Over the years, we have helped many people with the problems and issues involved with keeping their Ball Python happy and healthy.
Here, we’ll cover some of the most common issues people have and address how to prevent and/or rectify the problems.
First and foremost, DO NOT USE ANY KIND OF PINE BEDDING.
We mention this first, not because it’s the most common mistake, but because it’s the most dangerous to your snake. Pine shavings can
contain naturally occurring chemicals that are toxic to your Ball Python. We won’t go into what these chemicals are or how they are
absorbed into your snake here. That's a subject for another forum. Suffice it to say, regardless of what you may hear or have been told by
pet stores, Pine/Cedar shavings can kill your snake. There are plenty of other materials you can use as a substrate for you vivarium. Here
at SlytherInn, we have used Aspen wood shavings, Coconut husk chips, Cypress and various other bedding materials without harming our
pets. Everyone has their own preference as it suits their needs best. We suggest you talk to other Ball Python owners and find out what
works best for them and WHY. Your needs and conditions may be different from our or theirs.
We use a rack system in our husbandry. We have found that these housing conditions are what Ball Pythons prefer as they normally spend
most of their time in burrows in their natural habitats. One of the biggest mistakes most new owners make is putting their snake in large
aquariums where they feel threatened and vulnerable and it’s dry and unsuitable for Ball Pythons. It’s understandable to want this type of
setup, since we purchase our pets with the intention of looking at them and handling them. With a few modifications, however we can make
an aquarium work. The key to housing your snake in an aquarium is to make it feel safe while maintaining environmental conditions they are
If your snake is new, it may not feel comfortable and secure enough to eat. Snakes are at their most vulnerable when eating and will not eat
if they feel threatened or vulnerable. Chances are your new snake has been kept in small plastic bins where space is cramped and tight.
That’s what they like. We keep our baby snakes in small plastic boxes that are the size of a shoe box or smaller. With a hide and a water
bowl, there isn’t much ‘empty’ space in the box. Again, this is what they want/need to feel secure.
If your new snake isn't eating, try keeping it in a plastic shoe box with small ventilation holes, with a hide and water bowl. Keep the box
covered to help make it feel safe and hidden. Offer live food if possible. It's instinctive to eat live. Once your snake starts eating, you can
slowly introduce your Python to it's new home by letting it explore the aquarium a little each night.
First, you’ll want to cover the top of the aquarium to keep as much moisture and humidity inside the aquarium as you can, while still supplyin
g some fresh air. Remember, Ball Pythons normally live underground where it’s humid. You’ll need some air movement so mold and mildew
doesn’t set in, yet maintain enough moisture so your snake can shed properly. When you see your snake going into shed, try to increase
the humidity. A bowl of wet long fiber sphagnum moss in the enclosure, is often, all it takes. Daily misting of the enclosure or hide will also
Temperature is also very important. Ball Pythons come from the plains of Africa where it’s hot. Maintaining temperatures inside the
enclosure in the mid to upper 80’s is important. Your snake won’t want to come out and explore if it feels cold to them. There is plenty of
information on the Internet on how to keep the enclosure warm and provide a ‘hot spot’ for your snake, so we won’t reiterate that here.
Part of making you snake feel secure in his new home is providing him or her with the proper ‘hide’ that makes them feel at home. We use
an inverted terracotta flowerpot with a mouse-hole opening notched out of the lip that allows your snake to enter the hide where it can curl
up with its body touching all sides of the inside of the flowerpot. We feel this is the ideal hide, as it’s made of earthen material, it’s
inexpensive and you can increase its size as your snake grows. Eventually, your snake will outgrow its terracotta homes and you’ll want to
move up to something different, but for a young snake, these make perfect hides. Note: You’ll want to make sure you plug the drainage hole
of the flowerpot so your snake doesn’t try to enter or leave through this opening and get stuck.
LIMITING THEIR WORLD
We also suggest blocking the back and sides of the aquarium. This, simply decreases the snakes’ world and increases its sense of
security. As your snake grows and becomes more comfortable, you can slowly remove the coverings.
CLUTTER IS GOOD
Lastly, clutter the cage! Fill that aquarium up with hides, sterile rocks, branches, plants and other decorations. The more cluttered the
enclosure, the more secure your snake will feel. Just be sure there are no ‘holes’ to get stuck in, as Ball Pythons have been known to get
their heads stuck poking around, exploring. You'll also be surprised at how much your Ball Python likes to clime - so make sure the top of
the aquarium is LOCKED down at all times!!! Weighing it down with a rock may not be enough! These snakes are all muscle!
As tempting as it may be, avoid handling your new pet until after he/she has eaten for the first time. This will reduce the stress on him/her
and will go a long way in reducing your own stress.
We handle our babies regularly so they are socialized and used to being held, but, being in a new home and possibly traveling many miles
through the mail, your new baby has been through a lot and is probably very stressed out when you get him/her.
How you go about handling your snake is also very important – Both for you and your snake. Knowing some things about your snake will
help you in how you handle them.
First, we believe Ball Pythons have very poor eye sight. We haven’t read any studies to prove this, but it’s just something we have noticed
and hypothesize. Even snakes that are born blind, can feed and survive, relying solely on their heat sensors and their ability to feel
vibrations in their surroundings.
With this in mind, always approach your snake from behind. Any movement from the front can be mistaken for an attack or as food. In
response your snake could strike out of fear or hunger.
Tap the enclosure when you go to handle you pet. If they are asleep, this will give them some time to wake up and know that you're opening
up their enclosure to get them. Over time, they will come to learn that this means 'exploring time',
When you first pick up your baby, it may ball up as a defense mechanism. This is where they get their name! When they do this, just hold
them in a ball until they feel comfortable enough to relax. Forcing them to ‘un-ball’ only stresses them and makes them feel threatened. It
may take several minutes for him or her to relax, but eventually they will. Be patient and expect this to be the norm. It’s an instinctual
reaction for them.
As they relax and start crawling around, be cognizant of any movement if front of them. You don’t want to be moving your hands quickly in
front of them. Move with slow determined motions. Soon your snake will look forward to its outings with you.
CONVERTING TO FROZEN/THAWED FOOD
Training your snake to take frozen/thawed food, doesn't have to be difficult. It can take some time and patience, but most snakes can be
trained to take frozen/thawed food. Below are some tips we've learned over time.
1) Try to feed at the same time every week giving your snake a routine feeding time.
2) Hold back feeding for 2 weeks. The hungrier they are the easier they’ll try something different.
3) Keep the F/T food warm. After only a few minutes the F/T food loses it’s ‘Food temperature’ and should be put back in hot water or
under a heat lamp to warm back up. It helps to have two F/T items to offer so you can keep one warm while offering the other.
4) Don’t put the F/T food in front of them. Their live food usually hides behind water dishes, runs along walls etc. Make your snake ‘hunt’
for the food. It’s like you’re teasing them with the peek-a-boo game. The snake will smell the food and know it's time to eat.
5) Don’t wiggle or vibrate the food. Rodents don’t do that in the wild – it only scares the snake or makes them curious and doesn’t trigger
the eating response.
6) Lightly tap or scratch something near or under the F/T food…. As if the rodent is touching it. The snake will sense the vibration and this
will trigger an eating response.
7) See the above information under HOUSING to insure all the environmental conditions like humidity and temperatures are met.
|Beginners Guide to Keeping Ball Pythons