Feeding with maternal incubation

I was gonna post a few pics that I thought were really interesting, but I noticed they’d be in violation of guidelines. I’m letting two of my clutches maternally incubate, and I offered some food 6 days in. The chowhound of the two ate, and the other was curious but declined. Kinda what I expected…chowhound ate while gravid as well. It was really cool to see her carefully loosen her coils and avoid the eggs while trying to position herself to feed.

I’m gonna be experimenting with maternal vs incubator over the next few years while offering food at a reduced rate to see how things play out for both babies and mommas. Some stats:

Tubs: V70
Feeder: Small rat
Temps: 84 on substrate, moms + eggs ~91
Humidity: 90%
Eggs: 5, all look healthy
Mom age: ~5
Mom pre-gravid weight: 2500g
Substrate: BioDude Terra Firma

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Is this your first year doing maternal incubation?

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Yeah, and it’s partly because I’m experimenting with tub substrate…I think coco husk is easier overall but the terra firma is great for nesting, maintaining incubation humidity, etc.

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I’ve always wanted to try! Interested in seeing how it goes for you!

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I let two clutches MI last year. Both small clutches. 2 eggs in one 4 in the other. 100% hatch rate. Temps on eggs and humidity stayed great. Moms both displayed intelligent behaviors ie moving eggs back and forth to raise/lower temps. Of the 6 MI hatchlings 4 failed to thrive in their first month and died. I didn’t lose that many out of the other 13 of the clutches I ran in my incubator last year combined.

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I’m curious if those trends would continue over a larger sample size? I would think they would do better because the mom can fine tune details that we can’t detect.

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2/6 survived with MI (1 from each clutch) something like 91/93 survived out of the incubator. I condition my reptile rooms so they had an ambient of 82* and 50% humidity. For me it hit especially hard because I lost some really off the wall hatchlings a couple of which were very likely world’s first. I can’t see the point of spending more eggs to see if the number improves. Not that I’m trying to discourage anyone else from trying but I already found out the oven burns your hand so I’m cured :rofl:

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If I were to try it again I would do it in a tub or enclosure with a lot more floor space to give the female a better range of temperature to choose from. For the most part they kept their eggs away from the heat and still maintained an 87-88* average. I posted about on here last year in more detail. I was all for it at first.

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@ballornothing Yeah interesting, I just read your post. Sounds like overheating and general egg health were also issues?

I def won’t continue if I have a similar outcome…a lot of the forum posts I’ve read have been generally positive, though often noting slightly longer incubation times like you describe.

My initial expectation would be more in line with @erie-herps, where given a stable environment the mom has very acute control over conditions to maximize viability. I also think it’s possibly better for the general behavioral/emotional welfare of the mom…perhaps enough to offset any tax of incremental fasting during incubation (which may not even reduce rates of next-year recovery the first place).

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If you’ll read carefully you’ll see the eggs never overheated. I also mentioned above, the moms never kept their eggs on the heat tape always away from it. That’s what I meant by displaying intelligent behaviors, the mom in that tub moved her eggs around to keep them at the correct temperature. As far as egg health, the second clutch was perfectly healthy after I removed the 3 eggs that crashed.

As far as recovery, one female has laid and the other is still pairing. Both are running a few months late. Both ate bi weekly throughout.

It’s also worth pointing out that at the time when I said “I’d be as inclined to blame to the quality of the eggs” the second clutch hadn’t started dying yet. The eggs were small but that’s not necessarily an issue.

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I don’t want any of that to sound as discouraging as it sounds lol. Unlike some species of birds I’ve worked with, Ball Pythons still retain the instinct to at least try to incubate. I think it can even be something totally viable for small collections. There is just a lot of work to be done on figuring out that formula. In the end an incubator will be always be easier, just much less interesting :joy:

Haiku reptiles on IG would be a good person to ask about MI she’s been messing with it for several years.

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4/5 are pipped and healthy. 5th was a very small egg under the rest - I clipped the eggs but couldn’t tell if it survived. Currently giving them some space to absorb yolk and work their way out.

I have 16 more maternally incubating that should hatch over the next few weeks. All the eggs look really healthy - turns out humidity and temps were pretty easy to get right on this substrate. My sensors showed really consistent params the whole time.

Biscuits is one happy momma.

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This is really interesting to read.

We focus so much on incubators etc so it’s great to see it being done maternally. Are the mums still eating / healthy?

Love this!
Definitely what I would love to do in the future when I breed. I think it’s great for mum, and I’ve seen and read that a lot of mums actually still feed throughout with no issues! :grin:

11/12 success rate so far - 10 more eggs to go. Landed some cool combos - particularly a disco + mystic + banana female maker (prob pastel/enchi, poss leopard) with a wild bright spot and ‘pied marker’ side. Some more pics and observations:

  • Moms have extreme muscle sensitivity at this time; they are clearly wired to lay very gently beside or on top of the pipped eggs and exposed babies for thermoregulation and neuromuscular stimulation. You can see how carefully Biscuits is coiled around some of her babies, and Pebbles specifically kept her body over the two least developed cut eggs for 24 hours.

  • I have a lot of rapport with these two moms in particular. I can easily move them to grab a baby or even remove the mom from the tub without much stress. Initially there was some visible concern when I started interacting with the clutches (slight hissing or giraffing to watch me very closely), but they seemed to recognize that I was just checking in and relaxed a lot after one or two experiences.

  • When I first replaced Pebbles after taking her out to cut the eggs, she rested her head right in the center of the clutch and stayed there until she was sure they were all OK. I really wish I got a pic of this, but I was too in awe just observing.

  • They don’t seem to care much when I remove empty shells. They are, however, way more attentive if I pick up a full egg.





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WRT feeding, 2/4 fed no problem. One of the others prefers live and snubbed frozen offers, and I wasn’t going to risk throwing a rodent into the tub. The other is a later clutch and TBD, but she refused offers while gravid.

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Just curious, if your trying to do maternal incubation, why cut the eggs?

It’s great they let you handle them, our girls were surprisingly calm when we removed them to get to the eggs. We used an incubator but both girls were upset when their eggs were gone. The mum of the clutch that’s hatched knows her babies have hatched though, she watches every time I go to the babies. They are opposite her enclosure :grin:

My main concern with maternal incubation would be not piping and mum not eating.

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Eh no really good reason in retrospect, probably more an expression of my own anxieties - the first clutch had an animal that either needed intervention or was dead in egg, turns out it was the latter. Second clutch there was a pipped head that was stuck in a small slit, and I’ve read (rare, but low sample size?) reports of moms accidentally crushing partially emerged babies. In both cases some emerged quickly but others still needed ~1 day before breathing air.

I think in the future I’ll let nature run its course, because I made it harder for the moms to do their job without disturbing the amniotic fluid and yolk.

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More pics of mommas being mommas…and a pretty cool disco paradox in the clutch. Think the sire was hiding some OD, making this baby a banana/disco/mystic/od/leopard (+ poss pastel).

One cool thing to note - none of these 11 babies strike or flinch. They are 100% at ease with handling from day 1…several even get super curious and come to my hand when I open the tubs.

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Are you doing again this year? :grin:

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