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Breeding the Common Kingsnake and it’s Relatives

Lampropeltis getula getulaThe Common Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula, is one of the first snakes to have been bred in captivity on a large scale, and remains extremely popular.  Eight distinctly-marked subspecies range throughout the USA and into Central America.  All breed well in captivity – the California Kingsnake (L.g. californiae), a pet trade staple, is available in a wide range of “designer patterns”.  The other subspecies may be seen in their “pure” forms or as crosses with related snakes, and include the Black Kingsnake, Florida Kingsnake, Eastern or Chain Kingsnake, Mexican Black Kingsnake (the only race which is jet back above and below), Desert Kingsnake, Speckled Kingsnake and Yuma Kingsnake (sometimes grouped with the California Kingsnake, as the “desert phase”).


Despite the wide range of habitats occupied by the various Common Kingsnake subspecies, all may be kept and bred in much the same manner (please write in for specific information on the subspecies in which you are interested).

Common Kingsnakes do well at temperatures of 76-86 F, and, being fairly secretive, require a secure hideaway.  They may be raised on a diet of mice, but all are partial to other snakes as food – pairs must be watched carefully, especially at feeding time


Kingsnakes should be subjected to a 2-3 month cooling off period at 59-68 F during the winter.  Copulation is most likely to occur from March-June, with eggs being laid 30-50 days thereafter.  A second clutch may be produced in late summer or early fall.  Clutch size varies from 3-21, with 9 eggs being the average.

Eggs and Hatchlings

Speckled KingsnakeEggs incubated in moist vermiculite (use a vermiculite: water ratio of 1:1 by weight – please see article below for details) at 82 F will hatch in 45-75 days.  The hatch rate is usually a pleasing 90% or higher.  The young, 9-13 inches long upon hatching, are large enough to take pink mice as their first meal.  Sexual maturity is reached at approximately 2 ½ years of age.

Further Reading

For further information on hatching snake eggs, please see my article Incubating Reptile Eggs.

Very interesting footage of wild California Kingsnakes is posted here.


Lampropeltis getula getula image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dawson


  1. avatar

    looking to buy a large common speckled kingsnake. grew up with them. love them. i built a 70 gallon enclosure. now i cant find one. can anyone help me? gotmeat70461@yahoo.com. please let me know

    • avatar

      Hello Kyle, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Hatchlings show up more often than adults on Kingsnake.com, but keep monitoring the dealers that list there. You might also try contacting Sweeney’s Exotics with your request.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    I was told 300g, 3′ TL, and 3 years of age was the accepted norm for breeding, 3,3,3 seems to easy what would you suggest for weight and length, you clearly stated 2.5 years of age as the age they typically become mature.


    • avatar

      Hello Moe, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Unfortunately it’s difficult to give exact recommendations for kingsnakes as the species has such a wide range and different populations vary within that range. Another complicating factor is the high incidence of crossbreeding subspecies and even species, as well as differences in husbandry techniques that may influence growth and sexual maturity. Therefore I felt it best to word the recommendation as “approximate”; the values you cite are also fine as general guidelines.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    I’m only working with Florida kings at the moment, 2 adults, 4 sub adults, and two hatchlings.

    • avatar

      Hello Moe, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback; nice animals, I’m surprised more people don’t work with them. I think the same breeding recommendations would apply as they are naturally quite adaptable. In the northern portion of their range the activity/growth period varies quite a bit with the weather (warm winters, cold snaps etc) so they seem able to take advantage of favorable conditions re breeding. They seem to naturally breed with eastern Kings in the north, many interesting variants show up in the field.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please let me know how they do.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  4. avatar

    Hi I have a speckeled king. And he or she is a foot long I am wanting to breed but I need to know iif it’s male or female how do I tell?

    • avatar

      Hello Ethan,

      At that size, you cannot determine the sex externally. Once mature, a male’s tail will taper gradually from the cloaca to tail tip, while a female’s tail will become narrow right after the cloaca (the hemipenes, below the cloaca, are the reason for the male’s thicker tails).

      Best, Frank

  5. avatar

    Dear Frank

    Is there a creature on this planet you did NOT work with…LOL
    I am about to take over a California King Snake from a friend of mine and we are very excited!
    How ever, is there a way to more or less determine the age of the snake by its length?
    I know an average adult length is 4ft and a huge factor is the feeding it had up to this stage.

    As to your previous comment “I’m surprised more people don’t work with them.” I think many people unfortunately go for venomous snakes for image purposes…

    Kind regards from Namibia

    • avatar

      Hi Gert,

      Nice to hear from you, I hope all is well.

      Unfortunately, no way to estimate age, for the reason you mention and also effects of so much selective breeding. The general info in this article on Milksnakes is applicable to care…let me know if you need anything.

      I’ve been very lucky in being able to indulge my wide interests….literally, have worked with ants to elephants! I tend to specialize on a few groups, but have worked in every building / department at the Bx Zoo…was even head mammal keeper for a time (rodents and bats a big interest, bred flying squirrels as a child, etc). Yet I remain as interested in the “basics” as always…due to my nephew’s interest, I’m now keeping the same local sakes, spiders, beetles, amphibs that I had as a boy, and enjoying just as much. Very few general naturalists, at least here, these days…of course specialization is useful, and necessary career wise, but so much is lost in the process. Lack of even basic interest in other than one’s prime interest amazes me (among biologists)…I once spoke with a grad student who had worked with chimps in central Africa, yet was not sure what an okapi looked like (we had a baby at the zoo, and she was setting off to see it!!)..many other examples.. I love the old naturalist-journal type books, many set in Africa..let me know if you need titles…Ivan Sanderson springs to mind as someone you’d enjoy reading.

      As you say re venomous snakes…very true! I’ve responded to 12 or so bites to private keepers here in NY over the years…all victims had, as far as I could see, very similar personalities – and all lost the surface macho nonsense very quickly after being bitten!

      Best regards, Frank

  6. avatar

    Dear Frank

    Have you any article on “pop” sexing a snake to determine its gender?
    I would think the dangerous part would be if you are unfamiliar with this method and the snake is indeed a female.

    Kind regards from Namibia

    • avatar

      Hi Gert,

      Very sorry I missed this…some glitches in notification system. Yes, very difficult to sex in that manner, and not always fool-proof. I would not recommend. Best regards, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Which of the three common colubrids is more active? I read conflicting information on the web. Generally milk snakes are described as hiding terrestrial burrowers, corn snakes as either sluggish, active, burrowers or skilled climbers, and king snakes either as hiders or more active than the aforementioned two and good climbers. What is the truth?

    • avatar


      None can really be classified as active…mainly move from basking to hiding site, or if very hungry or in breeding condition. The most active snakes are the hi-metabolism and sight-hunters – i.e. various racers (tough o find and keep), garter snakes as mentioned earlier, and some of the S American and European colubrids – Tiger ratsnakes , Russian ratsnakes,; also Red tailed ratsnakes and various “Beauty” snakes tend to be more active than the pet trade staples. Best, Frank

  8. avatar

    What about the Texas black ratsnake? Isn’t it more active than the corn snake?

  9. avatar

    How about breeding a Melanistic Chocolate Chain Kingsnake to an Albino New Port California Kingsnake? Good idea or bad?

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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