This is the most common question asked surrounding Ball Pythons each year! “Why isn’t my ball python feeding?”.”My Ball Python is not eating, what can I do?”. 50% of the time the answer is simple…YOU ARE THE PROBLEM by either husbandry, stressing the snake out, etc! The other 40% of the time…there is NO PROBLEM, the snake simply does not feel like eating! The other 10% of the time…something is wrong and the snake may be sick, if you just bought it, contact the seller as I’ve seen cases where sellers have sold baby balls right out of the egg! Here I will go over a few common reasons why your ball python may not be feeding.
Scenario 1) You just bought your Ball python and it has not fed for you! Keep in mind the snake has just been shipped overnight, bounced around, gets unpacked and is in a new environment, new housing, new smells, new people and what do most breeders tell new owners? LEAVE THE SNAKE ALONE FOR A WEEK TO SETTLE IN BEFORE FEEDING! What do most new snake owner do? They stress the snake out even more by gathering every family member, every friend and neighbor to come see and play with the new snake! What is the second thing they do? Try and feed the snake the same day it arrives!
You take an already stressful change for that animal and take it from a level 2-3 to a level 9-10. Make no mistake about it, that snake does not like you! It does not want to be handled, petted, it does not want a party planned around it…it wants to be left alone. Set it up in it’s enclosure as close to what the breeder had it and leave it alone. Meaning, you don’t want to take a hatchling ball python housed in a rack system and 6qt tub and place it in a 55gln tank. Set it up with the proper husbandry (enclosure, hide if needed, water bowl, temperature, humidity) and LEAVE IT ALONE! When the breeder tells you to give it a week….give it a week. Sure, many will feed right away and not skip a beat, but don’t be shocked if after your new snake party and trip to your local pet store to show off your new snake accessory the snake does not feed.
Scenario 2) Husbandry, husbandry, husbandry…did I mention HUSBANDRY? Notice above I mentioned PROPER HUSBANDRY as a critical piece?! Many times I see people buy $1000+ snakes and yet won’t spend $100 on proper housing, or a tstat, or a temp gun. That is an after thought in many cases! Buying the snake is #1…how do I keep it is #2. Needs to be the other way around! Get your set up FIRST and then get your snake! Make sure you have the proper set up and equipment needed! Again, you don’t want to take a hatchling ball python that has been raised in a rack system and place it in a 55gln tank! That is great for YOU and your display, but many times it is stressful on the snake.
Also do not assume your temperatures…get a good tstat and temp gun! A good tstat cost $60-$125 and a good temp gun under $50. This is not a luxury, your snake NEEDS heat to digest, to heal! Without being able to heat itself up your snake cannot digest, it will become sick, it will not feed! Make sure your snake has the proper environment, housing that it feels secure in! Ball Pythons do better is smaller spaces! Bigger is not better in this case! Make sure that 82F is in fact 82F and 96F is in fact 96F…do not assume!
Many times simple adjustments to husbandry are all that is needed, a change of enclosure, bedding, correcting the temperature, providing a hide box if needed, etc. Also make sure every snake has it’s OWN enclosure! MANY TIMES I have heard time and time again of new owners housing snakes together because they don’t have the space or they assume the snake will get lonely! BIG MISTAKE! Once again…YOU are the problem! Do your homework before buying that snake! Prepare for it BEFORE buying that snake! It will save the both of you a lot of headaches!
Scenario 3) Assuming all of the above is addressed and all is well which is a likelihood of 50% that either stress or husbandry is the problem. There is a chance the snake may already be sick in some way do to poor husbandry. I cannot tell you how many times I have received emails from snake owners with “My snake is not feeding and blowing snot bubbles and wheezing!” only to sure enough find out they are not heating it properly! The snake is kept in a house that is maintained at 70F and surprise! If the snake is sick…you need to treat the sickness and root cause! It does no good to take the snake to the vet and give it all these meds, if you do not correct the possible cause such as in your husbandry!
Scenario 4) Assuming all of the above has been checked off…THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR SNAKE! Ball Pythons tend to go off feed for MONTHS at a time in some cases! They are infamous for this! This stresses the owner a whole lot more than it does the snake 99% of the time! Your snake skipping 1-2-3-4-6MO of food is similar to you skipping breakfast! Of course you go into a panic and start trying every trick in the book, posting like a madman all over the net, looking for answers! Trying rats, mice, ASF rats, different colored rats, feeding at different times, taking the snake for a car ride, dipping the rat in tuna sauce, you name it…people have tried it! Best thing you can do (assuming all of the above is checked) is LEAVE IT ALONE! Offer it food once a week and be patient! When it is ready…it will feed! This might take 1-2-3-4-6MO, but when it is ready to feed again, it will feed again!
Ball pythons tend to hit this age/stage at appx 1000g where they go off food for months. This will upset you and frustrate you a whole lot more than causing any harm to the snake! The snake also does not care about your breeding plans, that male you had lined up, how much you wanted and NEEDED it to hit 1500g by this date, or that male you desperately wanted to hit 600g and breed THIS YEAR! I have 2009 females that weigh 1200g to 3500g, all healthy! I have 2011s from 900g to 1800g…not all balls are the same! Some take 2yrs to get to 1500g, some take 3-4yrs! It doesn’t mean they are broken! I’ve had females take 4yrs to reach 1500g and then in one year pack on 1000g! Be patient, relax!
If you go into this expecting every female to breed at 18MO and every male to breed at 6MO…you’re in for a rude awakening! The sooner you realize this, the better for all! You could buy 100 ball pythons, and you might have 30-40 hit 1500g in 2yrs, 40-50 hit 1500g in 3yrs and 20 hit 1500g in 4yrs as an example. As long as you checked off the above stress related and husbadry causes and they are not losing a lot of weight…RELAX!!!
Patience is the most important tool a breeder can have! Experienced breeders do not see projects in terms of months, but see them in years! You either have or learn to have patience and adjust, or don’t have it and find yourself frustrated and buying/trading/flipping snakes more often then you find yourself breeding snakes! Hope this helps someone…