Switching snakes from live

It’s only my first year breeding, so my sample size is only 11. But so far I’m 11 for 11 on getting new hatchlings on f/t. I followed someone else’s advice, but I’ll repeat it here since it worked so far for me. Once they take f/t in this process I just put them on the normal schedule with f/t prey only.

  1. No feeding until a few days after first shed
  2. First try: offer f/t pinky rat. (most will refuse it in my experience. 2 out of 11 went f/t right away) If they don’t eat go to the next step.
  3. 4 days later: Those that have never eaten get offered a live fuzzy mouse (must not have developed teeth!) left in overnight. If they eat go to the next step. If they don’t, keep repeating this step until they do.
  4. 4 days later: offer another f/t pinky rat. (I got a lot of takers at this step). If they don’t eat, go on to next step.
  5. 4 days later: offer a live pinky rat left in overnight. Ideally one that’s just starting to get a little fuzz on it. (again, they must not have teeth!) If they eat, go to the next step. If they don’t eat, repeat this step. (So far I’ve not had to go back to the fuzzy mouse step, but eventually I’d consider it if the snake starts losing any weight. The idea is that they only ever eat one mouse in their life, just to get them into the whole eating thing. But obviously it’s the snake’s health first if that doesn’t work out.)
  6. 4 days later: offer f/t pinky rat. Since by now they’ve eaten at least a couple times, I’d try this step a couple times before going back to a live prey item that I know they will eat. 1 out of the 11 I went back to feed a second live pinky rat before they decided to take the f/t.

Hey really well articulated this post will help a lot of newbs like me I wish I could upvote it permanently til I have hatchlings lol :slight_smile: great work

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For those using, or trying to use, strictly frozen thawed, thawing rodents in warm/hot water clearly rinses away the scent that a live rodent would provide. I theorize that frozen thawed issues lie within this observation. “Braining” anything that was frozen and then thawed would clearly unleash scent that water had not washed away.

I strive to provide F/T to my collection, but keep ASF rats available, alive, for contingency. My collection of about 35 snakes is nearly all on F/T, except for two. These two are balls that one, always takes live and randomly accepts F/T, and two, just likes to stop eating at random. A fast. I have a very impressive young adult female ball that was sold because she would not switch to F/T for the previous owner, who now crushes F/T with me because I learned to read her body language and can trick her very quickly.

When I buy babies that refuse to take F/T, I provide a hide (I do use snake racks that serve a similar purpose that hides do) and so far this trick has been perfect for me in getting them to eat. I take hide boxes away when I feel feeding routines have been developed and have had some times where it was too soon, that a hide box was still the extra bit needed to achieve consistent weekly feedings.

Just some observations from my experience.

Some animals just take a little extra time to work with. Once you really establish them, they never let you down.

A few other notes to add:

For stubborn feeders, wait for the animal to actually flick it’s tongue a few times. Ball pythons that are stressed or scared at your sudden movement will freeze, you will either just barely see the tongue come out, or not at all. The animal needs to relax and become curious. All of the stubborn feeders I have dealt with in recent history were not using their tongues at all unless I took the patient approach.

Try to mimick live prey when dangling F/T. The height of a rat of any size dangling from forceps is greater than any random foraging rat approaching a snake in wait. Just think about how many animals have a defense mechanism that is a clear effort to make them appear bigger than they really are. An established feeding snake might not care, but a stubborn feeder might refuse what appears to big to eat. Using your hemos/tweezers to drag the rodent in the bedding towards the snake can help reduce the oversized appearance of one dangling straight in the air.

For now, the last trick I will add is eliciting an impulse strike. Quick movements from side to side (with the snake moving it’s head quickly to follow) often inflicts an impulse strike. These guys are not domesticated. Wild food sources rarely stick around long enough to give snakes a second chance. Quick movements seem to suggest to the snake that it’s “now or never”. I have a couple animals that respond very well to this method. I basically move the rat quickly in a 180° half circle, from eye to eye, maybe 4 inches from their face. More distance if the animal is larger. I suggest this method last for a reason, it takes practice because the snake will miss if you are too fast. Faces smash into glass/tubs/water dishes. Then they lose interest very fast.

