Caring for Your New Ball Python
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Ball Python Factoids

Origin

The savannas of West Africa

Sexual Differences

Males have longer “spurs” theoretically

Temperature

80o to 90o days. 10o cooler at night. 

Attitude

Reserved.  Not a biter.  Balls up when scared.

Schedule

Nocturnal. Eats in late evening – once a week.

Substrate

Carpet.  Make sure it’s easy to clean.

Security

Needs a hide box.  This is a must for feeding.

Foods

Rodents.  Feed weekly.

Supplements

None needed

Cleaning Schedule

Weekly usually suffices

Breeding Age

Starts around 2 to 3 years

Gestation Period

3 to 4 months

Brood Size

6 to 10. Female “incubates” them 2 months

Breeding Comments

Usually needs a “cool period” trigger


LA
Six two-week-old ball pythons.  Pretty obvious why they call them "ball" pythons.

LA
When they feel threatened, this is their typical reaction.

LA
Typical ball python fan.

LA
Because they rarely bite, you can trust ball pythons around children.

LA
And if you're giving a talk on snakes, ball pythons make good "touchable" props.


Origins:  Ball pythons often come to pet shops directly from Africa.  These wild-caught balls usually carry numerous ticks and internal parasites.  They often refuse to eat – ever.  Imported balls sell very cheaply.  The best ball pythons are those spawned and raised right here in Iowa.  Naturally, these home-raised ball pythons cost more.  However, they eat well and rarely develop the problems common in imports.  They do cost at least twice as much as the imports.

Cage:  You can keep your ball python in a 10-gallon aquarium for a while.  We recommend larger quarters so they get the exercise they need.  Balls prefer evening and night exercise periods.  They rack out during the day. 

Hide Box.  Always provide a hide box.  At the very minimum, give your ball python a cardboard box with a hole in it. You can do better than that esthetically.

 

LA
And March can trigger ball python breeding also.

Temperature:  Ball pythons prefer 80o to 90o days.  Keep them 10o cooler at night.  When the temp falls into the low 70s, they usually stop eating.  The lower temp feels like winter (Dec and Jan) in Africa and can trigger brumation (and breeding).

LA
Threatened ball pythons even pull their heads inside their coils.

Temperament:  Think of these guys (and gals) as almost shy.  Rather than bite a potential attacker, they will coil into a defensive ball – thus the name, ball python.  This defensive trait makes them very susceptible to rat bites.  If you feed your ball python live prey, whack your rat before you give it to your snake.  If you leave a live rat in his cage overnight, you may wind up with one very chewed up snake.

LA
Two full grown ball pythons.  Good beginner snake when captive bred.

Maximum Size.  In theory, ball pythons grow as long as six feet.  Most balls mature at a much shorter length.

Des Moines Ordinance.  The City of Des Moines prohibits the possession of constrictor snakes in excess of six feet in length.

LA
Pinky rat pups make good food for small ball pythons.

LA
Thumped rats never leave scars, but you don't need to thump them this hard.

LA
Here's an over anxious ball python that actually bit himself.  Fairly rare.

LA
Most ball pythons eat with no problems whatsoever.

LA
When your ball python gets this active, it usually means it's hungry.

Foods:  A weekly feeding of a right-size rodent suffices. Feed a food item no larger than the diameter of your ball’s body.  Too large a rodent can cause your ball python to vomit its half-digested meal. Cornered rats bite like crazy.  Freshly killed or frozen (thawed, of course) rodents will keep your snake free of unnecessary wounds.  Frozen foods also help keep your ball python free of parasites. Feed live rats to them very carefully.  Whack your rats or feed them frozen -- thawed and warmed up to rat temp.  Some balls hesitate to eat room temp rats.  Gently move it back and forth by its handle (tail).

Supplements:  None needed.

 

Lighting:  Ball pythons don’t need full-spectrum light, but they do appreciate a regular day and night schedule – without bright lights.  Careful.  Make sure your ball python cannot reach any bare bulbs.

Water:  Give your ball a large water bowl.  Fill it only half full or it will slop onto your cage’s carpet.  Excess water gives ball pythons a blister-like skin infection that often proves fatal.

LA
Ball pythons make good snakes for young people.

LA
The fabulous Williams brothers certainly like ball pythons.

LA Pic
Alex likes this bigger ball python.  Where's that smile?

LA
Tyler ain't afraid of no ball python.  His brother keeps his distance.

Limit Handling:  Excessive handling causes ball pythons to feed poorly -- especially young ones.  Avoid handling your ball python after it eats.  If you just handled or cleaned your rats, your ball may want to see if you taste like a rat. Also, they see very poorly when shedding.  Don’t handle or feed until they finish shedding. Otherwise, the larger ones seem to like handling.

LA
Big ball python.

LA
Easy-to-handle size ball python.

LA
Little ball python.

Last Word:  Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any reptile -- and before feeding your snakes.  LA.
 

Linda Samano, October 8, 2010
Hello, I originally found your page because I was looking for info about Raphael catfish and I noticed that you posted some info that others had given you about the catfish. I was curious about additional info about ball pythons but when I looked through the page I noticed that you had only the bare minimum info on ball pythons. I figure I might as well send this e-mail with some interesting info about a ball that I had owned just in case you were interested in it.
I had bought 2 ball pythons from a pet store and they were (we think they were male) brothers and both fairly young. The one that I claimed for my own personal pet I named Chocobo and I noticed that he was very social compared to his brother Shoken (kept in the same tank but "owned" by my friend). He hated being kept in his cage and would do anything to get my attention to get out and when held would rub his head all over my hands and be strangely cuddly, like a cat almost. We started to notice that he only had this behavior when I held him. He especially didn't like being held by my friend and would do almost anything not to be held by said friend. His brother on the other hand, acted like a normal snake.
I was wondering if you had heard about any behavior similar to this before?
Thank you for your time.

