Ball Python Breeding (A Guide From Start to Finish)

By Snaketracks / July 15, 2019
Ball Python Breeding

Are you considering breeding your ball pythons? Don’t worry it isn’t as hard as you would think. Breeding a ball python is as simple as following a few steps and having a little patience. Below is an in depth step by step guide which will take you through the process completely.

Ball pythons, Python regius, are among some of the most popular snakes being kept as pets. This is because of their calm demeanor, hardiness, manageable size, and the countless different morphs and colors.

In fact, there are several thousand different morphs of the ball python available. Because of the popularity of this snake, captive breeding is essential and profitable.

As with any snake species, it is unwise to keep a wild ball python as a pet as wild snakes find it difficult adjusting to life as pets. Additionally, wild snakes are more likely to be infested with parasites and harmful microbes.

A snake that is hatched and raised in captivity is better adapted to life as a pet and is usually free of parasites and harmful microbes. In addition, taking a snake out of the wild is detrimental to the wild population.

Before You Get Started

It is important to keep track of the ball python breeding timeline. This information will be useful in subsequent breeding seasons. With the information accumulated, you can create a personalized ball python breeding guide with steps and notes that works for you.

Keeping records also ensures you properly track of the reproductive cycle of the female python. Important/significant events that need to be recorded include when the eggs are laid, when the snakes first mate, when the female sheds after fertilization, and so on.

Females usually shed about 15 days to oviposition. You also need to record the number of eggs in the clutch the female lays. Similarly, you need to record when the eggs hatch. If you think an event is significant, record it.

You need a handful of equipment to ensure a successful ball python breeding season. These include a reptile egg incubator such as the Hova-Bator Incubator, an egg box which can be a Rubbermaid container with a lid, and a substrate that retains moisture such as Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding.

Additionally, you can get a separate Rubbermaid enclosure solely for mating. This way you can transfer both the male and the female to this enclosure when they are ready to mate. Also, you need to get a digital thermometer to track the temperature in the incubator.

Ball Python Breeding Overview Video

Pre-mating Process

Know If the Snake Has Reached Maturity

The ball pythons you intend to breed need to have reached reproductive maturity. Age is usually not the best indicator of maturity. You need to also know the weight of the snake before you can accurately determine the maturity status of the snake.

The male python breeding weight is 700 grams or more. Adult male ball pythons usually reach this weight when they are just over a year old (16 to 18 months).

Additionally, you can examine the cloaca of the male snake. Apply gentle pressure on the cloaca, if the male is matured, it should yield a little white matter. Adult females need to be about 3 years (27 to 31 months) and weigh 1700 grams or more before you can breed them.

Breeding a smaller female poses a health risk, which is best to avoid. When you breed smaller snakes, there is a chance that an egg can get stuck during oviposition. This is referred to as egg binding. If this occurs, a herp vet will need to treat her with mineral oil or perform surgery on her. Egg binding can lead to the death of the snake.

Ball pythons have long reproductive lives that usually last between 3 years to 30 years so there is no need to rush your snake. Ensure she has reached her correct breeding size.

Determine the Sex of the Python

Most people know the sex of their snakes upon acquiring them. However, it is not uncommon to not know or to be unsure of the sex of your snakes. If this is the case then you need to determine the sex of the snake.

While this is best left to a professional such as a herp vet, you can use a probe to determine the sex of the snake. This involves inserting a snake probe into the cloacal spur.

The probe can be inserted further in males than in females. For females, the probe can be inserted to a depth of just 1 to 4 subcaudal scales, while males probe to a depth of 7 to 9 subcaudal scales.

Popping the hemipenes is another way to check the sex of the snake. This involves applying pressure below the cloacal vent. When done properly, a hemipenis should pop out if the snake is a male. This method is not advisable since it can traumatize the snake when not done properly. 

In all, it is best to have a herp veterinarian determine the sex of the snake even though a trip to the vet cost more.

Cooling-Off Period

In the wild, the breeding season starts during the minor raining season. During this period, the temperature falls. This is usually between September and November.

In captivity, the breeder needs to replicate this drop of temperature in order to get the snakes ready for breeding. Intentionally dropping the temperature of the snakes’ enclosure is referred to as the cooling-off period.

Cooling off should be done for about three months. Start by lowering the ambient temperature to the 75 F or 23 C. Similarly, the warm spot should have a temperature of 85 to 90 F during the daytime and 80 to 85 F during the nighttime.

