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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Looking in to what to get for a 4x2x2 viv that will likely be available in the coming months. If I go down the snake route, I’d pretty much set my heart on an MBK, but noting that their availability can be seasonal, and their popularity means they can be pretty pricey and availability can come & go quickly, I’ve started to also consider California Kingsnakes. Care seems basically similar. Are there any glaring differences that I should be aware of? Size, temperament, feeding etc. Or anything else generally? I’d be a first time snake owner (but not first time reptile owner) so please do take that into consideration too. Main reasons for looking in this direction are -

They’re diurnal
Good eaters
Don’t require high humidity

I’d certainly be willing to consider others suggestions around this outline.

Thanks
 

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Any of the kings would be suitable, but MBKs have become hard to find & expensive.
 

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I'm going to guess that MBKs will come down in price, as more are bred in response to the interest. The price rise is a bit shocking to me, as my MBK barely cost any more than my corn snake!

Personally, as much I share your enthusiasm for a full-black snake, I wouldn't pay for a MBK at the current price when there are so many other kingsnakes around. YMMV, though - it is a long-lived animal, so think of it as an investment-per-year. If you can afford it and it's worth it to you, then it's worth it.

As far as I know, calis make for just as good pets. They're both great snakes so long as you're fine with it being nippy and dumb as a bag of rocks.

You might want to look into some other kingsnakes as well. I don't know much about them, but I know there exists things like the chain/eastern kingsnake, which is more black than the cali. Well worth checking what's around.
 

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There's two main 'groups' of kingsnakes, you've got your 'getula' and your 'mexicana'.

Getula are bigger, they're your MBK's, Cali's, Florida, chain, speckled etc. They're generally all pretty similar to each other, with a different paint job on the outside. My favourite is the speckled, when you find a really nice one with black scales and a neat yellow dot on each scale, but you don't see them around much.

Mexicanas are smaller and much less keen to eat each other during breeding attempts. It includes Leonis, greybanded, Arizona mountains, Mex-mex. I love these little dudes, and the Leonis also comes in a plain black melanistic form that looks like a mini MBK, only getting to 3.5ft or so. I think they greybanded kings are awesome, especially the ones with big orange markings between the grey bands.

Theres also all the milksnakes, which are part of the kingsnake family but just called milksnakes instead. The Leonis kingsnake also comes in a fake milksnake-alike colour.

With how expensive MBK's are currently, you can afford to look at all the alternatives available 😂 even an Arizona mountain king looks a reasonable price in comparison now!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So MBK’s & Cali Kings grow to roughly the same size? I’d read in one or two places that Cali kings are often smaller than MBK. I’d also read that (obviously individuals are individuals) MBK’s are generally more docile than Cali’s? As a first timer, that’s a fairly attractive prospect! Although I’ve no doubt I’d get over it after the first time I’m tagged and my arm doesn’t fall off... 😆
 

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So MBK’s & Cali Kings grow to roughly the same size? I’d read in one or two places that Cali kings are often smaller than MBK. I’d also read that (obviously individuals are individuals) MBK’s are generally more docile than Cali’s? As a first timer, that’s a fairly attractive prospect! Although I’ve no doubt I’d get over it after the first time I’m tagged and my arm doesn’t fall off... 😆
Other way round in both instances. Cali's usually top 4', MBKs rarely do. MBKs & Cali's (& all the getula complex bar L getula getula, the Eastern chain king) tend to be nippy, but MBKs usually moreso than Cali's.
 

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I've handled 3 MBK's. None were mine, they were shop stock, so I didn't handle them many times between coming in and being sold. All 3 bit me at least once each, the most determined being the hatchling that spent ages trying to swallow my little finger. These bites were more than likely due to my hands smelling of snakes and them being snake eaters. There was never any aggression, just latching on and trying to eat me.

Never had this problem with the yellow faced mangroves, retics, yellow anacondas, olive pythons.

Also, bear in mind that the writeups for Cali's and MBK's from America are talking about American line animals. For some reason, the UK lines of Cali's and MBK's are not as friendly, I can only assume that there's been a limited number of imported animals that all UK stock is descended from, and that they happened to be a bit salty.
 