Anyway, hope these tricks inspire some of you. I have had a very good success rate switching new animals to F/T with the above.


This is why I always use a sandwich bag or something similar to thaw my rodents in. Keeps them from getting in the water.


Sorry, but that’s not how that works. It does sound reasonable and washing a rat would surely change its smell but … give it a shot. Washing a rat in warm water is just going to make it stinkier. Plop it on a heat mat or hit it with a hair dryer and all will be made clear. :slight_smile: Give a dripping wet rat to a monitor and they don’t care that you washed it. Give the same rat to a woma python and it’s dinner. Worst case scenario plop it on a heat mat or hit it with a hair dryer for a few seconds and even a human can smell it - the heat will unlock scents still trapped in oils on the rodent. It’s going to take a whole lot of effort and a whole lot of soap to scrub away the scent not to mention you’re still going to have to cover the damaged eye sockets of f/t, hemorrhaged blood vessels in the nose and mouth, etc.

Brain a rodent and you’ll smell something like nasty chicken soup. It definitely drives colubrids and monitors crazy but I honestly don’t believe it makes a difference with pythons. :woman_shrugging:

Alternatives that were suggested all seem like far better advice. You’re 100% on providing a hide and other tricks. I haven’t brained a mouse in a very, very long time and have found strategies like this one much more effective.

Again, if braining works for someone I’m not saying anyone can’t or shouldn’t do it … I’m just saying there are other strategies for me with braining being low on the list.

I do this, too, but mostly so I don’t have a dripping wet rat to carry around. For species on substrate it keeps the substrate from sticking, too.

You can also just paper towel/blow dry but that’s a lot of extra effort.

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Washing something doesn’t make it stinkier :joy:
Many will still eat a wet rat like you said but it definitely makes a difference.

Also monitors are so cool I really want one someday

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It does, though!

Follow with me for a minute…

Animal scent is skin cells being shed along with other particles. Those particles get trapped in oils (sweat).

What happens when you heat up the oils?

Stink happens. :slight_smile:

Soap literally strips oils away. That’s how it works. Use a whole lot of Dawn on a rat and you can make it less stinky. Hot water? More stinky! :slight_smile:

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Stinkier than a frozen rat? Yes agreed…but duh.

Stinkier than a warmed rat that isn’t sopping wet wet? No.

Anyway. I’m getting off topic. All y’all have put some very helpful tips for anyone trying to make the switch over mine have all been easy so far but definitely a good post to bookmark :slight_smile:

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Is that what we were comparing? :thinking: :laughing:
Let’s check:

That’s the conversation. You aren’t washing stink away with only warm water. Sipping wet is a whole other factor kind of out of scope.

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I’ll choose to take from it that scrubbing my rats with soap and hot water is not the way to go. Agreed. :ok_hand:

Long story short folks are free to try braining if they wish but there are differing opinions over whether it actually works or is just another feeding myth. And you’ve tried it quite a bit and are unconvinced it actually does anything. I’ll definitely remember that in case I’m pulling out all the tricks sometime with a tricky eater.

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Be snarky if you want, but it’s super obvious. Wash yourself in only warm water for a week and you’ll quickly learn the difference. You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to be able to tell the difference between a prekilled, thawed, or live mouse: sniff one of each. :slight_smile:

I hope I’ve made that point quite clear already.

Outside of how water works… that has always been the point. There are people willing to debate that the smell of the brains/spinal fluid/cranial fluid/whatever are the thing that “does it” for ball pythons as some sort of natural attractant. I’m unconvinced. Colubrids, etc, seems like it could be a possibility and at least one other member has agreed. I’d still suggest chicken hearts or other scenting first.

The conversation started because I wanted to point it out as a thing to generally avoid. It was an extremely common suggestion, technically still is, and I’m pretty sure it comes from when we had a lot of wild caught animals. I could be wrong. :woman_shrugging:

In the case of the short tailed pythons… if you have one that stops eating… it’s because something has gone wrong with the enclosure. Definitely similar considerations for ball pythons. Hides, prey size, heating up the food item, etc, are all great things to try.

