I’m new to this forum, not quite so new to snakes. I’ve been keeping snakes for a while now, about 6 years. I started with a leucistic male ball python, and eventually added a normal female as well as a Sonoran gopher snake to my collection in the years after that.
I am, however, new to breeding snakes. I am hoping to pair the leucistic male to the female to begin with, and if it works out, potentially expanding my collection to include a few blood pythons and SD retics. I know that the male is ready to breed, he’s about 1300 grams and is very active. He regularly patrols all of his 4ft cage, and eats almost every week.
It’s the female who I’m wondering about. She’s around 4 ½ years old, and yet still weighs only about 1050 grams. She only eats about half the time, and spends almost all day in her hide. She typically eats well for a while, and then goes on fasts. Her record time for not eating was 7 months back in 2021, and she’s currently on a 1 month streak, which is around her usual fasting period. I read that breeders usually wait until their female BPs are around 1500 grams to breed, sometimes even more. However, I can’t imagine that a 4 ½ year old female wouldn’t be able to lay at least a small clutch. Due to eating sporadically, she is in fairly decent body condition, but certainly not as big around or cylindrical as some of the big females that I see. The breeder who I got her from wasn’t very good, she came to me underweight and eating live. When she was younger she took frozen-thawed rat pups with enthusiasm (even on the day I brought her home), but not anymore. She’s also in a 4ft cage, but there’s lots of clutter for her to use. The cage is also only 14" tall, so it isn’t like she’s in a big open space.
Is it safe to pair her this year? If not, what can I do to help her get back on track with eating more regularly? I’ve thought about trying ASFs or gerbils, but I haven’t yet.
And, because everyone loves photos, here’s the female trying to be sneaky…
Never thought about that. I bought her as a female, but I suppose that doesn’t mean much when the snake’s from a bad breeder. I don’t have a reptile vet/breeder nearby, is it safe to try popping myself? I don’t suppose it’s possible to look at the shape of the tail like with colubrids. What about checking the spurs? Thanks!
Firstly, welcome to the forum.
Even if she is a female, (as others have questioned) I have 2 concerns with breeding her.
1, she is small at 1kg. even if she layed a small clutch there would be risks. even a small clutch would be large ball python eggs for a small snake to try and expel, and even if she could it would be a drain on her limited resources.
2, she does not eat well enough to safely recover from breeding.
I also wait for female breeding behaviour, like Bowl wrapping, cool seeking eats ravenously. Aggressive feed response. Looking for food, front of tub etc.
You can try to pop it. At that size the muscles are strong you won’t damage it. You most likely won’t get hemipenes but you may get hemipenal casts which are essentially the shed skin of the hemipenes. It will usually look a little icky.
Thanks! Some of those behaviors sound like what the leucistic “male” does. I guess I have two snakes to pop now… In order to get him/her eating, should I try feeding something else? The “female” only eats black rats, won’t have anything to do with white ones. Would ASFs work? Thanks again!
If you have time, this guy has a multi series of videos regarding behaviour to look for in breeding ball pythons in both males and females. Right through the process.
It helps to see the actual behaviours. (it is a little long winded though)
I usually defrost the food by putting in the fridge overnight. I heat it up in the morning by placing it into a plastic bag so it doesn’t get wet and putting it in warm water. I leave it for 10 minutes, and then try. The snake was eating live rat pups with the breeder, but that was years ago.
I tried popping the normal, and I didn’t get any results. S/he wasn’t letting me try. I checked the leucistic while I was at it, and guess what, female. I re-weighed her as well, and she’s almost 1800g. Do you think it’s a good idea to just try and pair them now? I don’t have an incubator yet, but at 1800g and feeding regularly, maybe maternal incubation could work?
I’m pretty sure the normal is a male, comparing the spurs/tail, he/she has a much longer tail and bigger spurs. I know that method isn’t reliable, but with the two together with obvious differences and the behavior/size of the normal, I think that it’s a male. What are your thoughts?
I’ve never checked with a thermometer or anything, but they’re pretty warm to the touch. Usually I offer it to her/him, s/he comes out of the hide, takes a good look at it, and goes back to bed. The leucistic usually takes it as soon as it’s within range, so I don’t think the rats are too cold.
I have snakes that will take it cold with training but if I have one giving me trouble, I will make sure the food temperature is above the hot point of their enclosure so it glows hotter than the background to their heat pits
Spurs and tail size does not mean anything when sexing ball pythons. Also even though you may not have gotten hemipenal casting does not mean it is female. If you have a breeder in your area you might want to ask them for assistance in sexing them. With them being larger probing may be the better way to go. Not all vets are good at sexing so i would try a breeder in your area first.
I had a female that would honestly only eat 4 months out of the year. Now she would eat very heavily during those 4 months but the rest of the time nothing.
If you have a temp gun you may want to try and just check the temp of the head of the prey item. Your normal seems to be a bit more picky than your lucy, so maybe it would preferr a bit warmer, especially since it was a live eater previously.
As for soft fur rats, if you can get them, you could try that. I know that where I live they’re almost impossible to get except at nearby reptile shows.
This is a little much but maybe you could try a 28qt plastic bin with a hide to see if s/he feels more comfortable eating in a smaller enclosure. Probably overkill though. And feeding a live mouse? Just throwing out some ideas I’ve read about on here.