll from inside paper towels, or cut a small entrance hold into small clean cardboard boxes. (cardboard is great for young snakes: when it's dirty, toss & replace; the permanent hides are more costly, & they just grow out of them at this point.)

Not seeing your cage so just in case you don't know: snakes feel more secure in their "hides" when the single doorway is just big enough for them to fit thru (after a meal), and when the "ceiling" is fairly low and affords "back pressure" (like being snug inside a cave or rock crevice). Another thing: what's on the floor of the cage? I'd recommend Carefresh and/or shredded clean paper*, and if it's about 2" thick, he'll love to burrow into it. That too should help him to feel 'braver'. *I shred my clean mail/paperwork, & mix half & half with Carefresh for most of my snakes. (which are primarily colubrids).
Carefresh sorta clumps together & when I raised rosy boas, they actually dug tunnels that resembled an "ant farm", LOL! A young king would enjoy that too.
Old 02-28-2018, 06:23 PM   #5
Typo: or cut a small entrance hold - that's supposed to say "hole"
Old 02-28-2018, 06:48 PM   #6
Hey Hotlips,

Thanks so much for the help. Now looking at his cage, Iím sure I can add a hiding place that will be more secure. Right now his has two pieces of drift wood with a gap under neath for him to hide under. He also has an alligator skull hide that has a few entrances. Heís on a few inches Repti-bark and already has a very successful tunnel system. I also have fake plants wired to the top of the screen that he loves weaving in and out of. I would include a picture but Iím on mobile and canít get a url of a picture I take. However, I think the refusal to eat was due to temperature. It was very cold and drafty in my room and this was when I only had the heat mat. I had to add a heat lamp to get his temperatures right. I asked my local reptile store and the snake guy said a few customers were having similar issues because it was a especially cold then. He also had been eating fine the first few weeks I got him before he stopped. It couldíve also been due to the stress of a new environment, but I sure hope not because Iíd feel pretty bad.
Old 02-28-2018, 07:38 PM   #7
Yes, it might have been too chilly, that will put a snake off food too, for sure.
It's very hard to advise online exactly what heating equipment you need, as all of our houses (& their ambient temperatures) are different, & cages vary a lot. But be sure to have one hide that's in the warm (UTH) area, because if snakes are faced with a choice between "more security" (hide box) or the right amount of warmth, they'll choose the security even if it's too cold.

One thing that can help in a cool room is to use a good-sized shallow box-lid, one that covers most of the substrate including where the UTH heat rises from the floor. Cut a couple small doorways into the box & essentially, your snake has a 2-story home, the first floor of which is warmer inside the box lid where the heat spreads out, & on top of the box (the "2nd floor") you can have other furnishings too. (they appreciate & NEED traction- plain cardboard is slippery) If the box lid takes up most of the floor, you can cut a round hole in it to set the water bowl in. (there used to be commercially available hides that used this design, but I haven't seen them for many years) One thing I've always loved about keeping snakes is being creative to keep them comfortable & behaving as natural as possible. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it. When you pay close attention to snakes, they pretty much tell you what they need.

One of the funniest things I did was to make cardboard mazes out of shoe box lids for when a pair of Trans Pecos rat snake hatchlings were shipped to me at the start of winter. They hadn't been fed yet, they hatched very late, so it was either I receive them unfed or wait until spring. I wasn't a bit worried, I've bred & raised them & many other kinds before, so I chose to have them shipped "right out of their eggs". They were hilarious peeking out of the maze "doorways". They out-grew them of course, but while they were small & new to my care, they felt "in control", able to fully hide when they wanted to. In the long run, it made them braver. Since they are rat snakes, they are more into climbing now that they're adults, and their cages have branches to which I've wired a basket also. Turns out they love to be up in the air & often sleep in those's awfully cute, I'm glad I thought to try that. (they have warm & cool hides on the floor too, they just like variety?)
Old 02-28-2018, 07:57 PM   #8
Thatís a really good idea with the box lid! Iíll have to try it out next winter since itís finally starting to feel sorta like spring. Your rat snakes sound adorable! I was thinking of making something like that for bandit as he seems to be pretty curious. He loves to climb into the little canopy of leaves attached to the top of the screen and hangout; heís already really into climbing. Itís really cute when he just sticks his little nose out of the leaves and peer out. Anyways, thank you so much for all the help. I really appreciate it. Itís a little daunting at first because he seems so sensitive, but I think weíll get to know each other and itíll work out.
Old 02-28-2018, 08:27 PM   #9
Your little king sounds pretty cute too! I never get tired of snake-faces watching me as I watch them back.

BTW, does your king take his food from tongs? or do you have to just leave it for him to find at night? Because that's one way snakes learn to accept our presence a little more. And king snakes are usually "eating machines".

Another thing you could try is to cover part of his cage on the outside (restrict his view) so he's not as aware of you walking around. He should out-grow that.
Even when my Trans Pecos were "babies" they'd rush into their maze-hides when I'd get close to their cages, then peek out at me (LOL!). It didn't take long before they were in no particular "rush" & were more curious than scared.

I agree, you'll both figure each other out.
Old 02-28-2018, 10:16 PM   #10
When I first got him he’d be too intimidated by the tongs so I’d leave a mouse out for him and usually it’d be gone by morning. Now he eats from the tongs. He eats really well now. I usually feed two thawed pinkies once a week. I wait like 20 mins before offering the second one. He gets very excited before feeding. I think covering the cage would help him relax a bit more. I’ll have to do that. I’m so glad I joined this forum! I’ve got some really useful tips now.

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