Crushing mouse skulls is just wasted effort that can mask other problems. For this and many other reasons I absolutely suggest that new keepers avoid something like this. That was the point. :slight_smile:

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Ok Bill Nye. I’ll pass but…point not taken :slight_smile:

Back on something resembling a topic, yeah?

I’m not going to be trolled on how water works. :slight_smile:

To be clear, I don’t mean to imply that thawing rodents in water takes their natural scent away entirely, only that it reduces the scent compared to a rat that was thawed “on a countertop, then warmed with a hair drier” or whichever methods that don’t involve water.

Taking a bath without soap is not the comparison I am seeking. It’s the “not taking a bath at all” concept that applies with picky eaters. I had this theory presented to me by a local reptile breeder with quite a large collection. He noted to me that his feeding day success rate greatly improved when he would thaw his rodents at room temperature instead of water.

While you’re correct that water won’t eliminate the smell entirely, it does take some scent with it down the drain. Heat will restore some scent, but not to the effectiveness of thawing without water.

Lastly, I would like to add a tip that I missed;

If you have multiple animals, feed your picky eaters last. I notice when feeding that my animals each have a stronger feeding response as I continue. I believe the smell of rodents starts to grow in the room and the animals enter feeding mode as it spreads. My retic is a great example, she lunges the instant I open her tub on actual feeding day. Any other day, she’s typically calm when I open her tub. I noted that I never feed her first. I always feed the rat pup eaters first, while the small adult rats are thawing. By the time the small adult rats are ready, the scent has permeated the snake room and everyone has detected movement from me at the front of the tubs.


Right on @viperine IK what you were saying!

Also nice tip with feeding the picky ones last I have been offering them first because they’re the largest but I’ll switch that up and see if it helps.

Yeah, for sure, I wasn’t trying to imply you were suggesting to toss them in the dishwasher, either, but I also do not believe that braining restores their natural scent. It’s a completely different smell to their skin/fur. Ball pythons hunt on heat, motion, and smell - not cerebral fluid. That’s the point I was trying to make above when we ended up on the segue way of misunderstanding water.

You can absolutely thaw in water and dry with a paper towel/hair dry it, though. Extra effort but doesn’t change the smell: the initial water thawing won’t matter. :slight_smile: If you want to speed up your feeding day there isn’t any reason to not use water and then dump them in a bowl and leave them in your feeding room for a bit. Spread them out under a lamp or on top of heat tape (belly up!) if you want. Someone also mentioned using a plastic bag for convenience, too - sometimes water seeps in, but it won’t matter.

I just put rats in two dozen snakes ranging from hatchling to adult python, colubrids, and a short tail yesterday. :slight_smile:

All of your tips have been great! It’s to be expected that some misunderstand them on the internet. :slight_smile:

Well said Bill. Truce :wink:

I’m in camp dry f/t rats. Mostly because I don’t want to deal with wet rats and gross rat soup afterwards. But, I’m also lazy, and doing the whole wait forever and then stand there blow-drying for another forever was really annoying. So I ended up making this rat incubator type thing.

It’s made from the styrofoam shipper that my rats came in. I put a zoomed heat pad at the bottom that I didn’t need for anything else. It’s a good choice since the heat output per area is a bit less than the heat tape I have. Then put a wire cooling rack for baking on top of it to make a gap so the rats aren’t directly on the pad. Throw a piece of old cardboard or paper towel on top of that and then put the rats on that. Cover the top of the box with an old towel folded to fit. Set a timer so I don’t forget (I forgot once and they literally cooked. It was not a good time.) Adding in a fan like you would for an incubator is not necessary but it makes it work a bit better. And now heating up rats on feeding day is easy mode.

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I don’t know about not selling if they are on live or not but about 25 years ago I experimented and only kept and bred frozen thawed eaters together. Guess what they produced? Frozen thawed eaters. I have NEVER had to use live to get ANY ball python I bred feeding. Go figure. So to answer the question I would NOT buy a live feeder ball baby or adult from anyone. I think it’s slightly genetic. Just my preference.


That’s an interesting theory…

That could almost be an additional selling point if you could say with confidence your stock was all f/t feeders. How large a sample size are we talking here?