Snakes grow throughout all of their lives. In order to grow, they need to shed their old skin because it will be too small to fit their new, larger bodies.
How Often Do Snakes Shed?
Snakes shed all of their lives since they never completely stop growing. Adult snakes about four or five times a year. Baby snakes shed far more often, sometimes every few weeks. Typically, it takes snakes 1-2 weeks to complete their shedding process.
Signs That a Snake is Getting Ready to Shed
Snakes will give distinctive signs that they are getting ready to shed. The most common signs are skin that turns a duller color, eyes that turn cloudy or blue, and curling up in their water bowls.
Snakes also move around a lot less and lose their appetite. They will be hungry after shedding is complete.
Soaking in water helps ease itchiness. Snakes may spend days curled up in their water bowl.
Since they will not move from it, they poop in the water. Replace the fouled water daily for a few times.
Try to avoid touching the snake, if possible. Tip the water bowl so the snake crawls out on its own.
The eyes will turn cloudy or blue since their eye caps will be shed, too. They stay this changed color until the skin is completely shed from the head.
Sometimes snake bellies will turn pink, depending on the species. Usually, species with white bellies turn pink. Ball python bellies often turn pink before shedding.
If your snake has shed before and never had a pink belly but has one now, contact a vet. It could be a sign of illness.
Keep Touching the Snake to an Absolute Minimum
No matter their age, snakes are not themselves when it’s time to shed. They get irritable and frighten far more easily.
It’s normal for snakes to spend time hiding when not curled up in the water bowl. It’s also normal for them to strike out or bite if handled at this time.
It’s best to wear gloves when handling an irritable snake.
When the eyes change color, the snake has gone blind and remains blind until the eye caps are removed during the shedding process.
In the wild, being blind is a time when they’re highly vulnerable to their predators. This is why they hide so much. Don’t make snakes exit their hiding spots, if possible.
The area around the water bowl will often become more soaked than usual. A cage that’s too wet is not good for a snake.
If the cage does need to be cleaned, try to clean just a section at a time. Move the snake over rather than picking it up to remove the snake entirely.
If the snake is small enough, pick up the whole water bowl to move the snake, clean the area under and around the water bowl, and place the bowl and snake back.
Keeping a Good Environment to Help a Snake Shed
No matter the snake’s age or species, it needs some things to make the shedding process go more smoothly.
Keep several bumpy objects in the tank-like clean rocks, pine cones, or clean driftwood, so the snake can rub up against them. This helps loosen the skin and takes the old skin off.
Keep the humidity at 50 to 70 percent. Misting the walls of the cage or enclosure aids in keeping up the humidity.
When the snake isn’t soaking in its water bowl, it will need to rest in a humidity hide. This is a small box with a round opening so the snake can easily get in and out.
This humidity hide has a layer of moss or other moist substrate to keep the skin moist. You can purchase a ready-made version or create your own.
Many people use aspen shavings for a substrate as this is cheap and absorbent. However, it’s dry and does not promote humidity.
When the snake is about to shed, try changing the substrate to orchid bark as it promotes humidity. Covering half of the cage top can also help promote humidity.
Problems with Snake Shedding
It’s good to check the shed skin of a snake to make sure the snake is healthy. It’s a must that snakes’ skin should shed in one piece, including those covering their eyes.
If the eye caps have not come off, then the snake is still blind. The caps will need to be removed by a veterinarian.
Incomplete shedding can be caused by lack of humidity, parasites, lack of proper nutrients, disease, or an abscess. Although it can be tempting, do not pull off any pieces of dead skin.
This can hurt the snake. The new skin may not be formed enough to endure being exposed to the world.
Hence, it’s best to let a snake soak in water that’s warm for a few times a day. Supervise to make sure the snake does not drown.
Another option is to place the snake in wet towels to help remove those patches of old skin. The snake often wriggles against the towels to help peel off the old skin.
Let the snake stay in its humidity hide as long as it wants, as this can remove stubborn patches of old skin.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Often Do Snakes Shed
Do Snakes Keep Growing Until They Die?
Snakes are classified as indeterminate growers since they grow for all of their lives. When they become adults, their growth rate slows down a lot. They will need to shed for all of their lives.
Do Snakes Feel Pain When They Shed?
Snakes feel very uncomfortable when it is time for them to shed. It’s thought they feel incredibly itchy as opposed to feeling pain. Try not to handle them at this time, since they will be irritable and stressed.
Can A Snake’s Shed Skin Become Its Food?
Snakes don’t make their shed skin part of their diet. It should be removed from their tanks or enclosures. Although shed skin can be thrown out, some snake owners find ways to make crafts from the dried shed skin.
The Least You Need to Know
Baby snakes start shedding within a few weeks of hatching or being born. Young snakes shed every month or few weeks, while adults shed a few times a year.
Snakes grow all of their lives, but their growth rate slows down once they become adults. This process takes 1-2 weeks to complete.
It’s normal for snakes not to eat and soak in their water bowls during this time.