Taming A Super Food Agressive Ball?

Hey y’all! I have a super food aggressive ball python. He has never been food agressive before, but then I did something rather stupid.
I feed two of my ballps outside their enclosures. Neither has ever regurgitated, and only one has ever fasted, when it gets colder in the winter. However, when I told someone (who will not be named) this, they got very angry and actually yelled at me.
I’ve had these boys for over three years now, and never had feeding problems before, but because I’m a spiteful idiot I fed the boys in their enclosures. Twice. And they both immediately got VERY food aggressive. One of them has responded great to tap training, and I no longer fear reaching in to handle him. The problem child is worse.
If he’s awake, and he sees heat or movement, he follows it like a hawk. If you get too close, he strikes, even through plastic. I’ve tried tap training like with my others, and he just won’t take it. I genuinely get nervous picking him up, because he has pretty big teeth that leave a good mark when he gets you. I know from experience. And he hasn’t been fed in his enclosure for nearly THREE MONTHS and still acts like this.
Plus, he’s only getting bigger and stronger. I’d rather not get wrapped by him. He’s dumb enough to try and eat me. I have to cover his head and scoop him up, then keep his face away from me until he calms down-- Which can take up to five minutes. Nothing I’ve done has worked. I handle him daily, minus feeding day and the days while he digests. He’s a real sweet boy when he’s not trying to eat you.
The moral of the story is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You know your animals better than strangers, breeders or no.
So, please help!! I’ll take any advice!

As payment for advice, here are some dumb photos of the criminal in question:


Personally, I’m with the ‘feed in the enclosure’ camp… But I have fed outside because of the big box shop I worked with in the past and feeding rules. (Can’t let customers see snakes eating). My only real issue with the outside box feeding are when it’s obvious the snake is stressed and not wanting to eat. But this only really applies to colubrids and BPs for me. Anything larger and more easily riled up, I don’t want to associate outside home with food. I want to be able to move them to a box without the wrapping. I would not want to deal with anything over 10ft that thinks out is food time. :scream:

I wonder if the feeding aggression is just due to how they have been ‘trained’. Typically they can be really shy and fussy so feeding in home helps with them settling in. I honestly don’t know how easy it would be to carefully hook them and move them back to box feeding. Hopefully once they realize the hook isn’t food they’ll settle enough to move and eventually get back to not shooting out at you.

I do have one male right now who has always been an in home feeder and he’s been a pistol at feeding time the last 2 weeks. For him I think it’s more of a maturity thing as he’s just hitting a good age/size for breeding… But that wouldn’t be the case with yours.


Personally I’d prefer food aggressiveness in a ball python, love when they eat regularly! :smile:
Seriously though I agree with tap training you are doing, some just take longer to get out of the food mode. I have a male retic who I have to make sure he moves away from the hook before I know he is out of the food mode. On the other hand I barely have to show the hook or paper towel roll or whatever I am using to tap train to my much larger female, and she’s all good. Just a individual difference. The only other thing I have noticed with my ball pythons, is kinda the same thing as @armiyana said about their age/size having a effect sometimes on their food aggression. I also noticed time of year can play a significant role as well. I have had females and some males shoot out of their bins at me when before they were the shy eaters. So that can also be a factor, maybe? Good luck, I am sure it will figure it out soon for you!


@strykers_serpents, I have a couple questions. Just to get more of an insight and possibly other ideas.
How often do you feed?
What size do you feed? (apx in comparison to the snakes widest part, not in grams)
What are you feeding it?
Do you feed them all at the same time?
How long do you handle them when you do?
Again, just trying to get more data to possibly give more suggestions. Not to judge in any way.


Yes I get all proud and puffed up when my little BP Wrenn eats on a regular schedule! Lol :joy:


He sounds like a prime subject for Target Training. You teach them to associate one thing (maybe snake hook) with handling time, and another specific thing (a target) with Food Time. Look up videos on youtube for how to do this, Lori Torrini has good ones.

