Incubating ball python eggs correctly is difficult. You have to keep the humidity and temperature at a constant level. If you don’t, you’ll have trouble with unhealthy snake eggs.
Deflated eggs is a sign that the eggs are not kept in humid enough conditions. The egg box lid may be loose, and the fan is drying them out. Or, the substrate may be wrong. Your hygrometer could be giving an incorrect reading. Or, your ball python eggs sinking in could be a sign they’re about to hatch.
Don’t be overly worried. Dimpling is a natural part of ball python egg development and is difficult to avoid. Eggs that dimple will go on to hatch with proper care.
Why Are My Snake’s Eggs Collapsing?
Deflated ball python eggs aren’t necessarily dead or infertile. They may start deflating slightly due to environmental factors. But when these factors are corrected, the eggs will pop back out. In some cases, they can pop back out in a matter of hours.
Let’s take a look at the various things which can affect ball python egg health. All of them relate to the issue of humidity. This is by far the most important thing when incubating eggs. Here’s a table of everything that can go wrong:
|Issue:||How to Fix|
|Egg box lid is loose, allowing moisture to escape||Secure the egg box lid in place|
|You didn’t spray enough water on the substrate before||Open the box, give the substrate a spray, and replace the lid|
|The hygrometer you’re using isn’t giving correct readings||Replace your hygrometer, or move it to a place where it can give accurate readings|
|The substrate you used doesn’t release moisture easily enough||Replace it with a more suitable substrate|
|The snakes are about to hatch from their eggs||There is no need to ‘fix,’ as this is not a real issue|
So, not all of the reasons are bad—the eggs could be about to hatch. But if you notice your ball python eggs dimpling early, it’s a humidity issue.
Dehydrated Eggs Due to Incorrect Humidity Level
The main reason for ball python eggs collapsing is if they’re dehydrated. Humidity is by far the most important thing to account for during incubation. There are several ways that eggs can become dehydrated. Below are details of what can go wrong, and how to fix it.
How Much Water Do I Spray before Incubating Eggs?
When you’re preparing your egg box, there are several things to account for. You should line it with an appropriate substrate, i.e., vermiculite or perlite. This substrate holds onto moisture, but also allows for air movement around the eggs.
These materials don’t hold or absorb water. They allow it to circulate instead. This is what you want as, without circulation, the humidity will stay in the substrate. Then, the level around the eggs would be too low.
The vermiculite doesn’t need to be completely sodden. Spray it thoroughly—say, ten times—after lining the bottom of the egg box with it. Then place the eggs in as you usually would, and shut the lid securely.
Alternatively, mix it with water until it’s damp. If you can hold it, squeeze it, and see water dripping out, it’s perfect. This is the rule of thumb that most people adhere to when incubating snake eggs. You could also put a bowl of water in with the eggs, although this isn’t necessary.
The moisture level in the egg box should remain between 95% and 100%. At maximum humidity, it is possible to see a little mold. This will occur if there are slugs among the eggs. If you kept the egg box clean, and got rid of any slugs, there won’t be mold.
Does Bad Substrate Cause Egg Collapse in Ball Pythons?
If you use the wrong kind of substrate, it won’t keep the eggs at the right humidity. If you use a substrate that holds onto a lot of moisture, the eggs will end up dry. They’ll collapse in no time. If left uncorrected, they won’t hatch.
Let’s say you already have some aspen shavings for your snake. It might feel fine to line the box with these, rather than buying a different substrate.
But aspen holds onto lots of moisture. It only releases it when it gets completely soaked. That’s what makes it a good substrate for a snake enclosure. But it’s also why aspen is unsuitable for incubating snake eggs.
That’s why you should stick to using vermiculite or perlite. These substrates are tried-and-tested. They don’t hold onto moisture and prevent the eggs from staying healthy. Neither kind of substrate is expensive or difficult to find, either.
How to Tell If Your Hygrometer is Working
The issue may also be with the hygrometer. If you’ve set one in the egg box, and it’s displaying ‘100%’, you would take its results at face value. But if the hygrometer isn’t working properly, then the eggs could be too dry.
For starters, hygrometers aren’t perfect. Even the best have a rough window of around 3-5% either way where the reading could be incorrect. Right off the bat, this might mean your humidity is lower than you expect.
Also, gauges tend to work less well at the extremes they’re supposed to measure. When the humidity is very high, a poor quality hygrometer may have difficulty differentiating between 90% and 100%, for example.
If you aren’t sure whether your hygrometer is working properly, test it. If you have more than one hygrometer, check them against each other. Otherwise, take it out and place it somewhere dry. See if the reading changes to something roughly correct.
