Local Snake Breeders
Breeding Ball Pythons
One of the questions we get asked quite often is "How do I breed my Ball Python". This article will explain how we do it, using methods we've developed at VMS over the last twenty-plus years. Some articles may differ from the methodology presented here, and some may view it as overly simplified. Remember, Ball Pythons have been breeding in the wild for thousands of years without our help - they'll do it just fine in our cages, no need to make it harder than it is!
Do you really want to breed your Ball Python?
This seemingly simple question is often never considered by the novice. There are several reasons to consider NOT breeding your Ball Pythons!
First, do you have a market for the offspring once they have been produced? If you don't have a place to sell them, you can quickly tire of feeding all those little mouths and then cleaning up after all those little...well you get the idea.
Second, do you have adequate food supplies and caging for the offspring? A typical Ball Python clutch of six hatchlings will consume around six rat pups per week if all goes well. Some can be fussy and require live hopper mice, others want live rat pups, others will waste feeders by refusing for several days before accepting and then repeating that process. All of which can be inconvenient if you don't have a handy source and dependable source. That's a lot of mice and rats. So many in fact, that local pet shops frequently begin experiencing mouse 'shortages' caused by the increased demand during peak months.
Third, are you willing to risk the life of your Ball Python? Breeding snakes is not without risks. On very rare occasions, one snake may actually simply eat the other on introduction. Dystocia (commonly known as egg-binding) is fairly common and poses serious health risks that may require expensive veterinary services. More common is the incredible drain on body resources that egg production places on the female. If not in perfect health, a female can become severely weakened and may succumb to renal failure or disease. Speaking of disease, the simple act of introducing the two snakes together opens the door for pathogen transfer. It is not uncommon for snakes to carry substantial parasite and bacteria loads and appear perfectly healthy, even for years. Introducing such a snake to another may transfer pathogens the second snake is unable to combat; it may then sicken and die.
I'm not trying to tell you not to breed your Ball Pythons, just making sure you are aware of a few of the problems associated with it. If you still want to breed them, read on!
The Calender of Events
I'll try to present all of this information in the order it occurs, to enable the reader to grasp the entire cycle of events. Breeding Ball Pythons is not simply something you just do one day, it is an event which consumes an entire year. Ball Pythons spend their entire lives in the wild preparing for this one annual event - you should spend just as much time on it as they do! Please remember that these dates are not set in stone, variations in cage temperatures and other conditions may cause your results to vary. In fact, Ball Pythons are notorious for breeding pretty much whenever they feel like it, and you should always be mentally prepared for it to take place at any time. However, the overall sequence of events will remain unaltered and the vast majority of breedings will more or less follow the timing given here.
December, January, February
Our Ball Pythons are now undergoing what is often termed temperature 'cycling', which we begin around December 1st each year. Many keepers call this the breeding season, and in fact the snakes will copulate frequently during this period. Actually, they are in preparation for breeding, and while they mate readily - it seems to be the copulations which take place after spring warm-up that really seem to count.
Pay careful attention to them during this time. Most areas have much drier climates during the winter months and dehydration can be a problem. Make sure they have clean drinking water available at all times and check for 'dry shed' often. Many times, the snakes can be seen soaking in the water bowls when the climate is too dry. Many of our snakes will go off feed about this time, although it seems to us as though many females which go on to breed successfully later in the year will actually feed very aggressively during this period. But virtually all our males will simply stop at this time, often all will eat one week and then refuse the next week - it's that sudden!