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When you open the enclosure are you immediately making contact with the animal or are you hovering at a distance? My employees don’t behave the same as I do when opening tubs and get waaayyy more food response reactions than I ever do. Mostly that’s because they present their hands at what I would consider a “target” distance.

Striking the tub could be as much nervousness as food response. I would cover the front of the tub/tank so he can’t see you until you open it up. Once you open it, if you’re not comfortable reaching in and touching his head with your hand, use a hook or a roll of paper towels and touch it on the head immediately to redirect it. Make sure you’re not presenting any hot skin to the animal from any measurable distance.

It does happen where ball pythons stay that way for life, but we’re talking an very minute number of them. Of the hundreds of ball pythons I’ve kept and produced, only two have truly been bite hazards.


First off good morning, and holy cow i didn’t expect so many responses, thank you all!!


Jupiter (problem child) has been fed outside his enclosure in a separate box since… hatchling-hood? He’s never shown any signs of stress while eating, takes basically any warm rodent, and has never regurged in his life (woo!)
I might’ve accidentally ‘trained’ him into thinking hands = food incoming when in his enclosure, but I’m not sure how, since it’s only been done twice. The thing is, he simply will not register that the hook is not food, it’s been three and a half (as of today) months since his last home feeding.
He’s only at 600 grams now, and he’s always been a bit dumb, so maybe he thinks he’s gonna get himself a lady and needs to bulk up :smile:


I agree as long as it’s not putting the snake (or me) in harm’s way :laughing:
Might be the time of year, and the fact it’s raining quite a bit, but his ‘brother’ isn’t acting like that either, and currently sits at 650 grams himself- Granted, I got them right as breeding season ended/hatchling season began, so they’ve never experienced the whole ‘its time to make some babies’ part of the year.


I feed once a week, a small rat that’s around the width of the chunkiest part of his body, maybe a bit smaller. He’s pretty long instead of thick, almost five inches longer than his 650 ‘brother.’ He takes rats or mice, but I’ve only been feeding rats for the past year or so.
I do feed them all at the same time, but I thaw the rodents inside a bin in a separate room, and he always gets fed first. The two other snakes don’t care at all, so they get fed afterwards.
If he’s been extra naughty (biting at random things), around thirty minutes, but usually only ten or so. When he’s not trying to eat me, he’s a chill dude, and just explores around and scopes everywhere.
And y’all are so polite, ask any questions you want!


My eldest was super picky for a few months, but I’m proud to say he’s now a Good Boy and eats on a regular schedule!!


I’ll definitely be trying target training, now that I remember it exists :joy: but I’m not sure how effective it could be, since he doesn’t care about tap training. But it sounds like a fun project, and I’ve seen great results, so fingers crossed!


If Jupiter isn’t already in ‘I will eat you’ mode, I scoop him up immediately. When he’s sassy, I tap his head (which results in him striking towards me roughly one out of four times) and then lift him with a hook; But if his little head is faced towards me, he can and will fling his entire body towards me to try and get a bite. (He’s never fallen off, his enclosure is near the ground because of his spice, and I have carpet, so don’t worry!)
I actually have tried covering him up before, but if anything, it made him angrier. Maybe he thinks because it’s darker, he needs to try harder? Or maybe it’s just because he’s crazy. I tried a cool towel over the side facing me, and that seemed to curb it, but he still struck if he sensed any heat or movement.
I do bop his little head with either paper towel or the hook, but he always jerks up and stares it down no matter how many times I tap him. He is very dumb. Usually i can lift him and handle him for a minute or four and he stops being a spicy jerk.

Well, I might just have to deal with his rage forever, but I thank y’all anyways! I greatly appreciate your suggestions, and will be sure to test them out. Feel free to ask any more questions y’all have! And, as more ‘payment’ for y’all’s help, here’s another stupid picture of the criminal.

No, i did not put his water dish up there. No, i have no idea how he got it there. Yes, he spills it often.

Addition: he was moved to a larger house around seven months back and loves sitting on his branch when not angry at the world.