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I've handled 3 MBK's. None were mine, they were shop stock, so I didn't handle them many times between coming in and being sold. All 3 bit me at least once each, the most determined being the hatchling that spent ages trying to swallow my little finger. These bites were more than likely due to my hands smelling of snakes and them being snake eaters. There was never any aggression, just latching on and trying to eat me.

Never had this problem with the yellow faced mangroves, retics, yellow anacondas, olive pythons.

Also, bear in mind that the writeups for Cali's and MBK's from America are talking about American line animals. For some reason, the UK lines of Cali's and MBK's are not as friendly, I can only assume that there's been a limited number of imported animals that all UK stock is descended from, and that they happened to be a bit salty.
Francis (Thrasops) has also commented on this fact during a conversation with me on the subject here on the forum some years ago. He's handled Cali's & MBKs here & in the US, & said their temperaments were noticeably different, with the American ones being far more chilled & not inclined to bite. I asked him about those bred on the EU mainland, but he said he had no experience with those.
 

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Francis (Thrasops) has also commented on this fact during a conversation with me on the subject here on the forum some years ago. He's handled Cali's & MBKs here & in the US, & said their temperaments were noticeably different, with the American ones being far more chilled & not inclined to bite. I asked him about those bred on the EU mainland, but he said he had no experience with those.
See I've not handled any American ones, so it's just a theory, but the UK ones I've interacted with didn't seem so much 'agressive' as 'absolute gluttonous, optimistic morons'.

Bite it! There's a slim possibility that it might be edible!
 

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See I've not handled any American ones, so it's just a theory, but the UK ones I've interacted with didn't seem so much 'agressive' as 'absolute gluttonous, optimistic morons'.

Bite it! There's a slim possibility that it might be edible!
Thrasops' experiences support your theory.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Interesting. I’m certainly coming round to the idea of a Cali from an asthenic POV even if I do prefer the MBK look overall. Presumably both tend to chill in time with handling? Or will they always be a EVERYTHING IS FOOD! kinda snake? (Individual quirks aside of course). Unfortunately, the local exotics shop isn’t allowing general handling atm because of covid. Shame because that may really help inform my decision. Colubrids in general interest me. I’m honestly not completely against the idea of a corn either. They’re just obviously very “everybody has one” and I also like the idea of a completely diurnal snake. Of the usual “beginner” colubrids, I’m probably most hesitant about a Western Hognose. Both from an asthenic POV (I just think they look like derpy worms rather than snakes) and from their reputation as some time reluctant eaters. The technically venomous thing doesn’t help their cause for me either, although I gather they’re actually extremely reluctant to bite, and that a bite from one is no big deal. Of those four in terms of preference, I’d go -

1 MBK
2 Cali King
3 Corn
4 Hognose

My current setup has heatlamps from above & I’d like to keep that really. Hence preferring low humidity options. I’ve seen MBK’s go for about £200 - £250. Is that still accurate? Because I’d honestly happily pay that. I’ve already got the viv, and converting it into being snake friendly wouldn’t take much more than cages for the lights, a lock for the sliding glass doors, aspen & hides/decor. So outside of the snake, I don’t think it would be a very expensive process.
 

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Interesting. I’m certainly coming round to the idea of a Cali from an asthenic POV even if I do prefer the MBK look overall. Presumably both tend to chill in time with handling? Or will they always be a EVERYTHING IS FOOD! kinda snake? (Individual quirks aside of course). Unfortunately, the local exotics shop isn’t allowing general handling atm because of covid. Shame because that may really help inform my decision. Colubrids in general interest me. I’m honestly not completely against the idea of a corn either. They’re just obviously very “everybody has one” and I also like the idea of a completely diurnal snake. Of the usual “beginner” colubrids, I’m probably most hesitant about a Western Hognose. Both from an asthenic POV (I just think they look like derpy worms rather than snakes) and from their reputation as some time reluctant eaters. The technically venomous thing doesn’t help their cause for me either, although I gather they’re actually extremely reluctant to bite. Of those four in terms of preference, I’d go -

