Hi all! I’m a new snake mom, troubleshooting my 7 month old ball’s feeding needs.
We were told to feed her adult mice once a week. First two tries (one per week), she sniffed the mice but wouldn’t strike, and though we left each overnight in case she wanted to eat in privacy, she didn’t eat. 3rd week, we tried a hopper mouse, which she struck and dropped. We gave her a couple of tries offering that same hopper over the course of an hour, but she seemed overwhelmed, so left that overnight, too. No luck.
That experience with the hopper was about three days ago. Each night now she comes out to her branch and assumes a curvy hunting position… But it hasn’t been a full week from our last try. Should we try another hopper now, or give her more time to cool down?
It seems like she’s ready to try again, but she gets overwhelmed so easily that I don’t want to put her off… And she’s still a baby, so I’m worried about going so long between her last feeding and now.
Thanks for your help! Pics for those who made it this far!
Hello, and congratulations on being a new snake mom! She’s a gorgeous girl with a beautiful headstamp! I’m sorry she’s not quite eating yet; one first thing I’d like to mention is that with feeding live it’s strongly advised against leaving the mouse in her enclosure any longer than 30 minutes. I do feed live to my snakes as well, and I wish I had known this several years ago when I first began to feed my little guy. I left the mouse in with him unsupervised overnight and the mouse bit him. This happens a lot more than you’d think, and a snake can even die from a rodent bite. My little guy got a pretty yucky infection that took a long while to heal, even with vet intervention. So, just make sure that you leave it in, supervised, for no longer than 30 minutes at a time.
If you just got your baby, it’s important to completely leave her alone for a week or so to adjust to her new environment.
Don’t worry so much about your girl not having eaten just yet; even though she’s small, she will be fine for a few weeks without eating. A lot of ball pythons (including mine) have been known to go off food for a month or more (as they grow, not necessarily healthy for your baby to go so long without food but try not to worry too much).
Here is a recent discussion that should help you navigate getting your new baby girl to eat, linking below:
First and foremost I would stop handling completely until she’s eating consistently, and use this time to make sure all the parameters of her enclosure are where they should be (temps, humidity, plenty of hides, etc) as stressed ball pythons don’t like to eat.
You can try again to see if she’s interested, definitely make sure the mouse is hot enough because I’ve noticed sometimes if mine are a bit too cool they seem to lose interest a bit like you described. If she doesn’t go for it, you can always try live for a meal or two just to get her eating, then swap back to f/t
It may also help to know what type of enclosure she’s in. The mention of being in an S-curve on a branch really makes me wonder if she’s also stressed from feeling ‘too exposed’.
Any time I have young ball pythons that express this behavior and refuse meals, I always have luck when I move them to a small tub and slowly increase the size of the enclosure while making sure she’s reliably eating between upgrades.
Also, I highly agree with chesterhf, try to avoid any handling when they are not eating reliably. Any stress can increase the time she doesn’t eat.
When you move your snakes to a smaller bin, how long between moving and feeding? I was told by the breeder not to move somewhere new to feed her, and some folks here say not to handle her at all before she eats for the first time. If she won’t eat in her tank we could try that.
(Admittedly the tank is large; 1.5x1.5x3, temps between 24C on the cool and 31C on the warm, humidity between 56% and 66%… We’ve scattered 3 hides across the tank and covered the ground and walls with fake leaves and branches so she can sneak around. She just seems to want to climb, though, so she climbs up into her hammock or into the vines or onto the big branch we added a few days ago to help provide more cover. (This is all bought from our friendly local pet shop, scrubbed down and baked at 200F providing it isn’t plastic!)
She genuinely seems curious and eager to look around, she just seems to get overwhelmed by food on offer, and then has no desire to eat the thawed mouse that gets left for her. She makes it look like she wants to try again, so I’m trying to balance that with giving her more time to de-stress.
I mean setting her up to live in a smaller tub setup, not moving her only for feeding. I also agree with the breeder, a ball python shouldn’t be moved from the home to feed. So small tub, a heat pad and thermostat and a water dish. If needed a small hide to press her back up against and feel more cozy.
