Ball pythons are popular pet snakes that are bred to produce different morphs. It is not advised for a beginner to breed ball pythons because it requires extensive knowledge and care.
If there is a mistake while breeding, the baby ball python will be born with a neurological disorder. To breed ball pythons, you have to be certain about their genetics and behavior.
When do Ball Pythons mate?
The breeding month for ball pythons in Africa is early November. Though ball pythons are kept as pets in different countries, their behavior is ingrained in their genes. Regardless of the country, they are kept in, they will breed between early November and March in order to lay eggs in the dry season.
Things to remember about breeding ball pythons
- Don’t breed young or juvenile ball pythons
- Not every pairing results in successful locking, so this is a trial and error method. You have to introduce several ball python partners to have a successful locking.
- Only breed if you have the knowledge to do so. Without it, the parents can die and the newborn will have a genetic neurologic disorder.
- When the female ball python is gravid, you have to go to great lengths to care for her so there aren’t complications laying the eggs.
- Only during mating should a female and male ball python be in the same enclosure.
How to Start Breeding?
In the wild, ball pythons will approach their partner when it’s cold, usually sometime in November. You have to provide the same environmental parameters for them to mate in captivity. You must reduce the cage temperature first for 21 days, then introduce the partner.
The TimeLine of the breeding
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How to identify Ball pythons are ready to mate?
When a male ball python and a female ball python sexually mature, they are ready to mate. Male ball pythons mature faster than female ball pythons, usually within 16-18 months. Males take 27-31 months to sexually mature.
Sexual maturity is not the only factor to be considered. We should also consider the weight of the female ball python. A female ball python should weigh at least 3.5 pounds before mating. In this case, both the mother and the eggs will be healthier.
Male ball pythons are smaller than females. During breeding, males should be at least 1.6 pounds.
If you are trying to produce a specific Morphy, you have to select the male and female accordingly. You will need knowledge in gene dominance to identify the recessive, dominant, or codominant genes of the parents.
Vivarium Temperatures during Mating
It’s best to bring down the cage temperature to mimic the natural environment of your ball python. Don’t bring it down all at once, but slowly over a span of three weeks so your ball python doesn’t get stressed.
At nighttime, the enclosure temperature should be 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit and never lower than 70 degrees, as it will be deadly to your ball python. During the day, the enclosure temperature should be maintained at 80-83 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you lower the temperature, the female will start to produce follicles. The follicles will start to grow. Their size matters most because it will determine the success of reproduction.
The follicles become eggs once they are fertilized by the male. The maximum follicle diameter is 10 mm. You have to gradually reduce feeding frequency while breeding.
Reproduction of Ball Pythons
After reducing the vivarium temperature for 3-4 weeks, you can introduce a male ball python inside the female’s enclosure.
If the female is not interested in the male, she should be kept at a cooler temperature for another week to increase her follicle size.
If the female is interested in a male python, she will allow him to touch her with his spurs. This process stimulates the female to mate and locking will happen.
The male ball python will insert one of his hemipenises inside the female. It will only happen if the female allows it. Sometimes it takes hours for the lock and you have to confirm whether it’s done or not. If the lock is not completed, leave the male and female in the same cage until it does.
The tails of the male and female snakes will be coiled around each other and they won’t move during the lock. This lock can last for an hour or up to two days. Don’t disturb them during this time. The female can store sperm for several months.
The snakes will separate after a successful lock and you will then have to remove the male from the enclosure. After a week, the male will be ready to breed again with another female.
Males can only breed twice during each breeding season.
The follicles of the female start to thicken and become eggs. This process is called ovulation.
Can we breed siblings or babies back to the parent?
Yes, you can breed siblings or babies back to their parents once they reach sexual maturity.
Identifying Female Ball Pythons that are ovulating
There will be a change in their behavior and appearance weeks before the female starts to ovulate. Six weeks before ovulating the female will exhibit contrasting colors with dark and light spots and begin to shed. This shedding is called a pre-ovulation shed. When she curls her body it will be uneven.
During this stage, eggs are developing. This process can take up to 6-8 weeks and the female ball python will start to gain weight. She will be in the cooler end of the enclosure, coiled around her soaking tub, have little appetite, and rest belly up (called inverted laying).
Female ball pythons will be gravid for 44-50 days. They will completely refuse to eat during this time, which is why it’s important the female is large enough to breed. They will lose 25% of their body weight after laying eggs. At this time, you can return to the usual vivarium temperature.
When female ball pythons are 3-4 weeks from laying their eggs, they will start to shed. This shedding is called a pre-lay shed. She will move to warmer, more humid areas of her cage and become restless. At this time you can start setting up an incubator and keep the temperature stable.
When the female ball python is ready to lay her eggs, her spine will be prominent. It can take hours to lay the clutch.
The python will become aggressive during this time so you shouldn’t disturb her. You can move the eggs to the incubator once she’s done laying. They can lay between 1 and 11 eggs at a time. They never lay eggs without mating.
Moving the Eggs
It is not an easy task to separate the eggs from the mother. They will be protective and hiss, bit, and act aggressively when you approach the eggs.
You have to first deal with the mother by moving her to a separate, temporary container by holding her head from behind. She coils herself around her eggs to incubate them, so you have to remove her gently without causing damage to the eggs.
Be careful when handling the eggs. Never shake the eggs or rotate the egg. Keep the eggs right-side up. Sometimes there are joint eggs – don’t try to separate them.
The orientation of the egg maintained by the mother in the enclosure should be maintained in the incubator. While the eggs are in the incubator, make sure there is a 1-inch distance between them.
Sometimes infertile eggs are laid along with fertile ones. These are called slugs. Infertile eggs are small, tapered, and yellow in color. Fertile eggs will be large, oval, and white in color.
Incubation of Eggs
The size of the incubator should be 29”x16”x18”. This is enough space to house 3 eggs. If you are buying incubators online, always purchase larger ones because they would provide more space for air circulation and the temperature and humidity can be constantly maintained.
The temperature of the incubator should be 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity should be 90%-100%. The incubator should be free from chemicals and substrate should be used to maintain the moisture levels inside. Always keep eggs away from water.
You have to incubate the eggs for 54-60 days. After that, the embryo will start to absorb the yolk and hatch. The shells also become softer when the egg is ready to hatch. Baby ball pythons have an egg tooth on the tip of their snouts to break open the egg.
It can take a baby ball python a full day to get out the egg. Never take them out yourself, as it harms the babies. They are attached to blood vessels in the yolk sac of the egg.
If some of the eggs have hatched but the others haven’t, you can help them by piercing a small hole with sterilized scissors in one of the eggs without affecting the baby.
Once the baby ball pythons are out of the eggs, keep them in a separate enclosure but don’t feed them. They can be fed after their first shed, about 10 days after birth.
A complete breeding process for ball pythons takes 1 to 1.5 years. The mother and eggs must be cared for carefully. Never breed female ball pythons more than once a year as it’s dangerous to their health.