I. Things to Remember
A. All snakes, hognose especially, need a short period of time to settle into their new home. Be mindful of this and give them a full week of alone-time after introducing them to their new home BEFORE you try feeding them. While this time isn’t always necessary, it’s a safe procedure to follow. Barring a rescue/severely malnourished snake, a week longer off food will not starve them.
B. New skin time? Many snakes will refuse meals when they are not only shedding but, sometimes when they are just about to enter the next shed cycle.
C. Verify with the breeder what your snake was eating at the time you purchased them. Live or f/t (frozen/thawed)? Scented? Scented with what?
D. Is the enclosure up to par? See below “Environment” section below.
A. How often are you handling your hognose? No new snake should be handled until they are feeding regularly. Any handling could continue to stress the animal out during the period they should be settling into their new home.
B. Don’t attempt to feed every day. If your snake refuses a meal give them a week before trying again. The more frequently you try, the more likely they are to refuse from stress. If you change something, like downsizing to a smaller enclosure, give them a week in this new habitat before trying to feed again. This rule is standard for any changes made, especially changes made to a non-established animals habitat.
A. Size. You may need to wait on that visually appealing tank. If you got your snake from a breeder it was most likely kept in a bin in a rack system. You may want to keep your new little buddy in a 6qt bin (shoebox sized, [larger for larger snakes]) until he grows more. This may sound a tad small, but it makes them feel more secure, and the more secure your snake feels, the more readily they will feed. [6 Qt bin-- https://amzn.to/356iYLo ; 10 G Tank-- https://amzn.to/2OrBpmO ]
B. Heat is REQUIRED. Hognose snakes need a hotspot of at least 90°F (as high as 93°F) provided preferably by a thermostat regulated under-tank heater (UTH) . If their temps are not high enough, your snake may not eat, and if the snake does eat in a setup where temps are not high enough they can die as they may not be able to digest their meal properly. [UTH-- https://amzn.to/2QwFw42 ; Thermostat-- https://amzn.to/2qsYk9o]
1. Heating is no joke. ALWAYS make sure your heat source is regulated by means of an outside thermostat. Heating mats with built-in thermostats still frequently reach temperatures greater than what they are set to even when they are not supposed to. Please protect your animal and spend the extra bucks to assure their safety [ Thermostat-- https://amzn.to/2qsYk9o].
2. Monitor the surface temperature of your enclosure by means of a laser temp gun. Hognose will burrow and often lay against the heat source [Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun-- https://amzn.to/2O2bPWR ; Thermometer and Hygrometer with Humidity Gauge-- https://amzn.to/37i0B88 ].
C. Hides are important. Make sure to provide your snake with AT LEAST ONE hide over the hotspot. Additional hides are wonderful, but having one is necessary in most setups (usually not needed in rack systems). Sometimes a snake will forego staying on heat so that it may hide in a small space instead. Hides should be just big enough to curl up in. [Hides- Basic- https://amzn.to/2OndTHQ ; Cork- https://amzn.to/2r9qeqX ; Eggs- https://amzn.to/35cY39u ; Cave- https://amzn.to/2NZPYPN ]
D. Substrate can make the difference. Check what the breeder had your snake on. Some snakes won’t care about changes, others will go off of feed over it. Tunneling substrates tend to work best, as it allows your hognose to the added security of burrowing. This is a natural activity. We recommend Aspen shavings (no added scents or dyes) as they don’t seem to mold too quickly, and they generally retain tunnel structures. [Shredded Aspen-- https://amzn.to/2OsigBz ; Shaved Aspen-- https://amzn.to/35crCYF ]
E. Location matters. Try to make sure your enclosure is set up in an area that has less foot traffic and activity. Snakes “hear” by feeling vibrations through the ground as well as the air. The more activity in the immediate area, the more stressful it is for your snake. This can be especially important during their settling-in time period.
IV. Things to Try
A. Size does matter. Some snakes can be sensitive to the size of their prey. Move up prey sizes only after there is no noticeable lump left after consumption (lump should last 24-36 hours). Some snakes may need to be moved up in sizes even slower than others. Try to make the change as gradual as you can.
