Feeding Hognose Snakes In Captivity
Mice is the food item just about every Hognose Snake keeper prefers to feed to their snake(s), mainly because mice are very easy to obtain, pretty affordable, & just about never have any parasitic problems. If you can obtain frogs or toads, though, then do it. However, there's two things to remember. First, MAKE SURE THAT THE AMPHIBIAN BEING FED TO THE SNAKE IS FROM THE SAME CONTINENT AS THE SNAKE ITSELF, BECAUSE A FOREIGN AMPHIBIAN'S TOXINS CAN BE VERY, VERY LETHAL TO A SNAKE THAT'S NOT FROM THE SAME AREA AS THAT PARTICULAR AMPHIBIAN IS FROM!!! Second, do NOT feed too many frogs/toads too often, because they can be very parasitic, & may pass on their parasites to the snake(s) at an incredible rate! TRUST ME!!! I've had to experienece it before, & it sucks! The majorly bad thing about it is, is that you don't notice a parasitic problem until about 2-3 weeks before it's about to the serve the snake its death sentence.
A baby Hognose Snake could eat 2 pinkies or a baby toad (or two) every week or so. As the snake gradually increases in size, gradually increase the size of the food as well. As an adult, a Hognose Snake can take up to 2-3 large adult mice every 7-10 days or so, or may take 2 4"-5" toads/frogs every 7-10 days. Remember, toads/frogs have parasites, & if you pack in too many toads/frogs too often, you'll be packing in a good amount of parasites into the snake(s) as well! (In which case I don't really think you'd want that, now would you?!) A whole toad is a balanced diet for a Hognose Snake, so don't force your snake(s) to eat more than they really have to. Snakes can pass the parasites of one or two toads easily through their system, but anymore would be dangerous.
Here are some tips to getting a reluctant snake that won't eat mice, to eat mice! The tips will be listed. Well, here goes:
Step 1: Always try to get your snake(s) to feed on frozen-then-thawed mice first, because it's safer that way. However, if the snake is NOT taking frozen-then-thawed mice, you'll have to start off giving it live pinky (or fuzzy) mice. Keep the mouse/mice in with the snake(s) for about two days, or until the mouse dies.
Step 2: If the snake doesn't take the live mice, then put the snake in a conveniently sized Tupperware with a pinky or fuzzy mouse (live or dead, your choice, but preferably live to entice the snake a little more into wanting to eat the prey), & then put it in a dark, quiet place for a couple of hours. If that doesn't work, still try it for another few times, & if that still doesn't work, then go onto this next tip.
Step 3: A human with average reflexes can do this next, very short tip. Put the snake on one side of a reasonably sized box, & a toad or frog on the total opposite side. Hognose Snakes don't actually strike at their prey, but rather they chase it down in anticipation to bite it with the mouth agape--pretty slowly, too. So, with a pair of tweezers in hand with a pinky/fuzzy clamped in them, get ready to gently put the pinky/fuzzy in the snake's mouth when it goes after the toad/frog. If & when the snake bites the mouse, everything should go alright, & the snake should continue to keep on eating. But, if the snake decides to let go of the prey animal, then resort to this next feeding tip.
Step 4: You've all probably heard of this technique, because it's very popular with getting Grey-Banded Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis alterna) to eat mice. This tip is scent-feeding, & it usually works quite well. You can do this one of two ways. First, take a toad (live or dead, but preferably dead, because the smell will be stronger) & rub it very, very well with a pinky or fuzzy mouse (once again, live or dead, your choice, but preferably live), just until the mouse gains the full smell of the toad. Or, if you'd prefer, take a pretty good-sized live toad & put it in a Tupperware with a (preferably) live mouse & wait a couple of hours. Now, the second way. Perhaps the best way to scent-feed is by taking a live toad & sqeezing its paratoid glands together to produce the toxin the toad uses against its predators. The toad's protecting substance apparently is a secretion of the Hognose Snakes' greatly enlarged adrenal glands. Anyway, when you have the toxin excreted from the toad, rub it very well onto a live pinky or fuzzy mouse, almost turning it white. Then, serve it to the snake right away, & keep the mouse in the snake's enclosure until if-and-when it dies. Try one of these three ways (preferably the last one, though) of scent-feeding a few times, & if this tip doesn't work (but it should), then go onto to this next tactic.
Step 5: Alright, now, this is going to seem a little gross, but it's been proven to work many times with Grey-Banded Kingsnakes & other species of snakes as well. It's called brain-splitting, & yes, it can be sickening for anybody who has a weak stomache, but it's very easy to do. Just make an incision in the head of the pinky or fuzzy mouse to expose the brain, making sure that the brain & blood is visable to the snake. Also, & this may make this tactic work even better, is to do one of the three ways of scent-feeding along with this trick, which should really entice the Hognose Snake into wanting to eat! However, if this tip doesn't work either, then you know what to do...right, go onto the next step!
Step 6: This step, which is force-feeding, should only be performed by an experienced keeper, because it can be very dangerous to the snake's jaw's lining. When performing the tactic of force-feeding on a snake, use a smaller-than-normal sized food item for the job, to make force-feeding easier & to make the job safer on the snake as well. Also, if the snake is too big to handle & force-feed at the same time alone, then you may need a second person to help. First, hold the snake in one hand, with the thumb & middle finger on the sides of the snake's head, & the pointer finger on top of the head. Wrap your other two fingers (your index & pinky finger) under the snake's neck (or wherever those two fingers are situated). Second, use a tool (e.g., tweezers, a spoon, etc.) to pry open the mouth of the snake. When there's a big enough space between the jaws to stick an appropriately sized mouse in the mouth, continue to hold the snake in the same hand as from the beginning. With the other hand available, take a smaller-than-normal sized mouse (head first) & gently, but firmly, insert it into the snake's pried open mouth. You may again need a tool (e.g., tweezers, a spoon, a small pen, etc.) to gently push the prey animal down the snake's esophagus. (PLEASE NOTE: Be considerate of the snake's size when using a tool of any sort for this job. For instance, if you're force-feeding a baby snake, then you might not want to use a spoon!) If you're working with a baby snake, you may need to chop/cut the pinky into even smaller pieces, just so you can push the food down more safely for the snake itself. Once the prey animal is fully in the gullet area, very soothingly massage the animal down to the stomache. If & when you successfully finish the task of the massaging of the food down to the stomache, very carefully place the snake back in its home. But if you don't succeed with it, then try a couple more times, but no more, because you can seriously stress a snake out by prying open their mouth 50 times!!!!! If you don't succeed at all with the whole procedure the first time, then your only hope is to keep on trying. Here's one thing to remember, & never let this discourage you: some snakes may never eat in spite of everything you do, & may even get to the point of death, but you'll just have to deal & get on with the rest of your stock. If you happen to do everything right, & you did it many, many times, then don't blame yourself for the snake's not-willing-to-eat attitude. There's always going to be some mortality rate among some baby snakes, but the majority make it out okay. Well, if you try all these steps in the order that I gave them, then you should do fine!