Tips for picky eaters?

Long story short I have an about 5 month old male bp that hasn’t eaten for exactly one month today. Usually I wouldn’t be too concerned but I can see his spine VERY prominently.
He is the absolute SHYEST snake I have ever met so he is kept in a very quiet part of the house and I try to handle him only two or three times a week at most. He ate the day after I got him but I’m worried the mouse did something to scare him before/ during his eating it and now the mere scent of mouse makes him stop tongue flicking and freeze completely or instantly dart away and ball up.
I’ve tried feeding him three times since then. Two live adult mice, and one frozen thawed hopper with blood on its snout. He showed the very slightest bit more interest in the hopper, but I believe it’s because the smell of roaches and pinkies and all sorts of other grubby goodies my frogs eat on the tongs, and then my fingers when I became desperate.
Should I take him to the vet? Should I try rat instead of mouse? It’s been over a week since I last tried, should I try again? I can add pictures of him on the scale and his set up if it helps. I moved him from a small tub to a large one hoping it would help and I think it has but not enough for me to be certain. I really don’t want to force feed unless a vet sees him and tells me I need to.
Would love to hear the little tips you all use to get picky eaters to take a bite! Thanks in advance!

How much does your little fella weigh? Pic of set up and temps will defiantly help. Plus i would avoid holding all together until you get him eating consistently. Was he eating mice when you got him?

I circled where the heat pads are. The hot spots are 80 and 83 degrees while the cool spots are 72-75. It’s hard to see in the picture but it says 93.21 grams so he’s pretty itty bitty. I have a card that has all the dates he has successfully been fed before I purchased him so I know he was eating beforehand. However, the day I got him was scheduled feeding day and he was the only one who had refused to eat that day. But he ate two days later as I said so I wasn’t concerned at first. And since the first failed feeding attempt he has only beed handled so I could clean his tank and give him fresh water. He spends a fair bit of time in his water dish so I thought he might be shedding but I’m just really not sure at this point.

What did you have him in prior? Your temps are a little low, temp should be closer to 88*-90* on hot side and 80-82 on cool. I would add more smaller hides Something closer to this size. They like small tight hides. Do you know what your humdity level is? and how are you measuring you temps?

1 Like

This was his temporary tub while I searched for a better one. I included a picture of at card I mentioned. He would spend most his time in the water or showing signs of boredom so that’s why his upsized tub is so big. I think he is convinced he is arboreal and I may just replace it with a smaller but taller one. I am definitely going to get him more small hides as he does love his little box. And ok thanks! I was just going by what the pet store and the internet told me. Humidity is 50%. I mist if it dips below that. I am considering switching to a fogger though as I think getting hosed down with the top of his tub off stresses him out. I use the zoomed thermometer and humidity gauge and their infrared heat sensor. I am doing my research to find and invest in higher quality thermometers and humidity gauges for all my animals though, so if you have any recommendations I’d much appreciate them.

In my opinion, the temps are too low and the cage is too big. Bump the temps up by 5 degrees and put him in an enclosure half the size of his current one. Also, Handling 2-3 times a week is a lot. I would not recommend handling him at all outside of what is absolutely necessary, not until after he is feeding consistently.


I would suggest moving to a smaller tub and covering all the sides to make it really dark in there. Also if you having an issue with your humdity i would suggest changing to something that holds humdity better like cypress or one of the many cocco beddings available. Misting only spikes the humdity for a small period of time and aspen will tend to mold after awhile if too wet. Accurite digital gauges are what i see most commonly used for measuring temps and humdity. Give him awhile to adjust to the new changes and don’t mess with him at all, then try him again in about a week and half. You may also want to try either a rat pup (fully furred eyes open) or a mouse hopper something that has more movement to get it’s attention. I hope this helps.

I wouldn’t suggest a fogger would more than likely keep it too wet and possibly cause scale rot.


Ok thank you both very much. The only reason I have had to handle him so often is because after hia first meal he just kept pooping little by little all over the tub so I’d have to spot clean the bedding and hides regularly. He isn’t pooping anymore so I am able to leave him alone for good. I haven’t bothered him all week. I usually only need to mist once a week but you are correct, the bedding I’m using seems to just suck the moisture up and and sends it to another dimension it seems. I will change it asap. The smaller tub held heat and moisture better too. It was usually 76-80 degrees in there (funnily part of why I upsized, the pet store and my room mate told me it was too hot!). Thank you again for all the help I truly truly appreciate it.

The tub he is in now is ten gallons, which is what I was told was the minimum. Would a 5,5 gal be alright? And would enrichment like things to climb on and foliage to hide in help? He just kept nose rubbing in the smaller tank so I am terrified of him being bored enough to hurt himself.