It’s best to have a high-quality hygrometer, so consider replacing it. If it’s broken, then you have to.
Does Temperature Deflate Snake Eggs?
Having the temperature set incorrectly is bad for the eggs. But it doesn’t result in them becoming deflated. That’s solely the effect of humidity.
If the eggs are too cold, you won’t notice any immediate physical changes. The eggs will look the same as they did before. However, they may not develop properly. If this is the case, the eggs will go bad like slugs do.
Eggs Collapse When About to Hatch
The other reason you might see your ball python eggs deflate is if they’re about to hatch. Before hatching, the eggs will become crumpled and indented.
It’s not clear exactly why this happens. It’s likely to do with the snake moving around inside the egg. When the snake develops, it first develops along the inner wall of the egg. Like other creatures, the snake has an umbilical cord which it must sever.
In this process, it has to separate itself from the wall of the egg. This is likely why the eggs become indented during this stage. It isn’t to do with humidity.
This isn’t an issue. Allow the snake to hatch naturally. It will pip the egg from the inside with one of its teeth. There’s no need to pip the egg yourself with a knife. The only people that do are impatient to see what’s inside.
Removing the Egg Box Lid When Incubating Ball Pythons
It is possible to incubate eggs both ways: with the lid on, or with the lid off. Leaving the lid off allows air circulation, which keeps the eggs healthy and prevents mold forming.
However, removing the box lid also allows moisture to escape. It’s the humidity around the eggs that matters rather than the humidity in the substrate. If the humidity gets too low, the eggs will dimple, and if left untouched may not hatch.
So, which approach should you take?
Leaving the Lid Off When Incubating Snake Eggs
Leaving the lid off your snake’s egg box allows the humidity inside to escape. But at the same time, leaving the lid off allows air circulation. Even though they’re inside their eggs, your baby snakes still need oxygen.
You want to maintain a constant temperature and humidity wherever possible. When you leave the lid off, the fan in the incubator may dry the eggs out further. They will get dryer and dryer over time.
A good compromise is to leave a couple of air holes in the lid or the egg box. This allows some air circulation, but not too much. If the fan is active, it stops the cooler air from hitting the eggs directly.
But even then, maintaining humidity would be difficult. You would have to open the incubator to spray them. This would allow the air inside to escape. Temperature variability is bad for snake eggs.
Leaving the Lid On When Incubating Snake Eggs
Leaving the lid on will maintain humidity inside the box. If the box is completely airtight, and you sprayed enough, then the humidity would stay at 100%. That’s a good thing because eggs need a consistent temperature and humidity.
If it’s airtight, you may notice drops forming on the lid. This is a bad thing, as the drops will fall directly on the eggs. It indicates that you sprayed too much water. Small amounts of moisture on the walls of the box are fine.
However, with the lid on the eggs won’t have any air circulation. This may allow mold to form. And if you left them shut in the box, they may not even have enough oxygen. This is just as bad as not having enough moisture.
You have to open the lid of the box occasionally to allow some circulation. When you do, the temperature in the incubator will change. The humidity in the egg box will dip, too. This isn’t optimal.
You’re best off leaving the lid on almost all of the time. Occasionally lift the lid of the box to check inside and allow a little air in. Spray the substrate, not the eggs, once to replace the lost moisture. Replace the lid when you’re done.
Do Collapsed Ball Python Eggs Always Die?
Once an egg starts collapsing, don’t worry. The incubation process is one that’s difficult to get exactly right. If you notice your eggs beginning to deflate, take basic steps to correct them.
- Place a humidity gauge in the egg box, if there isn’t one already. Use it to keep an eye on the humidity.
- Give the substrate around the eggs a spray.
- Replace the lid and keep it in place.
Check on the eggs a few hours later. They may already have popped back into their original shape. If they haven’t, give them until the morning. After a full day, they should have rounded out again.
Throughout their development, and in correct conditions, the eggs will stay round. They may even look full, as if they’re about to burst. That’s a sign that the moisture level is high, which is fine.
According to the journal Nature, eggs that have developed for less time will go through the ‘catch up’ process. They develop quicker than usual so that they can hatch at the same time as other eggs. This may happen with your clutch if one of the eggs dimples.
What to Do with Collapsed Eggs
If none of this corrects the condition of the egg, don’t throw the egg away. Candle it to see how it’s developing. If the others have veins, and this one has veins too, leave it in the egg box and see if it hatches. Even ugly eggs can hatch.
If the color of the shell changes, and the egg collapses further, it may be a slug. These are unfertilized eggs. They will begin to rot if left in the egg box for long enough. Candle the egg to check its development, and if it’s clear when the others aren’t, throw it away.