Ball Python Care Sheet

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Caging

Depending on the age of the snake, it’s going to vary from snake to snake at just how large a cage terrarium should be. If you’re trying to find a suitable home for a young hatchling, then you’re only going to need a 10 to 20 gallon aquarium, but if you’re trying to find a suitable cage for a more mature and developed python then you’re more than likely looking at a 20 gallon terrarium. The larger they grow the more space that’s going to be needed to move around and develop.

When you’re dealing with a full grown adult, it’s been recommended that you go with a minimum of a 30 gallon terrarium, and while some people have gotten away with using less, it’s not particularly recommended for sanitary reasons or for the python’s peace of mind. You wouldn’t want to be concealed and locked up in a restricted area would you? Well neither does the Python, it needs room to move around.

If you’re not the greatest at measurements or deciding what kind of cage you should get, then there’s a good rule of thumb that experts like to go by. Basically, you take the length of your ball python and double that. You want to make sure that the cage is double the length and double the width so that there will be no doubt that there’s plenty of room for the python to roam about and feel comfortable.

Some people prefer to start out with a large aquarium because this eliminates the need to purchase a larger one once the animal grows. You have to keep in mind that while it may be cost efficient and saving space in the meantime to provide a small cage for a young python, it will grow over time and you’ll need to upgrade your cage. Not only that, but you’ll have to buy more accessories, more substrate and find a new place for it as well. It won’t necessarily hurt to start out with a large cage.

It should be noted that when you’re housing a ball python, you have to make sure that you cover the cage carefully because like David Coperfield, the Ball Python is a master at escape. These animals can slip and slide through the smallest cracks and find their way out of any hole that is present, so you want to make sure that you not only have a solid cage provided but that you have a lid or door that’s locked up. Don’t just rely on a standard piece of plastic to contain the python, make sure that there’s a lock on the door.

Wire mesh is the most common and preferred type of material for the cage because it allows proper ventilation and air intake into the structure. While some people do use glass material to enclose the animal, most people have the most stable and successful results raising ball pythons in mesh style cages. You have to keep in mind that you’ll be doing a lot of maintenance work on the cage as well and for the material inside the cage, so you have to keep that in mind when picking or building your cage.

Keep in mind some of the things that’ll be going into the cage such as substrate, papers, accessories, decorations and other materials as well. You’ll want to make sure that there’s not any sharp edges anywhere on the cage which requires careful and close inspection. Sure, there’s always the guarantee from the manufacturer that the cage is secure and safe, but you can never be too sure and you never know what happened to the cage during shipping to its final destination. Point and simple: Don’t rely on the manufacturer to make sure the cage is air sealed tight.

Inspect the cage properly before buying it and before putting any kind of animal inside of it. This should be done before any kinds of accessories are put into the cage. Cages are relatively inexpensive and are the first key steps to buying a ball python and maintaining it. You must pick an appropriate and optimal cage if you hope to grow your python into a mature adult or if you ever plan on breeding them as well.

Shelter

One of the very next things you’re going to want to consider when housing your pet ball python is putting shelter inside of the cage. This is where you get to be creative while providing an essential part of your cage/structure. Why exactly does a ball python need shelter, aren’t they used to being out in the wild? Yes, they’re used to being out in the wild and outside all day, but however, what we don’t see is when they’re searching for shelter or essentially making their own shelter.

Sometimes in the wild, they might use a crack they find in a tree stump, a log, or even someone’s backyard, as you hear the scream of someone who just found a snake under their pool deck. The ball python more than likely doesn’t mean any harm, it was just trying to escape the humid conditions and find some shelter, that’s all. Why do ball pythons seek shelter in the first place? Essentially, shelter is sought because it’s brutally hot in some months of the year depending on the area they’re in.

When they’re in a cage, this is no different and no exception because it’s going to be brutally hot inside of the cage as well. While living in a humid condition is essential, it’s kind of like when we as humans go tanning. Being outside in the warm weather make feel good but when the humidity is high, sometimes we just want to be under shade or we want to take the day inside and stay out of the sun. This is how ball python’s feel sometimes and we must provide them with warm but adequate shelter to hide from the heat.

