Difficult Eater

I’ve been having a really tough time getting one of my young females to eat consistently. Since 11/9 when I purchased her, she has taken only 4 meals. She’s quite small at 180g, about 5 months old. Never takes from tongs, only by dropping them in and leaving her undisturbed, but even then she usually won’t take them. The rats are appropriately sized and warmed well. She has a warm and cool hide, identical conditions to my other snakes who all eat like clockwork. 88F warm side, 78F cool side. I’m concerned because she is barely putting on weight and I’d like to see more consistent eating at her age. Any ideas or advice? I want to avoid feeding live. Thanks!

How often are you attempting to feed? What was she eating regularly for the breeder when you acquired her: mouse or rat, frozen or live? And what is her setup like: tank vs. tub, free standing vs. rack, size?


Have you tried dropping down the size of the feeder? You might also try switching from white to dark feeders. That worked for my timid mojave female juvenile. In fact, all of my ball pythons eat more eagerly with dark feeders. Makes sense really if you think about it. How often would they encounter a white mouse or rat in the wild? Another thing I have done with juvenile snakes is set it up to look like their hide is a natural rodent burrow so they think they’ve stumbled on a meal all on their own. It’s more natural and seems to stimulate their natural instinct to feed. When it comes to feeding (especially young snakes) it’s always worked for me to make it as true to natural as possible to get them going. Once you get them started, it seems to flip a switch for them and they get easier each time to the point they eventually take thawed from tongs. This strategy has always worked for me. YMMV.

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Have you tried live mice? Or mice at all?

This doesn’t come into play with ball pythons

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Yeah? Why not? I know they mostly see heat signatures and movement but they do see light and dark to a limited extent.

Another thought- you might consider bumping up her temps a couple degrees and see if that helps. She may be more sensitive to the cooler temps. If the temps are cooler than a snakes preference they may not eat because they know they need heat to digest. I’ve noticed with my snakes, they eat more aggressively when the temps are at the upper end of normal. Worth considering/trying anyway.

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I would personally lower this. Baby/young balls usually eat better when kept a bit cooler from my personal experiences.



as they say— and all the above.

How are you warming them? Wet or dry warming? and what did the seller do? Maybe try the sellers way then try both.
Have you contacted the seller to find out what she was feeding on and how?
I would continually check the environment, heat, humidity and what hides they are used to.
Also what kind of set up she was in with the seller and what kind of set up now?. Moving from a tub to glass vis can make a difference sometimes.

Have you checked for old stuck shed, especially eye caps. ?

If your environment and food type matches what she is used to, try different food types.
Mice, Multies, or smaller food. and one thing that got one of mine feeding was a chick.
Chicks are rubbish nutrition but you can trick them onto another food item. Once they have taken a chick, next time have 2 tongs one with a chick and one with a rat. heat the rat but let them smell the chick, then switch as she strikes.

Was she used to live? I don’t use live but have got live feeders to feed on defrosted with the above.

Edit: also don’t rush, over offer or panic. you have lots of time as long as she is healthy.


Personally, I have found that everything seems to want to eat an ASF.

I have a lovely enhancer g-stripe girl who used to do what you describe. She would only eat every once in awhile, take the prey then wouldn’t eat it, mice, rats, live, f/t, furry, not furry, big, small, etc… I tried everything I could think of…:man_shrugging:

Then our ASF colonies finally ramped up enough that I could offer a few…


Every picky eater, all of them, everyone wants to eat an ASF, even my dedicated mousers.:grin:

Oh, and a kingsnake will pick the lock on the door, get up fix coffee and make me breakfast in bed to bribe me into giving him an ASF.

Just based on ASF dietary needs, I suspect they’re probably better nutrition for our captive animals anyway, higher protein and lower fat.

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I make weekly attempts. According to the breeder, she was eating regularly but he mentioned to me that he often would drop the rat in her enclosure, which I’ve found is her preference. She was on f/t rats from the breeder and that’s what I feed all my pythons, so no changes. Set up is a VE-6E rack, 23 quart (large for her size, but I have multiple snug hides for security. I warm them wet, same as the breeder. I’ve tried dry warming as well, she seems even less likely to take them dry. She was in a similar setup from the breeder.

No stuck sheds. She last shed right after I purchased her and it came off clean. Humidity is good. I did give in and offer her a live rat pup after 4 weeks of unsuccessful attempts. It took her a good 30 mins, but she eventually did take that meal. I was hoping that would snap her out of her fast, but she continued to be inconsistent. She accepted a f/t 2 weeks after that, now again I’m having trouble. The rats are appropriately sized. I’m hesitant to try mice as I don’t want her to end up a mouser.

She seems to have little or no interest in food. You can kind of tell when a BP shifts their focus to food when they detect it, but often she is totally unfazed as if the food doesn’t exist. It’s odd.

Live rat pup, yes which she did accept. Hoped that would help end her fast, but she’s still very inconsistent. Have not tried mice. I’d rather exhaust all my options with rats before trying mice as I don’t want her stuck on those.

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Good suggestion! If I can keep her on regular rats, that would be ideal but of course if she starts losing weight, I will definitely try live or switch up the rodent type.

Maybe try cutting back on feeding attempts and see if this helps spark her appetite.

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It’s an age old myth that they get stuck on one type of feed or another. Our patience and their metabolism have nothing in common and there lies the source of that idea. A snake that is established on food, will not starve itself to death. People just get impatient and want it switch in 1-2-3 weeks. They will switch prey if they’re actually hungry. A healthy ball python can easily go a full year without eating, so you can see where a few weeks isn’t going to motivate it to change feeders. Most of us start neonate BPs on mice, yet we all sell them eating rats. If they were hard to switch we wouldn’t start them on mice.


This is spot on imo :100: agreement


Honestly I’d leave her alone for a week or so - constantly offering her food, handling, and just generally being in her space isn’t going to help and just stress her out more.

I have a snake around the same size and age as yours, she came to me eating live. I have since swapped her to f/t, and have even given her a handful of mice because of my frozen rat seller being out of stock for a few weeks. She has eagerly gone between mice and rats, so the whole idea of them getting “stuck” really doesn’t happen… sometimes they just want one thing or another. I have another guy who has never a mouse in his life and turns his nose constatly but offer him a rat and he’ll take it any day of the week.

What temp is the feeder heated to? I have found that can really play a part in how fast my snakes notice and to a lesser degree, who eats. Hopefully we can sort this out and your girl will be more consistent!


Good suggestions! Seems clear that I’m worrying too much about her getting stuck on one food type, so I’ll give mice a try if it continues.

I use the hottest the tap will go to heat my feeders, which is ~105F and let them sit in there a few minutes so that they don’t cool off as rapidly. Seems to be perfect for all my other snakes as they immediately lock on when it comes into their view.

Yeah, I avoid disturbing her as much as possible. Her cage is opened only to change the water or offer a meal weekly. I actually have not handled her except the 3 times I cleaned her tub. I’ll give her some more time on this next attempt.

Thanks for all the advice!


Sounds like the feeder temp isn’t an issue then. I heat mine to 94F and have never had a refusal related to that. Having a heat gun is super useful, considering they have so many uses other than checking hotspot temps!

Sometimes balls are just downright picky so it can be a challenge but I have hope she’ll be better with some time!