Welcome! I hope you enjoy yourself here!
So, ball pythons. I got my first one back in August 2018, and now have 13 of them and a boa. I plan to get into breeding myself.
I think ball pythons are a wonderful beginner pet, as they are typically a very docile and laid-back species. They are also relatively easy to care for.
It’s a lot of fun getting to know your snake (they do each have their own personalities!) and watching them grow.
Most pet keepers will house their snakes in a terrarium, which you can decorate and make look nice.
You’ll want to have at least 2 hides for the snake, one on the heat side, one on the cool side. Ball pythons in particular like clutter, so you can put all kinds of fake plants and whatnot in there for them to climb on. You’ll also want a water bowl of course.
Don’t use heat rocks, you risk burning your snake on it.
Usually a heat mat works well, but make sure you have a thermostat to hook it up to! I’ve seen some of those heat mats get well over 120°F without something to regulate it!
With terrariums it may be a bit more difficult to maintain proper husbandry, mainly with humidity and heat. I’ve heard of a few ways to combat this, such as using tinfoil to partially cover the top, or using a damp towel over part of the top to help keep humidity in.
I personally use tubs, but as I said I have way more snakes and so it’s more convenient for me to keep them in tubs/racks.
Ball pythons can be handled as little or as much as you like. Some say handling them while they’re in shed is bad, but I have personally not had any issues handling my ball pythons when they’re in shed.
You’ll also want to give them at least 24-48 hours after a meal before you handle them, or else you risk them regurgitating. Not a fun thing to deal with! I’ve had it happen a few times myself.
When a snake is about to go into shed, their bellies will turn a bit pink and I’ve seem their neck skin right behind their head get a bit wrinkly. They’ll then turn blue, and once they go out of the blue phase they’ll shed within a few days.
I usually mist down the enclosures when I notice they’re in shed, to help boost humidity.
If they shed in one piece, you know your humidity is on par. If it comes off in multiple pieces or you find shed stuck on them, you might want to look at how your humidity is.
On the topic of stuck shed, if this occurs you can just give your snake a soak in lukewarm water. Make sure it’s not so deep as your snake has to swim, but enough to cover part of its body. Don’t leave them unattended, I’ve heard of them drowning.
I feed my snakes an appropriate sized meal weekly. The size of your prey item should be around the same width of the widest part of the snake’s body.
You’ll want to be sure you know what type of prey item the ball python is currently eating, so you can continue with that. Younger ones are typically started out on hopper mice, but they can also be feeding on rats as well. Also make sure you know if the snake accepts frozen thawed or live, it’ll be important to know!
Most people will recommend you feed f/t, but it really depends on what the snake is willing to take and what you’re comfortable with.
You can find frozen rodents in most chain pet stores (such as PetSmart or Petco), though I’ve only found live rodents specifically for feeding at the local Pet Food Centers. If you can find a reptile breeder nearby that also sells feeders, great!
You can also order frozen rodents in bulk to be shipped to you from places like RodentPro. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are only keeping a few snakes.
If you choose to feed live, be sure you are supervising at ALL TIMES. Rodents can and will chew on your snake if they aren’t eaten immediately! I personally breed my own rodents and feed live, but always have my feeding tongs handy in case of a poor strike (which happens quite often.) Put the end of them in the rodents’ mouth so it can’t bite anything else.
I would definitely encourage you allow your snake to explore both indoors and outdoors, as long as you are supervising them and don’t let them get into dangerous places (such as stuck under furniture indoors, or somewhere you can’t reach them outdoors)
This gives them more enrichment and exercise than what they would get just sitting in their enclosure all day.
While a ball python wouldn’t be able to severely hurt any other pets (except, well, rodents) I’d be more concerned about how the other pets would react to the ball python. Dogs and cats could very easily injure or even kill your ball python, so I’d recommend either not leaving them together, or doing it under strict supervision.
Hoo boy that was a long one. If anyone wants to add onto what I said or has anything to correct me on, do let me know. I typed this all out on my phone so it may be a bit of a mess. Hope that all helps!