There are a multitude of different shelters you can find available, some of them ranging from extremely cheap and some of them are handmade. This is where you get to be creative because any kind of shelter really works ideally. If you’re looking to purchase one for relatively cheap, then you can find a lot of cage accessories available such as a plastic log, a real wooden log or something of that nature. Nature style props are great because they blend in with the cage well but they really have no actual purpose outside of looking great.

If you’re on a strict budget, then there are other options for you as well. You can hollow out a cereal box, flip it upside down, cover it with newspaper and use that as a shelter for the humid weather as well. I sincerely doubt the ball python is really going to care what kind of shelter you give it, as long as you’re providing some kind of shelter in return. There are a lot of homemade options for people out there who don’t want to buy them, such as the shoebox, the cereal box and some people have even recommended using milk jugs as well.

What some people will do is, they’ll cut half of the milk jug out, and they’ll spray paint it black or cover it in black electrical tape and use that as a shelter. Personally, I would rather see people purchase an inexpensive form of shelter that can be used so you don’t make the cage look tacky. Owning a ball python is relatively inexpensive and it doesn’t take a lot of money to own any kind of small exotic pet that’s kept in a cage as long as you maintain it well. If you’re still not sure of what kind of shelter you should get for your python, just remember this general rule of thumb to go by:

A ball python likes to seek out comfort in a small and dark space. They don’t like to be kept in the light when in shelter or be in a bright place. This is why they prefer places such as a damp log or buried under the leaves under someone’s pool deck. There are many different types of shelter, but as long as you provide one period, then you should be alright. However, you may find that your ball python spends a lot of time at first in their shelter whenever you come around the cage.

Ball pythons are known to be particular shy animals and don’t exactly come out a lot. What happens if you don’t provide shelter to your ball python pet? This is what can ultimately lead to the death of your pet if you fail to provide it shelter. Much like a human being does, animals get stressed out when they’re under humid conditions for too long and it’s just too hot out. If they can’t find comfort or shelter, they’ll eventually become stressed out and they’ll stop eating.

Housing

Housing is one of the most important factors for keeping your ball python not only happy but keeping it alive as well because there are different ideal conditions depending on different factors for your pet. Keeping your ball python in a cage is the one of most common and preferred ways to house your pet but there is another method of housing as well known as the rack system. In this method, you’re going to use something like a plastic box system and while this isn’t ideally recommended for just one ball python, the majority of people use them for a large number of pythons in general.

There’s nothing really wrong with using it for just one python but it’s recommended to use a cage and shelter system instead. One of the benefits of using a rack system is that you can keep a very large number of pythons (depending on the size) in a very small area. Some people will say that the boxes are setup ideally so that you can not only house a large number of pythons but so that you can spend less time doing manual labor on them as well.

The amount of time required by pythons kept in racks is much less compared to the counterpart but however there is a drawback to this. When you’re using plastic boxes such as the rack system, you usually can’t keep an eye on your snakes very well. Not only are some of them hard to see, you have to usually slide a drawer out to be able to keep an eye on the snake and to observe the behavior. Some people prefer to observe and watch the natural behavior of their pets when they own a python which for many owners is one of the best perks of owning such an exotic pet.

Some people just love the idea of owning a pet that most people are absolutely terrified of and it’s fun to watch them naturally interact with the things around them and how they live in everyday life. It’s a chance to not only house a python but to observe just how gracefully they move around, how they slide around everywhere and how they interact with nature. There’s also a very serious and more critical drawback of this system that a lot of people fail to mention or simply forget and that’s the rack system’s easy escape route.

You see, when you own a rack system, there’s a fatal flaw when it comes to owning several pets inside such a vulnerable system and that’s that many rack style housing systems don’t include or have a place to lock the pets up. You have sliding drawers that are easily accessed but many of them don’t have anything included to lock them up and keep the drawers from sliding out. One of the most common reasons for a pet escaping out of the rack system is because an owner forgot to shut the drawer all the way and when they come back, to their surprise, one or more of the pets are missing.

