How to Properly Defrost Frozen Mice and Rats for Snakes

October 20, 2020

Snake eating mouse

Best Way to Thaw Frozen Mice and Rats for Snakes

Whether you have a corn snake, a ball python, or something in between, there is a good chance you defrost frozen mice or rats once a week to feed your snake. “Make sure the mouse is hot enough!” and “Be sure to defrost it all the way!” are things you hear all the time, but what does that really mean? How hot is hot enough? There is a bunch of unorganized and unreliable information scattered all over the internet about frozen/thawed mice. If a mouse isn’t hot enough it can cause your snake to regurgitate, which can be very dangerous. Here is the step by step guide on how to properly defrost mice to make sure your snake stays healthy.


How Long Does it Take to Defrost a Mouse?

The length of time it takes for a mouse to defrost will depend entirely on the size of the mouse, and if you pre-planned for your feeding. Frozen thawed pinkies will defrost much quicker than frozen adult mice. Another way to speed up the thawing and heating process is to move the mouse from the freezer to the fridge the night before.



Thawing Mice in Hot Water

To start, take a mouse from your freezer (or fridge) and put it into a ziploc bag. The bag will keep the mouse from getting soaked while thawing it. If your mouse gets wet, it may lose some of its scent making it less appetizing for the snake. Next, put the bag with the mouse into a large bowl, and put the bowl in your sink. The bigger the bowl the better. Once you add a cold mouse to the bowl, it will cool down the surrounding water, and a larger volume of water will be less affected. You're going to want to turn your tap to the hottest setting and fill the bowl to the top. As the mouse defrosts, the water will begin to cool down. Each time this happens, dump the cool water and refill with hot water.


Frozen pinkie thawing in hot water
Thaw the mouse in a ziploc bag in a bowl of the hottest water that can come out of your tap


How Do I Know When The Mouse Is Hot Enough?

To check if the mouse is hot enough, feel the stomach of the mouse. Gently feel around the mouse's stomach for any “ice blocks”. I have sometimes found that even when the mouse’s head is at the appropriate temperature, the body may be too cool. If the stomach is warm and squishy, you're good to go! Another good indicator that the mouse is coming to the appropriate temperature is when the water stops quickly cooling down. Make sure to gently pat down the mouse’s body with a paper towel to get any excess water off of it before offering it to your snake.


Using a Temp Gun

A great way to have some peace of mind that your mouse is completely thawed is to use a temp gun. You can purchase these on Amazon, and although they’re a little pricey, they’ll be worth it in the long run. Not only can you use them to check the temperature of mice, they’re also good for reading an accurate temperature of your snake’s enclosure. The average body temperature of a mouse is about 97.9°F, so the head of the mouse should read between 96°F - 100°F. If it’s not reading that high, just continue to dump the cool water and add hot water until it is. Even when using a temp gun, be sure to still feel the mouse’s stomach for any ice blocks.


Mouse with an internal temperature of 96.9 degrees Fahrenheit
The temperature of the mouse should be between 96 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to feed to your snake immediately before it cools.



Dangers of Feeding Cold Mice to Snakes

Regurgitation is when your snake expels an undigested mouse. This can be caused by a number of things, such as the mouse being too cold or too big for your snake.  Since snakes are cold-blooded, they need heat to digest their meals. You can provide this heat by properly warming the mouse, and making sure the temperature in your snake’s enclosure is where it needs to be.


A cold mouse sitting in a snake’s belly will begin to rot. A snake’s natural defense against this is to regurgitate the mouse. When a snake regurgitates a mouse, the mouse travels backwards through the snake’s body, eventually being expelled out the snake’s mouth, tearing its insides along the way. This is very painful for your snake and can damage its insides, which in extreme cases can even cause death. Always make sure that your mouse is heated thoroughly before feeding it to your snake.