Molt of the corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus)When the body of the Corn snake grows, the outer skin does not grow with it. That is why the corn snake, like all other snakes, needs to shed its skin from time to time. Because young animals grow faster than adults, they have to shed their skin more often. Young animals shed their skin 8 – 12 times a year. Adult corn snakes molt only every 6 months. Snakes grow all their life. Therefore they also molt their whole life. The moulting intervals are very food dependent. If the snake is fed a lot, it grows faster and has to molt more often. The new skin grows under the old one. Hardens after the moult. As the first visible sign of an imminent moult the eyes become cloudy. Between the old and the new skin a whitish liquid film is formed.
This film facilitates the removal of the old skin. Since also the cornea of the eye is skinned, you can see this liquid film there. In addition, the colors of the snake fade now.
Now you should not feed the snake anymore. The skinning takes a lot of energy and it can happen that the corn snake simply chokes out a half-digested mouse during the skinning process. In most cases the snakes do not eat anything during this time.
During the preparation for moulting and during moulting the snake sees badly, because the eye is surrounded by the liquid film. Now they should be left alone. Do not remove from the terrarium. The humidity should also be right during the moulting phase. Otherwise you have to spray or put a wetbox in the terrarium. This preparatory phase lasts depending on environmental conditions 1 – 2 weeks.
Shortly before moulting the corn snake suddenly looks normal again. Also the cloudiness of the eyes has disappeared. This is because the liquid that was between the old and new skin is reabsorbed by the body. With this the outer, old skin dries out and is ready for shedding.
At the beginning of the actual moult, the corn snake rubs its head against branches or other furnishings. After some time the skin on the head bursts open. Now the snake wriggles through branches, crevices or the ground, so that the old skin gets stuck somewhere and the snake can crawl out of the old skin. The old skin is called a snake shirt.
Because the skin is more or less pulled apart during the moult, the adder shirt is not suitable for determining the length of a snake. The adder shirt is ca. 1.5 times the size of the snake itself. However, the old skin can be used for sex determination with the method of scale counting.
Skinning problems can be of various nature. Often there are problems when the humidity in the terrarium is too low. Especially during the moult you should look more carefully. If the humidity is too low, you have to spray with water or use a bigger drinking bowl, so that more water can evaporate. A wetbox can also be used for this purpose. A wetbox is a container that contains earth or moss, which should be moist, but never wet, and placed in a warm place. The corn snake can lay down on it, if it needs more humidity.