@strykers_serpents it could be he is just that way.

I never heard of taping their head to, wellll for anything. This I would stop, just in case he is being defensive to it. He sees you and know what is coming.

I am not into using hook for nonvemonous snakes. I believe you need to handle them to get them use to it.

If it was me, there is a couple things I would try.

  1. I would switch feeding to every other week and maybe incress the size a little (if you feel it is to small of a meal for 2 weeks). This way you have longer time to handle it without it thinking it is always time to eat. This could be a temporary thing just for training.
  2. I would try to distract him and then try to pick him up, while he is focusing on something else. It seems like he is OK once he knows he is not being fed. I would then slowly stop using a distraction. Being hesitant could be a bad thing, as it could take the jerking motion as pray.
  3. once you have him, I would hold him for a longer time, an hour or longer. Just drape him around you and do your thing. I would also get him out every day… EVERY DAY, so he know it is not time to always eat when you are around… If he is hard to handle when you first get him, just sit with him and very little movement. Let him move around you. And no sudden movements. Once he calms, them you can move around with him.
  4. I would also put him on the floor, let him move around, then get him and move him back. This will help train him that you touching him is not a bad thing.
    Again, these are the things I would try, not trying to say what you are doing is wrong, just a different approach to it. It is also possible you might be stuck dealing with him, the way he is.

This philosophy would hurt a lot in my snake room. While I don’t have any ball pythons I personally hook, I much prefer my employees hook a lot of the adult females to avoid getting bitten or the snakes getting hurt. I do have a G-Stripe female that’s a nut case and at 8 years old it’s safe to say she’s not going to learn not to bite humans.

My ATBs, Retics, or Carpets, you’re using a hook or you’re getting lit up. There’s nothing wrong with hook training non venomous animals. It also helps avoid them smashing their faces or losing teeth in your skin.

Years ago I had a BCI strike at me and hit the wall of his enclosure. It cost me close to $2k to have the impacted teeth removed from the roof of his mouth, a drain tube inserted so it would heal, and an extended vet stay to ensure the broken bones in his face healed as well as possible. I still had to euthanize him a few years later as he constantly had issues due to the way the bones set and the amount of scar tissue in his head. All of that could have been avoided if he was hook trained.


lol! I am extremely intrigued about the water dish enigma! You should videotape him somehow while you are not around him!

From what I have read and IMHO only, it appears that ball pythons may not even be great starter snakes (I am not including you of course because you are NOT a beginner.)

I say this because I have found by personal experience that everything has to be on point with the husbandry down to the very last nth degree to keep a BP eating on a solid regular basis. I feed my little girl in her tub ( not rack). She was an angry little snapper ready to bite my face off every time I removed her lid at first. She was eating live when I got her. Now she eats FT gladly. In addition, her whole nasty temperament has completely changed to a docile laid back plump little sausage.

Now, this is just my one little story. I do interact with Wrenn weekly but I have not changed anything one iota concerning her husbandry or method of feeding and I have had her almost a year.

I am just wondering if the change in feeding protocol for your boy triggered something weird neurologically in him. Of course this idea is way out in left field…… lol!

You are getting tons of great advice from a lot of expertise (people) here so I am sure you will find some answers. The people here are wonderful and they seem to truly care about you as well as your reptiles……

I am done now! :snake::wink::+1::blush:


@ballornothing @strykers_serpents I apologize. My mind set was on ball python and I completely disregarded others. I should have stated ball python when I posted. Larger species and aggressive ones, a hook may be your only option. For smaller species (balls, corn, king…) a hook would be my very last option as they can be handled much easier, with the exception of very aggressive ones that can not be tamed using other methods. I could not imagine being struck by a larger species that could do a lot of damage.

Also, @ballornothing sorry for your loss. I, in the very long ago past, had a ball that luckily did not have the damage yours went through, but it was a long and stressful wait to make sure it was OK. It also struck the cage multiple times.


No worries! I knew what you meant just wanted to leave that out there for future generations, we never know how long the words we leave on the interwebs will last lol.


