There are many species of snakes classified under the umbrella term “garter snakes”, but the most popular species of pet garter snake is the Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis), which is a subspecies of the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).
Many garter snakes have similar diets. They eat a variety of small fish, worms, and cut-up chicken breast or tilapia. When they get older, baby garter snakes will also eat pinkies or newborn mice.
What Do Baby Garter Snakes Eat?
Baby garter snakes eat guppies, earthworms, or nightcrawlers, and cut-up plain chicken or tilapia. Contrary to popular belief, they do not eat feeder crickets or insects other than worms. Food may need to be cut up to make it small enough for a very young baby garter snake. Older babies can eat pinkies or newborn mice. Make sure water’s always available.
Main Foods for Baby Garter Snakes
According to Reptiles Magazine, newborn baby garter snakes need food items like guppies, cut-up earthworms, or other cut-up foods packed with protein like white meat chicken, chicken hearts, or tilapia fillets.
Even cut-up thawed pinkie mice may tempt a finicky baby garter snake’s appetite. Feed little and often, as opposed to just giving one large meal a week.
Basically, feed as much as the baby will eat, which maybe twice a week or every other day.
Guppies or earthworms need to be kept alive and be freshly killed so they are at their peak of nutrition for the growing baby garter snake. This means keeping an aquarium just for feeder guppies.
Feeder guppies are much less expensive than the fancy guppies sold as pets in pet stores. Never feed goldfish or rosy red minnows because they contain an enzyme called thiaminase which could kill the snake.
Chop up any food item into tiny pieces. Scissors used for cutting herbs can make the job go faster. Dust with vitamin or calcium powder.
It’s best to give one or more food items each meal for a baby garter snake to see which food the snake prefers. Hopefully, the snake will eat everything. This way, it will get a wide variety of nutrients.
In the wild, garter snakes often eat mice or other small rodents. They also eat slugs, leeches, frogs, and newts, but these are often impractical for many snake keepers to get.
Feeding pinkies is often less time-consuming and takes up less space than keeping an aquarium full of guppies or a plastic bin full of earthworms.
When the baby garter snake is a few months old and larger, he or she can start eating larger prey like newborn mice or pinkies. Pinkies can be purchased live at pet stores or frozen.
They need to be thawed before giving them to your snake. The pinky may need to be cut up into parts small enough for a baby garter snake.
Frozen pinkies need to be thawed to room temperature. Running the pinkies under warm water helps speed the thawing process along.
Never use a microwave, as the results are inedible, even to a snake.
Pinkies should be dusted with calcium powder to combat metabolic bone disease, caused by a lack of Vitamin D3 in the diet, which leads to calcium deficiency.
The Importance of Water
Baby garter snakes dry out very easily, even under conditions where adult snakes thrive. Make sure there’s water in the baby snake’s enclosure all the time.
Make sure there is a bowl or at least a dish of water in the enclosure. Spraying the inside of the tank with water helps to keep the enclosure humid enough to help the baby not dry out.
Garter snakes tend to soak in their water bowls when they are about to shed, so if you see your baby garter snake taking a bath, do not be alarmed.
The water needs to be changed more than once a day when snakes are soaking because they will poop in the water. Change the substrate around the water bowl frequently as it may get soaked.
Baby garter snakes need a moist little cave-like structure inside of their tanks or enclosures. These are also called humid hides since the snake can retreat there to hide.
This can be a small plastic tub with a hole cut out of the lid for the baby snake to slither in and out of. Inside of the tub should be moist substrate like moistened moss.
When the baby snake feels too hot and dry, he or she can rehydrate quickly in the humid hide.
Keep the hide in the middle or warm end of the enclosure.
Reality Check: Baby Garter Snakes Die Easily
Despite the best of care, your baby garter snake may still die. This, however, doesn’t mean that you’re bad as a pet parent.
Garter snakes give birth compared to their counterparts that lay eggs. Female garter snakes can birth up to 40 babies.
They have lots of babies to make sure at least one survives to breed and keep the species going. Unfortunately, that means the babies are not born equally healthy.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, over half of all baby garter snakes die before reaching a year old.
For these reasons, it’s best to get an adult garter snake for a pet rather than a baby, if possible. Even though an adult might be less cute than a baby garter snake.
They still make fascinating companions. With luck, your snake will live ten or fifteen years.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Baby Garter Snakes Eat
Can I Take a Baby Garter Snake from the Wild?
Although they can be some of the easiest snakes to find in the wild and may even enter your home looking for prey, you should never take a baby garter snake from the wild for a pet. This is illegal in America. Wild snakes, even babies, bite and maybe sicklier than captive-bred snakes.
Do Baby Garter Snakes Eat Crickets?
Although they will eat worms, garter snakes do not like to eat other kinds of insects. They may occasionally eat feeder crickets, but much prefer other kinds of food.
How Often Do Baby Garter Snakes Drink?
All garter snakes, babies or adults, need to drink every day. They need constant access to clean, chlorine-free water in a bowl. They cannot use a water bottle that other pets like rabbits, hamsters, or guinea pigs use.
The Least You Need to Know
Baby garter snakes need to eat every other day or at least twice a week. They should eat guppies or cut-up earthworms, nightcrawlers, pinkie mice, tilapia, chicken breast, or chicken hearts.
Food should be dusted with multivitamin or calcium powder. Never feed crickets or other species of fish.
Keep a water bowl filled with clean water at all times.