1 MBK
2 Cali King
3 Corn
4 Hognose

My current setup has heatlamps from above & I’d like to keep that really. Hence preferring low humidity options. I’ve seen MBK’s go for about £200 - £250. Is that still accurate? Because I’d honestly happily pay that. I’ve already got the viv, and converting it into being snake friendly wouldn’t take much more than cages for the lights, a lock for the sliding glass doors, aspen & hides/decor. So outside of the snake, I don’t think it would be a very expensive process.
MBK prices are all over the place at the moment. I've seen a pair with damaged tails for something like £200, up to a single animal for £450 odd in a shop. They're worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them.

We are coming up to hatchling season, so now is an ideal time to find someone with eggs coming/cooking/hatching. There's also the Doncaster IHS show at the end of next month.
 

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I haven't kept MBKs.My snake keeping days are almost coming to end but would have loved one but not for the current prices.I've kept corns and kings.I would say corns are more easy going.To be honest i hardly handle my snakes so a feisty one wouldn't personally be a problem but if i wanted an easy time (not all cases) feeding,cleaning,health checks,i would go for a corn.
 

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MBK’s are generally more docile than Cali’s? As a first timer, that’s a fairly attractive prospect! Although I’ve no doubt I’d get over it after the first time I’m tagged and my arm doesn’t fall off...
Presumably both tend to chill in time with handling? Or will they always be a EVERYTHING IS FOOD! kinda snake? (Individual quirks aside of course).
My MBK is now ~11 years old, and just as bitey as he always was. I've had him since he was a hatchling, so he knows me well and still comes for me. He's not mean, he just bites everything.

It does make feeding and handling quite an active activity, to the extent that I occasionally use a RUB lid as a shield 😅 He's only actually tagged me once, despite trying many times; I've got good at dodging.

I enjoy him, and honestly would be disappointed if he chilled out. But some people would absolutely hate that.

It's all about how nervous you would be, given that kingsnake bites are no big deal. It can be a good idea to take a bite, so that you can see it's no big deal and relax. If you're right that that you'd get over it after being tagged once, then a bitey kingsnake can absolutely make a great first-time snake and you shouldn't be put off.
 

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Haven't read the whole thread so apologies if I'm repeating anything.

How about a black milksnake? May be bit more tricky to find but breeders are around. The colour change on them is pretty cool and they look similar to a mbk as an adult, maybe more chill than one though.

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My MBK is now ~11 years old, and just as bitey as he always was. I've had him since he was a hatchling, so he knows me well and still comes for me. He's not mean, he just bites everything.

It does make feeding and handling quite an active activity, to the extent that I occasionally use a RUB lid as a shield 😅 He's only actually tagged me once, despite trying many times; I've got good at dodging.

I enjoy him, and honestly would be disappointed if he chilled out. But some people would absolutely hate that.

It's all about how nervous you would be, given that kingsnake bites are no big deal. It can be a good idea to take a bite, so that you can see it's no big deal and relax. If you're right that that you'd get over it after being tagged once, then a bitey kingsnake can absolutely make a great first-time snake and you shouldn't be put off.
King bites can hurt if they hang on & constrict though, especially from a big one as it clamps on harder & harder, gripping tighter still as it constricts so you can't get it off unless you physically unclamp its jaws or dab spirits on its snout.
 

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King bites can hurt if they hang on & constrict though, especially from a big one as it clamps on harder & harder, gripping tighter still as it constricts so you can't get it off unless you physically unclamp its jaws or dab spirits on its snout.

A feeding bite from my 13 year old mbk can shred the skin of my finger and at over 5 foot can be hard to remove ,it,s a fight to the death for her no way does she want to give up
and yes it hurts
 

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Haven't read the whole thread so apologies if I'm repeating anything.

How about a black milksnake? May be bit more tricky to find but breeders are around. The colour change on them is pretty cool and they look similar to a mbk as an adult, maybe more chill than one though.

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I read somewhere that Black Milk snakes are lovely, placid version of the MKB as regards temperament :)


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