The goal of this article is to increase your chances of success at breeding ball pythons. I’ll lay out some quick and easy tips that’ll help you on your road to success in breeding these awesome animals.
Correct Sex – Insure your animals are properly sexed, and you do in fact have a male and female. There are two ways to determine the sex of a ball python one is by “popping” and the other is by “probing.” In my opinion popping is the easier method between the two, it doesn’t require any tools and there’s no danger or harm to the animal. To probe a ball python requires you to insert a metal probe backwards towards the tail into the left or right side of the cloaca. Once the probe is inserted you take a scale count to determine the sex of the animal. Males usually probe pretty deep around 8 or more subcaudal scales and females will probe around 2-4 subcaudal scales. I’ll cover more detailed instructions on how to determine the sex of your snake in another article, if for whatever reason you’re not confident in determining the sex of your animals find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area for assistance.
Sexual Maturity – Males and females become sexually mature at different ages and weighs. Sexual maturity in ball pythons seems to be more determined by weight rather than age of the animal although age most definitely plays a role in sexual maturity. Females typically mature around two-three years of age and 1200-1500grams of weight, some may mature a little quicker or a little later but the gross majority will mature in this age and weight range. Males mature much quicker than females and usually mature between 6 months – 1 year of age although I’ve have a few young males breed as early as twelve weeks old! Breeding weight for males ranges in the area of 400grams for the little guys up to 800 or more grams for the larger first time breeders.
Seasonal Change and Temperature Drop – In the wild ball pythons are seasonal animals and typically breed between October and December in the rainy season, with egg laying season being around March and April. Baby ball pythons begin to hatch and take their first meals after the rainy season when prey items are abundant. Now in captivity, they can be breed year around, but having some seasonal change and temperature drop does increase your chances at having maximum production. I like to start gradually dropping my temps in November a degree or two every week until I reach my peek temperature drop of 5-7 degrees lower at night from my daytime high temperatures which in the off season are 85-87 degrees. In the breeding season I work my way down to 80degrees for a night time low on the hottest side of the tub for three or four months and then work my way back up to my off season temperatures of 85-87degrees.
Pairing them up for Breeding – Once you’re determined you do in fact have a male and female and they are in the age and weight of sexual maturity it’s time to start pairing these animals up for breeding. I introduce my males into my female’s tubs and not the other way around because female ball pythons put out lots of pheromones during the breeding season and these pheromones are great at signaling male ball pythons that it’s time for breeding. Once I introduce the male to the female I leave the pair uninterrupted for 24 hours after which I check to see if they are actively breeding, if they are I give them another 24 hours, if they’re not I move the male to the next female’s tub and start the process over. Once the male has successfully copulated with a female I offer him a small meal which is usually a small rat and 48 hours rest. Once he’s well rested I repeat the process. I continue this process of pairing up my males with females until the females have either ovulated or it’s clear that they are not going to produce for the season.
Ovulation – Being able to correctly identify a female ball python ovulating is extremely useful when breeding for maximum production. Here are a couple of quick tips to help you identify an active ovulation and a female that has already ovulated.
Identifying an Active Ovulation – A female ball python that is actively ovulating will have a very noticeable swell to the lower 3rdportion of her body; she may even appear to have just eaten a large meal. You’ll also notice her tail is sucked in to her body in an awkward “L” shape. That classic position is known as the “Suck” to veteran ball python breeders and it’s a great indicator that the female is in the process of ovulating.
Ovulation has occurred – If you happen to miss the active ovulation, all isn’t lost, and you can still tell if your female ball python has ovulated by uses these quick tips. First off, simply watch her over the course of a couple days and see where she spends the majority of her time. Is it on the cool end of the tub or hot end? If it’s on the hot end of the tub then chances are your female has already ovulated and no longer needs to be bred. If she’s still seeking the colder end of the tub and wrapping the bowl then chances are pretty good that your female hasn’t ovulated and she still needs to be bred.
Egg Laying and Incubation – After ovulation your female ball python no longer needs to be paired up with a male and you can start setting up the incubator and making arrangements for the ball python hatchlings. Right around three weeks after ovulation she’ll go into a shed cycle known to veteran breeders as the “POS” which stands for “post ovulation shed.” Following the “POS” you’re looking at around 30-40 days until your female lays a clutch of eggs.