Picky Hatchling Advice?

Hello! I hatched my very first clutch of ball pythons back in August, there were 8 perfect and healthy hatchlings produced in this clutch. 5/8 of them have been eating on their own for well over a month now however there are 3 that for some reason just not about it, I’ve been having to resort to assist feeding (and I am comfortable with this- I was a vet tech before I was a reptile breeder) but I would seriously love for these guys to take the hint and start eating on their own. I will list the various methods I have tried with them and I would seriously love suggestions.

To start all the hatchlings are being kept in the same rack with good temps, papertowels, water dish, 1-2 hides, fake plants, rocks/shells, and paper towel tubes for enrichment. I was hoping this would make these little ones feel more secure.

Feeding methods I have tried for the picky 3:
-Heating up the rodents right above the rack
-Dropping the food in and leaving them alone
-wiggling the food in front of their face
-scenting with chicken broth
-scenting with reptilinks ASF scent
-rat pinks
-very small furred mice
-increasing temps
-live rat pups
-waiting longer than 5-7 days to offer food

2 of the hatchlings do not even bother to sniff the rodents and appear to be completely uninterested, while 1 of them seems to be very flighty and defensively strikes at the rodent when offered.

I am not super sure what the next step would be here for these guys and since they are reluctant to eat on their own they are starting to fall way behind on weight gain (they are still gaining weight but not nearly on the same level as the ones eating on their own) I would seriously like for these guys to get eating so they can get on to their new homes before the snow flies!


What are your temps?

I would suggest trying live ASF, very small. Also changing the substrate, sometimes environmental change can spark them into feeding.

I have one hatchling that will only eat very small live ASF.


The ambient temps around the rack have been ~72-75F and the thermostat on the rack is set to 89 and I originally had it set to about 85 before experimenting with temps. Live ASF would be a good idea, but I have no idea where to get my hands on some in my area. I’ll mess with substrate soon too and see if that does anything, I feel silly for not trying sooner as my one adult female wants cocoblocks or she will go off feed…lol


(forget to do my reply as an actual reply, I am still getting used to these forums)

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No worries,

72-75 is a bit on the low side. I personally keep all my ball pythons between 77-82 ambient. If you dont have a temp gun to check hot side temps I would get one to be sure. Sometimes there will be some deviation between actual temps and the set point of the thermostat. I have one rack that I have to set the thermostat to 98 in order to achieve 88-90 hot spot temps.

I suspect your temps are a bit low but some might disagree. Ultimately trying different prey items is a solid approach. I would double check temps and try to get your hands on live ASF. I’m entering my third breeding season with a fair number of clutches and I’ve yet to have to assist feed, been lucky with that.


Lol that is very lucky! the ambient in the bins is probably a bit warmer than the ambient in the room, I need to replace the handheld thermostat I had in there and I can reconfirm in like… 30mins? It has been hard to maintain temps in the current place I live in (and nothing like the good ol wildly inconsistent New England temps…)


Have you tried a live hopper mouse or rat pup? I have found very fer animals that will not key in on a live feeder and after a couple three feedings or so you can try P/K or F/T


Yes and unfortunately there was no interest, the flighty one had struck at it but only in a defensive way and the other 2 ignored the live rat pup even after leaving it with them over night. But good news! The flighty one decided to figure out food isnt evil and took a nice hefty F/T rat pup all on their own last night!


Good news! I had swapped around hides earlier last week after one of the hatchlings that had been eating went to their new home and the flighty one that was not eating had received the new cave decided to eat all on their own last night! And another one expressed way more interest than they had previously so progress! Just 2 more to get eating on their own and hopefully playing around with the substrate inspires something for them



I’m glad things are improving, I know how frustrating it can be!


Another update! I got another to eat on their own and now we are down to one fussy baby but I have a good feeling they will eat later this week. The substrate did help and I feel silly for not trying sooner lol


You say you have tried rat pups, but what about live mouse hoppers? Mice always get a better reaction than rats.

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