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How to Switch Your Snake From Live to Frozen Thawed | Tips and Tricks

How to Switch Your Snake From Live to Frozen Thawed | Tips and Tricks

Switching Your Snake From Live Prey to Frozen Thawed 

For many snake owners, transitioning their pet from live prey to frozen-thawed meals unlocks a world of convenience and peace of mind. 

There are several reasons to switch your snake from live prey to frozen thawed. Whether you are looking to make the switch for your own convenience, the safety of your pet, or ethical reasons, we are here to help!

Some snakes readily accept the switch, others can be stubborn and more picky, especially if they have been on live for a long time. With time and dedication, you can successfully help your snake make the switch!

It is first important to ensure your snake is not having trouble eating due to husbandry errors or stress. To learn more about proper reptile care, head over to our Care Sheets and Articles page!


  • Mimic the body temperature of live prey: Thaw your frozen rodent in lukewarm water (not hot!) until it reaches body temperature (around 95-100°F) Use a thermometer to ensure precision. 

This trick is designed for species that use thermal signatures to locate and hunt prey.

Unsure if your snake hunts by sensing heat? Check for the presence of heat sensing pits on the front of their face! Species like pythons (ie. ball pythons, reticulated pythons) and some boas have these heat sensing pits. This trick will not work for snakes without heat pits like corn snakes, hognose, or common boas, but serving prey lukewarm is not a bad idea.


  • Make it look alive: A frozen rodent lacks the movement of a live one, which can confuse the snake and make them not register the prey as food. Gently wiggle the prey with tongs to mimic lifelike motions and trigger their hunting instincts. Try not to wiggle too harshly or make abrupt motions right by your snake to avoid startling them. 

Snakes without heat sensing pits utilize their sight to recognize and hunt prey. Making the frozen prey appear alive can help your snake recognize it as food. 


  • Perfect the Thaw : Different methods of thawing will change the amount of scent that remains on the prey item. For example, thawing in lukewarm water will dilute the scent and make the prey wet, which may cause pickier snakes to turn up their nose at mealtime. Putting the prey item in a baggy in warm water can preserve the scent within the bag and not wet the prey and dilute any of the odor. Likewise, defrosting in the refrigerator overnight can cause the smell to dissipate, or other refrigerator smells to cling to the prey. Using a baggy will help keep the frozen prey smelling more potent. 
  • Scent transfer trickery : Briefly touch the frozen rodent to a live prey item or soiled bedding from their enclosure. This transfers the fresh odor of a live rodent to your frozen prey and can enhance the smell to encourage your snake to hunt. 
  • “Spice” Up the Meal: Some snake species respond well to scent enhancers like tuna juice, chicken broth, or scenting juice. Commercial scenting juices of different prey items are available to help switch picky snakes onto new protein options. Apply the scenting juice sparingly around the frozen prey’s face/head so that your snake gets a whiff as they investigate the prey item.

Snakes heavily utilize their sense of smell to identify prey items and the world around them. By flicking their tongues, they pull smell back to a specialized olfactory organ called the “Jacobson's Organ”. Then, they will analyze the smell and make decisions about their surroundings and whether they are in the presence of prey or a predator. 


  • Ditch the tongs: Some snakes may be nervous around tongs or forceps. If this is the case, try placing the thawed rodent directly in their enclosure overnight when they're most active and seeing if they will seek out and eat the rodent on their own.
  • Color: Some very picky snakes may be prone to eating prey of a certain color. Some have reported that their snake will only eat light or dark colored rodents. You may find it helpful to stick to a familiar color when trying new prey items to see if it will help your snake accept their new menu item.
  • No Takeout, Please!: A common myth is that snakes will become “aggressive” if they are fed in their enclosure. In reality, snakes are much more comfortable eating “at home” rather than being moved to an external tub or tank to eat. Moving a snake to an external receptacle to eat can cause them not to eat from stress, or could even cause them to regurgitate if they do eat. If you are worried about being mistaken for a rodent when you want to handle your snake, try using a snake hook to tap train them; tap them lightly on the head when you are wanting to handle them. This communicates to your snake that it is not mealtime, and you are getting them out of the enclosure. 
Once your snake understands tap training means handling, you can look into target training your snake to show them that it is mealtime! By using a target on a stick and having your snake investigate, you then reward your snake’s interest in the target by offering them their meal. They will then associate the target with getting food! Snakes really ARE trainable! 

Patience is Key:

  • Don't force it: Introducing new food can be stressful for your snake. Offer frozen-thawed meals consistently but patiently. Oftentimes, snakes are more receptive to eating in the evening hours when they are out of their hide exploring rather than lifting their hide and risking startling them. Don't handle them for 24 hours after eating or refusing a meal to avoid stressing your snake out and/or causing regurgitation.
  • Give it Time: Some snakes may need to be quite hungry to accept a new form of prey. Healthy snakes that are well started young adults to adults are not at risk if they refuse a few meals. Young snakes that must eat more often to maintain health are different, and you may need to wait for your snake to put on size to hold out hope they will get hungrier and accept food. 
  • Small steps, big wins: If your snake only accepts live prey, try offering a pre-killed rodent first. This eases the transition to the lack of movement without the ethical concerns.
A note on ethics: many reptile shops will offer pre-killed rodents for sale. It is ideal to support shops that use C02 or cervical dislocation for the quickest dispatch methods. It is strongly advised to not dispatch rodents via bashing or slamming, as there is lots of room for error that results in suffering for the animal. 

Seek Expert Guidance:

  • Consult your veterinarian: When in doubt, consult a reptile savvy veterinarian to discuss your snake's specific needs and any underlying health conditions that could affect their feeding habits.
  • Connect with fellow reptile enthusiasts: Online communities offer valuable insights and support from experienced snake owners who have successfully navigated the switch.

Remember, every snake is an individual with unique preferences. Be patient, experiment with different techniques, and celebrate even small victories! With the right approach, you can help your pet snake switch to a more convenient and ethical way of eating!

At Zen Habitats, we are here for you and your reptiles! We strive to enrich the lives of pet reptiles and empower their owners to give them the best life possible! Have any questions about how to elevate your reptile’s life? Our Zen Gurus are live every day to answer your questions, and we have dozens of articles about the care and wellbeing of reptiles! We look forward to chatting with you!

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