Egg-eating snakes are very unique pets that we find quite interesting. Caring for one is fairly straightforward, but their egg-only diet is something that many owners aren’t used to!
Because of this noticeable difference, these reptiles appeal to those who want a slightly different experience when it comes to snake ownership.
This guide will teach you everything there is to know about African egg-eating snake care. It covers all the facts you need to help these friendly and gentle creatures thrive!
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If you don’t love the idea of feeding a pet snake live animals, the African egg-eating snake (Dasypeltis scabra) is a good alternative to other predatory species. As their name would suggest, these snakes feed exclusively on the eggs of birds!
Endemic to sub-Saharan African and the Middle East, the egg-eating snake has a pretty wide distribution. They’re often seen living on the edges of forests and savannas where they have easy access to bird nests.
Non-venomous and generally docile, these are wonderful pet snakes to own. They are beautiful creatures with some unique behaviors and lifestyle habits that any reptile lover will enjoy.
Appearance & Colors
Technically speaking, there are over 16 different egg-eating snake species throughout Africa. But the Dasypeltis scabra is the most widespread (and the species that’s most commonly kept as a pet).
The body of this snake is covered in grayish-brown scales, which help it blend in with the dry brush of their natural habitat. The base color is broken up with spots and subtle bands of black or dark brown. On the bellies, the scales are white.
While many snake species have triangular heads, that’s not the case with the egg-eating snake. Its head is relatively small, rounded, and uniform with the rest of the body.
African egg-eaters have keeled scales, which is not unusual for snakes of this size. Oftentimes, these creatures will rub those scales together to create a hissing sound. It’s a defense mechanism used to ward off potential threats!
Expert Tip: One of the things that many owners like about these snakes is their wide and expressive eyes. Depending on the situation, they can either look quite cute or extremely intense!
In captivity, the average egg-eating snake lifespan is typically between 10 and 15 years. This is the average lifespan for a snake that has received proper care and attention (and wasn’t purchased from a low-quality seller).
As always, there are no guarantees. Like any other pet, African egg-eating snakes will respond negatively to poor living conditions and an incorrect diet! If you don’t cover their basic needs, these snakes will likely suffer from disease and die prematurely.
The average size of an egg-eating snake is 24 to 30 inches. Females tend to be a bit larger than males, and will grow to the upper end of the size spectrum far more regularly. This makes determining their gender a bit more simple.
Expert Tip: Size is primarily determined by the quality of care these snakes receive as well as their genetics. You can increase the chance of getting a pet with great genetics by purchasing from a reputable seller or breeder.
Egg-Eating Snake Care
Whether you’re a seasoned snake-owner or a complete novice, egg-eating snake care is definitely a unique experience. They’re not too difficult, but there’s no denying that this species has different needs than many other snakes in the trade.
Luckily, egg-eating snakes are quite hardy and undemanding. As long as you follow these care guidelines, your snake should have no problem staying happy and healthy.
You don’t need a massive enclosure for the egg-eating snake. A standard 20-gallon tank or vivarium works just fine.
Focus more on length than height. African egg-eating snakes do climb, but they are largely terrestrial. Thus, they need more floor space than climbing space.
We recommend getting a tank that’s no smaller than 24 inches wide, about 18 inches deep, and 12 inches tall. A reptile enclosure with a front-facing door is best.
Expert Tip: You can always use a large plastic tub as well. Whatever you use, don’t forget to make sure that the enclosure has adequate ventilation for humidity management!
A habitat setup that mimics their natural environment is ideal for egg-eating snakes (obviously). But because their natural distribution is so wide, it’s tough to pinpoint the exact biotype to mimic. That said, basic natural decor should be enough to keep your snake happy and well-stimulated.
Start with a thin layer of substrate. You can use snake-safe bedding, aspen shavings, or even bark shaving. These snakes are not burrowers, so you only need about an inch of substrate.
Then, add sticks, thick branches, and some vines. Your snake will use those additions as climbing surfaces every once in a while. This will help them feel more at home and provide them with additional enrichment.
Vegetation is next! You can add live plants, but make sure they are durable. Egg-eaters have a penchant for destroying delicate plants. To keep things simple, you can utilize soft silk plants instead.
To finish off the enclosure, add a few hide boxes. These boxes should be large enough for the snake to curl up in. Place one on the cool side, one on the hot side, and one in the middle. Stuff the middle hide box with some damp moss to create a more humid environment inside.
Expert Tip: Hide boxes are critical for temperature regulation, but also because they give your egg-eating snake a place to hide and digest. Without them, your pet will live in a constant state of stress (which can cause health complications)
Temperature & Lighting
The average ambient temperatures of the enclosure should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Like all snakes, egg-eating snakes are cold-blooded. So, they thermoregulate by moving to different temperature zones.
