Rigid defensive baby ball python

Needing some advice -
So I’m not an inexperienced snake owner - I am new to an incredibly defensive baby ball however. She’s my 4th ball and I’ve never had an experience like this so I’d love some advice.
I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and read many articles - all which kind of lead to my understanding that once you take the defensive snake out, handle it briefly, it starts to loosen up and explore.
Not this baby.
She stiffens up and stays stiff - I could throw her like a boomerang - and she literally never loosens up. She keeps her neck cocked - in the S shape. I have no idea what to do nor how to proceed.
She enjoys tagging and attempting to tag. If I place my hand over her to put her into a ball to help alleviate the stress she never unballs.
Any advice on how to help her get comfortable besides the daily hold which aren’t improving her dislike for me much?

If it helps - she’s a high white pied ball python born 7/10

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I don’t have any experience with ball pythons, so if there’s any more experienced breeders/owners out there then you’re welcome to correct me. If she does this when she sees you then you could just be in front of her enclosure but doing something else and trying to avoid looking at her for a while so she starts to get used to seeing you and you being around and realizes that you’re not a threat. And this I don’t know about but if you just loosely held her in cupped hands for a while and just wait until she started to loosen up however long that takes and then from there working with her and getting her to be more relaxed.

We hold her a couple times a day for many minutes per holding sessions but she never loosens up - at all.
And I’m in the room daily off and on all day. The majority of which she is in her hides. At night when I’m in there and she’s out exploring she doesn’t pay much attention to me but will freeze if we get too close to her tote.

If you just got her maybe allow her time to settle in. Snakes don’t really enjoy being held. Until the snake is settled in and feeding regularly I would just leave them alone.


I recently went threw this almost exact thing. What I did was leave her alone for 3 days. then on the third day I noticed she went into shed so had to wait a few more days after that I started to take her out for short spells 5 min max once per day with a glove. Like you said at first it was strike strike then it was ball up how ever after about 7 days she chilled out. She is still jumpy and gets spooked easily but is starting to look around and check things out when being handled. Short positive interaction will convince her that you mean no harm. I think 3 times a day is to much hands on just my experience and 2 cents it a very nice little lady hope she chills out for you.


I’m going to agree with the others that this is way too much too soon. The poor baby is probably really stressed out. I would leave her alone for several weeks and not even attempt to handle her until you’ve gotten her to feed at least 3-5 times consistently and she has been left alone for a bit. Then start handling once every few days and gradually work up to more. Once she’s more comfortable then you can handle every day, skipping the days after she’s eaten and when she’s in blue


I would follow the advice from the other replies, spot on advice imo.

I do have a question tho, do you have any other female balls around the same size or age?
If so, you could try cohabitation with adding another female in her enclosure. I used to do that with defensive hatchlings I hatched out. Most the time having another snake crawl and touch the other, helps them relax a bit when handled. They get used to interaction from their own species, and seem to be less stressful overall. I’d only do that for a week or two, and of course separate them when feeding.


Only a couple times a day for several minutes - less than 10 minutes sometimes just a couple. Can’t seem to get her to relax no matter how much I try and gently touch.

Yes I have another female born the same month - I’ve never been encouraged to house together. Other female is slightly larger than pied and I’m going to say she has some troubles neurologically but I’m still trying to figure out what exactly.
The other female, if she bumps herself while moving, she startles herself.

Just a question not trying to insult your practices. Have you checked your temps? Short tail pythons are very crabby when kept too hot. And the other females issues may be heat related stress as well.

I wouldn’t say I’m encouraging you to house them together, that’s completely up to you to do what you think is appropriate and best for your snake.
Just saying that trick has worked for me in the past. If you do try that just put them together for a few minutes and watch them. If any stressful behavior comes out from either during cohabitation, remove them and put them in their own tubs again.

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Yeah my temps look good. Temp gradient good. We experience colder nights right now but it shouldn’t lower her night temps but a couple degrees if any right now.

How long have you had this snake? Giving them ~3 weeks alone is’t just for settling in, but also important for quarantine. Even if you bought her from a good, trusted and reputable breeder, quarantining any newcomer is important. If you’re regularly taking her out and handling her, then that’s not going to be a successful quarantine unless you’re taking a full shower after each and every time before handling/feeding/interacting with any of your other snakes.


