In this caresheet I’ll be covering all aspects of Honduran Milk Snake care, including housing, heating, lighting, humidity, decor, social needs, breeding, morphs and more! Everything you need to know to keep a Honduran Milk Snake as a pet.
You might also be interested in these closely related species:
– Californian Kingsnake Care Guide
– Pueblan Milk Snake Care Guide
Meet the Honduran Milk Snake
The Honduran Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) comes from low lying grassland and subtropical forest areas of Central America – primarily the Honduras, Nicaragua and north Costa Rica. This is one of the largest species of Milk Snakes and can exceed the size of most King Snakes too, to which they’re very closely related. Adults average four to five feet in length, although individuals at six foot and even larger have been recorded.
The classic wild type colouration is a beautiful deep red base, with cream to orange bands surrounded by a black band on either side. The head is black and orange or cream, and there may be black speckling on the orange banding. In captivity there are also a variety of different colour morphs. These bright colours are designed to deter predators and mimic deadly snakes, but Honduran Milk Snakes have no venom and are completely harmless to humans.
The Honduran Milk Snake when cared for correctly should exceed a twenty year lifespan in captivity.
Housing for Honduran Milk Snakes
The Honduran Milk Snake is a fairly large colubrid. Although it’s not weighty at all, it is an active snake that will explore and enjoy a large environment. We recommend a minimum of a 48x18x18″ or 36x24x24 (which provide the same floor space) for a single adult. These should never be housed in pairs as they are cannibalistic, see the social needs section for more information.
The perfect vivarium for a Honduran Milk Snake would be going a bit larger, a 48x24x24″ would be a great space for them for life. The setups we have for these on our website are labelled Corn Snake setups. Your temperatures will be slightly different for a Honduran Milk Snake, but your equipment remains the same.
Hatchlings can be housed in smaller, but once 6 months or older we find this species does well going straight into it’s adult vivarium.
Honduran Milk Snake Heating and Temperature
You need to create a hot and a cold end of your tank for your Honduran Milk Snake. This is so they can thermoregulate – choose between hot areas and cold areas depending on their body temperature. All your heating should be on one side of the tank, and this should provide an ambient of 85F – 90F which is 29c to 32c. On the unheated cool side of the tank your ambient temperature should be around 70F – 75F (21c – 23c). At night you can allow this cooler temperature to be steady throughout the tank.
You have two main options of heating:
1. Heat Mat
A heat mat is a device that goes underneath the substrate or against the back wall of a wooden tank. If your tank is made of glass, you can put the heat mat underneath. The heat mat should be well covered by substrate – you do not want your snake to sit directly on it, and should also be kept dry. Heat mats are a more old fashioned method of heating and are not suitable for larger bodied species, but since Honduran Milk Snakes are relatively light weight snakes, you can get away with using a heat mat even with an adult.
Your heat mat should always be controlled by a thermostat.
2. Ceramic Bulb
A ceramic bulb is an excellent option for providing heat. It has a much higher heat output than most heat mats, making it more suitable for larger tanks and for obtaining more reliable temperatures. Heating from above is more natural as well. Ceramic bulbs are particularly good for larger snakes or larger enclosures. Your Ceramic Bulb should be controlled by a thermostat and must be guarded so the snake cannot burn itself as well.
Keep a thermometer in the vivarium at all times – digital ones are best – to ensure the temperature is correct.
Humidity & Water
Although this snake is found in some forested areas, it’s also found in fairly dry grassland, and comes from a subtropical climate. The ambient humidity with a medium to large water bowl should be fine, around 50-60% with no need to spray the enclosure. You should provide a damp moss box during shedding periods. If the humidity is too low, your snake may have a partial shed or leave bits of shed stuck to them, and you know to provide a large moss box or raise the humidity slightly next shed.
Honduran Milk Snakes will drink from standing water and need a clean, fresh source of water. We recommend a medium to large water bowl, such as the Large Exo Terra Water Bowl in a 48x18x18 or 36x24x24″ enclosure, or the Extra Large in a 48x24x24 enclosure. Keep this on the cool side of the enclosure so it does not raise the humidity more than you want.
- Exo Terra Water Dish£4.49 – £14.99
Lighting for Honduran Milk Snakes
Having a small daylight bulb in the tank helps provide a natural photoperiod allowing the snake to distinguish clearly between night and day. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it has plenty of benefits and is very inexpensive. You can use a low wattage LED which won’t raise the heat much at all, or you can use a low wattage basking bulb (25w-50w) if you do want to raise the heat a little in this area.
If you use any heat-emitting bulb you will need to put a guard around it to ensure the snake does not curl around the bulb and inflict burns upon itself. Snakes do not recognise pain very quickly and a snake can have horrific burns before it registers to move away.
