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How to Breed Ball Pythons
The purpose of this article is to increase your chances of success in raising ball pythons. I’m going to give you some quick and easy tips that will help you on your way to success in raising these fantastic animals.
correct sex – Make sure your animals are correctly sexed and you do in fact have a male and a female. There are two ways to determine the sex of a ball python, one is by “exploding” and the other is by “probing”. In my opinion popping is the easier method of the two, requires no tools and involves no danger or harm to the animal. To probe a ball python you need to insert a metal probe backwards towards the tail on the left or right side of the cloaca. Once the probe is inserted, perform a scale count to determine the sex of the animal. Males usually probe quite deep about 8 or more subcaudal scales and females probe about 2-4 subcaudal scales. I will cover more detailed instructions on how to determine the sex of your snake in another article, if for any reason you are not confident in determining the sex of your animals, please find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area for help .
sexual maturity – Males and females mature sexually at different ages and weights. Sexual maturity in ball pythons appears to be determined more by weight than age, although age definitely plays a role in sexual maturity. Females usually mature around two to three years of age and between 1200 and 1500 grams in weight, some may mature a little faster or a little later, but most will mature in this age and weight range. Males mature much faster than females and usually mature between 6 months and a year of age, although I have a few young males that breed as early as twelve weeks! Male breeding weights range from 400 grams for small guys to 800 grams or more for larger early breeders.
Seasonal change and drop in temperature – In the wild, ball pythons are seasonal animals and usually breed between the months of October and December in the rainy season, with egg laying around March and April. Ball pythons begin to hatch and take their first meals after the rainy season, when prey is plentiful. Now in captivity, they can be bred all year round, but having some seasonal changes and a drop in temperature increases the chances of having maximum production. I like to start gradually lowering my temperature in November a degree or two each week until I reach my temperature drop of 5-7 degrees lower at night from my high daytime temperatures, than in the off season are 85-87 degrees. In the breeding season, I go down to 80 degrees overnight in the hottest part of the tub for three to four months and then go back up to my off-season temps of 85-87 degrees.
Pairing them up for breeding – Once you are determined that you do in fact have a male and a female and they are the age and weight of sexual maturity, it is time to start pairing these animals for breeding. I introduce my males into my female’s tubs and not the other way around because female ball pythons emit a lot of pheromones during breeding season and these pheromones are great at telling male ball pythons that it’s time to breed- yes Once I introduce the male to the female I leave the pair undisturbed for 24 hours after which I check if they are actively reproducing, if they are I give them another 24 hours, if they are not I move the male to the next one. the woman’s tub and start the process again. Once the male has successfully copulated with a female, I offer him a small meal which is usually a small rat and 48 hours of rest. When he is well rested, I repeat the process. I continue this process of mating my males with the females until the females have ovulated or it is clear that they will not produce for the season.
ovulation – Being able to correctly identify an ovulating female ball python is extremely helpful when breeding for maximum production. Here are a couple of quick tips to help you identify an actively ovulating and a female that has already ovulated.
Identification of an active ovulation – A female ball python that is actively ovulating will have a very noticeable swelling in the lower third of her body; it may even look like you’ve just eaten a large meal. You’ll also notice that his tail is tucked into his body in an awkward “L” shape. This classic position is known as the “Suck” to veteran ball python breeders and is a great indicator that the female is ovulating.
Ovulation has occurred – If you miss active ovulation, all is not lost, and you can still tell if your female ball python has ovulated by using these quick tips. First, just watch her for a couple of days and see where she spends most of her time. Is it on the cool end of the tub or the hot end? If it’s on the hot end of the tub, chances are your female has already ovulated and no longer needs to be bred. If she is still reaching for the cooler end of the tub and sloshing around the bowl, it is very likely that your female has not ovulated and has yet to be bred.
Laying and incubation of eggs – After ovulation, your female ball python no longer needs to be paired with a male and you can start setting up the incubator and making arrangements for the baby ball pythons. About three weeks after ovulation, she will enter a mating cycle known to veteran breeders as the “POS,” which stands for “post-ovulation pouch.” After the “POS” you are looking at about 30-40 days until your female lays a clutch of eggs.
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