How many consecutive seasons is it safe to breed a Female Ball Python

This question came up in another topic. I would like to hear opinions on how many years in a row people breed their females before giving them a year off.

Really? I’m happy to be educated. Is one year on one year off the norm? I never heard that. I’ve heard you shouldn’t breed your females every year, but I didn’t know how many years in a row it was ok or not ok to do so.

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From my experiences and the breeders I’ve worked with, one year on and one year off is the norm. Of course if you’re a big breeder many breed their females every year( which I don’t agree with) but to each their own.
I’m more a hobby breeder and I sell my snakes I produce for pennies, so one year off and one year on is the route I take. And I’ve found them to live about 3 years longer with this method again from other breeders information and side research.

It’s really your call and ethics is in the eye of the keeper. We all have our own ways of doing things. I’d say if she hasn’t given you any slugs yet form the previous 3 years of breeding, it’s a good indicator she’s very healthy. She’s starts to slug out, reduce the amount you pair her.

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Depends 100% on the individual animal. There is no “one size fits all” method to these snakes but most don’t pay close enough attention to their females’ behavior.

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From what I’ve read and heard, female ball pythons will only lay eggs if she feels she has the right body condition and that her body can handle it. We can’t force them to produce eggs.

Because of that, I don’t see there being an issue with breeding them each year. They know themselves better than we do, after all!

However I would not breed a female if she didn’t have the right body condition and/or wasn’t eating well prior to the time the start of the next season rolls around.

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Absolutely. These snakes produce eggs when they are ready.

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They will actually breed no matter how much weight they have or what condition they are in (in most cases). Even if they are sick they will still breed given the chance. People tend to give them too much credit, but sadly they aren’t that intelligent when it comes to self preservation. That is just how nature works, as their only goal is to make sure their bloodline/species survives and that their life isn’t as important as their babies. That is the case with a lot of animals, and there isn’t many I can think of that won’t prioritize reproduction. Now things like mammals can abort pregnancies, but to my knowledge snakes can’t as easily. They can slug out though, which isn’t a good sign as @mnroyals said. Did you know that in the wild, many females of snakes (especially rat snakes) will be smaller than males and almost never reach large sizes? The reason being is because they put all of their extra energy into eggs instead of growing. It takes a lot out of animals to breed and does shorten their lifespans, whether some people like to believe it or not. The responsible thing is to give them a year off to make sure they aren’t put under too much stress health wise.

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I would agree they definitely know themselves better than we do. That’s the case with most animals.
But as keepers it’s our responsibility to set healthy standards for our animals. I think if you took away the monetary value from continuing to breed a female year after year, this would not be such an issue. I think to many keepers are focused on making a buck or getting their name on the map producing a morph or combo that has rarely been produced. It’s completely selfish to breed these animals year after year if you actually care about them. I seriously can’t even believe people dispute the fact that it shortens their life. And this is all worth it for some eggs to sell or to further keepers projects? That’s the main issue and that’s why people think it’s ok to breed them every year and look past the health of their snakes. No project or possible monetary gain would ever make me do that, but maybe I’m more alone on that topic than I realize, which is very sad honestly.

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I can definitely understand that we have to set those boundaries for our snakes, considering they are very much instinctual animals and will do whatever it takes to pass on their genetics.

My butter girl did lay a clutch despite having an abscess in her jaw. I never really intended to breed her until she was 100% healthy again, but she decided she wanted to breed anyways. She did have the body condition and was eating well prior to going off food due to breeding reasons, so that was part of my decision in allowing her to breed.

Thin animals shouldn’t be bred and will not produce follicles. Adequate fat storage is key to healthy production. Fact of the matter is, when you keep thousands of these snakes over the course of decades you see and learn a lot of important cues. I agree not every female should be bred season after season. As I’ve stated many times, there is no one size fits all approach as much as some would like to believe. Breeders are getting accused of not taking care of there animals when for many, it’s their only source of income and they must make sure animals are healthy. The biggest and best breeders everyone looks up to are doing these exact things everyone despises…because they know their animals. Otherwise they wouldn’t be as successful as they are. Do what works for you and your animals and please stop hating on people because they don’t take your “standards”. It is all subjective.

