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J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2010 Dec;94(6):e296-307. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2010.01011.x.

Suitability of day-old chicks as food for captive snakes.

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Snakes are increasingly kept by private hobbyists and their numbers in the pet trade are increasing. Since suitable diets are essential for the health, welfare and maintenance of captive animals, objective research is required to improve and evaluate current feeding practices. Unfortunately, the husbandry of reptiles is frequently led by tradition, resulting in methods which are not evidence based. One such occurrence is the widespread belief that day-old chicks (DOCs) are unsuitable as food for captive snakes. Since this assumption has not been systematically assessed, herein I review the evidence in order to provide a more informed basis from which to evaluate the suitability of chicks in relation to rodent prey. Commonly expressed nutritional, ecological and husbandry-related concerns are examined using compilations of previously published data, new data, prior experience and nutrient compositions obtained from the Zootrition™ database. Day-old chicks were compared with two rodent species (mice and rats) since these are the most commonly used alternative prey item. Rodents were clearly the better option only in their 'naturalness', in that mammalian prey species are more frequently represented in natural diets than birds. I conclude that DOCs are a suitable prey item for snakes in captive collections since the available data provide no firm evidence for their avoidance, contrary to popular belief. Many gaps in our knowledge remain that would assist further discussion of this issue, and these are highlighted within. It is pertinent that although these data indicate that DOCs are a viable alternative to rodent prey for captive snakes, they do not necessarily indicate its superiority. In most instances, rodents and DOCs may be regarded as practically equivalent and interchangeable. It is therefore the individual keeper's preference as to which to use, informed in particular circumstances by the information presented herein.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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