How Many Eggs do Ball Pythons Lay?
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Ball Python Eggs: What to Expect When Expecting…
If you are lucky enough to have a ball python that is in the process of reproducing, you likely have a lot of questions.
- How many eggs should you expect?
- How do you care for the eggs?
- What should you expect when they hatch?
This article covers everything you need to know about ball python eggs, from conception to hatched baby snakes, and how many eggs you should expect when breeding ball pythons.
How many eggs should I expect?
Anywhere from 3-14 eggs should be expected, per gravid female. While this seems like a huge range, an average of around 5 eggs is seen in most studies that focus on ball pythons. In fact, one study found that 95% of the female snakes laid exactly 5 eggs. So, while this number may vary slightly, you should probably expect 5 eggs in most egg clutches.
Since ball pythons live over 30 years and are usually sexually mature in 3-5 years, you can assume that your snake will lay a clutch of eggs every year for around 25 years. So, you could expect to see around 125 eggs in a female snake’s lifetime, though she may not be ready to reproduce every year if she does not have enough fat reserves or access to a male snake.
But my ball python laid more or fewer than 5 eggs?
That’s okay, too! Fewer than 5 eggs can be brooded by a female with no significant problems. Studies have shown that more than 5 eggs can create a disadvantage to some of the offspring, and they will be less likely to survive. If your female lays more or less than 5 eggs, don’t worry about it. You will do more damage to the eggs trying to separate them than any benefit you will get redistributing them to other brooding females.
Do not move the ball python eggs!
Ball python eggs adhere very strongly to one another. This adaptation likely ensures that the eggs stay in a clutch so that the female can easily coil around them to brood. Researchers who tried to separate egg clutches found that they could not do it without significant damage to the eggs. So, it’s best to leave the eggs where they lie and let the female do her job. In extremely large clutches, many of the eggs may not hatch. With around 10 eggs, you should expect around 75% of them to hatch.
Incubating Their Eggs
The process of incubation in ball pythons is called ‘brooding’ because the female forms a tight coil around her eggs. This brooding serves 2 purposes: protection and hydration. The female may be defensive of her eggs at this point, so be careful when you are reaching into the habitat. Her tightly coiled body has been found to keep the eggs at almost precisely 86° Fahrenheit, and keeps the eggs moist for the 2 month incubation time. Her body will also direct moisture to the egg clutch, keeping the leathery shells of the eggs nice and moist.
Desiccation can be a serious cause of mortality in eggs and young snakes, so make sure that the humidity stays high in the cage. The moisture will collect on her scales, and drip off onto the eggs. Depending on how tightly she squeezes the clutch, she can let the water pass or hold it near the eggs as it soaks in.
Removing The Eggs
Some breeders choose to remove the eggs and incubate them separate from the female in a reptile-egg incubation chamber. These chambers typically use a moist substrate, such as perlite, to embed the eggs. The chamber stays at 86°-90° F, which keeps the eggs at just the right temperature. Since an accurate and professional incubation setup is quite expensive, it is usually recommended that the eggs be left with the female, exactly where she laid them. She likely picked the spot with a nice temperature and moisture profile.
Eating Behavior While Incubating and Brooding
During brooding, and often well before she starts laying eggs, your female will not eat. This is not because she is sick or unhealthy. Female ball pythons will refuse food for the entire 2 month incubation time. This is perfectly normal, and she should resume eating once her brood has hatched.
After around 2 months of brooding or incubation, the eggs will be ready to hatch. However, the small snakes are not going to explode with confetti into the cage all at once. Hatching is a process of its own and may take over 24 hours to complete.
First, the small hatchling snakes must make a slit in their eggs. Once this slit is open, the rest and spend time absorbing the rest of their yolk-sac. This gives them the energy to venture out into the world and start hunting on their own. If, for some reason, the snakes are not able to slice their eggshell you can make a small, shallow incision into the egg with a scalpel. Only do this if all the other snakes have emerged. Then, give the snake time and it should be able to emerge.
Hatchlings can be easily monitored if you put them in an enclosure of their own with butcher paper or newspaper as a substrate, ample water, and very small prey items to start. Pinky mice may be too big at this stage, so you may have to feed crickets, small roaches, or larvae until your snake is big enough to take small mice. When they are large and healthy enough, you can move them to a more naturalistic enclosure with any of the substrates suggested in our Ball Python Substrate article.
- Metabolism, temperature relations, maternal behavior, and reproductive energetics in the ball python (Python regius)
- Why do female Ball Pythons (Python regius) coil so tightly around their eggs?
- Clutch size manipulation, hatching success and offspring phenotype in the ball python (Python regius)