As far as slugs go, it’s more often caused by excessive heat in males before and during breeding, or females kept too hot during and after ovulation. Just my experience.

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I had excessive slugs this season and have traced to my temps being not low enough for my females.

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When you first start out, it’s hard to discern what you are looking at. I just passed through my 5th breeding season and every season I recognise and learn something new. It also takes a few seasons with a female before you start seeing a pattern so what might appear to be people not paying attention, could actually just be people going through the process of learning. Lot’s and lots of new people entering this hobby/business, which I think benefits everyone so at any given time you are going to have lots of people learning about this stuff. I love your comments Osbornereptiles. Thanks for being active, I have learned a lot for them.

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It comes down to the female knows better.

Some will go every year for several years, some will take 1 year off or 2 years off, I have a female that only laid 3 clutches in 11 years.

It’s up to them in the majority of cases, the only exception I make is if a female slugs out she will not be paired the following season , even if she produces follicles.

Females know if they are ready or not I just follow their lead on when in 90% of the cases which is why I also breed year round.

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To back up a point that Osbornereptiles made earlier, slugging out could also be a by product of too much heat on females. I had a female lay 11 healthy eggs as a first year breeder last season and then give me 9 slugs out of 12 eggs this season. She is a great eater and seems extremely healthy. In fact, I had an abnormally large percentage of slugs this season from other females as well and after doing research on it, the temps seems to be the common theme and I did do some different things with my temps this season and my hot spot was indeed likely too high as well as my ambient room temp. I will fix this next season and see what happens.

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I didn’t intend to generalize that comment about people not paying attention. YOU made my point because you are paying attention and learning from your animal’s behavior. That is exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t share my opinions I only share my experiences. I was already 10 years into this hobby before the internet was commonplace. Back then we had to learn from our own mistakes and share knowledge via lengthy and expensive phone calls, or by going to shows and discussing new ways of keeping. Keep up the good work and thank you for the kind words. I just want to see everyone be successful with their animals.

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I’d agree with you doing what works for you.
And I’m not “hating” on anyone for their own personal way of how they breed.

What is in question is the overall lifespan of a ball that gets bred year after year. You can still have a very healthy snake that is bred every season, that still doesn’t take away the fact that animals including snakes who breed in consecutive years don’t live as long as those bred conservatively. I’m not accusing anyone breeder of not taking care of their animals, more bringing up the topic of shorter lifespan when bred year after year.
Those are my opinions which are not accusations.

There are those valid reasons that I agree are more common for slugs than the one I listed. I was just saying if that’s not the cause a female slugs out, overbreeding can be one that is.

Again I agree each individual should do what’s best for them. But your own subjective thoughts on this matter may be connected to the fact that breeding balls is a big part of your income. And possibly bringing up this issue may have some people reconsider what’s best for the animals which would make it harder for you to make your living. And if people then thought that the ethics of breeding a snake every year was wrong, you could possibly be looked at as un-ethical in the future, with the other big breeders.
Again it’s how you look at the issue for each individual, and that’s how I view it.
I expected to get big responses on this subject because I know if how people breed the same snakes year after year started to change to every other year, many of you would lose a lot of money and have to invest more to continue to produce the same amount of hatchlings each year.
But I’m a hobby keeper and breeder so money never matters for me, just getting a snake to live as long as possible is what’s important.

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You’re assuming many things.

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I’m not trying to assume that the breeders who do continual breeding of females each year don’t care about their animals.
I know you care and many others who do that also care, I’m just trying to show a different point of view on the subject.
A snake can easily be healthy being bred like that, I don’t believe it’s necessary and my own experiences and the experience of other big breeders I’ve talked to have shown me animals bred every year live shorter lives.
That’s the topic on hand.

I actually think most people breeding ball pythons only make enough to fund their own needs in the hobby. Very difficult to make a living on this and even more difficult to do it if you are not properly caring for the animals. Those folks are usually in and out in a couple of years. This whole “only in it to make a buck thing” is way overblown and may have been the case many years ago but I don’t believe still is. You have to run this like an actual real business and put a ton of time into it in order to make a living doing it. My opinion of course.

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Those are very good points, thank you.