How to Breed Ball Pythons: Everything you need to know!
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General Facts about Ball Pythons
Ball pythons (Python regius) are a species of python native to Central African countries such as Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and several others. While the ball python is listed as a species of “Least Concern” by the IUNC red list, one of its biggest threats in the wild is as an export to the pet-trade. In some areas, ball python populations have been greatly reduced through the efforts of pet-traders.
Ball python breeders in the United States are actively combating this problem by producing new snakes in captivity, rather than capturing them in the wild. Luckily, ball pythons breed readily in captivity. So, if you are a ball python owner or want to be one, you should learn how to properly breed your ball python to help decrease the number of snakes that are taken from the wild.
This article provides a full, straight-forward guide for breeding your ball pythons!
The first step in breeding is to ensure that your snake is old enough and healthy enough to reproduce. Typically, female ball pythons take longer to reach sexual maturity. Females take anywhere from 20-30 months to become sexually mature, while males become sexually mature after only 16-18 months.
More important than the age of your ball python is its weight. Ball pythons grow at different rates in different habitats, so breeders have set up some clear standards to evaluate if your python is ready to mate. Females need to be a minimum of 1,500 grams before you attempt to breed them, while males must be a minimum of 800 grams.
If you are still no sure that your python is ready, you can take it to the vet and have a qualified veterinarian assess its potential to reproduce. With females, the vet can easily take an ultrasound to see if your female is developing follicles, which are the beginning stages of eggs in the ovaries. The vet can measure these follicles, and with these measurements, you can predict exactly when your female will ovulate.
Habitat Setup For Breeding Ball Pythons
Most breeders keep their snakes in a naturalistic enclosure that includes bedding such as wood-chips, a large water bowl, and a hide for the snake. While the general setup of your ball python cage does not need to change specifically for breeding, one important thing to consider is temperature.
There are two basic strategies for keeping your ball python at the right temperature for reproduction. Some breeders claim that there is a reproductive advantage in lowering the temperature slightly at night to around 79° Fahrenheit. As this is about the coldest it gets at night around the equator, this can signal to your snakes that it is time to reproduce.
However, many breeders claim that this temperature reduction is completely unnecessary. These breeders keep ambient temperatures in the room between 79° and 81° and give the pythons a basking spot on one side of their enclosure that reaches 89°. This allows the python to move around the enclosure to the temperatures it wants, and also falls in the correct temperature range for the snakes to brood their eggs.
Studies have found that snakes try to keep their eggs between 86° and 90° for the duration of the time the eggs are developing. If ambient temperatures are lower than this, the female snake will actively shiver or rhythmically contract her muscles to produce heat. This costs the female an enormous amount of energy, so temperatures should be kept warm enough that she does not have to warm the clutch constantly.
The presence of the female also keeps the eggs moist, especially in an environment with low humidity. If you live in a place with very low humidity, you may want to supplement the humidity with a fogger or by adding a water-holding substrate such as vermiculite. This will ensure that the eggs do not dry out, which can be a serious concern in low-humidity environments.
After you have ensured that you have a male and a female that are ready to breed, you can place them together in a single enclosure. While not all pairings are successful, you should be able to see your pythons engage in specific reproductive behaviors.
First, the male will begin to wrap himself around the female. The two snakes will twist together until the male’s genitalia align with the female’s cloaca. Copulation occurs when the male becomes “locked-in.” This term is used by ball python breeders to describe the position of the male and female when internal fertilization is taking place, with their tails twisted like crossed fingers.
The snakes appear to be connected by their cloacas during this time, and they may remain “locked-in” for several hours. This behavior is important to note. After it is over, you can assume that your female has been bred, and you can remove the male and return him to his own enclosure.
The female will go through one more shed before she lays her eggs. After she sheds, she will likely stop eating. She will find a good place to lay her eggs and will form a thick coil around the eggs after they are deposited. At this point, some breeders like to remove the eggs and put them into a special incubator for the duration of their development. This is not necessary, as a female ball python is essentially an egg incubator designed by evolution. The female will move and adjust her body to keep the eggs at the right temperature and humidity for the next 2 months.
Once your little baby snakes start hatching, parental care is ended in ball pythons. These adorable little guys can be removed, moved to a separate enclosure, and fed a size-appropriate prey item such as pinky mice or crickets. If you make it this far, congratulations! You are a ball python breeder.
Good luck, and thanks for not buying wild ball pythons!