While most people love the idea of owning a ball python, I doubt most people love the idea of having one loose in your home and not knowing exactly where it is. This is why you have to be extra cautious if you’re using a racks or extendable drawer system to store your pythons. While you might be a careful person and pet owner in general, everyone forgets things sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, all it takes is one forgetful move to let loose some baby ball pythons in your home and trying to catch them won’t exactly be a treat.

While pythons are stored in housing, they aren’t necessarily known to bite or be aggressive but sometimes they can be mistaken for aggressive because of their nature. When you all of a suddenly reach your hand into their housing or environment, they might lash out and bite you and that’s not out of hatred or aggression. Sometimes, pets mistake their owners hand coming into the tank as feeding time and think that there’s food to be had, so they bite looking for food. Other times, it’s because you’re moving too quickly and recklessly, so you scare the python. Be careful when housing and make sure if you use the racks system, it’s secure.

Heating

Now, regardless of the type of cage or housing environment that you choose to go with, there’s one important factor that you must pay attention to because it will keep your animal not only alive but healthy as well. To make for ideal breeding and growing conditions, you need to make sure that you have adequate and ideal temperatures, so that it feels like the ball python is back in the wild or at least at a temperature that they’re used to being in.

This is why it’s highly important that you create a careful and proper environment for your pets. Ball pythons are very secure pets and they do very well in captivity but only under the ideal conditions so it’s important that either you or an experienced care keeper is taking care of them to maintain their health and safety. In an ambient cage there is an exact range of temperature that you should be shooting for to ensure a happy and long life of your ball python pet. The ideal temperature ranges can go from 82 to 85 when it’s day time and then during the night time, there will be ideally a slight drop in temperature. The temperature drops usually is only about 5 degrees or a variable small amount but it’s not very much.

However, there should always be a hot spot in your environment for the snake which usually should be kept at a constant 90 degrees. You have to remember that these animals are used to being in very warm and very humid environments. While there are some snakes that live in cooler climates and have adapted to survive in these climates, the particular pet here, the ball python is used to very warm and humid conditions. One of the most important things to include for temperature control inside of a cage is an area known as a temperature gradient.

What a temperature gradient basically provides is the ability to keep one area of the cage system cool and one area of the cage system relatively warm so that your snake can choose whether it wants to be warm or cool. Most people think as new pet owners, as long as they have a cage and a heating lamp, then they are good to go, but this can lead to an unhappy and stressed out pet. In return, once your pet becomes unhappy and stressed out, it may stop eating altogether which could ultimately lead to its death.

If you’re using a rack system as some people prefer when they own multiple ball python pets, usually you’ll find that you can use heat tapes or heat cables to help generate the heat required. This should be applied to each and every shelf inside of the rack to ensure that enough heat is getting inside of each rack. Only one source of heat being applied inside of a rack system will cause the heat to spread out and split up, meaning that one area of the cage might be warm, but then you’ll have another area that will be cool and could lead to some of your python pet’s deaths.

However, you should note that if you plan on using tape or cables, then you’re going to want to make sure that the tapes are connected to what’s known as a thermostat for these cages. Not just your ordinary thermostat that you’d stick outside on a warm day to track the weather or the pool, but there are quite a few different thermostats available to track the inside of a cage. It should be a high quality and new thermostat first of all. The higher the quality, the better because the thermostat will undoubtedly be one of the most important pieces of the entire set up that you’ll purchase.

What’s so bad about using one of the cheap thermostats that might work for your pool? Well for one, who cares if your pool has an improper reading? It’s really not a big deal if your pool is 5 degrees off what the thermostat is reading because it’s still going to serve the same purpose. You can still jump in for a splash and cool off but this is completely different when you’re using them to monitor heat for ball pythons. When you have an improper reading of the temperature inside the cages, this causes more than enough problems to cost you more money than you spent on the pets in the first place.

First, your pets may become stressed so any food you put inside will likely go to waste and they aren’t going to touch them. Second, that stress could lead to the death of your snakes because just like humans, they have emotions as well and can become stressed out. So what kind of heating thermostat should you use?