Firstly, don’t believe all of what the petstore told you, they are often very incorrect unfortunately. Even some locally owned stores aren’t educated enough on snakes.

Second, a smaller enclosure may help. Since he’s so little and young I would switch him to something smaller just until he starts eating. 5.5 will be fine. Getting him eating fast is the most important thing, he’s young so he can’t go as long as an adult without eating. He can handle being a little bored for now. Yes, clutter helps! Fake vines and twigs will make the space less open, which will make him more secure. My snakes commonly refuse food if there is not much clutter, even in tubs.

Temps should be 88f-90f on the hotspot. 75f cool end. Definitely not too hot for a ball python, they are from Africa! Humidity should be no lower than 55%, preferably 60%-70% in my opinion.

To do this, use a subsrate like cypress mulch (what I use, but cocofiber or reptibark work too), and mix a small amount of water into it. As long as your tub has ventilation, it should not cause condensation (avoid that.) You don’t want the bedding to be wet all over, so make sure it’s not too moist and that at least one hide has dry bedding in it. This is to avoid scale rot. I recommend not misting pretty much at all with this type of setup, you shouldn’t really need it with a tub. I would avoid a fogger. This will cause too much humidity for a ball python and is just a hassle.

It’s possible he’s scared of the live rodents but if he hasn’t been attacked that’s very unlikely. Live may entice him more to eat. But, I recently had a refuser who didn’t like me watching him and I had to leave a frozen/thawed rodent in his hide with him for him to eat. You can try that but if it fails go back to trying live.

Sorry for info dump, good luck and I hope he begins eating for you soon!

1 Like

No, thank you so much! I try not to rely just on what the pet store tells me but I took what they said to heart as they are a breeder and sell here on morphmarket. Should I try and feed him today before changing his tub again or change his tub, wait a week, and then feed him? I will get mulch and clutter for him ASAP.

Huh, it surprises me a seller here on morphmarket told you it was too hot, that’s unusual. Maybe they misunderstood? Odd!
I would try to feed today. If he eats leave him be for a few days before moving tubs. If he refuses then move him and try again in 5-7 days.

1 Like

I am starting to think the owner of the store/ the breeder isn’t there often and the two particular employees I dealt with were ill-informed :worried: I go there a lot as it’s close to my house and I’ve asked to meet him but he’s never been there. I only used the aspen breeder bedding cause that’s what every snake there was already on so I dumbly assumed it was a good option. I was scared of too much humidity and heat and now I am paying the price :disappointed_relieved: Thank you again for your help though. I’m on my way to pick up better bedding, a rat pup, some hides, and a 5.5 gal for him. If he won’t eat the rat pup, I have a frog more than happy to while I switch his picky brother to his new home.

1 Like

Add lots and lots of clutter. If you think you have too much clutter, add more.
Clutter finally got my little pied to start eating and I’m telling you its the way to go!

Have you tried the old paper bag trick?

I read about this several weeks ago, gave it a try, and it did nothing for the snake. :rofl:

Another couple things to look at if the above suggestions do not work is color, size, time of day, and live. Everything everyone else covered is far more important to address first.

I would also suggest trying ASF if you can get them, it is only rarely that even my pickiest will refuse an ASF. By picky I have a spotnose that will only eat live and after the lights have been out for a couple hours, I have another that balls up and hides if i offer a red eyed demon, err albino, and another that was a mouser that I slowly worked up to smedium rats.

Again these are things to consider after you’ve made the recommended husbandry changes as they are by far the most important and common reasons for poor feeding response.

Good luck.

Well… I’ve found that getting the ft prey item really warm and feeding in the dark works. Also, try a smaller live prey item in the dark. Patience pays off. Your ball will eat eventually. Sorry I’m not much help. Good luck

Included is NON sponsored link for a hatchling tub. Having worked at a Fish/Reptile store for damn near a decade I cant even count how many people who have had “picky eater” hatching ball pythons. And to all of them I tell them to switch their ball over to this tub. It’s not permanent, it’s just till the animal gains some size and confidence. More often than not the people who have taken the advice have come back and thank me.

1 Like

There have been great suggestions so far in this thread and they can and do make a difference for most reluctant young feeders. First cause of fasting is almost always environmental stress and getting the enclosure right makes the biggest difference. Here are 4 more suggestions (after fixing the environment) to motivate him to eat: 1) dip the feeder head in chicken broth; 2) variety–try finding young gerbils, ASFs, hamsters, baby chicks, rats, etc to see if a different smell/movement might elicit a good feeding response; 3) cut open the top of the (prekilled/defrosted) feeder’s head (called ‘braining’); and 4) place with the feeder (only with a prekillled or harmless baby feeder) in a small paper bag in the enclosure overnight.
Good luck and please keep us posted :+1: