African House Snake Care
The African house snake is a small species of colubrid found across most of sub-Saharan Africa in a huge range of different habitats. It’s thought that there is a whole complex of closely related species that can only be separated by DNA data, so the state of taxonomy within the pet trade is decidedly messy!
Generally, it is accepted that there are two species most commonly seen being offered for sale, Boaedon fuliginosus, sometimes called the brown house snake, and Boaedon capensis, which is just described as the African house snake. The two species are also very closely related to a third species sometimes seen, the lined house snake B. lineatus, which appears to be common in the western part of the snake’s range. Common throughout their range, African house snakes can be found around human habitation and farmland drawn by the rodents that feed on grain and rubbish.
All that aside, they reach between 60 to 120cm in length with the males usually being smaller than the females. Colours range from a light tan through olive green to almost black, sometimes patternless and sometimes with an eye stripe and mottled patterns along the back. They all have a very pale underside, and also have a bright iridescence in natural light that is particularly striking on the patternless specimens.
In the wild, these snakes come from such a wide variety of habitats that it is difficult to pinpoint any one system of care; as they are generalists, however, then as long as they have sufficient space and there is a sufficient temperature gradient between 30 to 32ºC in the warm end down to 25ºC in the cool end they will be happy. Temperatures can drop to 20ºC at night. Never guess the temperature, always measure with a good quality digital thermometer.
An active species that can often be seen out and about during the day, the house snake needs space. A 90cm wooden or glass vivarium is suitable for a single snake, although bigger is always better; heating should be provided via a deep heat projector at one end of the vivarium, preferably with a small basking spot to provide a ‘sunbeam’ effect for basking. As a snake that is at least partially diurnal, they should always be offered UV light on a simple 12 hour on/12 hour off schedule.
Feeding tends to be very straightforward for juveniles and adults. Simply put, they will eat just about anything! Although newly hatched babies can be awkward to get started, once they are feeding they are enthusiastic about whatever is put in front of them. Defrosted frozen mice are a good staple, but they will also take rats, hamsters, quail chicks, gerbils and day old chicks, depending on the size of the individual.
Youngsters can be flighty, although with regular, gentle handling they will usually become quite calm and accepting of time outside the vivarium. Always provide plenty of cover, as the more hides you give them the more likely you are to see them out and about. Many of them will appreciate being given the opportunity to climb, so provide climbing branches within their habitat.
Although they can be kept communally, it is very important to keep them in same sex groups until they are large enough to breed safely. Females that breed too young can be prone to egg binding, a serious condition that can be rapidly fatal without immediate veterinary intervention. Despite being easy to breed, these snakes are often available as wild caught specimens. These can be flighty and difficult to feed, so avoid buying them unless you are a very experienced snake keeper. If you are looking for a snake pet that is somewhat different then always select captive bred stock, and insist on a feeding record.