If the hides are also too big in her regular home, you can try stuffing them with newspaper to give her less open space there as well. These little guys think a tight little spot is safest. If the sides are clear you can also cover them with something to give her more privacy as well, like paper on the outside.
The breeder most likely had her in a tub rack setup, so moving to a large cage is scary for these little guys. That cage sounds quite tall! This is in feet? Are you using an under tank heater? If there’s an overhead heat, she may be trying to get closer to the heat as well if she’s too chilly.
Funnily enough, she has managed to wiggle her way behind the biggest corner hide, wedged sideways against the glass. I think it’s the tightest place she can fit, so maybe that’s why it’s her fave?
Included is a pic of our setup. There are 3 hides (back left corner is hidden but is on top of under-tank heating.) Coconut husk hide was her favourite until we replaced the paper towel substrate (which breeder had said they were using for their babies) with a mix of clay balls and coco coir, straight coco coir, then reptibark top. I don’t really count the half log as a hide, just a place for her to explore when she has the evening zoomies. The back right corner is far too large, but we had a smaller one inside of it for a while, and she seemed to like that.
The left lamp is a deep heat projector, middle is regular light, back is a reptisun 10 UV lamp. Top of the tank is covered with tinfoil until we get a better solution. We’ve got her humidity up to 70%! When she was on paper towel it was tough to get it up past 50%. We’ve had all the visible lights on a 12 hour cycle, and keep the under tank heater and deep heat projector on thermostats.
She doesn’t usually perch on the part of the branch close to the deep heat projector, just the point most comfy for her to loosely curl around. I had put a f/t mouse on top of the half log one night when she dropped it, and now she is treating it like a placemat, sniffing at it and looking at it like she’s waiting for a meal to appear. I am hoping that in a day or so she will relax enough to properly eat, but it’s tough not to try again sooner, seeing her perched and sniffing around each night.
Her tank setup is beautiful but I agree with @armiyana suggestion about relocating her into a smaller cozy plastic tub including uth, water bowl, small cozy hide or 2, etc.
In the wild a snake in the process of eating a meal is an easy target for a predator. Ball pythons need to feel secure enough from predators to be able to eat and enjoy a meal. It’s pretty basic when you think about it……
Stunning animal.I have luck keeping youngsters in a small tub until feeding regular.Even snakes i have moved to small tubs from larger enviroments start to feed regular,so all my new hatchlings now go into small tubs from day one.Once they have had 10 or 15 feeds i move to larger enviroment’s ,this has always worked for me regards Tony
The setup you have looks nice. It also seems to have everything that is needed. As far as lights go, uv is not needed at all. Most nighttime Animals do not need them. The standard light might be to much. Not using one and relying on just the room lighting would be best. Of you hest light is a second source of heat you can keep using it (if needed to get the correct temps). If not need for temps, then it is also not needed. (sorry to let you know, but we all do this when we first get started. It is mostly a way for the store to make more money form items not needed)
As othes started, let it be until it eats. If you have tried weekly, I would skip a week and try again. Over trying can cause more stress. If this does not work, I would skip another week and try live, this seems to work as they like the hunt and movement.
It all of this does not work, then I would buy a small storage tub with locking lid, heat (under tank) , water, hide and any kind of bedding. After it eats a few meals, you can try to place back in then large setup.
As mentioned, they can go a long time without eating. I would get a scale to monitor the weight. Any sudden loss, I would take to a vet. It has been know that adults can go a year or 18 months without eating. Now this is an adult, not one your size.
She wound up figuring it out! After 3 tries (and having to warm the hopper up each time) she finally figured out how to hold her meal and get it down. Now she spends every night in the same spot and eyeballs me with tongue bleps for more food. I’m not going to give in and feed her off schefule no matter how cute she’s being. Nobody told me that snakes can make puppy eyes!
That is good news. Please stick to a 7 day scheduled. They may keep looking as of they want more, but that is not always the case. Wait 2 days before handing and I wouldn’t handle to often, until it eats a few meals. Sounds like you got this now. Feeding f/t can be a job in its own.