Along with not handling her for a week or so to let her settle in, this may just be an attitude that she will grow out of. My first female was EXTREMELY defensive. I would be walking across the other side of the room 10 feet away and she would strike her tub trying to scare me away, and now 3 years later she’s one of my best behaved BP’s. When they are that small, their instinct is to be afraid of everything because they aren’t big enough to defend themselves. On top of that your girl just moved from the only home she’s known to a new home full of new smells and stimuli, which she likely feels isn’t safe because she is ‘disturbed’ multiple times a day by a big scary predator that keeps touching her.

Let her get used to her new home undisturbed so she can feel it is a safe space, let her get a little bigger so she’s feels more confident, and then start once daily handling sessions and she’ll come around.


A “couple times a day” when dealing with a defensive animal is too much. This animal needs to be left alone.

The best practice after you get any new animal is to put it through a quarantine process where you interact with it as little as possible, basically only bothering it (as little as possible) when you clean, change water, and feed.

After a period of a couple three months you can move the animal in to its permanent housing and begin to adapt to its behaviour. Please read that last again - you adapt to the animal’s behaviour, not the other way around

I have an animal that if five years old and has exhibited this same behaviour all her life. Some animals are just inherently defensive.

There are some things that can be done that may help with animals like this, but they are not some easy, quick fix. They take work. If you look up Lori Torrini and her work on behaviour conditioning with snakes, she has done a lot of work in this area.


Thank you Everyone.
I appreciate you taking the time to respond
For now, my plan is to -
Maintain her heat to the proper temps
She’s in quarantine for now for another week but will resume one daily to every other day handling in about two weeks or so
I go into her tub daily to check temps, refill water, clean as necessary and will expose her to me and get her use to my hands being in her tub


While ball python behavior isn’t yet my expertise I have quite a bit of experience dealing with many boa constrictors… and one defensive ball python. The ball python arrived to me striking out of the bag. She tensed up and went after me every time. After allowing her a month or so of settling in and getting on a good feeding schedule I began working with her two to three times per week. When getting her out she was usually in a stiff highly reactive mood and would usually stay this way for 5 to 10 minutes… often biting my hands (I wore long thin leather gloves). I moved slowly and calmly and never reacted to her biting or striking. She would eventually go into a running mode (fight or flight!) and I would pass her from hand to hand. After 5 or 10 minutes I’d put her back in her tub. After 2 or 3 sessions she wasn’t striking anymore and I didn’t need the gloves. After 2 or 3 more she was great and didn’t need any further effort in that regard. Since then she is my best feeder, never skipped a meal and strikes every time right away (been on F/T since day 1). She has a different attitude than my other ball pythons and tends to stay moving in the hands.

I personally am of the belief that any handling is a form of stress for them and I would avoid doing it daily. I personally dont handle my snakes any more than once per week but that’s just me. But I dont like them to be extremely defensive if possible. There are times when they have to be handled (cage cleaning, etc) and I think it reduces stress on everyone if they can be calmer. Having said that I have owned boas that were not going to tame down no matter what. They would generally strike at the clear plastic cage doors full force upon seeing movement. They were the only boas I had out of hundreds with such a demeanor and attempting to modify their behavior was a futile effort that just caused unnecessary stress on everyone. I’d imagine there are ball pythons that fall into this same category but I’d guess they’re likely the exception rather than the rule.

Good luck!

I would stop handling her for a few weeks entirely. Let her calm down, and then at max hold her twice a week for no more than 15 minutes. I see people make this mistake a lot with young ball pythons. They are not cuddly animals and most do not enjoy nor benefit from being held. For the sake of your animal, do not over handle it. I also recommend more cover in her tub, like fake leaves and plants, and extra hides.

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There really isn’t much for me to add since all these wonderful people have already responded to you but I must ask, how do you go about picking her up and handling her? It is best to scoop them up from underneath rather than above and do not let them feel restricted by you in any way.

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We scoop all snakes provided they aren’t in a position to bite us when we are placing our hands in their tubs.