Breeding Kenyan sand boas can quickly become a lifelong hobby. But it’s so easy for a newbie to make a mistake during temperature cycling, or by introducing the snakes too soon. That’s why it’s important that you follow a guide, no matter which species of snake you’re thinking of breeding.
Because female Kenyan sand boas don’t lay eggs, this means you don’t need as much expensive equipment. You won’t have to pay for an incubator, or use an egg box. That makes Kenyan sand boas much easier to breed than most species of snake.
- 1 Kenyan Sand Boa Genetics
- 2 Kenyan Sand Boa Breeding Process
- 3 How to Get Two Kenyan Sand Boas to Mate
- 4 How to Tell When a Kenyan Sand Boa is Gravid
Kenyan Sand Boa Genetics
‘Genetics’ refers to the DNA of an animal. DNA dictates everything about a creature: what shape it is, what color it is, which reproductive organs it has, how it behaves, and so on.
Just as our DNA gives us our hair and eye color, height, muscle mass and more, so does a snake’s DNA define what it looks like and how it behaves.
There’s one slight difference with snake genetics. Their sex chromosomes act differently to ours. A chromosome is a mass of DNA which contains some or all of the animal’s whole DNA sequence.
The sex chromosomes contain the DNA which gives us our reproductive organs, and code for any other disparities between male and female versions of the same species (i.e., height difference, muscle mass, and so on).
In people, men have one sex chromosome shaped like a Y and one like an X. Women have two chromosomes, both shaped like an X. According to Current Biology, boas like the Kenyan sand boa are the same as people.
Males have two different chromosomes (XY), and females have two that are the same (XX). Other snakes have what are termed ‘ZW’ chromosomes, which are different shapes, and where the male has two sex chromosomes that are the same.
Kenyan Boa Color Morphs
There are all the usual morphs, including albino, snow, anerythristic, hypomelanistic. There are also unique Kenyan sand boa morphs, including:
- Splash Kenyan sand boas. These snakes have irregular patterns and colors, as if they’ve been splashed with paint.
- Stripe Kenyan sand boas. These snakes’ patterns have changed, so that they don’t have contrast along their sides, just as a stripe along their back.
- Nuclear Kenyan sand boas. These are a genetic line rather than a mutation, but they’re a fiery orange-red and black color.
You won’t be able to find any morphs drastically different to these, though. That’s because Kenyan sand boas aren’t as popular as ball pythons or corn snakes as pets.
These snakes were bred for decades, and unique specimens shipped over to create new lines and meet demand. That boom never happened to Kenyan sand boas, which is why there are relatively few morphs available today.
Kenyan Sand Boa Breeding Process
The breeding of Kenyan sand boas is not unlike breeding other snakes. Most snakes, in fact, most reptiles, are quite similar.
Before you get started, ask yourself whether you have the room for more snakes. Kenyan sand boas give birth to between ten and twenty young per brood, if they’re kept well.
They’ll grow to their full size of two feet or so in a couple of years. If you don’t have room for all those snakes, then you shouldn’t be breeding them.
Of course, you might be planning to sell them, which is why most people breed snakes. However, bear in mind that sales might be slower than you’re anticipating.
And for the time that you do keep them, you’ll have to keep your baby snakes in good health, because nobody wants to buy a sick snake.
Kenyan Sand Boa Breeding Equipment
Kenyan sand boas don’t lay eggs; they give birth to live young. What you need to know for now is that this means you won’t need an incubator.
There are still other things you’ll need, including:
- Tubs or small enclosures to keep the ‘hatchlings’ in. Baby Kenyan sand boas are eight inches long, so you’ll need a bigger tub than you will with other snakes.
- A snake stick, to move the male and female around in their enclosure. You may already have one, but if you don’t, you’ll need one for later.
- More than one male snake. Attempting to breed the female with several males during the breeding season will increase the chances that she becomes gravid.
Get all of your equipment sorted before starting. You want to be prepared and ready, not scrabbling around for next day shipping because your snake gave birth quicker than you thought she would.
Kenyan Sand Boa Breeding Season
Kenyan sand boas breed biannually, starting in spring. If they give birth to their first brood successfully, they’ll breed again in the summer, and birth their next brood just before fall.
