Pet Supplies Online @ RCReptiles.com has launched!
Before I talk about how I breed ball pythons here, I wanted to let you know that we just launched a new pet supply store online! You can now order your favorite pet supplies for cats, dogs, reptiles, small animals, birds, and etc. from the convenience of your home and have your items delivered to your front door. Check the new site out at http://pet-supplies.RCReptiles.com when you get a chance. Don’t forget to support the sponsors listed on this page (see right column) as well. They offer some great deals on a variety of services. Try them out!
Now on to breeding ball pythons here at RCReptiles.com
Many people have asked me lately about breeding and how we do things here. I felt that other people probably had the same questions so I figured I’d write about how we do things here in my blog. Many breeders have their own ball python breeding recipes but this blog is about what works for us here. I’ll often make mentions to what some breeders do that differs from what I do throughout the blog.
Breeding season starts late in the season as the weather gets colder and the sun sets earlier than it does in the early parts of the year. My main objective before breeding season is to determine which animals I plan to breed and what their weights are. One important thing to note is that I allocate at least five females per breeder male. Anything less is a waste of your males breeding potential.
No “Weight-Watcher” programs here!
My personal preference for breeding weights in females is 1,500 grams. Males should be at least 600 grams and a year or more older. I have bred males as young as 6 months with success. You want to check your male for sperm plugs by “popping them” (See the Snake sexing article here http://www.rcreptiles.com/articles/snake-sexing-methods.html ) to see if they’re producing sperm. I generally check younger males in the later part of the year, closer to breeding season. If you pop them and they have sperm, they’re good to go!
I offer food to my snakes every three to four days. Some will eat, others won’t. My main objective is to offer the females food so they’ll grow and produce body fat. This is crucial to the egg development process in females because their fat is used for the egg creation process. Some breeders keep their males lean because they say a leaner male is a better breeder. I don’t personally try to keep my males lean. I offer them food and they’ll eat or they won’t, it’s entirely up to them.
I continue this process up to October 1st, the welcome mat to breeding season.
Cooling things down a bit
We control the entire environment at our breeding facility. Things are cooling down in Mother Nature so we have to bring the outdoor environment into our snake rooms. Snakes generally have a breeding season in Ghana, Africa and it seems to be programmed into many ball pythons. We capitalize off this by simulating Mother Nature so our snakes will know it’s breeding season and get into gear. We keep our lights on a timer and adjust the timer to reflect when the sun rises and sets outside. This creates a photoperiod that many biologists feel is extremely important in breeding a variety of snake species. I have to note that I know of a breeder who does not adjust his lighting at all, he keeps his snakes in the dark year round and he reports good breeding results.
The lights in the snake room come on at 7:00 AM here and go off at 5:00 PM each evening. In addition to controlling the lights, we control the temperatures as well. The ambient room temperature fluctuates between 80F during the day and 75F at night. We also adjust the “hot spots” in each tank through the use of a thermostat. Helix controls Inc. has a thermostat product with a “night drop” module that you can use to simulate night-time drops. 90F during the day and 80F drop at night when the lights go out.
We’re officially in breeding mode now
We cool them for a month and begin the actual breeding trials November 1st. We begin by introducing males into female’s cages. Some breeders recommend females into male’s cages but we do it opposite and it works for us here.
When a male is introduced into a females cage, a few interesting things might start to happen. I’ve noticed that some females will often “wag their tails” when a male is placed in their cage. They’ll often urinate in the cage as well. Why they behave this way is unknown to me at this point in time but I’m hopeful to understand the underlying reason for this in due time.
The male will often cruise the females' cage and will crawl over the female as well. This is courting behavior. He’ll often rub his tail along her body while prodding her with his spurs. If she’s receptive, she’ll allow him to place his tail under hers and copulate with him. The males’ tail under the females tail in a locked position identifies copulation. They’ll often stay this way for up to 24 hours or longer. Do not bother them or try to separate them when they’re copulating, you could injure your male.
I check each cage daily during breeding season. If a male is locked up with a female (copulating), I’ll leave them alone and check on them again the following day. If a male is not copulating with a female, I’ll then remove him from her cage and move him to another cage. This process is continued throughout the breeding season.
One important thing to note is that I faithfully give breeder males down time during the weekend. Sometimes I’ll give them a week off from breeding. I’ve heard stories that some breeders have actually bred their males to death by not giving them downtime. I also offer them food on down time. Some will eat but most of my males don’t feed, they just want to get back into a females cage and breed. I offer females food when males aren’t in their cages as well. I offer them very small rats because the environment is cooler and they need heat to digest their food properly.
Time to start warming things up
I continue the above cycle of rotating males through the cages of females throughout the entire breeding cycle. I start warming things up a bit in the beginning of February. The lights stay on longer and the “hot spots” stay at 90F all day and night. This alerts the animals and tells them that the breeding season will be ending soon.
I continue breeding throughout the warming process. Hopefully you’ve had much copulation up to this point in time.
April 1st, time to call it quits
I stop breeding on April 1st but some breeders continue to breed beyond this date. Some breeders actually breed year round. Hopefully you’ve had a stellar breeding season and you have some females that have ovulated. Ovulation is the result of a females' follicles entering her oviduct. They will show a major swelling in their mid-section. It looks like they just ate a large rat. Females ovulate early, others later. You can stop breeding and have a female ovulate several months later. I had a female ovulate 6 months after I stopped breeding a male to her!
You can also check the follicles in your females through a process called palpation. Remove the female from her cage and allow her to slide down or crawl back into her cage while you hold her with your thumb pressing against her belly. You should feel marble sized “bumps” near the lower third portion of her body. They might feel like marbles or small peas. It really depends where they are in their development cycle. When they’re big enough and it’s time for them to be released, she’ll ovulate.
Another good clue to look out for is when they start lying on their backs. Yes, some males do this as well but it's generally a good sign to see in females during the tail end of breeding season. Females will often spend much of their time on the hot side of the tank. Many gravid females tend to lay in a coil a lot on the hot spot of the tank.
Once you’ve spotted ovulation you can expect eggs at least 45 days later. She’ll have a swollen appearance for about 24 hours or so, after that she’ll look normal because the follicles will have spread out for the egg shelling and fertilization process.
Not sure if she ovulated? Look for a shed!
Females will shed roughly 16 or so days after they ovulate. This is their pre-egg lay shed. Once they complete their shed, they’ll produce eggs in 30 days. Write down their shed date and get ready for eggs.
You can let her maternally incubate her eggs or you can put them in an incubator. I won’t go into the details of incubation methods in this blog. You can read more on incubation processes in the library of this website here http://www.rcreptiles.com/links.html#anchor1 . The eggs should hatch in roughly 55-60 days at an incubation temperature of 89F.
I hope this blog answered some of your questions about how I breed ball pythons here at RCReptiles.com. Start a thread (or join a thread if one started by the time you’ve read this blog) in the Ball Python section of the reptile forum on this website located at http://www.rcreptiles.com/forum if you have questions or you’d like to discuss this topic in greater detail.
Also y'all make great snakes! I love mine!
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