Ball pythons have a complex relationship with food. Some adults have voracious appetites and overeat, while others are fussy. This makes it important to get the snake into good food habits while young. Feeding a baby python too often can create a dangerous precedent.
Hatchling ball pythons will not eat anything at all. They have obtained the nutrition they need from the yolk in their egg. After around 10 days following its first shed, the snake will become hungry. At this stage, a hatchling can be fed one pinky mouse every 5 days. As the snake grows, portions grow larger and feedings more infrequent.
Assessing a baby ball python’s feeding regime requires attention. Snakes reach maturity at different ages, depending on their rate of growth. Learn your python’s habits, understanding the signs that it is hungry. The schedule will need to be adjusted over time.
Feeding Baby Ball Pythons
Baby snakes need to eat. The nutrition provided will help the snake grow and keep it healthy. Establish a feeding routine for your baby python.
If your hatchling, it will not show any interest in food. A ball python does not seek food until shedding its skin for the first time. This will typically be within a week of hatching, 10 days at most.
Unless you are breeding ball pythons, you are unlikely to have a hatchling. Pet stores and dealers sell pythons that have eaten at least once. This way, it has been confirmed that the python has no food-related issues.
It is the size that matters when feeding ball pythons, not age. Weigh your baby python regularly. Snake development does not follow a hard-and-fast rule according to age. This table offers suggestions on what and when to feed juvenile ball pythons, depending on the growth cycle.
|Snake Weight||Feeding Frequency|
|First 3 – 5 Meals||Once every 5 days|
|Below 200g||Once every 7 days|
|201 to 350g||Once every 7 – 10 days|
|350 to 500g||Once every 10-14 days|
|500 to 1,500g||Once every two or three weeks|
Getting a baby ball python onto an appropriate feeding schedule has a range of benefits. As per The Journal of Experimental Biology, eating increases cell proliferation in a python’s brain. This helps your snake develop at an appropriate rate.
What to Feed a Baby Ball Python
As soon as a baby python is ready to eat, proceed straight to mice. Do not waste time with lighter food, such as crickets. While some snakes will eat insects, ball pythons are rarely among them. Your snake will ignore the crickets and they’ll just make a mess.
Using the 5-day feeding cycle as a guideline, offer your baby python a pinky mouse. Do not offer a live mouse, regardless of how active the snake is. Purchase frozen mice and thaw them before feeding.
Most pythons can swallow a pinky whole. If you are concerned, measure the widest part of the snake’s body with a tape measure. If the pinky mouse is of equal or lesser size, it is safe for feeding.
Over time, your python will graduate to larger mice. As your python grows, offer larger prey with decreased frequency. Rats offer more nutrition than mice. This means that, once your baby python is ready, start offering rats. Just remember to increase the time between feedings to reflect this discrepancy in prey size.
Is My Baby Ball Python Hungry?
Finding the perfect feeding schedule may require a little trial and error. Learn the signs that your baby python is hungry. Behaviors of a hungry snake include:
- Prowling around the enclosure
- Flicking tongue with increased intensity
- Nipping at hands during handling
- Following heat signatures with eyes. Wave your hands and see if your snake is interested
If your baby python acts this way, thaw a rodent and feed it. Do not make the snake wait another day or two for a pre-determined mealtime. It is hungry now and will grow frustrated if left unfed. Reset the python’s feeding schedule accordingly.
It is preferable not to wait for a snake to grow hungry, though. An established routine can prevent this. Just do not offer food for the sake of keeping to a schedule. Ensure that you are not overfeeding your baby python.
Like all snakes, pythons have slow digestion. Your python will not seek food all the time, regardless of when it last ate. You’ll see if the snake is overweight by looking at it.
Watch your snake after a meal. You will see the outline of the food in its body. This should obviously diminish. If a baby python eats too quickly after its last meal, it will attempt to digest two mice at once.
Any snake that is overfed can become obese. In addition, a snake’s stomach only has so much capacity. If it tries to digest too much at once, the snake will become unwell.