In captivity, you have to recreate these seasons for them. You put them through a period of cool temperature to simulate the winter, before raising the temperature again, to simulate spring.
Most breeders do this during the winter, as the light outside corresponds with the season you’re recreating. But in reality, you can do it any time of year that you like.
This is especially valid for Kenyan sand boas, which live in parts of the world without clear and distinctive seasonal changes.
Preparing Kenyan Sand Boas for Breeding
Preparing Kenyan sand boas for breeding is all about getting them to brumate. In the wild, they don’t brumate because they live in warm climates.
It never gets cold enough for them to have to brumate as it does for snakes in the U.S. Nevertheless, you can prepare them for breeding by cycling the temperature.
At this point, you should also get any equipment you need ready. While you won’t need an incubator, there are still the other things you’ll need.
Purchase your tubs/enclosures as well as a snake stick, if you don’t have one already. Prepare your tubs by lining them with newspaper or paper towels at least.
Then it’s time to prep your breeding pair!
Do Kenyan Sand Boas Brumate?
Kenyan sand boas don’t brumate in the wild. They’re endemic to Northern Africa, with their range extending from Egypt to Niger, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya.
Across their range, Kenyan sand boas typically live in deserts. They’ve adapted to their environment by learning how to burrow into sand, both to hunt and to regulate their temperature.
In the winter, it doesn’t get cold during the daytime. Much of their range is just north of the equator, or sitting on the equator itself. As such, temperatures and daylight hours don’t vary between spring, summer, fall, and winter.
What does that have to do with brumation? It’s because brumation is only necessary for colder climates. During winters in the north, it gets too cold for snakes to digest, because they’re cold-blooded and need belly heat to break down food.
They’ll hide and hardly move, conserving energy and waiting for the sun. Kenyan sand boas don’t ever need to do this, because it’s warm enough for them to eat all year round.
Kenyan Sand Boa Brumation Temperatures
However, you can still make them brumate due to their innate instincts. Lower their enclosure temperature by ten degrees, step by step, over the course of a week.
They will slowly start to become less active. This may not be noticeable since Kenyan sand boas like to hide most of the time anyway, but they’ll go off their food, too, since snakes need it to be warm to digest.
A snake owner might recommend an ambient temperature of 55 degrees with no basking spot or belly heat. That’s the kind of temperature that’s suitable for a brumating corn snake, but it’s far too cold for a Kenyan sand boa.
A sand boa should live in an enclosure with 80 degrees ambient temperature, and a hot spot of between 90 and 95 degrees. When it comes to brumating them, lower the ambient temperature to 70. They shouldn’t have a basking spot or belly heat during this time.
Alternatively, you could do what some breeders do, and lower their night-time temperature. This is more accurate if you’re trying to replicate a desert environment, where it’s scorching in the daytime and cooler at night.
How to Get Two Kenyan Sand Boas to Mate
Getting two snakes to breed is a tricky business for a beginner. After the snakes have brumated, wait for them to shed and eat. After that, they’re ready to get started.
Preparing Male and Female Kenyan Sand Boas
Once you’ve raised the temperature of both your male and female, you’re going to want to introduce them. But not straight away.
You have to introduce the male to another male. The point of this is to further simulate the natural life of a snake in the wild. You can’t skip this step.
So, why does this work? Because when a female is ready to mate, she releases pheromones that draw males to her. Not just one male, but many are in the local area.
With some snake species, that could be dozens, even hundreds. This is one of the few times that snakes abandon their solitary lifestyle and meet other snakes, and the results are fascinating.
If only the female is present, the male will usually try to mate with her. But if there’s more than one male, they have to fight for the privilege. Fighting male snakes don’t use their fangs or teeth. Instead, they wrestle one another to see which is stronger, and therefore dominant.
Fighting has the effect of getting the males ready to mate. Animals like snakes work off instinct, and respond to patterns. That’s why they’ve ‘learned’ to mate in spring, as the female has time to birth her young while it’s still warm.
Captive snakes still ‘remember’ that mating in spring is best. In the same way, male snakes ‘know’ that fighting with another male snake over a female happens before mating, so it gets them ready.
