First things first!! Making sure the snakes you are planning to breed are indeed a male and female. There are many methods for determining this. Popping, probing or by looking at the tail. If you are not familiar with any of these methods. Seek out an experienced keeper or breeder for assistance. You may also bring the snake to a qualified veterinarian for assistance.
Popping is a very safe and mostly reliable method for determining the sex of your snake. This method can only be done on very young snakes, up to 18" in length. It involves applying pressure on the tail end of the snake, about a half inch from the vent, applying soft but steady pressure and exposing the hemipenes. When attempting this, if no hemipenes are discovered, it is more likely a female.
Tail Identification is another method of determining sex. This is not a very reliable method for determining the sex of a corn snake and if you plan to breed, you may want to explore alternative methods.
A males tail will be longer and thinner, then a females. It will begin to taper right after the vent and continue, gradually tapering off. A females tale will be short and taper rather quickly.
Probing is one of the most effecting methods of sexing. It is done by inserting a metal or plastic, blunt probe, through the vent and into the tail.
First you start off by choosing an appropriate sized probe and using a water based lube, like KY Jelly. Starting at the belly side, you insert the probe into the vent, toward the tail. Turning and sliding it very gently so you do not puncture the cloaca. Once it is in as far as it will go, take your finger and mark the depth at the vent. Then gently remove the probe. Holding it across the tail, if it goes in as deep as the tail is wide, then it is a female. If it travels as far as, up to four times the width of the tale, then it is a male.
You may be able to successfully breed your corn snake, without brumating them. Realize that when you try to reproduce winter conditions and place a snake in brumation, they may not survive the process. Only attempt brumation on a very healthy specimen and maintain ideal conditions. Check on them often and get them up if any problem is noticed.
Once you are sure that you have a male and female corn snake, then you will begin to prepare them for the upcoming breeding season. If you are planning on brumating them, you will need to start in late September. You will start to increase their feedings to every 5-7 days and make sure they are of a good weight. Continue to do this, through the month of October.
In early November, you will start decreasing their meals and reducing the amount of light they are exposed to. Do this gradually, remember you are trying to reproduce the natural reduction of light, that they will experience in the wild. Once you begin to decrease their light, offer them no more food. You want to make sure their gut is cleared of any food, so make sure they are pooping. Do this for about three weeks.
Once you are sure that the snake has no more food in their intestine, then you will begin to reduce the tank temps. Place them in a container that is separate from their regular tank. Give them plenty of substrate and a bowl of water. Place them in an area of the house that the temps will fall below 60F, but no lower than 40F. They will stay in this container for the next few months.
You do not need to feed them, but will continue to check on them, at least once a week. Making sure they have plenty of water and they are not developing any illnesses. If you should see something out of the ordinary, do not be afraid to get them right up and warm.
During this time, their bodies are going through changes. The males are starting to develop an ample supply of viable semen and the females bodies are getting ready for egg production. You will want to leave them in this state for about 3 months.
So here comes February and it's time to get the snakes up. It's a lot easier than you think. You will want to move the containers from the really cool area, to a warmer section of the house. I would leave them there, for about a day, exposing them to a slightly warmer temperature. The next day, it will be OK to move them right back into their own enclosures and then turn the heat on.
Wait three to five days after waking them, to give them a good feed. You should be able to return them to their normal feeding schedule. Don't be alarmed if they, especially the male, refuse to eat. This is very normal! He will more than likely be cruising his tank, looking for female. They are almost programmed for this, when they get up. You are waiting for them to shed first.
Once they have both shed, more important, the female sheds, then you will want to introduce them together. Preferably into a separate tank that has only newspaper or paper towels on the bottom. Try to stay away from loose substrate, because it could get caught in the cloaca of the female and cause an infection. Add the females sloughed skin to the container, because this will contain a lot of the hormone scent of the female and will really get him in the mood.
They will usually breed within fifteen minutes of being introduced. The male will slither his way up along the top of the female and when the two vents are aligned, he will insert one or both of his hemipenes, into her cloaca. The entire collaboration will last only a few minutes. Once it is done, you will want to remove them and place them back in their enclosures. You should see the evidence of the meeting, on the floor of the container. Repeat the meeting at least, one more time.
(If for some reason, the meeting doesn't go as planned and there is "No Action", after a couple of attempts, don't lose hope. Hold off the meetings until the female sheds again. Repeat the same process as you did before. If after all this, you still have no luck. You may have to realize that it may not happen with these two. They may just not find one another compatible for whatever reason.)
Continue to offer them food as normal. If you notice that the female is beginning to get big (is gravid) or is going to shed, then stop offering food. This is the time that you are going to want to add the laying box.
Setting up an egg box is rather simple. You will want something that isn't very big. Maybe the size of a shoe box. Made of plastic though. Fill it up with paper towels or sphagnum moss. Wet the material with enough water that it feels wet but is not dripping. Place this in the bottom of the tank. It will take about thirty to forty five days from the breeding for the female to lay her eggs. She will deposit anywhere from 2 to 25 eggs in the container. She should have them all laid within 24 hours of the first one.
Keep an eye on her, but leave her alone. You just want to make sure that she doesn't bind up (eggs get stuck). If, for some reason, she hasn't laid all her eggs, within 24 hours of the first one, she may need immediate medical assistance and if it is not treated, she could die.
Once all of the eggs are laid, allow them 24 hours to dry. The eggs will be covered in a milky, sticky substance. It will cause the eggs to stick together. Then it is OK to move them to the incubator. An incubator could be made out of many things. It can be a complex homemade one that regulates the temperature of the eggs or something that is as simple as a plastic container. The only thing that needs to be a constant, is the temperature and moisture.
Before you move them, take a pencil and mark the top of all the eggs. You will want to do this, because you cannot tip or rotate the eggs. They developing snakes inside will breath air that passes through the shell of the egg. Do not separate any of the ones that are clumped together. You will want to remove any slugs though (they will be smaller and have a yellow color to them).
You will want to place the eggs into a bedding of vermiculite that is at least one inch deep and is wet, but not too wet. Just wet enough that if you squeezed it a little tightly, it will drip. Once the eggs are in the incubation device, you will need to maintain a constant temperature of 85F. This is important! A couple of degrees of difference is OK, but 85F is what you are trying to shoot for. You will want to check the temps several times a day.
Check on the actual eggs once a week, making sure that no molds or fungus is growing on them. You will also want to check for more slugs and to make sure the substrate is still wet. If you need to add water, do so, but do not soak any of the eggs. Only add to the edges of the container. Do not over moisten.
Continue to check the eggs for about once a week for about five weeks. Then begin to check them daily, looking for pips. At first, you will see some of the eggs begin to break and a sharp little tooth come through the side. The hatchlings will then begin to move their heads out of the eggs sometimes pausing for hours. Do not disturb them or try to remove them from the eggs. Let them do this on their own.
Do not remove any of the pips, until all of them have hatched. Once they all have been hatched, they will begin to explore the incubator and bury themselves under the vermiculite. After they have all hatched, then you can move them into their own tanks.
The tanks you house them in, should be very small. The little snakes will be very timid and want to hide, so provide them a good place to begin to feel secure. Monitor their temperatures and provide them with fresh water. You will want to wait to feed them, until after their first shed.