Corn Snake vs. Milk Snake: Which is the Right Pet for You?

So you’re thinking about getting a pet snake. Now comes the hard part: which kind of snake should you get? If you’re looking for a snake that is relatively easy to care for and doesn’t get too big, then you might be wondering if a corn snake or milk snake is the right choice for you.

Corn and milk snakes are both docile, easy to care for, and relatively small, making them a good choice for first-time snake owners. Corn snakes are typically more gentle and outgoing than milk snakes and tend to be better eaters.

 In the following article, I’ll compare two of the most popular pet snakes: corn and milk snakes. I’ll teach you about the most significant differences between these two snakes, covering their diet, size, appearance, lifespan, and more to help you decide which one will be a better pet for you.  

Corn Snakes vs. Milk Snakes: An Overview

When choosing between corn snakes and milk snakes, there are a few key differences to keep in mind.

Here is a table that summarizes the primary differences between Corn Snakes and Milk Snakes:

TypeCorn SnakeMilk Snake
AppearanceOrange or red with black stripesVariety of colors
Adult Size2.00 – 5.97 ft (61 – 182 cm)4.00 – 5.00 ft (51 to 152 cm)
Mass2 lb (900 g)1.65 – 3.09 lb (750 – 1 400 g)
Average Life Span6 – 8 years in the wild
10 – 15 years in captivity
15 years in the wild
20 years in captivity
BehaviorGentle and outgoingShyer and more reserved
Eating habits / DietCarnivores: Rodents (dead or alive)Carnivores: Reptiles, insects, and rodents (dead or alive)

Let’s discuss these differences in greater detail:


  • Corn snakes are usually orange, yellow, and brown, and they have large, blotchy spots down their backs. However, many different color morphs (or color variations) of corn snakes are available.
  • Milk snakes’ typical color pattern is alternating bands of red-black-yellow or white-black-red.
  • Corn snakes and milk snakes have both round pupils.

Adult Size and Mass

Adult corn snakes are smaller and lighter than milk snakes. However, in some cases, corn snakes can grow to be a bit longer than milk snakes. 

Corn snakes typically grow 2 to 5.97 ft (61 to 182 cm) long, while milk snakes can grow 4 to 5 ft (51 to 152 cm) long.

Adult corn snakes weigh about 2 lb (900 g), while milk snakes can grow from 1.65 to 3.09 lb (750 to 1,400 g).

Average Lifespan

Milk snakes have a longer lifespan, which could be great if you’re looking for a long-term pet. 

Corn snakes typically live for 6 – 8 years in the wild and 10 – 15 years in captivity.

On the other hand, milk snakes usually live for 15 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.


In general, corn snakes are known to be docile, curious, and easy to handle. In addition, they are typically more gentle and outgoing than milk snakes.

Milk snakes can be more skittish, shyer, and reserved. On the other hand, they can also be more high-strung and aggressive if you do not socialize them properly. 

If you want to learn more about milk snake behavior and see them in action, you might want to watch this interesting video on how to care for a milk snake:

Eating Habits / Diet

Corn snakes tend to be better eaters than milk snakes, and they are less likely to refuse food. Both corn snakes and milk snakes are carnivores

Corn snakes’ diet consists of rodents, dead or alive. They catch their prey and squeeze it. 

Milk snakes are fussy eaters who enjoy reptiles, insects, and rodents and eat every other week.

Here is a standard list of foods corn snakes enjoy:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Bird Eggs
  • Lizards (Geckos)
  • Frogs
  • Birds (Quail)
  • Smaller snakes
  • Moles
  • Rabbits 

Here is a typical list of foods milk snakes enjoy:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Snakes
  • Snake Eggs
  • Bird
  • Bird Eggs
  • Voles
  • Lizards
  • Insects

Caring For a Corn Snake vs. a Milk Snake

When choosing a housing spot for your corn snake or milk snake, there are a few essential factors to consider.

Corn Snake and Milk Snake Housing

  • Both corn snakes and milk snakes need plenty of room to move around. So, your snake enclosure should be large – adult corn and milk snakes require at least a 40-gallon vivarium to live in. A 20-gallon (75.70 L) tank is typically sufficient for a baby corn or milk snake.
  • Snakes are intelligent and strong and will escape if they find a way. So, you’ll need to clamp down your enclosure’s lid to keep your snake from getting loose. Snakes need small “homes” where they can cool off, eat, and hide. A little hut like an igloo, box, or opaque plastic container will keep your snake happy. 
  • You should plac the cage in an area that is not too hot or too cold.

A corn snake’s natural habitat is relatively temperate, so a spot near a window or in a room with a stable temperature is ideal. 

Milk snakes are native to North and Central America, so you’ll want to ensure their enclosure has the correct humidity and temperature levels to mimic their natural habitat.

If you want to learn what you’ll need to keep a corn snake, you might want to check out this housing setup video: 

Are Corn Snakes and Milk Snakes Venomous?

Corn and milk snakes are non-venomous constrictors, meaning they kill their prey by wrapping their bodies around and suffocating them. While they lack venom, corn snakes and milk snakes can still bite if they feel threatened. 

However, their teeth are relatively small, and their bites are not dangerous to humans.

Corn and Milk Snake Subspecies

Both corn snakes and milk snakes come in various colors and patterns due to selective breeding by reptile enthusiasts. Some of the most well-known corn snake morphs include the Ghost corn snake (aka Amelanistic corn snake), the Candy cane corn snake, and the Okeetee corn snake. 

Common milk snake morphs include the hypomelanistic milk snake, the albino milk snake, and the Anery milk snake.

The Drawbacks of Keeping Corn and Milk Snakes

Though corn snakes and milk snakes are low-maintenance pets, there are still some potential drawbacks to consider before bringing one home. 

For one thing, both types of snakes are wild animals, which can be unpredictable. They may bite if they feel threatened, especially in the case of milk snakes, which are more solitary and shy than corn snakes. 

In addition, corn snakes and milk snakes require specialized care, which can be expensive and time-consuming. 

For example, you’ll have to keep their enclosure at a specific temperature and humidity level, and you’ll also have to provide them with a regular supply of live food. 

Therefore, pet owners must be ready to commit a significant amount of time and money to their new snake before bringing one home.


So there you have it: a brief overview of Corn Snakes and Milk Snakes. 

As you can see, both species have pros and cons, so it just comes down to what you’re looking for in a pet. Corn snakes are likely the ideal for you if you’re looking for a more interactive, slightly smaller pet. 

However, a milk snake is an excellent choice if you want a long-term pet that is a bit less interactive than a corn snake. 

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