As others have stated, I am personally happy when my balls are food aggressive. It means they want to eat. I use a hook when snakes need to be calmed down, and think it is less stressful on them than a hand grabbing them. I’ve read for years that there is no real difference between feeding in the cage or in a separate container, with some saying a separate container is not the way to go. I have done both in the past and got the same by results.
But if it is strictly a feeding response, once it is out of the cage you should have no issues with aggression. So if you are nervous handling the snake, maybe it could be something else. Maybe more hides.
Or just a nasty personality.


The no hook thing is interesting - I use a hook to get babies used to handling, by first getting them out wish said hook, at least with boas. My BPs never strike so I just grab them, but boas are quicker to strike and hiss while in their cage, especially Sonorans lol. Those I’ll rub their side with the hook and the hook them out. This has gotten them less and less hissy and scared.

That said, I also have target trained my Colombian boa. Idk if this is possible with BPs as I have never tried, but other than tap training, not on the head (BPs are so head shy in particular, just running it along their side is my move with boas and would be with BPs too if I needed to for a cage defensive BP)

I only have a couple BPs at the moment and one is a rescue that was terrified and very malnourished/drywhen I got her. Something similar for her away from balling up and even striking while in her cage. Now she can be scooped up and explodes like the others, very calm.

Good luck regardless OP!

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First thing, I woud really try to get a better understanding of the agressive behavior. Is it truely a feeding response or a defensive response. Because it sounds more like a defensive response. But what you said about his size compared to your other snake almost sounds like he’s not getting enough to eat. That being said, I did have a pair of Wild Caught White Lip Pythons years ago that acted this way for a long time but they were being defensive. I also kept an imported Anaconda for a buddy of mine for a while that acted this way. Talk about a monster, that Anaconda was just a 4 footer but nasty as all get up. Again, just super agressively defensive. We think thay was a Green/Yellow hybrid. Didn’t look like any normal Green Anaconda. Anyway, the way you go about breaking this habit may be a bit different for the 2 types of responses. Tap training should give the snake something else to respond to and keep you at a safe distance while he chills out. If the animal is strictly in feeding mode, tap training can calm them down quite quickly if they’re on board with it.

Remember the old saying, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck”. Well, if its a feeding response, dont forget, if you smell like food or there’s food nearby and they sense you as the “hot spot” a food item would put off, a lot of these guys may just bite first if they’re hungry. I try to only use frozen/thawed for my animals. Intypically thaw them in Zip Loc bags in a room adjacent to my snake room. But they still kown when the rats are thawing. They have much better sense of smell than us. The minute i walk in the room with the bags of food, they’re all at the front of their tubs cruising back and forth. Some if them do lunge out as soon as i open the tubs, especially the carpets. Make sure you’re not bare hand handeling the food and then putting your hand too close without washing up first. Use feeding tongs of some sort to present the food and to help you keep somewhat of a distance. I’ve still had hungry snakes shoot past the tongs and grab me. So i typically wear a glove on the hand that holds the tongs for safety. If you’re thawing food in water, be extra careful not to splashing any of that water thats been in contact with the food on yourself. I made that connection years ago. I was thawing out rodents in the plastic bag they came in, their nails punctured tiny holes in the bag and water leaked in with them. One day in particular I was paying a little closer attention to what was going on. I noticed that when i took one of the rats out of the bag, its tail flipped from the inside of the bag and I physically saw water splash onto my shirt. I never thought I had done that in the past but who knows, it probably happened multiple times. Well, you know what my snakes thought at that point. So just be careful in those situations.