There are tons of recommendations on in the internet available for ball python housing thermostats and some might be better than the others but the general rule of thumb is, as long as it’s high quality then it should be just fine. One thing that many new pet owners don’t purchase but should is something known as the temperature gun. What does the temperature gun do? If you’ve ever worked in a meat department or had to work somewhere with a cooler area, then you more than likely have seen or heard of a temperature gun.

This little handheld device is simply pointed into the air or in the general direction that you’d like to measure the temperature and then you can simply pull the trigger. It will gain an accurate reading on the temperature. So what’s the point of this with a thermometer? The problem with a thermometer is, even with a high quality thermometer, it can’t measure the entire cage. A temperature gun will allow you to scan the entire caging area, including the shelter to find out what the exact temperature of every area is and to make sure your habitat is running at optimal temperatures for growing or breeding if that’s something you’re doing.

Now let’s talk about heating up display cages, because it’s a tad more complicated than heating up your typical cage. A ball python kept inside of a display cage will require a little more maintenance but it’s really not that bad. First, you’re going to need to get yourself a combination of heat lamps to spread out evenly over the cage. Then, you’re going to want to obtain a heating pad that will help spread head out and it’ll be applied directly onto the cage.

With a heating pad, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re covering a good 1/3 of the bottom of the cage, as this is likely going to serve as your number one source of heat. Your ball python pets will absolutely love you because it’ll give them the heat to their belly’s that they require and it will help them ingest their food as well, which leads to them being healthier. Figuring out the exact wattage you should be using with your cage will heavily depend on a few different factors.

First, you’re going to want to figure out how the ventilation of your cage is, what the room temperature is like and what the exact size of the cage is that you’re working with. That should be the first and foremost thing you do before placing any kind of lamps over the cage. Just remember, if you obtain a dark bulb, it’s not going to disturb the snake nearly as much as say another type of bulb would. Red nocturnal reptile bulbs seem to the most popular and most trusted source of bulbs for heating lamps in the ball python or reptile community for pet owners. Remember, pythons very much so hate bright lights just like most reptiles.

Now, you’ll also need to keep an eye on the humidity as well because Pythons require an immense amount of humidity to ensure that they’re kept healthy (usually around 75%). As long as the area isn’t too dry, then they should be fine and they shouldn’t have any kind of shedding problems.

Substrate

The next thing we’re going to talk about is the substrate, or basically the ground foundation for the cage. One of the first things we should note is that ball pythons have a lot of different options when it comes to substrates that you can use and the options you have available because they’re very clean animals. Choosing which substrate will be best for your ball python won’t be a very difficult choice but there are a lot of different choices.

When you go to your local pet shop, you’ll probably find that there are at least over a dozen types of different substrates and almost any of them will work fine as optimal substrate. Really, it might boil down to an economic choice depending on your budget or it could even boil down to a cosmetic choice because one may look better than the other to you. So if you see something you like in the pet shop and you think it’ll look great in the environment you’re raising your python in, then by all means go ahead and get it.

However, some people might argue that there are some substrates that work better than others because of a few key different features and factors. First, you have your mulch like substrates that every python owner seems to love for one very key reason. When you have mulch substrate, and this goes for all pets, not just ball pythons but mulch seems to absorb moisture a lot and greatly helps the humidity inside of the cage. Mulch is relatively easy to find and for pricing options you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that mulching is very cheap.

The next most popular option would probably have to be aspen shavings because people like the look it gives the environment. However, the different kind of shavings, mulch, sand or other substrate might have a different look depending on what kind of accessories or toys you have put into the cage. If you’re looking to build a jungle like environment, then you’re obviously going to go with what resembles dirt the most. If you’re looking to build an urban like environment, then mulch would more than likely be the most practical choice if you care about the cosmetic look of your cage.

So why do people love aspen shavings so much? Well for one, aspen shavings are very easy to spot clean. Spot cleaning is the act of finding particular health hazards or dirty objects inside of the cage that shouldn’t be there when you’re doing maintenance. Anything that shouldn’t be in a cage is like a sore thumb when it’s in aspen mulch. However, some people prefer to use newspaper because they find that it’s easy to spot on newspaper as well and newspaper is relatively easy to clean up after.

