Sleep Tight, Little Snake
For many snakes, hibernation is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and they should be hibernated every year to prevent stress and illness. Other snakes do not necessarily require hibernation, but owners may choose to hibernate them for various reasons. While it is not always necessary, it can cut back on the amount of food and care needed and is also more natural. Hibernation can also be used as a cue to start the breeding cycle for several species of snakes. For those who do want to hibernate their snakes, here are some tips and instructions on how to do it properly.
First of all, all snakes do not hibernate. If you have a snake from a tropical environment where it does not get cold enough to warrant hibernation, it is not suggested that you hibernate your snake. While they may posses the biological capabilities to do so, they were not really built to hibernate so it could be detrimental to their health.
To hibernate a snake, the temperature should be dropped to around 50 degrees for one to two months, but you should look up where your snake's natural habitat is, because it will depend on how cold it would get there, and for how long. In the snake's natural environment, the temperature change occurs fairly slowly. While you can get a quick freeze or warming, the temperature change overall is still fairly gradual. Because of this it is best to not change the temperature in the habitat too quickly. Otherwise you run the risk of shocking the snake. This is important to remember when heating the snake back up as well.
While temperature is the obvious cue for hibernation, snakes are also induced to hibernate by shortening daylight amounts. When your snake is hibernating, you want to provide them some daylight, but simply at shorter lengths as they would experience in the wild. The total length of light per day should be based on the latitude your snake would normally live at (the closer to the poles, the less daylight there is in the winter). If the length of daylight your snake needs for the winter is keeping the tank too warm, you can always switch to a different type of bulb or a lower wattage. You do not want to remove all your snake's light, even if they are burrowed. Having daylight is also important if you have live plants in the tank, which I would generally recommend. Just as with the change of temperature, the change in daylight should also be somewhat gradual (which goes hand in hand if you use lights for heating).
Obviously, you probably don't want to keep your house at 50 degrees or keep the lights in the room off for most of the day, so having a closet or small room where you can control the temperature and light is best. This should also be a consideration when deciding which snake to purchase. If you feel a snake should hibernate to be healthy or breed (depending on whether or not you want to breed it) and you do not have a proper place to hibernate it, you should consider buying a different type of snake. Tropical snakes are the best choice if you don't want to bother with hibernation.
Remember, that while your snake won't need to be fed during hibernation, they do need to have fresh water provided in case they wake up. You should also check on them every so often just to make sure they're doing all right and still sleeping. Hibernating a snake is not an excuse to put your snake in a closet and forget about it. Good luck and happy hibernating!