Milk Snake VS Corn Snake: Which Snake Is Better for You?

Reptiles, including snakes, are oddly cute and lovable in their slithery way. According to Reptiles’ Cove, 4.5 million American households own a reptile as a pet!

Milk and corn snakes are often considered great beginner snake owners’ pets because of their size and low maintenance requirements. But which one should you get?

If you are choosing appearances, corn snakes stay within hues of orange while milk snakes have paler bodies and more distinct patterns. But they also have a few behavioral differences: compared to milk snakes, corn snakes tend to be more mildly tempered and require higher humidity levels in their tank, but need to be fed less often. 

Milk Snake vs. Corn Snake At A Glance

Milk SnakeCorn Snake
GenusKingsnakes (Lampropeltis)Rat snakes (Pantherophis)
Natural Habitat and DistributionPrefer to live near bodies of water.
Found all over North, Central, and South America.
Prefer to live in grasslands, forest edges, and rocky hillsides.
More common along the east coast but are frequently seen in southeastern states.
Adult Size 2 to 3 feet long, with a girth of 0.6”-1.4” (1.5-3.5 cm) 
Larger males
2.5 to 5 feet long, with a girth of 0.6”-1.4” (1.5-3.5 cm) 
Larger females
Weight1-3lbs2 lbs
AppearanceLight-colored base with dark brown to red splotches outlined in blackOrange-hued base with dark brown to red splotches outlined in black
TemperamentRelatively calm, but is easily agitatedVery quiet and relaxed, but jumpier when young
Active HoursAt dusk and nightDuring the day
Diet and feeding scheduleRodents, birds, or amphibians, fed every 5-7 daysRodents, fed every 7-14 days
Lifespan in captivity20 years20 years
Price and AvailabilityRelatively easy to find, priced between $50-$1,000Relatively easy to find, priced between $50-$1,000
Special Enclosure RequirementsHumidity levels of only between 40%-60%Needs more humidity, preferably between 65%-75%

Biggest Differences Between Milk Snakes and Corn Snakes

Corn snakes and milk snakes are both popular pets but which one should you choose? That depends on the kind of companion you want to have!

The differences between milk snakes vs. corn snakes go beyond their appearance: they have polar opposite body clocks and slightly different temperaments, diets, and enclosure requirements.

While both species have dark red to brown splotches, corn snakes tend to be orangey, while milk snakes have pale, milky white bodies. Corn snakes are active during the day, while milk snakes are awake at night.

Additionally, corn snakes are calmer than milk snakes, need to be fed less often, yet require higher humidity levels in their enclosures.

All of these aside, however, the two species are identical in nearly all other aspects, including size, diet, lifespan, price, and availability, and even in their being non-venomous.

Comparing Milk Snake vs. Corn Snake As Pets

Milk Snake vs Corn Snake

It is worth noting in advance that snakes that live in the comfort of captivity are often heavier, larger, and live longer than their counterparts in the wild. All the details listed below primarily focus on domesticated snakes.

Meet the Families

Both corn snakes and milk snakes belong to the family Colubridae but are part of two different genera.

The corn snake belongs to the bigger family of North American rat snakes, Pantherophis.

The milk snake, on the other hand, belongs to the kingsnake family or genus Lampropeltis. Within the milksnake subspecies, the most common pets are Pueblan, Eastern, Sinaloan, Red, and Honduran, among others.

Natural Habitat and Distribution

While not necessary to know each snake’s natural habitat before purchasing your pet, it’s useful to know where both came from and, therefore, the kind of home they’d like to have.

The milk snake and corn snake have slightly different preferences for their homes, though both are very flexible and can live nearly anywhere.

Milk snakes tend to be found near bodies of water, while corn snakes are usually near greenery such as forests and grasslands.

Milk snakes are also easily found in the wild all over North, Central, and Southern America. Corn snakes are concentrated on the east coast of the United States, mainly frequently spotted in Southeastern states such as Florida.

Adult Size and Weight

Depending on specific subspecies, diet, and many other factors, corn snakes can grow twice as long as their milk snake counterparts, while ball pythons would top this list, as they can grow over 5-6 feet. However, it is also possible for milk snakes to emerge the bulkier snake, tipping the scale at 3lbs compared to the average corn snakes’ 2lbs!

Generally speaking, though, under normal circumstances, adult milk snakes and corn snakes end up around the same size in captivity.

Juvenile Milk Snake vs. Corn Snake

Their size trend can be traced from birth. Corn snake hatchlings emerge from their eggs about 8-12 inches long, while milk snake hatchlings are shorter, usually between 6-10 inches.

Editor’s Note
DID YOU KNOW? Baby snakes are called snakelets. However, snakes born from eggs are called hatchlings, while those born by live birth are neonates.

Male and Female Milk Snakes and Corn Snakes

It’s difficult to tell if a milk snake or corn snake is male or female purely based on size, especially if it’s lying alone.