Also, while newspaper is extremely cheap, it’s also more than likely the easiest solution to clean up after because when you need to lay down new substrate, all you have to do is replace the newspaper and remove the old. This may not look the best, but it can be practical and it’s the best substrate for someone on a low budget who wants to own a pet. Ball pythons aren’t particularly going to care or really judge you on the substrate that you pick for them, they could care less.

However, there’s one important thing you need to remember for bedding and substrate that could be harmful to your snakes. Remember, cedar is the one and only substrate that’s not going to be suitable for ball pythons simply because the bedding is harmful and toxic to all breeds of snakes. It could possibly very well end up killing your snakes.

Food

The most important part of taking care of a ball python or let alone any animal is feeding it. Everything has to eat, and everything has to poop and snakes are no exceptions to this rule. When ball pythons are kept in captivity are under ownership, they usually eat things such as rats or they eat mice for the most part. If you’d like to creature your own version of the Discovery Channel, you can feed your python some live rodents and watch them devour them whole as nature at its finest goes to work. However, if you’re a relatively squeamish person and don’t really like the idea of seeing a rat eaten alive, then you might want to feed them some frozen-thawed rats instead.

I’m not relatively sure why you’d own a pet if you’re a squeamish person, but there are those people, so you’ll be glad to know that you can keep your options open. However, for those people who prefer frozen-thawed rodents, there are some benefits to them as well. One benefit being that you can purchase a rather large supply of them and in bulk for cheap. They’re far more convenient for purchasing than live rodents where as you have to continuously go back to the store and buy live rodents every single week for food.

Also, you’re not really running a risk or threat to your snake if you feed it a thawed out rodent because it’s not alive and it will not try to fight back. However, when it comes to having a live rodent in the same vicinity as your snake, they have been to known to try to fight for their lives because well let’s face it, wouldn’t you? Live rodents have been known in the past to not only injure but kill snakes that were trying to feed on them as well. You don’t run that particular risk when you’re storing dead rodents, all you have to do is put them in the same area with the snake.

However, there’s also a drawback to counteract those benefits because some reptiles have this thing where they only like to eat live bait. You may not encounter this a lot if you breed or own a lot of pythons but sometimes, you’ll find that they won’t eat dead bait and prefer to eat live bait for the activity instead. So sometimes, you may encounter the problem known as resist feeding, where they refuse to eat the thawed out at. If you have a rather large collection of say about 100 snakes, you might find that maybe 1, 2 or even 3 of them might resist feed thawed out rats.

So while it may be inconvenient to have to separate the two into categories of which snakes would eat live rats and which ball pythons would eat thawed out rodents, it’s beneficial to your snake’s safety to keep an eye on them and feed them only live rats. Again, you may run that risk of your snake being injured but this is by far not a common occurrence and shouldn’t be taken as a sign that it will happen if you do it. It should be noted that when you feed ball pythons thawed out food, only about half of them or (50%) will eat on a weekly basis.

However, with the stimulation that live bait and food provides from live rodents, you’ll find that that number increases to at least 75% of them eating on a weekly basis. It comes from general instincts and being in the hunter survival instinct mood. In the wild, they have to hunt for their food and their food isn’t just going to sit there playfully or pretend its dead, it’s more than likely going to fight back and while dangerous, that’s something reptiles are used to. However, it really comes down to a personal choice and making sure that you keep an eye on your pet during feeding whether you feed them live or thawed.

Just remember that if you’re staying consistent with your feeding habits, you’ll find that there are far better growth rates and that the babies will grow considerably as well.

So how exactly do you make that switch from live to thawed with no problems and having a smooth transition? If you’re working with baby ball pythons or smaller snakes that are currently feeding off of live rodents and for whatever reason if you want to switch them to thawed food, it’s going to take a little bit of time and a little bit of patience. Some people have recommended that you should let the snake go an entire week without feeding.

So how do you do this and what’s the best practice? First, you’ll want to obtain a rodent and thaw it out to the point where it’s at room temperature. Then, you’ll want to firmly place it under a heat lamp and let it sit there for a few minutes to make sure it gets de-thawed. What is the general purpose of this and why does it help? Basically, if you raise the temperature of the rodent, the snake will more than likely think the rodent is live and it might eat it regardless of it not moving at all. Never ever just reach your hand in there and try to offer a snake a meal, but instead you should use a bit resist glove or tongs to place the meal in there instead.

