Cutting ball python eggs too early can kill the snakes inside. But cutting the eggs of a ball python too late can result in snakes drowning inside their eggs. It can be a real dilemma for snake owners.
Cutting eggs (pipping) stops weaker baby ball pythons from drowning inside their eggs. The cutting process should be done after 50 days. Done correctly, it will result in more successful hatches. But if you aren’t experienced or make a mistake, you could cut the snake.
So, there are pros and cons of cutting snake eggs before they hatch. But, on balance, there are more advantages than disadvantages. But you need to be aware of the various risk factors before you get started.
Why Do Breeders Cut the Eggs of Ball Pythons?
When snake eggs hatch in the wild, there’s nobody there to cut them. The mother doesn’t help either, because almost all snake species abandon their eggs once they’re laid.
The main reason why breeders cut eggs is that they want to see what’s inside. All breeders breed morphs. Most of these color variations can’t be found in the wild, so they can command a high price on the open market.
A successful hatch can generate a lot of money. But that’s not the only reason why you might want to cut (or ‘pip’) the eggs before they hatch. Pipping ball python eggs can improve survival rates when done right.
Cutting Snake Eggs Before They Hatch
Cutting snake eggs at the wrong time can be the difference between ten healthy snakes, and no healthy snakes at all.
If you want to keep the snakes as pets, this is heartbreaking. And if you want to sell the snakes, you could be losing thousands of dollars.
Pros and Cons of Snake Egg Cutting
|Pipping helps weaker snakes escape their egg, increasing clutch numbers||The snake may not be fully formed, even if you keep a proper schedule. Candle the egg before cutting.|
|It helps to identify problems, like a twisted umbilicus||You may have gotten your dates wrong and pip at the wrong time|
|See the morph early||If the snake has a developmental issue, you will have to put it down|
|You could accidentally cut the snake|
According to PLoS One, a ball python lays on average six eggs. That’s not many, so getting something wrong could be highly detrimental.
It Makes Life Easier for Your Snake
In the wild, snakes break their own way out of their egg. They poke at the shell with their nose in the hope of making a crack. If they can, they will work the crack to make it bigger. Once it’s big enough, they’ll crawl out.
But not all snakes will manage to do this on their own. Some may be too small and weak. If so, they would die in the egg before they can hatch.
The Snake May Not Be Fully Formed
Eggs are like the equivalent of a womb. The snake doesn’t sit fully formed from day one inside its egg. If fertilized, they develop over time, getting bigger and more fully formed.
The timeframe over which this takes place is reasonably consistent. Snake eggs take around two months to hatch. It varies based on species. However, it’s not safe to assume that every egg develops at the same time. Even within one clutch, one egg may take 45 days, while another takes 50.
But don’t assume the eggs will all be ready at the same time. It’s commonly recommended that when you see one egg pip on its own, you pip the rest. However, the other eggs may not be ready yet.
Leaving them for only a couple more days may result in more eggs hatching healthily. But at the same time, there may be some snakes that drown in their eggs during this time.
An intact egg is vital to the snake’s development. If the wall of the egg is breached, all the fluid inside will run out. This is the snake’s food, so the snake will end up smaller and weaker than it could have been.
You May Have Gotten Your Dates Wrong
Ball pythons are ready to hatch at around 50-52 days. This is a general rule, and you may find that your clutch is ready before or after then.
If you have many snakes with lots of clutches of eggs, it’s easy to get your dates wrong. You could misremember when they were laid, or miswrite the date on their label.
You may cut these eggs on the wrong date. A few days either way usually isn’t a problem. But more than a week out and you may cut them too soon. This could result in some of the clutch dying.
It Prevents Snakes Drowning in Their Eggs
If the snake is fully formed, but doesn’t hatch, it can’t stay inside indefinitely. When initially forming, the snake will absorb oxygen through the wall of the egg. Its veins are attached to the egg’s surface.
But before hatching, the snake will detach from the wall of the egg and begin moving. It will then try to pip the egg to escape. At this point, it can’t absorb oxygen through the wall of the egg.
Like any other land-living animal, snakes need to breathe air with their lungs. So, if they can’t get out of their egg, they can’t breathe either. Eventually, they will drown in the fluid inside the egg.
Pipping the egg prevents this from ever happening. Pipping makes much of the fluid run out of the egg. It also prevents problems like a twisted umbilicus from being a death sentence for the baby ball pythons.
If the Snake Can’t Hatch, There May Be a Reason
Snake breeding is difficult to get right. Eggs require a constant temperature and humidity, and any variance can cause hatching issues.
If your eggs have reached their ‘due date’ but still aren’t hatching, there may be a reason why. The snake may have a developmental issue. Snake birth defects are common, and include the following:
- Too small to survive
- Only has one eye
- The snake has a wobble, where its head continually shakes
- The snake has a kinked spine
- Deformed jaw
- Fused sections in its spine
If the snake has any of these deformities, it’s less likely to hatch. However, if you pip the egg, it will hatch. You will then have to put down a very ill snake. You can avoid this issue entirely by letting nature take its course.
Should I Cut My Ball Python Eggs?
We would advise against pipping eggs if you’re a beginner. It’s just as likely that you will harm the snake accidentally as it is that you will help them.
If you want to set up a breeding program, seek advice from an expert. Whether that’s a veterinarian or an established breeder, ask them about cutting eggs. They may demonstrate how to carry out the process safely.
When to Cut Open Ball Python Eggs
Pip the eggs once the snakes inside are finished developing. Any sooner and the hatchling likely won’t survive. Any later and the snake may drown.
Breeders are divided on when exactly they pip their eggs. It isn’t a point of contention or debate because different approaches can work. Breeders will cut ball python eggs at some point between 48 and 52 days.
There are circumstances where you could consider cutting early. If the egg has started to become moldy and is 45+ days old, consider cutting it. If the snake is left inside for too long, it will surely die. However, if the snake is developed enough already, it may hatch successfully.
What to Do After Cutting Ball Python Eggs
Never take the snake out of the egg. Let the snake come out on its own. You could hurt the baby snake by pulling on it to try and get it out. This could easily happen if the snake has a twisted umbilicus, for example.
There are pros and cons to cutting ball python eggs, and these need to be considered before you get started. Wait about 50 days before pipping ball python eggs, and if you do pip the egg, let the snake come out on its own.