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How to Breed Ball Pythons
The goal of this article is to increase your chances of success in breeding ball pythons. Here are some quick and easy tips to help you on your way to success in raising these amazing animals.
The right sex – Make sure your animals are the correct gender and you actually have a male and a female. There are two ways to determine the sex of a ball python, one is “popping” and the other is “probing”. In my opinion, popping is between the two simpler methods, requires no tools and poses no danger or harm to the animal. To probe a ball python, you need to insert the metal probe backwards towards the tail into the left or right side of the cloaca. Once the probe is inserted, measure the weight to determine the sex of the animal. Males usually probe pretty deep around 8 or more subcaudal scales and females probe around 2-4 subcaudal scales. I will provide more detailed instructions on how to determine the gender of your snake in another article, if for any reason you are unsure of the gender of your animals, please seek the assistance of a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area.
Sexual maturity – Males and females reach sexual maturity at different ages and weights. Sexual maturity in pythons appears to be determined more by weight than age of the animal, although age certainly plays a role in sexual maturity. Females usually mature around two to three years of age and weigh 1200-1500 grams, some may mature a little sooner or a little later, but the vast majority will mature within this age and weight range. Males mature much faster than females and usually mature between 6 months – 1 year of age, although a few young males breed as early as twelve weeks of age! Breeding weight for males ranges from 400 grams for small guys to 800 or more grams for larger prime breeders.
Seasonal change and drop in temperature – In the wild, pythons are seasonal animals, usually breeding between October and December during the rainy season, with the egg-laying season around March and April. Baby pythons begin to hatch and receive their first meal after the rainy season when prey items are plentiful. Now in captivity they can breed all year round, but some seasonal changes and a drop in temperature will increase your chances of maximum production. I like to start gradually lowering the temperatures in November by a degree or two each week until I have a nighttime drop of 5-7 degrees below my high daytime temperatures of 85-87 degrees in the off season. During the breeding season, I work at 80 degrees for the nighttime low on the warmest side of the tub for three or four months and then work my way back to 85-87 degrees in the off-season.
Mating for breeding – Once you have decided that you do in fact have a male and a female and they are at the age and weight of sexual maturity, it is time to start pairing these animals for breeding. I introduce the male to my female’s bath and not the other way around because female ball pythons release a lot of pheromones during breeding season and these pheromones are great at signaling to male ball pythons that it’s breeding time. Once I introduce the male to the female, I leave the pair undisturbed for 24 hours, then check to see if they are actively breeding, if so I give them another 24 hours, if not, move the male to another female’s tub and start the process again. Once the male successfully copulates with the female, I offer him a small meal, usually a small rat, and 48 hours of rest. Once he has rested, I repeat the process. I continue this process of pairing my males with females until the females either ovulate or it is clear that they will not breed for the season.
Ovulation – The ability to correctly identify an ovulating female ball python is extremely useful when breeding for maximum production. Here are some quick tips to help you identify active ovulation and a woman who has already ovulated.
Identification of active ovulation – A female python that is actively ovulating will have a very noticeable bulge in the lower 3rd of her body; she may even appear to have just eaten a large meal. You’ll also notice that her tail is attached to her body in an awkward “L” shape. This classic position is known as “sucking” to veteran ball python breeders and is a great indicator that a female is in the process of ovulating.
Ovulation has occurred – If you happen to miss an active ovulation, all is not lost and you can still find out if your female python has ovulated with these quick tips. First, simply follow her over the course of a few days and see where she spends most of her time. Is it on the cold end of the tub or the hot end? If it is on the hot end of the tub, then it is likely that your female has already ovulated and no longer needs to be bred. If she is still looking for the cooler end of the tub and packing the bowl, then there is a pretty good chance that your female has not ovulated and still needs to be bred.
Egg laying and incubation – After ovulation, you no longer need to pair your female ball python with a male, and you can start setting up the incubator and rearing the baby ball pythons. About three weeks after ovulation, she will go into a cycle known among veteran breeders as “POS,” which means “after ovulation.” After “POS” you are looking at approximately 30-40 days before your female lays a clutch of eggs.
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