For people starting out there are many questions that need to be answered. I have started this page to help guide you in the right direction. Now keep in mind that many questions could have several correct answers. The answers to these questions is how I do things here in my facility. You may find that your way or another way could work best for you. I recommend that you do as much homework as possible to help keep you going on the right path. This page will be a work in progress. We welcome your input to help this information be the most productive for all that read.
Here is a list of many, but I'm sure not all. These are the basic morphs used to create the higher end or super forms of each gene.
Average ball pythons get 4 to 5 feet in length. Their growth rate will be controlled by the amount of food and number of times fed.
There are two ways of telling the sex of a snake. First you can probe the snake to determine the depth of the vents located at the tail of the snake or you can “pop” the snake by exposing the sex organs or lack of. Both techniques should only be done by someone with experience.
Rats are the best source of food. They will grow to the appropriate size for a ball python to grow healthy. Mice and African Soft Furred are also used to feed ball pythons but may need several to make a complete meal. The ideal food source should be the same size as the thickest part of the snakes body. Don’t worry, the head and jaws will stretch.
One meal every 7 days would keep steady growth. You may choose to feed sooner or longer than 7 based on your needs or breeding goals.
This is a common problem with ball pythons. The answer may not be simple as there are several reasons. Here are a few issues that may cause lack of eating. The temps are to low or to high, snake enclosure is to big, no hides, breeding season, wrong food source, wrong color of food (unproven fact), medical issues, food to big/small, may prefer live or dead, or maybe the snake is just not hungry. A change of scenery is always nice. Go for a car drive or feed in another room. Don’t worry, it will eat when its ready to.
First I will explain what the difference is, then explain when you should attempt. The “Assist Feed” is when you place the head of a small rat or small mouse in the mouth of the snake. After pushing the head all the way in, you then close the mouth of the snake and place it back in the home. The snake may then wrap the meal and start the swallowing process. Of course snakes will also spit it out. A “Force Feed” is when you place the small rat or mouse in the mouth of the snake. Then using a pair of rubber coated tongs, push the rat down the throat of the snake several inches behind the head. Place the snake back in the home and with luck the snake will push the meal down to the tummy. Of course I have seen snakes throw it back up all the way from the belly. Now......When to use these techniques. These are last resort only! This will cause lots of stress to the snake. This stress may cause the snake to never eat again or bring on illness from the process. These techniques are used when a new hatchling has not eaten for a month, or an older snake has not eaten in many months and shows signs of ridge back or under weight. You may need the assistance of a second person when dealing with large snakes. Remember that you could do more harm than good. Be patient.
Lets start with the material. You can use a reptile enclosure, aquarium, rack system, or homemade. Smooth surfaces are best as your snake will probe, crawl, and explore every inch. Rough surfaces can cause abrasions.
Next will be size. Your home should be about 3 to 4 times the size of the snake. They like feeling of being inclosed in tight spaces. A home that is to big may overwhelm them causing them not to eat. Start with a simple home as you will be upgrading a few times. Once full grown you may invest in a nice show piece for your reptile. Along with water dishes and climbing logs, don’t forget a nice hide for you snake.
We use aspen bedding here at Family Reptiles. It has the best odor absorbing quality and easy to spot clean when dirty. Other breeders will use paper as a bedding. DO NOT USE cedar as it can be poison to your ball python. With a little research, you will find many different types of bedding material with a wide range of price.
The ideal set up would have a bowl big enough for the snake to soak its entire body in. Be sure to change the water once or twice a week, or as needed. We use regular filtered water, but any house tap water will be fine. Remember, in the wild they drink from mud puddles, so clean drinking water will keep them very healthy. Hint: Keep the water dish only filled half way. When its time to soak, the bowl may over flow and cause wet bedding.
Every ball python enclosure should have a cool spot and a warm spot. The cool spot can be anywhere from 78 to 84 degrees. The warm spot should be in the area of 89 degrees. The perfect home will have multiple hides and spaces to go in both the warm and cool spots. This will give your snake many options.
If you plan to have a heat pad or heat rock, be sure to use a thermostat so that you can control the amount of heat. Most heating products will put off to much heat and can cause burns to the belly of the ball python. Remember, 89 degrees should be the warmest spot in the enclosure. A heat temp gun is great to get the exact temp of the area. Thermometers only read the air temp, not the floor temp that the snake will be laying on.
Size is the main factor we go by, but of course sexual maturity must also be reached. Mother nature has the final say on that. I like to see my boys over 600 grams in hopes of them breeding the entire season. Many boys can breed at smaller sizes but can only breed so long before having to stop from the weight loss becoming unhealthy. The girls should be over 1500 grams to have a decent size clutch. Of course the bigger the better. Some girls have bred at lower weights but usually results in lower egg counts.
At Family Reptiles, we wait until a long cold front comes through the area during the end of October or first of November. Temps are lowered to 80 degrees at night and 85 degrees during the day. We continue to offer food and start rotating the males with the females at this time. Some breeders will lower temps for a short time down to the lower to mid 70’s. This is acceptable but don’t offer food if your temps are low as the snakes need the heat to digest the meals. Low temps with full bellies could cause respiratory issues. Temps will raise back up to 89 degrees around December. The males will continue to rotate through the winter and stop around spring time. If the male becomes thin during breeding, we may pull him out early.
There are many incubators on the market that will hatch your eggs. These will vary in size depending on how many clutches your planning on having. The basics of egg incubation is to maintain 89 degrees and 100% Humidity. For people on a budget, its very easy to build your own incubator from an old fridge or cooler. Many large breeders such as ourselves have built an entire room to be used for egg incubation. Do your research and you will find the best options that fit your breeding needs.
If your in reptiles long enough you will get mites. For ball pythons, you may notice them soaking often. If you remove them from the water bowl and notice what looks like “poppy seeds” in the bottom, you have mites. Mites feed off the blood of the ball pythons and can travel up to 12 feet per day. If one of your snakes has them, then most likely they all do. There are several brands of mite spay on the market. Be sure to follow the instructions closely as you will be using a mild poison to kill the mites. No fear, your snake will be just fine.
Use a simple antibiotic cream twice a day until the wound heals. The scar should disappear after several sheds. The snake should also be kept on newspaper to avoid infection from the bedding. Be sure the home stays dry.
The easy way to tell is if the sides of your enclosure are covered with slime or mucus from the ball python. The snake will be suffering from a runny nose and as it moves around, the sides get marked with this mucus. Taking your ball python to a reptile vet would be the best option, but you can also try raising the heat on the snakes enclosure using an overhead lamp. Leaving the snake around 92 degree for a long period of time has shown positive effects for drying out the snake and getting back to healthy conditions.
This can be heartbreaking for people that are attached to snakes like we are. There may come a time that one of your reptiles becomes too sick or old to care for itself anymore. Other circumstances we find is people will bring us snakes that were injured by other pets such as dogs or cats. These injuries may result in broken bones and severe lacerations that lead to massive infections. The best thing is to keep the snake from suffering further. We recommend taking to a vet and having the reptile put down. Another option: Since they are cold blooded animals, placing the snake in the freezer is the most humane way to put the snake down. The freezer causes the snake to fall asleep in a coma then the snake passes on while sleeping. This causes no pain to the snake.