Frozen vs Live Rodents: What Should I Feed My Snake?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Many snake handlers feed their pets frozen-thawed rodents for safety, convenience, and ethical reasons. Others argue that pre-killed prey doesn’t offer the same nutrients or encourage natural behaviors.

So is live feeding or frozen-thawed the better choice?

This brief post outlines some important things to consider like health factors, stimulation, convenience, and costs.

Which is Healthier For Snakes?

snake being examined at the vet

When deciding on live or frozen-thawed rodents, the most important consideration is the implication on your snakes’s health.

Here are three factors to consider:

  • Nutritional Value
  • Risk of disease
  • Risk of injury

Nutritional Value

Whether pre-killed or alive, rodents provide snakes with essential nutrients like protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

Frozen rodents lose some nutrients when stored over time, but it’s a very minimal loss. Your snake’s nutritional intake from frozen food is still very comparable to eating them fresh.

Risk of Disease

Living rodents have a much higher chance of carrying parasites that can sicken your snake. According to the Centers for Disease Control, they may also carry several zoonotic diseases that affect humans, like hantavirus, salmonella, monkeypox, rat-bite fever, and more.

Many breeders choose frozen rodents because this freezing process kills off and prevents the growth of some bacteria.

Still, whether frozen or thawed, always practice proper hygiene when handling them. Wear gloves, keep your hands away from your mouth/face, and thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling.

Risk of Injury

When you offer your snake living prey there is always a chance of injury. Rodents of any size will bite, scratch, and claw, which can seriously hurt your pet.

On the other hand, Hunting is a natural behavior and stimulating activity of snakes, so there’s a lot to be said about letting your pet practice these behaviors.

Convenience of Frozen-Thawed vs Living Rodents

two albino mice in a rodent tub

Feeding with frozen-thawed rodents is considerably more convenient than live prey.

Frozen prey are:

  • Easy to buy in bulk, store, and handle
  • A consistent and readily available food source
  • No need for special housing or care
  • An almost effortless feeding process

Meanwhile, live rodents will require:

  • Finding reputable breeders
  • Maintaining a consistent source of healthy, live prey
  • Additional housing, feeding, and watering responsibilities
  • A more stressful snake-feeding process

Which is More Cost-effectiveness?

stacked paper money

Frozen-thawed rodents are often less expensive than acquiring live ones. You can find bulk packages online or at pet stores to decrease your price per rodent.

You can acquire live rodents from certain breeders, but you might pay a premium because of supply, storing, and shipping obstacles.

What if I Breed My Own Rodents?

There are several start-up costs associated with breeding, like getting food, a rodent rack, a watering system, heating attachments, and other equipment.

However, once you’ve made your initial investment and the operation is up and running, many breeders find lower long-term costs, a constant supply of snake food, and assurance that their rodents are healthy and well-kept. Plus, business-savvy breeders can actually profit from their extra supply of rodents!

If you want to start breeding rodents or expand your current operation, we have all the breeding equipment you need!

Which Gives My Snake More Stimulation?

snake looking at an albino mouse

A live rodent will make your snake work for its meal. This activity is natural for your reptile, triggering their hunting instincts, promoting exercise, and engaging their cognitive abilities.

As you can imagine, pre-killed prey doesn’t offer the same effect, and some snakes may refuse pre-killed food altogether. But you can imitate a live rodent. Hold the rodent with forceps that keep you at a safe distance, then dangle and move the rodent around the enclosure to encourage your snake to strike.

If that’s unsuccessful, try other methods like adjusting feeding time and the size or appearance of the prey.


Many breeders believe that captive snakes should be trained to eat pre-euthanized rodents since it’s more humane for the prey and safer for the snake. While others believe that fresh prey and the stimulation of the hunt are essential for their snake’s health.

Ultimately, the decision to feed frozen-thawed or live rodents depends on the individual snake, the owner’s preferences, and the specific circumstances of the reptile’s environment.