However, if the two genders lie next to each other, the difference becomes easier to see: Milk snake males tend to be larger than the females, but the opposite is true for corn snakes with larger females.


Milk Snake vs Corn Snake Appearance

Both corn and milk snakes have dark brown to red blotches, stripes, or rings outlined in black along their bodies. The way to tell the two species apart is by looking at the snake’s base color.

Corn snakes have bodies in shades of red, orange, or brownish-yellow. If you can see its belly, you’ll also notice a distinct pattern of alternating rows of black and white, often compared to a checkboard.

Meanwhile, the body of a milk snake is lighter in color, usually pale yellow, orange, or white. They are also known for having a light-colored U, V, Y, or small circle shape found on the back of their head, towards their neck. 

Among snake lovers, milk snakes have gotten the reputation of having more “vivid” colors than corn snakes. However, the truth is that a milk snake’s splotches are simply more visible against its light-colored body than the corn snake’s orangey one.


Both corn and milk snakes are found on the calmer end of the snake temperament spectrum, which is why they are both ideal for beginner snake pet owners.

Still, corn snakes are meeker between the two and less likely to bite you, though younger corn snakes may exhibit some nervousness and agitation.

Milk snakes take a little longer to adjust to their owners and are likelier to remain jumpy for their entire lives.

Remember, though, that, like people, each snake has its personality. 


Milk Snake's mouth wide open

Oh no, you were just bitten by your baby corn snake! Should you worry?

Not at all. Unlike garter snakes which are slightly venomous, both corn snakes and milk snakes are entirely non-venomous. Should you get the chance to look carefully at their faces, you’ll notice that they have the round pupils and small teeth characteristic of this group of snakes.

However, all sorts of bacteria can live in any animal’s mouth. Even if you won’t get poisoned, there is a chance bite wounds from either corn snake or milk snake can get infected. 

Always treat animal bites with care, especially if your skin is broken.

Editor’s Note
DID YOU KNOW? A common saying goes, “Red on yellow kill a fellow. Red on black venom lack.” But this isn’t always reliable! There are some venomous snakes out there that are sometimes “red on black,” such as the coral snake.

Active Hours

Corn Snake active in daytime

One big difference between milk snakes and corn snakes is their active hours. 

Corn snakes are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. Milk snakes, though, wake and begin crawling about at dusk throughout the night!

Diet and Feeding Schedule

Corn snake and packed rodent

Corn snakes do not eat corn, nor do milk snakes drink milk. All snakes are carnivores, with each species having its preference.

Corn snakes enjoy eating rodents such as rats and mice regularly. They only need to be fed once every 7 to 14 days, which is why they are so popular as pets.

Milk snakes are open to eating more things, from rodents to birds and even other reptiles. However, they must be fed more often, every 5-7 days.

Both the corn snake and the milk snake can survive up to 2 months without food.

Generally, never feed your pet snake something larger than its circumference. If you do, you may have serious trouble eating and digesting it!


In captivity, milk snakes and corn snakes can live up to 20 years old.

Therefore, you should only consider getting either of these as a pet if you are ready to spend at least two decades caring for it!

In the wild, however, both live shorter lives. Wild corn snakes usually only survive 6-8 years, while wild milk snakes live for about 15.

Price and Availability

Both corn and milk snakes can easily be found through online breeders or pet stores, though corn snakes tend to be more common.

Both species usually begin at about $50 but can cost as much as $1,000 for rarer morphs and breeds.

Enclosure Requirements

Snake enclosure with temperature control and lighting

Both pet corn snakes and pet milk snakes have the same basic requirements:

  • An enclosure large enough for them to be able to stretch out completely. A 75-gallon tank usually suffices for both corn and milk snakes.
  • Temperature control. Snakes appreciate having at least two available temperatures in their enclosure – a cooler side of about 75F and a warmer area of about 90F.
  • Controlled lighting. Since snakes are naturally active only at night or in the morning, their long-term health must be able to maintain their circadian rhythm.

There is one difference, though: corn snakes require higher humidity levels than milk snakes. Corn snakes need humidity levels of at least 65%-75%, while milk snakes are usually happy between 40%-60% humidity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Do The Milk Snake And Corn Snake Get Their Names?

Milk snakes are known as milk snakes because of a myth that they drink milk from cows at night. Though untrue, the name stuck.

Meanwhile, two theories exist about the corn snake’s name. It’s possible the corn snake’s name emerged either because of the similarity of their pattern to corn kernels or because the snake was often spotted near corn fields and grain stores.

What Are Other Snake Breeds Suitable For Beginner Pet Owners?

Aside from the milk snake and corn snake, other popular snake pet species includes Ball pythons, Carpet pythons, Rosy boas, Rainbow boas, Garter snakes, Brown snakes, Green snakes.

Here’s a video exploring some of these species, including the milk snake and corn snake:


Milk and corn snakes are excellent choices for your first pet snake. Which one you pick ultimately depends on which one’s schedule better fits your lifestyle.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not always about the species. The perfect snake pet out there for you is the one you truly connect with.

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