I. Mice Only Please.
While the myth about rats being fattier than mice is usually the point most enthusiasts and breeders make to dissuade from rat usage as a prey item, it’s not known to be true. Nutrition charts occasionally show the opposite. While this may be the case, the nutrition content of mice and rats ARE arguably different. I’ve read of many accounts of breeders having higher mortality rates of their snakes when they were feeding on rats, rather than mice. This is not conclusive evidence, of course. But, because Western Hognose snakes can feed on varying sizes of mice throughout their entire lives and have been raised on them for generations, we at Ectotherm Empire, only ever suggest feeding mice. It is for this reason that the sizing guide we lay out below is only consistent with mice.
II. Frozen/Thawed Only Please.
Hognose snakes in general are known to be mildly venomous. This venom isn’t powerful, nor is it quick acting. They don’t constrict either. So, when a Hognose snake goes to consume live prey, it is done live. Listening to the squeaking cries of a mouse as it’s being swallowed alive is not pleasant, nor fair to the mouse itself. To further complicate matters, as the snake grows, you steadily increase the size of meal you feed it. The larger and older a mouse is, the more likely it will be able to defend itself. Live mice can pose a serious risk to a snake that does not kill before swallowing. Wounds will often be sustained (visible and not) and escape notice to later become infected. Reputable Western Hognose breeders make a point of establishing hatchling hognose on frozen/thawed mice prior to sale, unless stated otherwise. Verify what the snake is feeding on prior to purchase to save yourself a headache later.
III. Sizing. Smaller tends to be better.
A. While Hognose snakes do tend to have a faster metabolism than many other common captive snake species, they usually fair better with smaller, more frequent meals. It’s best to aim for a prey item no larger than the width of the head of the snake. If the meal leaves a small lump that lasts between 12-36 hours you’re perfectly in range.
B. Too large of a prey item adds extra stress on the snake. Assuming it does successfully swallow a mouse that is too large it might then regurgitate. Regurgitation is nasty and can cause severe damage to your snake.
1. If your hognose regurgitates, make sure the snake is well hydrated and wait to try to feed again for two weeks. If damage was done during regurgitation, you’ll want it to heal before the next meal or you may get stuck in a nasty cycle of regurgitation.
2. Only feed a small meal to an animal that regurgitated. If the snake normally eats fuzzie mice, offer a pinkie. Etc.
C. Our general sizing guide follows:
1. 5g-7g hatchling = Pinkie head, mouse tail, fuzzie feet
i. Go with what looks most appropriate. Remember, smaller is better.
2. 8g-14g hatchling = Day old pinkie (also known as “Red Hots”)
3. 15g-25g = Pinkie
4. 26g-40g = Peach Fuzzie
5. 40g-75g = Fuzzie
6. 75g-250g =Hopper
7. 250g+ = Weaned +
D. The sizing of these prey categories varies and at times can be pretty drastic, so this guide should be very flexible and based more on how your animal compares to the prey itself.
E. Some snakes require smaller meals than what would be expected. Some prefer larger. Learning your Hognose and its preferences will help you understand what is best for them because sometimes, they really are just that unique.
A. Cramming meals down your snake’s throat to get it up to a certain weight quickly is incredibly unhealthy for the animal. Slower growth is always better. At Ectotherm Empire we follow a less frequent feeding schedule. It’s proven to produce healthy weight animals and keep good feeding responses. It works for us.
1. Hatchlings and Juvenile snakes = Every 4 or 5 days (we go 5)
2. Subadults, Adults = Every 6 or 7 days
3. Breeding Females = Smaller meal than usual every 3 days
V. Scenting—It may not be needed. Buying from a reputable breeder will minimize the likelihood that you will need to resort to scenting. Most breeders strive to establish their hatchlings on unscented mice prior to listing for sale.
A. Too often do new keepers jump right to scenting to get a new animal to eat. We have always believed that husbandry should be addressed first. Please see the “So Your Western Hognose Isn’t Feeding?” section to troubleshoot your situation.
1. Starting a hognose off on scented may completely erase any work the breeder did to get that animal established on unscented mice.
2. You may get the snake hooked on a scent that will be difficult to wean it off.
3. Scenting may just be a band-aid that works for a time but may eventually fail anyway.
B. Scents and Scenting advice can be found in the aforementioned “So Your Western Hognose Isn’t Feeding?” section.
VI. What’s the white powder on the mouse? Is that freezer burn? Benebac? Huh? What’s that?
A. To understand the use of Benebac, you must first understand: hognoses are primarily amphibian eaters in the wild and so even though they can be raised solely on a rodent diet without issue, Benebac is a probiotic that can help supplement what their captive rodent diet is lacking by helping to balance your snake’s natural gut flora.
1. It has been known to increase appetite
2. Aides in digestive issues and improves fecal quality
3. Benebac is by no means required, but if you choose to supplement your hognose’s diet with it, simply dust the prey item lightly once every five or so feedings.
4. Breeders have also been known to sprinkle Benebac in the water of problem feeders. Just make sure to change out the water more frequently.
5. A link may be found soon in the Recommended Equipment and Materials section.
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!