Baby Ball Python Will Not Eat
It can be worrying if a baby ball python refuses food. This can be quite common, though. Although happy ball pythons often have healthy appetites, they can go long periods without eating. Observe your ball python. If it shows the following characteristics:
- Active and curious, especially during warmer seasons
- Clear, bright eyes
- Healthy skin, devoid of blisters or broken scales
- Shedding skin in one complete action
As explained by Zoology, ball pythons can go months without eating and not even notice. Obviously, the risk is more pronounced in baby snakes, though. The python may lack sufficient food reserves to stay vigorous.
With this in mind, it is advisable to learn why your python is not eating. Understanding the reason helps you understand if action is required. This action may involve changing a feeding schedule or amending your snake’s accommodation and lifestyle.
All snakes lose interest in food when preparing to shed their skin. A baby ball python could shed as frequently as every 4 weeks. 6 weeks is a likelier timeframe, though.
Shedding snakes undergo a range of personality changes. Loss of appetite will be accompanied by the following behaviors, often over a period of two or three weeks:
- Scales and eyes darken in color
- Hiding more frequently
- An aggressive response to handling
If your python is shedding, do not try to force feed it. You’ll be making a challenging time even worse. Be patient and help your snake in any way you can. It is ideal to increase humidity in the snake’s enclosure.
Be ready to start the feeding schedule again once the shed is complete. Your python will return to normal, and likely be looking for a meal.
Last Meal Size
Knowing when to feed a baby ball python is only half the battle. You also need to know large a meal is appropriate. If a python eats too much, it will not grow hungry again on its usual schedule. This can lead to fussy and problematic eating habits.
As a rule, a baby ball python can eat a rodent as large as itself. Always measure the biggest part of your snake before feeding. If necessary, chop a rat or mouse down to size. While this is not a pleasant job, it is important.
Snakes seem indifferent, but they are skittish and shy animals. Ball pythons are no exception. Inappropriate living conditions and lifestyles can render ball pythons stressed, especially when young.
Stressed ball pythons lose interest in food. Other warning signs include increased activity during daylight hours and hiding the head during handling. Common stressors for baby ball pythons include:
- Too much handling
- Inappropriate temperature in the enclosure
- Excessive open space in the enclosure
- Too much light
While ball pythons adapt well to life in captivity, baby snakes can grow overwhelmed. Do not handle the snake to excess and set up an appropriate enclosure. This means the right temperature and plenty of hiding places. Your python will feel exposed without these.
Ensure that your baby python is not exposed to too much light, either. Ball pythons are nocturnal, and babies will not have adjusted to human schedules. Provide enough substrate to burrow in and consider covering the sides of an enclosure.
The ambient temperature of a ball python’s enclosure should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Never allow this to drop below 75 degrees. The python must also have a basking spot, with a heat lamp. This corner of the enclosure should be between 88 and 96 degrees.
Snakes can only digest food in an appropriate climate. If the snake is too cold, it will not have fully digested its last meal. This will throw the feeding schedule completely off-track.
The snake will not be hungry when you offer more food. In addition, a rodent may be slowly rotting and decomposing inside your snake’s stomach. This will make the python sick, or worse. Baby snakes, in particular, have limited immunity and hardiness.
If the ambient temperature in a snake’s environment drops, it may willingly enter brumation. Brumation is the snake equivalent of hibernation through winter. Essentially, a snake becomes lethargic and rests for a prolonged period of time.
During brumation, a snake’s metabolism slows down drastically. This means the snake will not need to eat. It can happily survive for several months in this state. Ball pythons sometimes choose to enter brumation. If differs from snake to snake.
As a snake’s metabolism becomes so slow during brumation, it cannot digest. As a result, a snake planning to brumate stops eating for some time beforehand. It needs to ensure that its stomach is empty. The snake may also bathe more often to encourage elimination.
Brumation is not ideal in baby pythons. It is preferable to encourage your snake to stay active for at least one full winter. If the python’s enclosure is warm enough, it will likely do so. If a baby python does lose interest in food during winter, brumation could be impending.
Your baby ball python will typically tell you when it is hungry. If you feed your snake once a week, you should be able to avoid this. Just remember to moderate the schedule as your python ages and grows. Ball pythons do not remain juveniles forever. Here’s our complete guide to ball python care.