I have been thinking about this topic for a while. Other then the first few hatchling meals, I am now 5+ years in on feeding exclusively Frozen Thawed Rats to my collection (about 19+ snakes) and have started to make some observations that I would like to share and would like to hear other experiences.
First off, I have never had a problem transitioning a ball python to Frozen Thawed Rats. This goes for adults and juveniles although I have never tried to transition a “mouse eater” although I’m confident it would transition eventually. It all comes down to patience and how long you are willing to wait. If the snake is from another breeder and is a juvenile, I will feed live to get them “started” if they don’t eat in a couple weeks after coming to my collection. Once I feel like they have enough weight on them, I let them fast until they are ready and they always take, eventually.
The other major observation I have is that my snakes tend to be a lot more of binge/fast eaters. Sure, I have a couple snakes that I barely have to even defrost a rat and they will take it every week, but most tend to go through periods of binge eating whereby they will feed weekly for 4+ weeks to a few months in a row and then go off food for a period of time, sometimes a few months. In the past, I would lose patience and feed them a live rat during this fasting period and they would always take it. Now, however, I just let them fast and let them tell me when they are hungry and they always go back on food. They seem to breed well and grow at the same rate, maybe slightly slower, but otherwise are perfectly healthy. I suspect most fasting has to do with breeding and sexual maturity, the 1000g wall.
I suspect live rats are more of a reaction to food while Frozen Thawed are more of a “hunger” thing (*non scientific opinion). They eat when they need to as opposed to eating just to eat. Would love to know others experiences here. Thanks!