Reaching your hand into a container with an empty snake is asking to be bitten whether or not the snake sees you as a potential threat. What happens next is something you usually see on tv, but it will strike the rodent thinking that it’s live and will wrap around it’s victim still thinking that it’s live. It will constrict the rodent to prevent breathing and to try to snap it’s bones. If all goes well, it won’t care that there was no struggle and it will take the bait. However, some people have reported that it doesn’t go well or as planned on the first attempt and that it might take several tries.

You can keep doing this until the snake adapts, thinks it’s alive or gets used to the new type of food you’re feeding it. However, you should note that sometimes ball pythons can be extremely stubborn and that’s something they’re commonly known for.

When you’re feeding your snake live pets, you need to make extra caution and be advices that you should never ever leave a large rodent in a cage with a snake unattended. Yes, snakes are powerful killing machines that will strike their enemies down before they usually get a chance to fight back but the larger rodents can sometimes injure or kill the snake if you’re not being careful of paying attention. However, the smaller rodents usually won’t injure the python and it’ll just become a healthy meal.

So just make sure to pay close attention because even in a fight to the death, a ball python snake can be ignorant and stubborn. It might not fight back at times and that’s when you have to be ready to react and to remove the rodent.

You’ll more than likely going to want to develop a feeding schedule and determine just how large of a feeding size you should be giving your snakes. Some people like to feed their snakes different varieties of rodents to see what they eat the most and what they tend to prefer. It’s preferred that if you’re nursing baby ball pythons, you try to get them to take rats at the earliest age possible to get them used to the conditions of eating a live rodent. Sometimes it’s hard, but it takes persistence.

Once your baby pythons have begun to stop eating rats, you should cut off mice. Ball pythons at the most are usually fed once a week and this is the most common. This not only includes adults but can go for breeders, babies and juveniles as well. However, if you’re noticing that one of the babies or premature adults isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like, then there’s nothing wrong with offering it extra feed once or more a month. Don’t over feed them but don’t be afraid to throw in an extra meal at least once a month to help the production.

So how large should a meal ideally be? Ideally, you want to take the diameter of the thickest part of the snake and use that as a guide to determine just how much should be fed into the snake. To put this scale into perspective, a 75 gram hatchling can reach upwards of 700 grams once it’s only a year old so you should plan accordingly and monitor their feeding rates of what they’re eating or not eating, because you’ll have to constantly keep adjusting.

Water

Making sure that your ball python pet has enough water is easily one of the easiest jobs of owning a ball python and is a relatively short guide in doing so. Obviously, there’s always the golden rule when it comes to water, that you shouldn’t give your snake any water that you wouldn’t want to drink but as animals, they’re usually a lot more tolerant to water and food than we are. I mean, I doubt you’ll be eating a live rat any time soon, but you could do if it you wanted to.

You always want to make certain that you have some fresh water in the cage at all times. No matter what season or what time of the day, you want to make absolute certain that there’s fresh water somewhere available in the cage. If it’s become contaminated and dirty, then maybe it’s time for an overall cleaning of the entire cage.

Some people change the water depending on their schedules or when they see fit depending on how dirty the water gets but as a general rule, I would recommend changing it at least once a week or once a week at the maximum. I know some people don’t feel it necessary and change it once every couple of weeks and that’s fine as well. As a general rule, just look at the water every day and make sure that it’s still fresh and make sure that there’s still plenty in there. If it looks dirty or contaminated, then obviously, the solution is to take it out; clean it and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to clean the cage as well.

However, some breeders and experts claim that they prefer to change the water once every few days, which might be a tad bit overboard, but you can never be too careful. A ball python doesn’t spend a lot of time near the water and you aren’t going to observe your ball python soaking in the water bowl too often so you don’t have to worry about a lot of things getting into the water. However, it may be of concern if live rodent or bait droppings are somehow making their way into the bowl that should be looked at immediately and cleaned.

