How Often Do Snakes Shed? What Happens After?

Ritwik Bhuyan
Feb 29, 2024 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Oct 13, 2021
Edited by Jade Scott
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Bush Viper shedding it's skin.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.7 Min

The shedding process for a snake can be really stressful and uncomfortable, and it can be the same for snake owners if the process is not known and understood.

The age, environment, and the species of the snake are things to consider when we find out how frequently snakes shed their skin. Generally, a snake's skin is shed every six to eight weeks or three to six times a year.

First, let us establish why snakes shed their skin. There must be some humans who have noticed a snake skin lying around while on a hike in the jungle. It is actually quite natural to encounter the shed skin. All animals shed their skin including us, however, it is a continuous process and hardly noticed. In snakes, it's different as they shed their skin all at once. Snakes shed their skin periodically and the old skin comes off in one piece. This shedding process is quite similar to other reptiles. If you see a shed skin, you will notice that it is exactly the same shape and pattern as the snake, of course without the actual snake! This shedding process is called ecdysis. Some researchers also often call the natural phenomenon molting or sloughing. The reason for a snake to shed its skin is to allow for further growth of the body and to also remove parasites from the old skin.

Like us humans, the skins in your pet are not hugely stretchable. Instead, when the snake is growing, the old skin becomes useless to a point and then they shed. A new layer of skin grows under the old skin. Once the new skin is formed, the old layer of skin is discarded which leaves a snake-shaped shell with patterns of the scales. Do not be afraid of it if you see it in the dark! In order for a snake to shed its skin, it needs proper humidity and the snake might even go for a swim to loosen the old one. The water will completely loosen the outer layer of your pet species. Snakes even typically create a rip in the old skin (in the mouth or nose area) once ready to shed the old layer. This rip is created when the snakes rub their skin against rocks or something of a similar texture. The snake skin layers left behind will always be inside out and in mint condition (probably with parasites).

A snake sheds their skin quite often which can be between two and four times a year, however, this completely depends upon the age of the snake and the environment (humidity, moisture, and temperature) the snake is living in. Also, the snake's skin schedule could differ from species to species. Young snakes shed their skin every two weeks, and older ones twice a year. Don't worry if you see a snake getting new skin. Humans shed skin cells in the millions every day. If you are wondering how to know when your snake's shedding, there are few ways you can tell. Firstly the eyes turn a dull, bluish-white color, often giving a cloudy texture, and subsequently, the skin turns pale and dull in color. As snakes do not have eyelids, they have scales above the eye called eye caps that protect the eyes in the head. These eye caps usually come off in shedding. However, sometimes the snakes are unable to get rid of eye caps resulting in a sign of health problems where there will be more than one retained cap.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also find out the answers to how often do puppies pee and why do snakes eat themselves here on Kidadl?

When does a snake first shed its skin?

Every animal needs to shed its skin from time to time and this process is seen in all types of animals and mammals in the world. It is a pure and natural process of the body where old dead skin cells from the body make room for new ones. Your pet snake will do the same, so do not be alarmed if you see your snake shedding skin every few weeks.

Young snakes shed their old skin for new skin quite often and you can notice this happening every few weeks. Your young pet snake's growth rate will be very quick and as the skin does not grow with the body like humans, the young pet begins to accommodate changes quicker and sheds its skin a few inches at a time. Shedding time is related to the age, living environment, and species of your pet. A newborn snake will take just a week to begin shedding. Yes, just one week after birth it will need a new skin to go along with healthy growth. However, as the snakes grow, the time between shedding increases. Snakes between the ages of one to six months will shed once every two to four weeks, while snakes older than this and younger than two years will shed once every one to three months. A fully grown snake will continue the shedding process once every three to six months. As a snake approaches the shedding process, the related old skin will become dull and dark in color. The eyes become milky white (similar to cataracts in humans) and the snake won't be able to see anything.

During this shedding process, the old skin becomes fragile and easy to tear while the new skin remains sensitive and immature. Do not handle your snake during this shedding period as it might damage their skin and injure the animal too. The shedding snake will probably become irritable and will refuse to eat any food. You will notice the snake hiding most of the time. A snake will shed its natural dead skin as it will rub its nose and face against rough objects in its tank. The snake then peels back over the neck and head and slithers out, turning the skin inside out. Place a rock, log, or brick in the tank to help the snake shed. Sometimes a snake begins to shed but is unable to shed completely. In this situation, soak the snake in lukewarm water for an hour and remove all dead skin from the snake. This is the reason humidity is so important in a snake's life. Shedding issues can increase in winters when there is a lack of humidity due to dry heat used in the tank. So, keep notice of any signs in this situation that can hurt the health of a snake tremendously.

A ball python shedding its skin.

Do snakes shed at a particular time of year?

There is no particular time of the year that determines when to shed the skin for a snake. It happens continuously throughout the year depending on the age, environment, and species of the snake.

There is no particular season for a healthy snake that is best for shedding its skin and it sheds throughout the year. The shedding is dependent on the environment, the snake's health, and the age of the snake as young ones are known for shedding every few weeks, and as they grow up the shedding frequency goes up too. However, if we keep the snake in a tank, we need to make sure to make the habitat as comfortable as possible as less water content can make it very difficult for the snake to shed completely and can also have an adverse effect on its health. Incomplete shedding (dysecdysis) can create a really bad life for the snake and is sometimes caused by some infectious diseases, parasites, or just nutrient deficiency. As a pet owner, you need to care for the habitat as well as the food the snake is receiving. Before any more problems arise due to diseases, go and see a vet for an answer on the condition.

Do all snakes shed the same amount?

The shedding time of a healthy snake depends on the age and species. Young ones actively grow for some time and need to shed their dead skin quite often while the older ones need their skin changed only twice or thrice a year.

Depending on the breed of the snake, you can easily identify the snakes. As snakes shed their skin in a single piece, it is normal to mistake a snake skin for a snake in the dark. Snakes as we know, continue growing throughout their lives, and shedding their skin is a healthy part of that lifestyle. Whenever they grow too big for their current skin, they change skins and all species of snakes do that. On average per year, snakes shed around three to six times. The older the snake gets, the slower the shedding will be as there is no more room for growth. If we take an example of a corn snake, new hatchlings of the species take about a week of being born to shed their skin. In the beginning, they will continue shedding every few weeks. However, as the snakes get older, the shedding continues only at a rate of once every few months. It takes about 30 minutes for all snakes to shed completely. However, there have been instances of snakes taking hours at a stretch to shed depending on the size and age of said snake.

Do baby snakes shed more?

Like us humans, snake babies continue growing at a faster rate until they reach a mature age. It is normal to see these young snakes shedding more for few months after birth.

Young ones typically shed more skin than adults. This is due to the growth spurt in the young ones. Humans are also known to shed, but the process is continuous and our skin has the ability to stretch as much as we grow. Snakes do not have that luxury and need to change their skin once a certain length has been achieved. Baby snakes grow very fast after birth. Hatchings need to change their skin as quickly as once a week to compensate for the increase in length and this is the reason they shed more. However, with time, the growth becomes slower and the rate of shedding also slows down to few weeks and then a few months once they become mature.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how often do snakes shed then why not take a look at when do snakes hibernate or Indian Rat Snake Facts.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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