Introducing Two Kenyan Sand Boas for Mating
So, to get your male ready for breeding, introduce him to a tank with just another male in it. Once they start to fight, separate them.
Immediately introduce the male into the female’s enclosure. Alternatively, you could remove the other male, and put the female in the male’s enclosure. It doesn’t make a difference.
Keep an eye on them; don’t leave them alone. Because the male was in a fight, he might be aggressive. The female might be aggressive too, because snakes don’t get into such close proximity.
And besides, she might not like him—he might not smell like a good potential partner. If they start to fight in earnest, separate them and try again tomorrow.
You should see the male sniffing (poking his tongue) at the female. This is a sign that he’s interested in mating. If he’s interested, he’ll try to slither on top of her.
How to Tell When Two Kenyan Sand Boas are Mating
The sight of two Kenyan sand boas mating is unusual to somebody who hasn’t bred snakes before. Unlike mammals, there’s not a lot of movement involved, so it can be difficult to tell.
The male will have to be on top of or wrapped around the female. The most important part is that one of his hemipenes is inside her cloaca.
This is called locking, and when a male’s hemipenis is inside a female’s cloaca, the pair are locked. The hemipenes and cloaca are in the tail. Each hemipenis is small and pink, and you may be able to see some of it.
If it’s obvious that the pair are locked, leave them for a while. They won’t be moving around so they can’t harm themselves, and they won’t hurt one another, either.
You can leave them to it for an hour or two. Check on them periodically to see if they’ve stopped. When they do, put the male back in his enclosure.
Continue to re-introduce the male and female, using the same procedure described above, even if they’ve mated already. Getting them to keep mating will increase the chances of success.
How to Tell When a Kenyan Sand Boa is Gravid
Spotting whether a female is gravid isn’t easy. Imagine trying to tell whether a person was pregnant within a few days of conception. However, you can infer from your female snake’s behavior that she might be gravid.
The earliest sign that a female is gravid is that she’ll lose interest in the male. She’ll stop responding to him, except to move away, and won’t sniff him to assess whether he would be a good partner.
This response happens because the female doesn’t need to mate anymore, and even though she might not understand it, her body is telling her that she’s already got fertilized ‘eggs’ inside her.
Eventually, you should be able to see the outline of the snakes in her belly. For other species, you’ll see round bulges where her eggs are.
But in Kenyan sand boas, the outline of her young will be more irregular, since they’re not in solid and rounded eggs. However, this will only be noticeable after they’ve developed for a few weeks.
Do Kenyan Sand Boas Give Birth to Live Young?
Kenyan sand boas are viviparous. That means they give birth to live young—they don’t lay eggs.
There are three kinds of snake. Oviparous snakes lay eggs, as most snakes do, like corn snakes and rattlesnakes. Ovoviviparous snakes appear to give birth to live young, but that’s not entirely true.
They create eggs just like other snakes, but don’t lay them. Instead, they let them hatch within themselves. Boa constrictors are ovoviviparous.
Viviparous snakes are a further development on ovoviviparous snakes. They keep their ‘eggs’ inside them, but they aren’t like regular snake eggs. They’re more like thin membranes that the young don’t have to ‘hatch’ from, per se.
They evolved from ovoviviparous snakes, because not having to use up precious minerals to create eggshells (particularly calcium) is an advantage to them.
Do You Need an Incubator for Kenyan Sand Boas?
Because they’re viviparous, you don’t need an incubator to breed Kenyan sand boas. As we said above, you need an incubator to keep snake eggs at a constant temperature.
Your sand boa can do this on her own. You won’t need an incubator for the snakes after they’re birthed, either. They’re eight inches long, and will be able to eat after a week or so, like regular hatched snakes.
How Long Until Kenyan Sand Boas Give Birth?
In most snakes, it takes fifty days for the eggs to hatch once they’ve been laid. For a Kenyan sand boa, it’s more difficult to tell, since you might not be able to tell when the snakes started developing.
However, as a rule, it’s about four months—which is much longer than average. If you keep the temperature at the right levels, they’ll develop more quickly. If you don’t, they’ll develop more slowly, taking up to six months.
For more information, feel free to read our guide on caring for Kenyan sand boas.