In your enclosure, you need a cool side and a warm side. The warm side should be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can achieve this temperature with a basking lamp or an under-tank heating pad.
African egg-eating snakes can tolerate nighttime temperature dips. However, temperatures should never fall below 60 degrees. If they do, install a heat emitter to produce some warmth throughout the night.
These snakes need a standard day and night cycle. Connect your standard lights to a timer to ensure that the snake’s routine stays constant.
UVB lights are not necessary for this species, but you can install them for good measure if you’re worried about your snake’s ability to synthesize calcium. This usually comes down to the preference of the owner.
Egg-eating snakes require 40 to 60 percent humidity in their enclosure. To raise humidity levels, mist the enclosure once a day. Some of this moisture will be absorbed by the substrate and plants, making it easy to maintain consistency in the environment.
Expert Tip: It’s important for all owners to pick up a reliable hygrometer. This little tool will help you keep track of humidity at all times. Invest in a high-quality one, since cheap hygrometers will often give you inaccurate readings.
A water bowl is a must-have for these reptiles. While most snakes aren’t going to lap up water like other animals, they will still use this water supply for other purposes.
Not only does it help keep humidity high, but your egg-eating snake may soak to alleviate difficult sheds. Some will even soak to cool off!
Keep an eye on the dish and make sure to clean it out anytime your snake defecates in it. Also, replenish the water regularly so that your snake always has access to clean water. Dirty water can quickly lead to bacteria and disease.
Food & Diet
Eggs are the only source of food these snakes will take! This is one of the species that don’t eat mice or other rodents.
With that being said, you’ll need to purchase a variety of different eggs. These snakes aren’t able to eat standard chicken eggs right off the bat. Most will have to spend years eating smaller eggs from finches, quails, canaries, and other birds.
It’s also important to know that egg-eating snakes prefer fresh eggs, so you’ll need to prepare accordingly.
They are not capable of digesting eggs that have a semi-formed embryo inside. As a result, most won’t even attempt to eat old eggs. Thanks to their astute sense of smell, the snakes can determine whether or not an egg is developed.
Many will accept unfertilized eggs that have been refrigerated. However, you need to allow the egg to reach room temperature first.
Young snakes will need to eat once a week. As they get older, and the eggs get larger, you can scale back to feeding the snake every 10 days or so.
Expert Tip: After the snake eats the egg, it will regurgitate the shell. That’s completely normal! You can discard it later after the feeding.
Potential Health Issues
There are no diseases that affect the African egg-eating snake in particular. However, they can suffer from all of the common ailments.
Snakes can suffer from respiratory infections when the humidity and temperature levels are off. They can also experience bacterial infections, parasites, scale rot, and mites when the tank is not clean!
Stay on top of tank conditions to avoid health problems. Spot clean messes regularly and perform a deep sanitization every month.
When you first bring your snake home, quarantine them to ensure that they are disease-free. Breeding the egg-eating snake in captivity is quite rare. As a result, most snakes on the market are wild-caught. They can easily harbor bacteria and diseases that will spread if you don’t quarantine them.
Behavior & Temperament
Egg-eating snakes are docile and even-tempered. In the beginning, they can be shy and even a bit jumpy. Don’t worry this is normal!
Give your pet some time to acclimate to their new home. Before you know it, they’ll show signs of comfort and stress-free living!
The species isn’t known for aggression, but they may get defensive and flighty (depending on the situation). You may even hear that simulated hissing we mentioned earlier! Fortunately, those defensive behaviors rarely result in a bite.
Once they get comfortable with you and its new habitat, African egg-eating snakes don’t mind handling. In fact, regular handling can help the snake relax and avoid nervous behavior.
As always, be gentle when handling these snakes. Support their bodies and allow them to get comfortable. Most snakes will wrap around your arm like they would a tree. After they settle in your hand, they’re ready for the ride!
Expert Tip: Avoid handling these snakes after feeding and back off if they are looking a bit nervous. Bites are rare, but they can still happen.
The good news is that these snakes don’t have fangs, so bites are not painful.
As you can see, egg-eating snake care isn’t very difficult. Once you get used to their feeding requirements, these reptiles are actually a piece of cake to own!
We love these creatures and know many other owners who feel the same way. Their low-maintenance nature and gentle temperament makes them quite beginner-friendly (or good for an experienced owner who doesn’t want any hassle).
If you have questions about anything we covered in this care sheet, send us a message! We’re always happy to help clear things up and chat with our readers.