Keeping garden snails as pets
Many of us automatically view snails as annoying little pests who eat holes in our veggie gardens. Next time you see one though, don’t get out the spray (or organic defences) just yet, snails make great pets for kids!
Why keep snails?
- They’re quiet
- They don’t take much work
- A simple set up is quite inexpensive
- Children can handle snails (see important information below)
- They may be slow but they can be interesting to watch
- They are a very different type of pet
- Their food can be scraps from your fridge
Where can you find snails?
You can find snails in the garden most of the time. In our previous house, we didn’t find a snail once (and we actively look for creepy crawlies) but as soon as we added a veggie garden it was almost like it was an open invitation for snails to visit us. We usually find ours tucked up under a lettuce leaf.
What you need to keep snails
The enclosure can be as simple or as extravagant as you’d like. It is can be a plastic takeaway container if you’re only intending to keep and observe them for a couple of days. But if you’re going to keep them for longer, a larger enclosure would be better for the snails.
It’s important the enclosure provides good amount of ventilation. Snails don’t mind a bit of humidity but they do still need fresh air too. This is the enclosure I use with most of my children’s pet critters.
We used regular soil from the garden and, because we had it on hand from making a wildlife themed terrarium a while a go, I also added some sphagnum moss. Both are great substrates for snails and should be added 7 -10 cm deep in the enclosure. Keep the substrate clean and moist at all times. A spray bottle is perfect to moisten substrates and furnishings in the enclosure without making it too wet.
Home and other furnishings
Snails like to hide in dark places, although some like to sit near the lid and others even under the dirt. Providing plenty of places that allow the snail to be where it makes them happy can only be good for your snails.We added a terracotta pot and a stick for climbing but you can add real plants, rocks and twigs too.
Snails eat fruit and veggies (avoid citrus foods) but these foods soil quickly. I’d suggest adding a food bowl. It makes the clean up and addition of fresh food much easier than if you added it straight to the bottom of the tank. Remember to wash the food before you give it to them. Many fruits and veggies come home with pesticides on their skins and if you feed it to them it will kill your snails.
Also, snails need calcium to keep their shells healthy, so adding a bit of cuttlefish or dried crushed egg shells to the side of the dish is important too. For a good list of food that snails love and for more information on why snails need calcium in their diet, visit this great website all about pet snails.
Handling snails is fine but ensure you use proper health practices and wash you and your child’s hands straight after holding a snail. Also, I’d suggest that children be fully supervised as people can get sick if they eat snails.
Maintenance and care
There are plenty of positives for keeping snails but I love that they don’t take a lot of work. The side of the snail enclosure should be wiped down once a week and the substrate changed once a month. Also, ensure you take out any rotten food and replace with fresh food every couple of days. Easy!
I find watching snails quite relaxing. They just slither around at their own pace and enjoy their surroundings. The girls really seem to enjoy watching them too.
We had these snails in a takeaway container for two weeks during the move and I could tell they were very happy when put in their new enclosure. They became active right away.
We won’t keep them forever. We’ll have to decide if we are going to let them go in our veggie garden or if I should take them to work and feed them to our blue tongued lizards. I have a feeling the girls won’t let me do the latter.
Have you ever kept snails?
Follow on activities
- Learn about snails, their breeding, predators and where they fit into the a food chain
- Find out more about animals that carry homes on their backs
- Make a shell using recycled materials and put it on your back, now you can pretend to be a snail!
- Race your snails. Mark their shell with a little bit of nail polish (if you can’t tell them apart) and race them!
- Conduct snail investigations
- Make this fun snail craft