After my first year being quite the dive into the deep end of what it takes to be a breeder, I was really hoping to use everything I’ve learned to plan better for 2023. I have four females I’m planning to pair, everything should have be all set. I’m still missing a male to complete my pairings for 2023.
The problem? I’m leaving the country for 16 days, right when my females would start laying.
This is a once in a lifetime (probably literally) trip, and I’m leaving a family member in charge of my animals. It’s not the first time he’s been in charge of my collection. I had to have him deal with the aftermath of an emergency spay this season while I was out of state, but that was just for a few days. He insists he can manage for the time I’m gone, so long as I leave detailed instructions. I guess what I’m asking is:
If you had to leave the country for two weeks, what are the basics you’d ask of someone caring for your collection? How would you give directions for a layperson who doesn’t keep reptiles? What chores can be delayed for a couple of weeks? Should I delay feedings until I’m home? I’m losing my mind trying to figure out what instructions to leave and how to pare them down to be able to be understood by someone who has no herp experience at all.
I would make sure there are lay boxes already in the enclosures before you leave and your pet sitter can just keep them moist. Will he be checking on them every day? He could definitely keep you updated with descriptions of behavior.
Do you have exact breeding dates? You could possibly delay breeding by a couple of weeks. I can’t remember if you’re brumating your corns.
Another option would be simply not breeding next year and just waiting an extra year. I know that’s not the fun option! But it would relieve your stress (mostly) anyway.
I will make sure there are lay boxes and instructions (with photos) as to how to set them up and maintain. He will be directed to check daily, for sure.
I usually breed in the week after the first shed of the year. I don’t brumate, but I’m willing to try to push back my pairings if need be.
I, so far, have not found a male for two of my girls. This leaves me a bit of room to breed the two I do have mates for, and leave the 2020 girls until 2024. There are so many factors up in the air at the moment that it’s hard for me to decide how to proceed.
I want to do what’s best for myself, and most importantly, my animals. If I can make a breeding season work, I’d love to, but if I have to scrap it, I will. I’m really hoping that since I do have time, I can train my parent to do some of the day-to-day tasks easily, so it’s less of a shock when I’m totally unreachable. Thank you so much for your input, Olivia, I appreciate it so much.
Yeah, I’m hoping my first year was a total fluke, I took a beating.
I’m really hoping that’s how it works out. I’m trying to plan for every possible scenario, since I know there’s not altering my trip. I really want to be able to not worry while I’m gone, I don’t care how much effort and prep it requires.
That does make things kind of difficult. I wouldn’t worry about feeding the snakes too much, 2 weeks really isn’t a long time for snakes to not eat. But, it would be a good idea for your family member to at least know how to feed a snake or two if they are losing a lot of weight. If you put the egg-laying box on the warm side of the enclosure, it might not even be necessary to move the eggs into an incubator until you get back. What I always do before leaving for long (>5 days) vacations is to set up “trial runs” where I will do everything exactly how I would do it if I were leaving for vacation, and then monitor things to make sure that water dishes won’t dry out, food lasts long enough, and the humidity stays good.
My recommendation is to have him keep water topped off, and know how to take eggs out of the lay box and put them in an incubation container (pre-set up by you, with the incubator already on and running). Have him take a picture of the eggs so you can keep track of dates and so you know which eggs belong to who. I don’t know much about corn snakes, but if it’s usually necessary to separate the eggs you could just have larger tubs where that wouldn’t be necessary.
Congratulations on your upcoming trip! Everything you’ve been told about setting things up for your snakes in your absence is great advice. And it is true that your hellatious first season was on outlier for most people’s experiences.
I might set everything up even further ahead to make sure it works, then have the caregiver practice. You would probably both feel better about it with a bit of hands-on time when you are around to answer questions and provide guidance.
The only other thing I’d add is that, if you’re really worried, breed them a bit later. They may settle this for you, of course. But you can always make the choice to start a bit later and avoid this issue altogether. Fortunately you have time to consider.
You’ve received a ton of good advice already from folks far more knowledgeable than I, but I just wanted to chime in with a simple but extremely helpful suggestion: write up an instruction sheet for your snake sitter. Show them how to do everything in person and explain things verbally, but also write everything down so they have something they can refer to while you’re gone. Having a written list of tasks that they need to take care of, as well as how and when to complete those tasks, will make their life a lot easier.
Whenever I go out of town, I always arrange a time to meet with my pet sitter before I leave. They come over and I show them where everything is and tell them what the routine and schedule is for each animal. I have my instructions already written out and let them look it over and ask them if anything in the written instructions is confusing or unclear, and I’ll make any necessary edits before I leave.