B. To move or not to move? Some hognose snakes require motion of their prey to provoke a feeding response and others do not. Check with the breeder. Start by holding the f/t rodent beneath or just in front of their snout with a pair of tongs. Some may take after getting just a “whiff” of the rodent. If it seems like you may need to interest them a little more, try moving the mouse slowly away or to the side. You may try setting on the ground and wiggling it a little bit. Every animal is different, but you’ll get the hang of it and the snake’s interest will be VERY apparent if it’s there. They almost seem to “perk up”. [Feeding tongs-- https://amzn.to/37i3ndt ]
C. Movement can be scary. On occasion, your snake may be extra skittish. This may occur when you first receive and begin feeding your animal, until it becomes more used to you. Sometimes this may be during a shed cycle. We HIGHLY recommend purchasing a small section of PVC tubing from a home improvement store (usually in the plumbing section) so that you may be prepared for these times. Once you thaw out a mouse, place it in the tube and place the tube in the enclosure. You may try pointing your snake’s head towards the tube or let them find it on their own. This allows them to feed on their own without worry of ingesting substrate and simulates the somewhat natural event of finding a mouse pup in the wild (would normally be in a burrow or tunnel system). The snake will feel more secure with this method and thus more likely to feed, when they would otherwise be jumpy or scared.
D. Scenting.Check with the breeder before attempting any of the scenting options below. If your hognose never required scenting, even as a hatchling, this may not be helpful to you. If your hognose is feeding without the need for scents or changes to their diet, it may not be worth adjusting their diet. (Scents are not listed in numerical order for any specific reason, though braining is best to try first.)
1. Braining. Take a pin or a needle and poke a small hole into the head of the pinkie mouse and remove. Squeeze the head until a small amount of clear liquid forms up where the needle was inserted.
2. Tuna in Water
3. Salmon (fresh and/or canned)
4. Vienna Sausage juice
5. Hardboiled egg
6. Frog/toad scent. This may be purchased from some websites (www.reptilinks.com) or you may need to find a frog or toad to rub the mouse on. Obviously do not do this with toxic frogs/toads. You may also be able to obtain frog legs, blend and freeze the liquid in ice cube trays for thawing a mouse in simultaneously later on. It is highly suggested you freeze any wild caught frogs/toads for a minimum of two weeks to reduce the chance of passing on parasites or diseases if you choose to go this route. Also make sure to check your state/country regulations on harvesting wild species. There are many amphibians on protected lists worldwide.
7. Reptilinks. (www.reptilinks.com) This product, made from bull frog and often other sources (rabbit, etc), ground and packaged into small sausage links sometimes convinces otherwise picky feeders to be little gluttons. There’s really no telling that a snake will respond favorably, but it’s an option. While these Reptilinks reportedly possess all required nutrients, we see them as an option to explore in order to get picky feeders eating again before transitioning to rodents.
8. Anchovies in Brine. Drain the fluid.
V. When All Else Fails
A. Stubborn Butts
1. Unfortunately, some hognose snakes may take an exceptionally long time to settle in and find the groove for eating. It takes a lot longer than a few months for most to starve, and some adults have gone between 6-9 months. This is not incredibly common, but if you have everything correct, there’s not much else you can do. Just keep trying once a week, and give them space.
2. Make sure that you have been in contact with the breeder.
3. Try Hognose keeper boards for more suggestions. We recommend “Hognose Snake Keepers” on Facebook
B. Sometimes it really is the weather. I leave this for the end because if you keep your snake’s enclosure at optimum temperatures, they tend to ignore the fact it is the season for brumation (winter, when naturally they enter a state of hibernation and suspended activity). This should never be the first condition you jump to, especially if the snake in question is a hatchling.
C. Mature Male? Mature males do have it built in their systems to skip meals more frequently, especially if there is a mature female around. This does not mean it will happen, but it does happen to some.
D. Could it be the feeders? If you buy your feeders from a local pet store consider checking with them to see how they foster their mice. Some stores will use rats to foster mice because the rats can handle larger numbers. If this is the case the mice may smell too much like rat and may be confusing your snake. You may have to find an alternate source for your feeders.
Not every Hognose snake is the same, but once you find out what your snake needs/likes, it tends to stays that way.
***NO MATTER WHAT, BE PATIENT.***
As the owner and primary customer service associate for Ectotherm Empire I frequently handle questions about Hognose care. People want to learn and generally want to do what is best for their animals. I don't profess to know everything. There is no way to do so. What I've done is taken my experience working with these animals, my research and understanding into their lives in the natural world, and combined it with help from fellow breeders to construct a relatively comprehensive set of documents. Yes, some things may be missing, or may not fit your situation, but I've done my best to aid in what ways I can. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Comparing products by their features, customer reviews, and prices is easy, however, Amazon was chosen almost entirely for uniformity. Nearly everything we use can be found on Amazon. If it can't be, then substitutes are almost always available. All product links in these guides will be found in this color. Thank you for taking the time to look through my wordy ramblings and I wish you happy reading!