There are several different ways you can apply water to the cage. First, you can create or buy a low budget low rise bowl to store the water in that will sit idly in a corner of the cage. You can ideally place the bowl where ever you want, but it’s probably the best if you place it in the coolest section of the tank so that the water doesn’t become too warm too quickly. Really, there’s no wrong answer here and it’s all going to boil down to, what looks the best to you for cosmetic reasons.

Vitamins

When you’re trying to get your ball python to grow up as healthy as possible, the idea of vitamins comes up as an essential nutrient. This has been a battle for sometimes because there’s a lot of argument and debate over this topic. Some people firmly believe in vitamins and everything that they can do for a pet but some people say they’re a total waste of money and should be avoided. However, what is the ultimately conclusion and are vitamins something you should be feeding your pet ball python?

Let me first start off by saying that vitamins don’t necessarily hurt anyone (even humans) and it’s extremely hard to overdose on vitamins, unless you’re taking like a million times the percent recommended which is near impossible to do in a day. However, there are some natural vitamins that ball pythons get just from eating and being under a heat lamp. When your pet consumes rodents, it’s already receiving an ample amount of calcium and the lamps are assisting with giving your pet some D3 but are vitamins necessary?

Most of the vitamins that your snakes will get will actually come from the rodents that you feed it believe it or not, but however there are some vitamins on the market that help speed up the nutrition and growth of your snake. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of products out there for reptiles to feed them vitamins so choosing which one is best for you will require a little research. If your pet isn’t eating as much as it used to, then you could be concerned about a vitamin deficiency such as Calcium or C.

In that case, it might be beneficial to feed your pet some Calcium and Vitamin C to help growth. This could also be a sign that your snake is depressed. However, if you want the best source of vitamins, they’ll come directly from the rodents, so while nutrients from products will help, you should make sure you’re getting the best possible rodents for your ball python.

Hibernation

One of the most interesting times for a ball python comes around the time to hibernate. You’ll know exactly when a snake begins to hibernate because they’ll begin to refuse food and this is usually the time where the beginning of their hibernation begins, right when their refusal to eat begins. When pitted against female ball python snakes, it’s the males who will begin to refuse food first and go into hibernation before females. Usually this happens around August but sometimes has been noted to happen in October as well, so this is something you should be keeping an eye on.

When it comes to female hibernation, they tend to do it at least one month later, and you’ll notice that they start to do it in around November or December. In order to achieve this particular period of time, you’re going to need to be certain that there’s a cool spot for the snakes to hibernate in as it’s required for hibernation. However, you should be warned that something is wrong if the snake is refusing to eat their food three weeks in a row and if there’s no adequate cooling.

If this happens to you or seems to be the case, then you need to check the tank for any warm spots and cool the tank off. Otherwise, you might need to look at your heat lamps to make sure they’re not outputting too much power and build a better shelter if need be. Make sure to use your temperature gun as discussed in the temperature section to make sure that your snake has adequate cooling spots for hibernation (usually the shelter).

So why is this necessary? When animals hibernate, they require a cool spot to do so because if they do this in humid and warm conditions, they’ll lose far too much weight and the snake’s metabolism will shoot through the roof if you’re not careful. The problem here is that if they’re losing too much weight and there’s nothing being added to help gain weight such as food, this can be deadly to the snake’s health. However, remember, if you cool the tank way too early before hibernation even begins, you’re going to cause a digestion problem and it’s not going to properly digest the last thing it ate before it goes into hibernation.

Then, you should take about three weeks and monitor the snake, but after about three weeks go by (it varies by snake), you can place males and females together in the same living enclosure. During hibernation they’re not particularly going to care or try to fight (that is, if you have a male and female together). Hibernation season also marks the start of breeding season, so if you’re looking to breed your pythons, that’s generally around the time that they’re going to start.

After the first night of being together, you’re going to more than likely notice that the tails of the snakes will be wrapped together in the morning. What’s happening here is the beginning of the breeding process and it’s best to just leave them alone, and the time for this will usually vary from couple to couple. You’ll find that in some cases, it’s only a few hours but in some cases, it can be as long as two days (while this is rare, it does happen).