Of course, I don’t usually leave town for more than a week and I’m not a breeder, so the instructions for my snakes is never more involved than changing their water and maybe giving the blood python a spritz from the spray bottle if her humidity drops too low. But I think a trusted, responsible pet sitter with good common sense, could handle taking the reins for a couple of weeks. Though it is, of course, up to you and your pet sitter. It just depends on what you’re both comfortable with.
Thank you so much for the suggestions @erie-herps@caryl@jawramik! Thankfully I live with the family member who will be caring for my animals, so I can pull him in any time to show him how I do things.
I’ll be prioritizing who might need to be fed. I’ve already designated that he’s to do the bare minimum with the Garter snakes, because they’re fast, wily, and prone to launching out of their enclosure, but will need feeding while I’m gone. Luckily with them I can just have him chop up some earthworms or fish, put it in a dish, and drop it in.
He’ll be getting written and possibly a visual instruction guide, because even if it’s overkill, I’d rather be safe than sorry. The incubator, probes, bins, and perlite will all be staged and ready to go should he need them. I didn’t end up finding a male for two of my girls and the shipping window has closed, so that means I’ll only have two females to pair at the start of the season. Depending on when they shed, it’s entirely possible he won’t even need to mess with my breeding females.
When I do chores in the coming weeks, I’ll pull him in for some hands on learning from time to time. He’s going to need to do water dishes for sure, and likely a little spot cleaning. I’m very lucky in the fact that I only have one reactive bitey boy, so he shouldn’t need to be too careful with any of the others. I know that realistically, everything is likely going to be just fine while I’m gone, but I’d rather be prepared for darn near anything.
I’m kind of hoping, even though I know April is a bit early, that I’ll get to see some local herps while I’m gone.
Sounds like you’re going to have everything ready to go, for your and for the family member who will be carrying for your snakes. As for the shipping window, who knows? Hub to hub shipping over the winter can be done safely. There are a lot of variables, and warm-enough spells do happen. I wouldn’t give up looking for that dream boy.
Considering the price of my trip, I’m trying to be a little restrictive on what I spend before leaving. If I don’t manage to get a male over the winter, shipping usually opens back up around March, so I’m not too worried. Both girls are 2020 hatchlings so it would be first year breeding for them.
I’m heading to South Korea. I’ve got a friend there I’ll be visiting, as well as just exploring the country, food, and culture overall. I was a volunteer journalist writing about Korean pop music for a while, my snakes are actually my less stressful hobby. I would love to see some old world rat snakes in their natural environment.
This is usually my motto too. It’s always stressful when we have to leave our babies in someone else’s care (it can be stressful for pet sitters too, knowing they’re responsible for someone’s much-loved animals), so anything that can help you both feel more secure and confident that everything will be handled properly while you’re away is worth doing.
Yep. Even when the pet sitter is a family member, even one who is used to routine serpent care, caring for a nesting female is a whole 'nother thang. I had to be away last spring with two girls potentially due to lay. Dan is normally fine with all the animal chores, but he was reeeeeally concerned. I wasn’t worried about his being able to handle things, but he knows how much they mean to me so he was worried. (All went smoothly, and I arrived home to freshly laid eggs from Princess Irene.) It’s both wise and kind to do all you can to assuage those worries.
I don’t think he’ll do too badly, he’s had to handle more than one animal emergency while I’ve been out of town in the last few years. He was the one who dealt with Celia while I was in Chicago. We’ve also got two furry family members that require medication and monitoring, so he’s quite used to knowing how neurotic I can be about my babies and the level of vigilance I expect.
I plan to leave him with essentially an entire instruction manual for every little thing that may need doing/watching.
How exciting! My son’s best friend from high school lived in South Korea for a number of years. He really enjoyed it. My son and DIL have been there for visits. Actually, they kid around that their daughter is part South Korean since she was conceived there. Lol
I’m sure that will be appreciated, and hopefully almost none of it will be necessary.
Personally I would just feed & fresh water before you leave and setup lay boxes. Then have your person just top off waters until you return. Least amount of anything happening, easiest on your care taker and all animals will be completely fine, they’ve been figuring this mating/laying thing out on their own for quite a while now. Especially with corns very easy and that’s even if they breed/lay on YOUR schedule. 2 weeks no food is nothing, that’s if they’re still even feeding at that point of breeding cycle. I’m always of the less is more approach when it comes to this stuff but I do more pythons & boas.
Goodluck and have an excellent trip, sounds awesome.
Well, one of my big worries is no longer: My adult female hognose, Eevee, finally broke her 92 day hunger strike today! I was waiting her out to see if a vet visit would be required, but today instead of just bluff-striking the food item, she smushed her face into it and opened her mouth. Whole fuzzy was gone in a matter of seconds.
I was watching her like a hawk, especially since I lost my male this year and the only symptom with him was not eating. Kept weighing her, monitored her urates, and just crossed my fingers. The relief is real.