 

 

A:  Doesn't sound like typical ball python behavior.  They usually just roll into a ball when picked up.  However, they do like warmth and perhaps you're just warmer than your friend.  I'll add your report to my "bare minimum"  ball python page.  LA

 

Angie, October 30, 2010
Hello! I just finished reading your article on ball pythons.  Nicely informative for the beginner snake keeper.
However I feel I must add that even tho ball pythons aren't aggressive, they are also not necessarily for complete beginners.  Ball pythons are notorious for going off feed.  For no apparent reason other than they don't want to eat.  For the complete beginner that can be a nerve racking experience. 
For example....  I had wanted a snake for years.  My mom being terrified of anything reptile said strongly, "NO!"  I was able to purchase my first snake, a ball python, after getting married and moving out.  Boots was a very docile, handleable snake.  She never tried to bite until later in her life with me.  Then it was someone she didn't know picking her up.  She began striking and wouldn't stop until I approached and took her from him.  She immediately stopped striking, crawled up and around my neck and gently squeezed as if to tell me to never do that again.
As for the going off feed she was scratched on the head by a twitching rat.  She finished eating that rat, but her next feeding she refused and hid her head under her body in typical ball python fashion of balling.  Being the new snake keeper I had been recording each feeding and how many were fed on a calendar.  I kept track of every offer of food and refusal.  Needless to say with each refusal I began to worry more and more.  She never appeared to lose weight and she continued to drink water.  She finally ate again when she was ready after an amazing 369 days.  One whole year and 5 days.
I was lucky enough to have a local reptile store close that was owned and operated by a man who had every permit and license you can get and had been dealing with various non-venomous and venomous snakes for over 20 years.  He was a great source of help and advice. 
So I would caution the would be new snake owner to do their research and find out all they can before getting any new snake.

A:  Thanks for your report.  I'll add it to my ball python page.  Back in the olde days, we found that "cheap" ball pythons were not a very good deal.  They were wild-caught balls and were often reluctant to feed -- not to mention picking the ticks off and the probable parasite infestations.  I had one shipment where every ball died.  We only sell Iowa-bred ball pythons these days.  Still, if a rat chews on a snake (which I can't blame the rat for), the ball (or most snakes) will be reluctant to approach another rat.  We recommend feeding non-living prey to all snakes.  If a double cheese burger bit you on the face, it would be a long time before you snacked on a double cheese burger again.  LA
 

Angie, October 30, 2010
I totally agree.  If a cheeseburger bit me I'd have a hard time wanting another.  lol
I now thump the rats/mice before giving them to my snakes. Boots wasn't necessarily cheap when I bought her.  She was $90 in the pet shop.  Now of course you can find them for half that price or even less.
And I'd have to also add a word of caution to those would be snake owners who are getting their first one:  Do NOT ever drop a live rat/mouse in with your snake and walk away.  Watch and wait till that rodent is killed/eaten.  Leaving a live rodent in with a snake who doesn't eat it is asking for disaster.  I never left my snakes unattended while eating just because I liked watching them eat.  After seeing pics of snakes who had been killed and eaten on by rodents left in their cages with them, I definitely never left them until the rodent was eaten.  If not, the rat/mouse came out and put away for another day's attempt.

A:  I agree with your agreement.  LA

LA
Blue-eyed leucistic ball python looking very friendly.  May 26, 2011.

LA
Nice size.  Good looking snake.
 

Lyssa Lissa, October 1, 2011
RE:  Wrong Python Info -- About Ball Pythons:
  1. They are too biters. I don’t personally own one, but my boyfriend has one and he has been bitten several times in attempts to remove it from his cage.
  2. They do NOT “ball up” when scared, they “ball up” because they’re in what herpers call “mouse mode”, meaning that he’s hungry and he/she thinks that you’re either food or going to provide food.
  3. “Ball pythons often come to pet shops directly from Africa.” Ok, stop right there. That is the main reason that any reptile should never be a pet. The fact that most of them come from the wild is the reason that many species are starting to become extinct!
  4. “Always provide a hide box.” They do not need one at all. They are perfectly content with a specialized “branch” to climb on and a clean corner to sleep in.
  5. “If you feed your ball python live prey, whack your rat before you give it to your snake” Many ball pythons never get big enough to eat any size of rat. And snakes should NEVER be fed live prey. Not only is it painful and traumatizing for the rat/mouse/rabbit to die this way, the snake itself can become seriously injured (and not because of “balling up” either.). Plus, you should NEVER “whack” a rat or any animal. If you did that to any other animal, you would have the ASPCA on your business and you would be put in JAIL!
  6. “Excess water gives ball pythons a blister-like skin infection that often proves fatal.” Not true. That would be from BAD water, such as polluted.
Needless to say, you should either take your page off the internet permanently OR take it off and do some research BEFORE putting it back up!! Any new pet owner could read this bullshit and take your advice and end up with a dead pet thanks to you. Do you want that on your conscience?  """""""

someone wrote on your page. most of HER info was wrong they do ball up she is thinking of COILING and they ARE NOT bitters unless you torture your animals.. and please no reptiles as pets? shes got to be one of those people who think they are superior to everything and yes people shouldn't have ANY pets if we shouldn't have reptiles. The ''whack''  deadens the rat and many ball pythons DO get big enough to eat rats.. mine eats 
LARGE rats...i have pet rats, also, you can pick them up by the tail but its not recommended its your own choice. sorry for all 80000 bad reviews on the rats alot of the info was actually correct.

A:  I added your input to my ball python page.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I'll probably leave my page on the internet, even if your boyfriend's snake does not fit exactly into the parameters I've enumerated.  LA

 

 

 

 

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