Ball python breeding
I am a first time ball python breeder, however I have owned my male for 5 years and my female for 1. My female snake is a first time mother, she’s 4 years old but I haven’t weighed her recently. She laid her first clutch today. I have already removed the clutch into their own enclosure. My mother snake hasn’t eaten in 3 1/2 months. My question is, would it be ok to feed her and then put the clutch back in with her? I know that it’s not good to move the clutch, but I really want them to be with her. I’m concerned that she might not register them as hers anymore. Should I leave them be or would I be able to move them back in with her after she’s eaten?
Thank you for your question. Many professional python breeders always remove the eggs from the female, because they believe they can better control incubation temperature and humidity, as well as more closely monitor egg development using an incubator. Unlike some other species of pythons, Ball pythons (Python regius) are not known to thermoregulate their eggs (increasing their body temperature in order to maintain the warmth of the eggs), so many breeders feel that using an incubator results in a higher success rate in hatching viable eggs.
If you allow the female to incubate the eggs, you have to focus on three primary areas: temperature, humidity and preventing the eggs from getting wet. Temperature in the nesting area needs to be at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus 1 - 2 degrees.
You need to maintain maximum humidity in the nesting area as well. While it's not possible to keep the level at 100%, it does need to be high. You should weigh the eggs individually periodically to monitor their progress. The female should coil back around them when you place them back in the nesting area.
The third focus area is not allowing the eggs to get wet. This can be difficult to ensure when the female is incubating the eggs. If you are spraying the area with a mist periodically to try to maintain higher humidity, you may spray too much and saturate the substrate in the cage. The eggs on the bottom of the pile will be resting on this wet substrate, and this can result in a loss of the eggs.
In order to better control these variables, many breeders have gone to removing the eggs from the female and using an incubator.
Ball pythons have been known to leave their clutch to feed, drink, bask and, sometimes, shed. So you should be able to feed your female and return her eggs.
All of the information above came from the following excellent resource on Ball pythons. It is an expensive book, but you should be able to obtain a copy through your local public library's interlibrary loan program, if you can't afford to purchase a copy:
Barker, David G. and Tracy M. Barker. (2006). Ball Pythons - The History, Natural History, Care and Breeding. Boerne: VPI Library.
I hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.