As far as figuring out the behavior, theres no real good way to do that. Nobody really likes getting bit. I’ve been doing this since i was about 12 (my god thats a long time now) and yet i still have days where the snake lunging out of the tub still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Just remember, there are a few clues in the way they actually bite. A defensive bite from a Ball Python is typically a quick, light nip with a quick recoil. A feeding bite is usually followed by clamping down and a coil and wrap. Since this is a Ball and not a 10 ft Boa or 20 ft Burm or Retic, I’d say “PAD UP” and let the critter take a whack at ya. An average person can still uncoil up to a 7 ft Boa no problem. Just be sure to start at the tail and uncoil them. I’ve personally uncoiled a 10ft Burm off my arm by byself. Not a bite, just one that was unhappy about being bathed after making a mess in his cage and then proceeded to squeeze the heck out of my arm. Some people are gonna say this is dumb to let it bite you. I’m only suggesting you do this once on purpose. This is gonna do 2 things for you. 1. Its gonna help you figure out if this reaction is an agressive feeding response or putely defensive and help you figure out how to address it. And 2. It’s gonna help you get over the fear factor of being bitten. I can tell you all kinds of dumb things I’ve done in the past 40 years with my animals. But lets just leave it at that, I’ve done some dumb things. But, I’ve learned a lot from those dumb things and learned how to manage my animals, even the ones with attitude. If you’re gonna let yours bite you once to find out, wear some thick, winter weight or welding gloves and a jacket or sweat shirt. That should protect you and be soft enough that it shouldn’t hurt the snake.

To be be completely honest though, it’s a Ball Python, they dont typically bite that bad. I got nipped last week by 4 foot female that wasn’t on board with feeding at the time. It was a defensive bute so only 3 or 4 little pin prick size holes and a little blood. I’ve had worse from a sticker bush. But, a Ball Python bite is definately worse than being bitten by a Colubrid, but not as bad as being bitten by a large boa or 10ft Burm or Retic, and also still not as bad as being bitten by a 4 foot Carpet Pulython which is also still not as bad as being bitten by a 3 foot Green Tree Python or Tree Boa. I had a hatchling Green Tree python bite me in the side of the finger. The main long tooth went completly through a small piece of the ski. OUCH!!! In my mind I can still recall how that felt. Yes, I’ve been bitten by all of the above and a lot more. I’ve had some good snakes that for no reason just decided to bite and some that were just plan out right nasty. I’ve been bitten by a whole slew of young monitors and other lizards, dogs, cats and multiple types of fish. Ok, everybody is gonna laugh at that and say fish bites don’t hurt. Tell that to the 10 inch Clown Tang I had in my reef tank. He didn’t like me much when I was in claening his tank. Neither did the pair of 4 inch breeding Clown Fish i had in with him. So like I already stated, it’s a Ball Python. Not venemous, so not gonna kill you unless you just have a heart attack on the spot.

I’ve also “HEARD”, but never actually tried this, that they don’t like biting into rubber dish washing gloves. I’ve had a couple people swear by it. Sipposedly, after biting the rubber glove a few times the snakes stopped biting. I think your guy will probably go back to being Mr Nice Guy again. Just give hime time and work with him a little.


I’ve only known ball pythons to bite for two reasons. Either fear or hunger. My two year old pastel het clown tagged me a couple of times only due to me not handling her enough. Those bites were from fear. After a few minutes, she calmed down and was fine with our interactions. More frequent handling has removed that fear issue she had. I’ve also been tagged when feeding but that was before I started using tongs to present the food items to the snakes. The tongs allow the snake to target the food and not your hand.
It’s been suggested that you increase the prey size a little. Even if you are feeding once a week, but not a large enough prey item, that snake is going to be hungry a day or two after you feed it. The heat signature your hand puts off to a hungry snake WILL cause it to strike.
It can be intimidating to reach for a snake who has bit you in the past, I get it!
Try a larger prey item and give it a few days to digest it. Put a glove on if you want and pick it up. You’ll be surprised how docile a well fed and frequently handled ball python can be.
Good luck !
Edit: please stop tapping the snake on the head…


One other thing thing I do that seems to have helped a lot with my animals is this. I have one type of soap I always use before I interact with my animals. DIAL ANTIBACTERIAL bar soap. This way they always associate the sent of that soap with me or anyone else that I allow to interact with them. I’m sure there are other soaps that would work just fine. Just part of my regular routine.