Maintenance feeding / weight differences

Wait… breeders under feed babies to keep them smaller? I have one snake I got from a breeder, wont say who, but I refuse to buy from them again as she was apparently 1 year old when I got her but only weighed 300 grams. I did not know this was common practice. Though I did find it odd looking through ads on mm and seeing weight differences with so many different snakes. Though of course I assumed they were picky eaters, mousers, anything but the breeder purposely doing that. This hurts my heart. I thought we were in it for the animals?

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@wispermata First off I’m not a breeder but I’ll weigh in with a voice of reason a little.

“Underfed,” it kind of carries insinuation of abuse, like they’re starving or something. And that’s not necessarily true. (Also I’m not a breeder yet.)

Anyway there’s a difference between feeding “enough” so that they’re healthy and enough to bulk them up like a buyer would to try to get them up to breeding size. Now, I haven’t had to cross the bridge myself yet, but I would say keep in mind breeders do care about their animals, if they want to have a sustainable business think about guys producing hundreds of hatchlings a year and what a drain it could be if they’re packing them all with as much food as they would one of their own.

I got a year old pinstripe that was under 300 grams and I admit I was a little disappointed in the guy but I also understand there’s another side too. You need to keep your merchandise healthy, but there are 2 sides to every coin so I’d say have a little understanding, “underfed” to me means skinny or somehow unhealthy and that’s not usually the case.

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For reference, my picky eater Bellatrix (pictured below) weighed 90 grams at nearly a year old because she stopped eating for me for a while. She is a solid 350 grams now 7 months later and hasn’t missed a meal. It really just depends on if the snake actually wants to eat, and most good breeders won’t under feed their snakes. Many of the meals we usually give our snakes are bigger to make them grow fast, but smaller meals aren’t bad unless you are looking to beef up your snake so it breeds asap. Sometimes smaller meals are actually better so your snake doesn’t get obese or get constipated.

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I suppose that makes more sense. I have a very small collection, I only just started breeding this year.
I can see with larger collections how that would be difficult. As long as the snakes are healthy.
I take back that statement. I initially panicked because I am a crazy animal lady. But I understand.
I often forget snakes can go a bit without eating and be healthy. I feed all my snakes every 7 days, some adults go longer depending on size. But I feel bad I for any reason I miss a meal due to me not being home or anything like that.

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They’re are people over feeding, some that maintenance feed, some animals smaller than other naturally, some that are picky etc…there can be various reason for weight discrepancies which is why people need to rely less on numbers and more on overall condition of and animal and feeding history.

And it all start as hatchling some are 45 grams some are 90 grams, some will get started 1 day after their first shed some will get their first meal 6 weeks after their first shed.

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@wispermata Completely understand. My knee jerk reaction was similar. After thinking it through…are there those out there probably skimping too much to save a nickel here and there? Yes probably.
But smart people will know it’s in their businesses best interest to have healthy animals. And that’s the most important thing. I haven’t been at this long enough to know from experience if a slow start needs their long term growth potential but I have been told that it doesn’t, a snake can start slow whether it’s due to smaller meals or just being a difficult eater and still catch up in size later in life. Would be something I’d be interested to observe.

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I see some (very few) breeders that consistently don’t feed their snakes that are for sale enough to grow nearly as fast as I would have. Ball pythons that are not much more than 300g at one year old for example. I don’t think it’s a health or ethics issue at all, as they don’t seem emaciated or anything, but I’ve passed on buying some animals because I want ones in the condition that they would be in if I had raised them myself. I figure I might as well just buy a new hatchling than a one year old that size.

They may be trying to pinch some pennies by feeding less, but I think in the long run feeding them well will lead to better sales based on my personal experience buying at least.

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I personally would much rather buy a 300 gram 1 year old BP that is eating consistently than a 80-120 gram baby that may or may not eat well in my care. A well started 1 year old is much better than a fresh baby.

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Personal preference I suppose. As others have mentioned I see a risk that the slower feeding schedule could be masking other feeding issues. Also in my experience, younger snakes are more likely to cope with the inevitable changes in environment/feeding/etc. that might cause them to go on a feeding strike once I get them.

For both a small older snake or a young hatchling, I think either way you have to trust the breeder when they say the snake eats well. So in that respect it’s a wash for me.

But it is true that the most ideal to me is a snake that’s a few months old that is growing within the range that I usually see with my own hatchlings. That way I know for sure that they have eaten consistently as they have been growing, and have a great chance of continuing to thrive in my care.

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I have seen a breeder at a show with severely underweight babies, spines were showing and they couldnt really move much. Needless to say he didnt sell anything… but i have that instant panic reaction just because I have seen first hand how bad it can be with some breeders. I would hope everyone had the best intentions, and as long as the animal is healthy and happy, feed how they see fit

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I am curious, why do you feel 300 g is under weight for a 1 yr old. I have had several hatchlings over the years that despite feeding on a weekly schedule just did not pack on the weight like others.