However, if they haven’t begun to breed within a couple of days or even three days to play it safe, then you should gently spray or (mist) the snakes with water and the tank to keep it cool. Sometimes, what this can do is stimulate the snakes that it’s time to begin breeding and they’ll begin once this happens. When they’re finished, you should be sure to place the male back where you got him. During breeding, timing is important and remember it only happens during hibernation.

After a few days at the most, you can then re-introduce the male ball python to the female and you’ll continue to do this until they’re no longer breeding. You’ll know when the female is ovulating by noticing that the mid-body will be generally swelling. Once you notice this, it’s a good chance that ovulation has begun and if you’re looking for a time frame, this usually happens around spring. You’ve done everything up to this point and breeding should be a success up to this point.

Shedding

As all snakes do, the ball python will periodically shed off their skin from time to time as the animal continues to grow and develop. If you’ve never had any experience with a snake before, then don’t panic because the shedding of the skin is completely normal and shouldn’t be any reason to cause alarm. What is the reason that a snake sheds? The most simplistic reasoning I can give is that a snake sheds because they’re growing and their skin has become obsolete. It’s basically what happens when a snake outgrows its own skin.

Shedding in general will usually occur during the summer time and will generally last anywhere from four to six weeks. However, it’s only going to happen when it’s feeding every week, so you need to make sure that your snake is healthy and eating appropriately as well to have a healthy shedding and not run into any issues. However, during the winter months, it’s only going to shed once at a healthy rate. Usually this is before hibernation begins (which is usually around winter) and when winter is over, it will shed again. This is because the skin simply becomes old at a rapid pace and at a more degenerative pace than it does when it’s summer time, so the two shedding times are pretty close together.

When shedding has or is ready to begin, you’ll notice that the skin color on the snake will appear to be darker. It may be hard to see from the heat lamp, but once you get a close look, then you’ll notice that the skin color is more dark than normal. Also, you’ll notice that the snake will have its own bluish cast to the skin which changes the color. As with most animals during shedding or hibernation, you’ll notice that the eyes will gain this eerie looking cloudy or milky looking appearance, this is completely normal and shouldn’t cause for alarm. The cloudy look in their eyes only remains this way for a few days and then it will be back to normal again.

Shedding commonly begins at the nose of the snake after this milky eye cloud period is over. Generally, most things that shed will start from the front (nose area) and will go all the way back to the tail, with the tail being last. This process begins with the snake trying to rub the skin back. Usually to assist with the shedding, the ball python will look for a corner or something in the cage that can help assist the shedding of the skin. It will latch onto it with its body, and try to go forward while shedding the skin.

The best way to describe the sight is like watching someone turn a sock inside out but at a slower pace and something that takes days to build up to. Also, you have to remember that once the cloudy phase of the shedding process starts, the snake isn’t going to be able to see very well. Also, it’s good to note that during the time of shedding, there’s many various things going on and your snake isn’t going to have the best attitude at the time either, and will become slightly more aggressive than you’re used to. It’s not advised to try handling the snake during the period of shedding because this may have undesirable results.

After the shedding process has to come to an end, it’s important that you inspect the snake to make sure that not only that the snake has shed its skin successfully but to make sure that not any old skin remains because this is something you’ll more than likely have to peel off by hand. The most important areas that you’ll want to check are around the eyes and around the tip of the tail. So what’s the worst that can happen if you happen to leave any skin left on the snake? Not only will the snake be in a not so favorable mood from the irritation that’s caused from the dangling skin, but it can cause infections.

So that’s why it’s important to scan for any old skin that hasn’t quite shed because after a few days, you might be left with some infectious skin left on the surface. The best way to do this will be to first, grab a pillowcase and wet it, and make sure that you’re squeezing all of the excess water out that you possibly can. Very carefully, handle the snake long enough so that you can put it inside the wet pillow case and then you want to tie the pillow case shut. Don’t worry, this is only temporary and won’t harm the snake as long as it’s done quick.

What you’ll want to do next is place the pillowcase with the wet and mad snake in a tub that’s placed directly under your heat lamp. Then, simply leave it alone for a good couple of hours and this alone should be remove all the leftover skin, and who knows, your snake might just show you some gratification and thanks for what you’ve done.