During this three-month period, periodically place the pair (male and female) you wish to breed together for a few days and apart for a few days. This ensures they are introduced to one another.

After the Cooling-Off Period

After cooling off, return the temperature back to normal. This includes – (1) an ambient temperature of 78 F, and (2) a warm spot temperature of 88 to 96 F.

Mating Process

Exciting the Male

Most males need to be excited before they will mate. Do this by placing a few males in the same enclosure for about twenty minutes. You will notice that they will raise up and take a vertical stance. This shows that the males have noticed each other and are ready to mate with females.

Place the Male and the Female in the Same Enclosure

You can decide to introduce the female ball python to the male or vice versa. Many breeders have separate enclosures solely for breeding. Once the male and female are together, they will eventually connect after a few minutes. Once they are connected, it is best not to disturb them.

The mating process can take up to two days. If the mating period is less than 3 hours, then it most likely was ineffective. As the mating system of ball pythons is polygynandrous, a single male can mate with several females. It takes a male about a week to recover potency after mating.

As such, it is necessary that every male has a week gap between mating sessions. If a mating session is ineffective, you can keep reintroducing the female to the male. Most breeders will introduce the female to the male once every week for a day until the female is visibly gravid.

After Mating

Caring For the Gravid Female

Ball Python Eggs

You should look for signs that the female is gravid such as looking for the outline of the eggs. Also, the lower half of a gravid female is heavier than a regular females lower half is. The female may also have a more noticeable ridge along her back.

Once the female is gravid, you need to introduce her to a lay box – this is an enclosure with damp bedding, such as damp coco coir or damp peat moss, which retains moisture very well. A Rubbermaid bin makes a great lay box. It usually takes a gravid female about half a year or more before she lays eggs. Similarly, you can create a humid box inside the female’s regular enclosure.

Once the female lays the eggs (1 to 11 eggs), remove the female from the lay box. Gravid females lay an average of 7 eggs. After oviposition, feed the female. If she refuses to eat, bathe her to remove the scent of the eggs.

Transfer the eggs to an incubator. Place the eggs in a Rubbermaid container (that has a lid). The container must have an incubation substrate – once again, coco coir can be used. Maintain a temperature of 90 F or 32 C.

Check the eggs weekly ensure they are in good condition. Since you need to open the lid to check the eggs, the Rubbermaid container does not need holes.

Ball Python Breeding Chart

1. Follicular maturation starts (this happens after mating)
4 months to 8 months     Cool Seeking Period Feeding Response Aggressive Behavior
2. Fertilization of eggs
About 21 days   Heat Seeking Period Aggressive Behavior
3. Pre-egg shed
  About 30 days   Heat Seeking Period Aggressive Behavior
4. Oviposition (laying of eggs)
  About 55 to 60 days later  
5. Hatching of eggs

Caring For the Hatchlings

Newly Hatched Ball Python

After about 44 to 60 days of incubation, the eggs should hatch. Ball python hatchlings possess the innate instincts needed to be independent. They are independent a minute after hatching.

Hatchlings may proceed to hurt each other so it is important that you keep them in separate containers. Line the containers with damp paper towel bedding. After they shed for the first time, you can replace the damp paper towel with other substrate types such as aspen snake bedding. Check out our article on the best substrate for ball pythons for more information.

Baby ball pythons start eating within a week or two of hatching. Feed them a thawed out frozen pinkie mouse weekly. It’s recommended to use a frozen mouse to ensure the hatchling isn’t injured.

Just like adults, provide the baby with a bowl of water and a hiding spot such as the Pangea reptile hide box. Hiding ensures that the snake is not stressed. Stressed snakes will refuse to eat and may eventually die.

How to setup an enclosure for a Ball Python Hatchling

Conclusion

Breeding ball pythons is not as difficult as breeding other snakes. In fact, ball pythons are quite easy to breed. Although the breeding process is quite straightforward, it requires patience.

After mating, it can take as long as 2 years before the gravid female lays her clutch of eggs. Successful breeding comes with experience. After each successful season, you get better at identifying and perfecting every stage of the breeding process.

With all the thousands of morphs out there, ball python breeding has never been more popular and profitable. If you have any comments, questions or experience on breeding ball pythons, please leave them below.

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