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I had seen just a few people on social media say that snakes they picked up were behind or something for their age and needed to pack on weight and the snakes they were referring to were in a similar situation to the girl I picked up. And all my one year olds were sitting at 600 plus.
I have had bps for almost 2 years now and all my snakes have grown at about the same rate, so to me it just seemed odd how behind she was.
She was also the second older snake I bought, I had purchased a male before her who was a little over a year sitting at 800 grams, I just assumed she would be around the same.
I just didnt think about the feeding schedules everyone might have, everyone keeps their animals their own way. I did not take into consideration that the animals fed less were still healthy and grew slower, just because I wasnt planning on doing that. That was my mistake

The only problem with saying that every ball python should be at a certain weight by a certain age and if they are not then you are a bad breeder and under feeding your snakes, it not a fair assumption and is unrealistic. The main thing to remember is not every snake grows and puts on weight the same. some will take that food and put it more towards length vs weight. My genetic stripe girl was over 2 ft before she actually started putting on any real weight, despite weekly feedings. Ultimately you have to look at the condition of the animal and feel comfortable with what information on feeding habits the breeder is giving you.

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Not sure if that question is directed at me since I did throw out a 300g number as an off-the-cuff example. Just wanted to say I think I totally agree with you. There’s so much natural variation in ball pythons and how they grow. I have zero expectation that every ball python will grow at the average I’ve observed personally.

If I’m looking to buy a snake, I still have my purchasing preferences though, and at the same time don’t judge the breeder on that.

Only one time ever did I decide to just avoid a breeder altogether because it was every single yearling snake that I inquired about was just way smaller than I would expect. Not even one came close to my average yearling weight, so at that point I have to assume they are doing something different than I am. Again, the snakes all looked healthy and well looked after. I’ve got nothing against the breeder. I was looking for yearlings to get a head start on a female and there were other options that got me that head start. I avoided them because I knew it was a waste of my time and theirs to keep inquiring about their snakes.

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You’re absolutely right.
I appreciate everyone posting here with good info and just being helpful on the subject rather than being negative.
Thanks everyone for the help

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We have some hatchlings that were picky from the git-go, or smaller than their siblings. We feed every 5 to 10 days. Some will not eat due to shed, or lack of being hungry. We keep a close eye on them if they are being finicky eaters, and if they aren’t around 200g or steadily eating, we don’t list them for sale until they are either to weight, or eating regularly. We have a few animals that refuse to eat larger meals, so they take longer to gain weight. Just the nature of the critters!

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I am definitely in “maintenance” feeding mode with some of my animals right now. I am getting ready to move to another state after quarantine, so my money that I would be spending on larger enclosures is a bit tied up at the moment, so opening up their schedule a bit, and feeding slightly smaller prey items is still going to keep them healthy, but wont really allow them to grow faster than I can accommodate them. For the time being, they are at good sizes for their enclosures, so they can live in them with no hassles until I am re-settled, and then I can bump up their food sizes again, and they can get to growing larger again, while I acquire new enclosures for them.

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Why do we assume that 1500 grams at 3 years is the best way to raise ball pythons? Honestly, that’s the goal I have for my breeders, but I don’t think we can assume it’s “best” way to raise snakes. In the wild I don’t think that every year every snake grows the same. During droughts, when food may be hard to find, snakes will end up growing slower or not at all. This doesn’t mean they are sick or about to die. It just means they evolved to survive a difficult environment.

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I actually did have one bad deal like that, part of it was my own fault, I made an assumption I should not have. Someone saw on my business page that I kept O.p vallanti and asked me if I wanted a 2 year old female, that just missed the cut off for breeding that year, they had just brought them up from brumation, etc. The fact that it was nearly ready to breed was mentioned in several ways thru out the messages, so then when the person weighed it and told me it was 20 grams, I noted it but didn’t clarify, ASS-U-ming that they meant 200 grams, which would have been reasonable for a nearly ready to breed, 2 year old animal. The pics were awful, completely blurred, just enough to tell it was the species named, but hey, not everyone owns a decent camera and O.p. vallanti are freaky little things that can be hard to get to hold still. But when it arrived, she was only 19 grams!! I couldn’t decide which was worse, that she really was 2 years old and had been so severely maintenance fed that she’d barely grown from a hatchling or the seller lied through his teeth and sold me an at most 6 month old. Seller had a good rep too, I did check them out on the BOI, this was about 4 years ago, before sending money. To compare, at the same time, I bought a 4 month old male from a different seller that was 15 grams when he arrived.

I don’t mind sellers somewhat maintenance feeding their babies but most I know that do it do feed enough for growth, if not as fast as a typical pet or future breeder will grow.

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I dont really maintenance feed, but I definitely dont power feed. I try to have a schedule but it’s kinda all over the place. I have snakes that I try to coax into eating because I dont want them losing too much, I understand in the wild they can handle certain situations but I dont see a reason they should have to experience that in captivity if it can be helped. I dont assist or force feed, but I try not to have food strikes longer than a few weeks. I also know when a snake looks too pudgy and I skip a meal for them until they dont look like they are borderline obese, like after a bigger meal than normal ot something.

Secondly, I would have to agree, it’s not the feeding practices that scare me. As stated above, many sellers practice maintenance feeding but their snakes are still at healthy weights, just not growing as quickly as a breeder getting fed more often or bigger meals. I think it’s just the idea of the unknown to me. Seeing tiny snakes with spines sticking out and then hearing about this maintenance feeding led me into a panick, but I am grateful to understand the difference now. I just hope that everyone does proper maintenance feeding, but I know theres just some sketchy people out there and it makes me sad for those animals

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