People “shed” billions of skin cells every day, even though we don’t always clearly see it. One day, my nephew found a complete snake skin in our yard and brought it to the kitchen.
He asked a lot of questions about the type of snake, why they shed their skin, where is the snake so he can give it back (thinking it was now “naked” and needed the skin covering), and so many, many more questions!
I knew general facts about snakes shedding their skin. I didn’t know it was called ecdysis.
I decided to visit my local reptile sanctuary to find out more so my nephew could have all his questions answered. Here’s what I learned.
What Time of Year Do Snakes Shed Their Skin?
Younger snakes shed a lot more often as they grow, so you’ll find that they shed weekly, and as they continue to grow, they go through the ecdysis (skin shedding) process once a month until it becomes less frequent the older they get. An older snake may shed their skin about twice a year or once every 18 months.
Do Snakes Shed at a Specific Time of the Year
While snakes shed all year long, they usually have a shedding before winter when they are about to go into hibernation when the snake is largest. In nature, this time of shedding is most prevalent.
A snake sheds their skin when they need to because they’ve outgrown their current skin, which doesn’t grow with them.
A hatchling may shed every week, and this will happen whether it is winter, spring, summer, or fall.
The humidity factor in the vivarium for your pet snake will most likely stay at a constant level throughout the year.
If the temperature and humidity aren’t steady, then your snake may shed more often during summer.
Snakes are more active when it’s warm and humid, and this makes them grow faster.
So they will shed more often.
As the hatchling grows into a young snake, it will start to grow more slowly, so it may shed once every few months. And so it goes — the older your snake, the less it sheds.
How Often Snakes Shed Their Skin
How often a snake sheds depends on a few factors: their age, environment, and growth rate.
In general, you will that this is how often a snake sloughs according to age:
- Newborn snakes will shed weekly.
- A snake that’s 1-6 months old will shed every 2-4 weeks
- A 7-18-month-old snake sheds every 1-3 months.
- A mature snake sheds every 3-6 months, so that’s a maximum of four times a year.
If you have a pet snake and the vivarium in which it is housed provides an optimized growth environment, then you may find that your snake sheds more.
Also, with some snakes, if you feed it more often, it also grows faster, and thus, sheds more. Snakes tend to shed quite reliably before they go into hibernation as they are then at optimal size.
List of Snakes and How Often They Shed
Here’s a list of snake breeds and how often they shed; remember to take their age into account too. The times listed here are for adult snakes unless otherwise indicated.
- Rattlesnakes > 4 times per year
- Cottonmouths (water moccasins) > 4 times per year
- California Kingsnakes > every 2-3 months, faster if you have this pet snake and you feed it more often
- Black racer > once a year
- Garter snakes > 2-3 times per year
- Ribbon snakes > 2-3 times per year (it’s closely related to the garter snake)
- Eastern indigo snakes > 2-3 times per year
- Anacondas > 3 times per year
- Boas > 4-5 times per year
- Python > 3-4 times per year
- Cobras > 5 times per year
- Milk snake > 4-6 times per year
- Corn Snakes > 4-6 times per year
How to Know if Your Pet Snake is About to Shed
When your snake is ready to shed, you will see its eyes turning opaque (a cloudy blue) — so it’s mostly blind — and its skin turning blue or gray.
Within a few days of this happening, your snake will rub its head against a rock or something else that’s abrasive in the vivarium. This is to help it tear open the outer skin layer.
It then uses that tear to slide out of its skin. This ecdysis process takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on how old your snake is, how big (or small) it is, how healthy it is, and its environment.
For snakes to shed successfully, they need water in the form of high humidity and fresh water. The water should be poured into a water dish large enough for the snake to “take a bath” in it.
This keeps its skin moist and helps to loosen the skin it will shed from the new skin underneath.
Why Snakes Shed Their Skin
Snakes shed their skin for two reasons. One, the snake grows but their skin doesn’t stretch and grow with them like human skin does with a person.
So a snake needs to grow new skin with its longer and bigger body. This new skin grows underneath the current skin that you can see.
Two, when their skin sheds, sloughs, or molts, it eliminates harmful parasites that have made the snakeskin their home.
Frequently Asked Questions about What Time of Year Snakes Shed Their Skin
Do snakes grow every time they shed?
Technically, a snake outgrows its skin since the snakeskin does not grow with the snake. Some snakes may shed their skin monthly while others undergo shedding a few times in a year.
Can you touch a snake while it’s shedding?
It is recommended to avoid touching and handling your snake while it sheds its skin. Snakes are in a vulnerable position during shedding, so your snake may be more dangerous. Moreover, the new skin can easily tear because it is so delicate, so it’s best to let your snake be.
The Last Skin
My nephew was captivated as he learned about the whole process a snake goes through to grow and shed its skin.
He begged his mom for a cute hatchling corn snake so he could see how often Mr. Corn will shed.
Don’t worry. My nephew made sure his new corn snake lives a good life in his vivarium.