buy supplies 

Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 9  
May, 2005
Snakes - Conditioning Your Snake, Part 1
In this Issue

"Conditioning" in this context means teaching the snake what to expect from its keeper. You do this by performing different actions, depending upon your intentions. For instance, when you want to feed your pet, you probably open the cage and present the food right away. When you want to handle the snake, you should pause and observe.

Don't immediately put your head or hand into the cage. When, after a few moments, the snake doesn't see or smell food coming, you should then try to convey your intentions to the snake. Let the snake know it's going to be picked up by gently stroking the snake's back (away from the head) or by pulling it slowly toward you with a cage hook. Once the snake knows that you're there, and that it's not feeding time, you can pick up the snake. Every animal is different, so you may have to vary your conditioning methods with different snakes. Whatever you decide to do, just do the same thing every time, and your pet should be able to learn the routine. By your actions, you can let your snake know what to expect. The larger and more aggressive a snake is, the more necessary strong conditioning is to help prevent accidents.

Many captive snakes are so docile that they never bite a human in their lifetime. But even if you feel that your pet is a total "pussycat," remember its potential. If a snake ever does bite and constrict you, remain motionless until the snake realizes that you're not food and lets go on its own. Any movement on your part would likely cause the snake to constrict harder and hold the bite*.

*(Mark Chapple) I have never had to verify this but you could try the tactic of blowing forcefully into the snakes face or mouth which supposedly makes it let go.

Next Issue: Conditioning Your Snake Part 2

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can Use" by Barry Neilsen

The previous articles on can be found at:

Salmonella and Reptiles - Part 2

Hygiene Guidelines for Reptile Owners

  1. Always wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling any reptile, and its cage or accessories.
  2. Always supervise children handling reptiles. Make sure they wash hands properly after handling. Do not allow them to put any reptile in or around their mouth.
  3. Maintain reptiles in areas away from food preparation, serving areas, and young children’s rooms.
  4. Never use a kitchen sink to wash reptiles, cages or dishes. Excess food or cage substrate should be thrown in the garbage or flushed down the toilet.
  5. Always wear gloves when cleaning reptile cages and always use a disinfectant for cleaning.
  6. Keep other pets away from reptile cages.
  7. Never kiss a reptile. Never eat, drink or smoke when handling a reptile.
  8. Use special caution with reptiles around infants and individuals who may be immune-compromised.
  9. Always feed a high quality, clean, and uncontaminated food source to reptiles. Maintain reptiles in a clean, safe and comfortable environment.
  10. Have reptiles frequently examined by a veterinarian.

So are reptile pets dangerous for me or my family?

No! Following good hygiene practices will prevent any problems for the majority of reptile owners. Remember to follow these simple procedures to ensure you and your animals remain healthy.

Next Issue: Bearded Dragon


David T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D

The turtle table can be easily constructed in four or five steps, which should take two to three days, depending on drying time for polyurethane and stain. [See Figure #1 for an "exploded" view of the essential design of the table.] The first step in building a turtle table is one of the most important - designing the layout of the surface. The location of the plants and the water tray are vital, as you cannot change your mind once you have begun.

Also, some provision for lighting and heating must be made. I use clip-on desk lamps as both a source of light and of heat. I attach them directly to the plexiglass siding and hook them up to a timer. In my arrangement they are clustered near the water tray, and away from the plant trays. This creates shadows under the plants that the turtles like to hide in, and also warms the water slightly. By clustering the lights, a temperature gradient is set up across the table, allowing the turtles to choose the temperature that they desire.

Once you have decided on a layout, cut out the holes for the trays in the plywood sheet. Make sure that the holes are not too large! The holes have to be small enough to allow the lip on the trays to support the tray. Once you have cut wood away, it is impossible to replace it, so always cut off less than you want and trim it to fit.

When the cutting is finished, sand off the rough edges and apply a coat of stain and/or polyurethane. After it has dried, lightly sand it again with either fine sandpaper or steel wool, and apply a second coat. Remember to seal the edges also, especially around the trays.

The next step is to build the supporting frame. A simple rectangular outer frame with a few extra internal crosspieces will serve nicely. Be careful that you do not run a middle crosspiece in such a way that it will interfere with one of the trays that will hang down from the plywood sheet! [See Figure #1 for one possible arrangement] You may also want to stain and/or polyurethane the sides of the 2x4's that will show for added water resistance and attractiveness. Alternately, you could attach a higher quality piece of wood all along the edges, hiding the plywood and the 2x4 edges, and stain and seal it instead. Next, nail or screw the plywood sheet down onto the support frame. A quick dab of polyurethane around each nail/screw will prevent any moisture from seeping through the holes.

Finally, you need to cut and attach the plexiglass siding. If you purchase a 4x8 foot sheet, have the dealer cut it into three 16 inch x 8 foot lengths at the beginning. Then you need only cut one of the lengths in half and you have your sides. When you attach the sides, approximately 1 foot will be above the plywood base, and 4 inches will be used to anchor the side to the frame. [See Figure #2 for a view of the long side] One note of caution: you may want to make the plywood sheet (and thus the underlying 2x4 support structure) a few inches shy of a perfect 4x8 foot rectangle. Thus when you put in the plexiglass sides, you can cut off the few extra inches and be assured of getting tight corners. If you trust in the dimensions of the wood and the plexiglass, you might come up a half inch short somewhere, and thus leave an annoying gap at a corner!

Next Issue: How to make a turtle table - part 3

This article copyright 1990 by David T. Kirkpatrick. Originally published in Reptile & Amphibian Magazine, July/August 1990, pages 16-19.

Reprinting of this article for non-profit purposes is permitted provided that it is unaltered and appropriate attribution, including copyright information, is included. Please notify the author of any reprinting.

IGUANA CAGE PLANS has launched

The feedback on these plans has been very positive. Made by a recognized iguana cage maker with many years experience and a wealth of knowledge about keeping Iguanas. These cages are fabulous and could be easily adapted to large snakes and large lizards or arboreal species.

When you purchase reptile cage plans you also get access to a copy of these plans as part of your purchase. They can be used for large lizards and large snakes quite easily, but you do need some room to put them in as they are quite large

They are easy to make and it does take a little time. But you get a great cage in return. You can alter the cage to suit your own personal style and there are hints and tips throughout the book.

If you have already purchased reptile cage plans you can collect you copy of this eBook for free. Simply email me and let me know you would like a copy and I will send you a username and password so you can download your own copy.

Otherwise, go and make a purchase now and get a copy of this fantastic resource as well as the original plans plus all of the great bonuses. You will not find a better deal anywhere.

Tell Us What You Think!!

We would love to hear what you think of this (or any other) issue of Keeping Reptiles.

And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened (like the one I'll tell you about next issue)
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans



Sign up today for our FREE fortnightly "Keeping Reptiles" Newsletter.

  • Jam-packed with ideas and tips
  • Stories and information on keeping reptiles.
  • Ideas for cages
  • Keep informed and learn about reptile keeping.
  • Web-sites and places of interest.

Sign up now and I'll send you a bonus FREE gift of "15 Top Snake Keeping Tips"
(Value of $16.95)

First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail Address: