To handle or not to handle? That is the question

I seen recently in a post that you should not handle your ball pythons.

Now this post did state that handling during cleaning was not considered handling, just touching. As you have to do this to clean, move, inspect.

So the question, to handle or not to Handel.
In my opinion, and from what I have experienced, seen from others, handling does help and not hurt. This gives the snake time to adjust to you and you to it. If a snake is not handled, it can and will start to think the only time you open the enclosure is for feeding. This open up the chance for getting bit more often.

Now there are some signs that they do not want too be handled. These should be observed so you can learn its behavior. Pulling away, balling up, not loving when you pick it up, can be signs it does not want to be messed with. Now some will do some of these but still be fine once you pick them up. You will never know this if you never handle them.

During shedding is one time they do not like to be messed with. Just before feeding would be another time, as you might smell like it’s food or it can sense food around. Better chance of being struck at or bit. This can also detour it from eating if it does get you or scared from you pulling away.

There are many snakes out there being handled for teaching and showing events. You can tell if they are not in the mood and if they are good with it.

I can go on, but want you opinion on this before I add more.

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I don’t really see a good reason not to as long as you don’t over do it. An animal that is used to handling to some degree will be much easier to deal with in the cases where handling is needed, and it won’t stress the animal out as much. It’s not like the animal knows the difference between handling for fun and handling for necessity, so i don’t think it can be considered different.

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Well said. There might be some stress at the beginning, but then it becomes routine. Most animals when in a new environment, will be stressed until it get use to it. Handling is no different.

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Every animal can be different. It’s a matter of understanding the behavior as an owner.

I have 2 BPs right now that absolutely do not tolerate handling for long sessions. They’re fine for inspections, but pushing them for more than a few minutes puts them into defense mode. And it’s not fair to put them through that kind of stress regularly. I only handle them enough so they don’t see me as threat. One is just a very defensive girl. The other is a rescue who has some painful scars from a severe burn.

One of mine is an absolute sweetheart and will just hang out as long as you want. Sure they get curious and want to explore, but they don’t start ‘running’ like my others will after a bit.

We need to be attentive enough to see those signs like the balling up or running to know that enough is enough. It’s not fair for us to push these animals into affection they may not tolerate.

As an aside though… I do wonder how much of the adversion to hanging out has to do with humans just running too warm. We do hover close to the 100 degree mark. So after a while they may just want cooler spaces.

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I think it’s very much based on an individual animal, and as long as an owner pays attention to that animal’s body language and stress signals, I see absolutely no detriment.

I handle all of my animals regularly (aside from a select couple who really do not like it), for a few different reasons: firstly, I am a breeder second and an educator first, so I do a lot of educational programs about reptiles and as a result I handle my animals a lot and let other people handle my animals a lot because I believe (and research shows) that giving people the opportunity to interact with something they may not understand can drastically change their perspective. So in that regard, letting people hold my animals has a net benefit that is much greater than the potential detriment, especially because I hold my animals so often that they are extremely accustomed to it and show virtually no stress signals at all.

Secondly, I handle my animals because I know that a lot of people want to be able to handle their pets, and while I do sell to breeders, I also sell a lot to pet keepers. I breed ball pythons, crested geckos, sarasinorum geckos, and (fingers crossed) African house snakes. I start handling my baby cresties and my baby balls as soon as they start eating. It means I can get a better idea of their personality for their new owner and I can introduce them to people as not dangerous, which will make it easier to adapt to a home where the owner wants to handle. It also means that the animal will be handleable in the future for sometimes necessary occasions like veterinary appointments, which again, is a net benefit for the animal’s wellbeing.

And finally, I think handling is an often overlooked, very important form of enrichment. I use an enriched rack system but especially for animals kept in a standard rack system with just a water bowl, handling is incredibly important for mental and physical stimulation outside of that environment. From my experience, animals that are socialized will not only breed better during pairing, but they will also be more active inside their enclosures and more curious outside of them, and all of these things are a huge net benefit for the animal AND for the keeper/breeder.

With starting my animals off early, I have very few who do not tolerate handling. Every single ball python I own can be held for at least short periods of time without stress signals, and many of my animals who do still tense up when they’re first picked up very quickly relax because of their association with me and being safe with handling. I have only ever had two animals who didn’t adapt well to handling: female ball python I bought as an adult who was absolutely terrified of me and even after a year of work, was so skittish that I retired her as a breeder because I was afraid she would injure the males; and a gecko species that is new to me (Bavayia robusta) who I was told can’t be handled, but after working slowly with mine for the last few months, she actually very much can be.

Many of my animals display curiosity and exploration behaviors when they’re being handled. I personally will always advocate for handling, if nothing else than for the enrichment that it provides, especially for animals who live their whole lives in small tubs where the most they can move is to stretch out.

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I am in total agreement with what you have stated in this post @d_y_python Duane. Here is a picture I took this afternoon when I upgraded one of my ball python’s enclosures. I picked her (Izzolena) up then sat down for a few seconds and she headed up my chest and around my neck and stayed there for the longest time. When she finally unwound herself she just laid on my chest voluntarily until I had to put her in her new enclosure so I could finish the rest of what I needed to do! :snake::joy:. I really enjoyed the quality time with her! :snake::heart::pray:


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I’m absolutely in TOTAL agreement with your post/points/arguments! I don’t have one single ball python that I can’t pick up any time of the day or night without worrying about any of them striking at me because I do interact with them. :+1:

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