UVB for Honduran Milk Snakes
In the past people didn’t use UVB for nocturnal species of snakes such as Honduran Milk Snakes. However, more recent research has shown that most snakes are active at dawn and dusk and will sometimes even bask in full sunlight. UVB has been shown to offer benefits to health, such as increased appetite, more activity and brighter colouration. Following recommendations from Arcadia Reptile, we would recommend having a UV Index of 1-2 in the tank. We recommend you achieve these using the Pro T5 Shadedweller Kit as the most cost effective and well designed product, however you can use a T8 6% if the basking zone is within 10-15″ of the snake, or a T5 6% if your basking zone is within 15-18″ of the snake.
You should use a UVB guard to stop the snake damaging themselves or the bulb.
UVB remains optional when it comes to nocturnal snakes like the Honduran Milk Snake, but we highly recommend it. You can read our entire UVB guide here.
There are a few options for substrate. Aspen / Lignocel is good for a dry environment and is easy to clean and offers good burrowing. Orchid Bark is a more rainforest substrate that holds moisture well. Honduran Milk Snakes don’t need a lot of humidity, so you need to make sure that it doesn’t get too damp if using Orchid Bark, but it is quite a natural substrate. I use Lignocel with my Milk Snakes at home so this is what I would personally recommend.
You will want to place at least two hides; one on the hot end and one on the cool end, big enough for your snake to feel secure in and then add decor.
Branches, plants, cork bark – all will give your snake an interesting and natural looking habitat. The Honduran Milk Snake, whilst a terrestrial snake, will still explore and climb on branches.
All members of the Lampropeltis family – that is primarily King Snakes and Milk Snakes – can be cannibalistic. They are particularly cannibalistic as hatchlings, and hatchlings housed together have ended up both dying from one attempting to eat the other. Well fed adults tend not to try to eat other adults, but it can still happen, and they could certainly try to eat smaller individual.
Because of the risks, all King Snakes and Milk Snakes should be housed individually, and only introduced under supervision if necessary for breeding. They have no other social needs and will lead perfectly happy and healthy lives never meeting another snake.
Feeding Honduran Milk Snakes
Honduran Milk Snakes generally have a good appetite and will readily eat defrost mice or rats in captivity. A hatchling will eat a pinkie every 5-7 days, juveniles every 7 days, and adults every 7-14 days depending on their size and needs (breeding females may eat more often). Milk Snakes don’t tend to have the same obesity problems as King Snakes, as their appetites aren’t quite as voracious, but you should be careful not to overfeed. An adult Honduran Milk Snake will most likely take Jumbo mice, or Small Rat Weaners.
You should be careful to wash your hands before feeding so your fingers do not smell like mice and to use long feeding tongs. As constrictors, Honduran Milk Snakes will often strike and constrict their mice. They do not have good vision and will go based on heat and smell, making it possible they could get your fingers confused with the mice if you do not use tongs to separate your hand from the food. If your snake is a particularly keen eater, or is hungry, be careful when opening the cage door as they might associate unexpected movement with food.
Some captive snakes, accustomed to a ready supply of food that doesn’t walk away can be quite lazy and might prefer to eat overnight at their own leisure.
Handling your Honduran Milk Snake
Milk Snakes can be quite nervous as babies, and a little bit prone to rattling or whipping their tail as a threat. This is not an aggressive species and they will usually try to scare off a predator, then flee. There are lots of things that will eat them in the wild! With regular handling, as they grow, Milk Snakes tame down, and an adult Milk Snake is usually calm and easily handleable. They can musk an unpleasant smell if they feel threatened but I find very few adult Milk Snakes do this.
Always support your snake in the bulk of the body and allow them the freedom to explore and climb on you. Wash your hands before and after handling, to avoid your hands smelling like food, and for good hygiene.
Sexing Honduran Milk Snakes
Like most snakes, Honduran Milk Snakes can be very challenging to determine visually. Both males and females get to the same size, and tail size / length is not a conclusive indicator.
The best way of sexing a Honduran Milk Snake is to get an experienced breeder or seller to either pop the hatchling, which involves manually everting the hemipenes, or if the snake is larger, to probe them, which involves inserting a small rod into the hemipenal cavity to count the scales. Both of these methods should only be done by someone experienced.
Unless you are planning to breed, the sex of your Honduran Milk Snake really doesn’t matter, as the care is identical for both genders.
Honduran Milk Snake Morphs
Tri Colour Honduran Milk Snake, “Wild Type”
What we would refer to as the wild / classic Honduran Milk Snake can also be referred to as the Tri Colour Honduran Milk snake, due to the triple colours of red, black and white or cream banding, but both this form and the tangerine form are actually found in the wild commonly.
Tangerine Honduran Milk Snake
Tangerine Honduran Milk Snakes have a much brighter orange banding, whereas the classic wild type is usually a white, cream or yellow. The higher the example of tangerine, the brighter the orange. This morph does occur naturally in the wild as well but selective breeding in captivity has enhanced the tangerine colour greatly.
Tangerine Albino Honduran Milk Snake
These snakes will have no black pigmentation, will have red eyes and albino is a recessive trait. The Tangerine Albino has orange between the bands of white, which may be the same colour or brighter as the base orange.
Tri-Colour Albino Honduran Milk Snake
The Tri-Colour Albino has yellow bands between the white, creating more contrast than the Tangerine Albino.
Hypo Honduran Milk Snake
Hypomelanistic Honduran Milk Snakes have very thin clean bands, with a faded pastel looking colour. This is a very striking morph and as a recessive trait it can be combined with Anerythistic to create Ghost Hondurans.
Anerythistic Honduran Milk Snake
Anery Honduran Milk Snakes lack red pigments, so have bands of white, grey and black, although sometimes with a very faint pink undertone. With the hypo gene you can produce Ghosts, whilst combing anerythistic and albino (amelanistic) creates Snow Honduran Milk Snakes.
Snow Honduran Milk Snake
The Snow Honduran Milk Snake is almost totally white Honduran Milk Snake, but with very faint banding which may be pale lemon yellows, pinks and whites.
Ghost Honduran Milk Snake
Ghost Honduran Milk Snakes are similar to Anerythistic Honduran Milk Snakes, but the addition of the Hypo gene results in an even paler snake. Sometimes the banding is interrupted or partial, and they tend to have a silver sheen.
Breeding Honduran Milk Snakes
Before you breed, please consider whether your adults are healthy and genetically free of any problems that might be passed down. The female in particular should be fully mature, breeding any snake too early can cause serious health problems. Even the most healthy snake can still have problems during breeding which will need a veterinarian to help with, so make sure you know who your local exotics veterinarian is, and have the funds to take care of any medical needs that might arise from breeding.
You also need to be sure that you can house all your hatchlings separate, get them feeding, and find new homes for them.
Brumation happens naturally in the wild. In captivity it’s optional, but if you’re looking to breed then it helps the snake as they would naturally breed in the spring when the weather begins to improve as these are the conditions they need for the eggs to hatch, and their hatchlings to find food. Before brumation ensure that the digestive track is completely empty – don’t feed for at least two to three weeks before reducing the temperature, so stop feeding in mid October.
Around November reduce the temperature to between 55 and 60F. In the UK it can be quite difficult to obtain these low temperatures indoors, so you may need to use an outbuilding that you can keep at a constant temperature. We personally brumate our snakes in our attic with heat mats on thermostats, which enables us to get low and steady temperatures. We brumate for around 3 months, some people prefer to brumate for as little as 6 weeks. The important thing is that the snake understands the seasonal change and thinks spring is here, ready for breeding!
Bring the temperature up to normal and feed after a week of acclimatization. Females should be offered extra food now as they’ll be using all the energy for reproduction.
Courtship and Egg Laying
Introduce the male into the female enclosure if possible. This is because the female gives off pheromones that will be stronger in her tank, especially if she has recently shed. Because this species can be cannibalistic breeding should be supervised. It’s quite common for the male to bite and hold onto the female, this shouldn’t leave any serious injuries, but very occasionally can break the skin. He will line up on top of her and if she is receptive she will lift her tail, copulation may take several hours during which they shouldn’t be disturbed. After copulation they can be separated again. Repeat after a few days to ensure she is gravid.
The female will have a pre-lay shed after approximately 4 weeks. A week after her shed she will begin to look for a good spot to lay her eggs, and a week after that she will lay, so approximately 6 weeks after successful copulation.
You will need to provide a large egg laying box, ample for her to comfortably lay her eggs in. We recommend a small layer of vermiculite at the bottom and then lots of moss, kept slightly damp, but not wet. She will lay between 5 and 15 eggs (with an average of 8 to 10) approximately 6 weeks later. The eggs will probably be stuck together, if so, don’t separate them. Be careful not to turn them as the air bubble is at the top of the egg when laid. Instead, move all of the eggs carefully into your incubator.
It’s possible for a double clutch to occur without a second breeding, you should continue feeding the female well and ensure you keep an eye on her weight and shedding schedule, ensuring the egg box is still available for use.
Incubation and Hatching
We use vermiculite as an incubation media and recommend a professional incubator – but you can use anything as an incubator which holds a steady temperature and humidity. Most incubators are similar to a fridge but instead of a cooler, have a heater.
The eggs will hatch after 60-75 days at 78-80F.
The snake will break their way out of the egg using an egg tooth that drops off after use. They will often sit in the egg with their head out breathing air for several hours, or even several days, as they soak up all of the egg yolk. This is fine and you should let them hatch at their own pace. If it has been 2-3 days after all the other snakes have hatched and there are still a couple of unhatched eggs, you can create a small slit in them and see if the snake inside moves. In this situation, the snake has usually passed away and there are often a few that don’t make it in every clutch.
Babies should immediately be separated into different enclosures to avoid any chance of them attempting to eat each other.
Babies will shed in the first week and then should start to feed readily on defrost pinkies.
I hope that this Honduran Milk Snake Caresheet has provided all the information you need to know, but if there’s anything you have a question about just drop it in the comments, leave us an email or contact us on Facebook! We provide free advice on all species of reptiles.