Ball pythons are ambush hunters as well as opportunistic hunters in the wild, that means they spend the majority of their time tucked deep inside termite mounds or rodent burrows waiting for an unsuspecting rodent to cross their path.
Knowing this gives us some pretty good clues on how ball pythons may prefer to take their meals in captivity.
Feeding your ball python is one of the most important aspects of its care, and getting it right is crucial for the growth and well-being of your pet.
In this article, we will explore some of the best practices and tips for feeding your ball python.
What ball pythons eat ?
One of the most important aspects of caring for a ball python is ensuring that it is being fed the appropriate prey items.
I often see new keepers make mistakes when it comes to choosing the right prey size and type for their snake.
In this section, we will discuss the requirements of the prey items for feeding ball pythons.
Which prey for a ball python ?
Ball pythons will feed on a variety of rodents if given the opportunity, but since some rodents are less cheap to get on a regular basis than others, most keepers tend to stick to either mice or rats as their main food source.
Both mice and rats are available as feeders in most local pet stores at a pretty reasonable rate so they are the best option as a primary prey item.
It is important to choose healthy prey that is free from diseases and parasites.
Which prey size for a ball python ?
Ball pythons are obligate carnivores and need to eat whole animals to get the right nutrition.
Determining what size mice or rat your animal needs isn’t very difficult with minimal guidance and forethought.
Hatchling ball pythons feed quite well on 7-14 day old rats (pups) or 3-4 week old mice hoppers.
A big mistake I see with new keepers is that they tend to offer their new baby snake new born (pinkie mice/rats) and the animal doesn’t show it any interest, reason being is that a new born mouse/rat doesn’t give the ball python enough stimulating activity to kick that baby snake into feeding mode.
Rats/Mice with a couple weeks of age on them move around much more and they are a little larger which both work to stimulate a great feeding response from hatchling ball pythons.
Ball pythons that weigh around 600-700 grams can comfortably eat 3-4 week old small rats or adult mice without issue.
For large adults I tend to feed a lot of small and medium size rats.
Although adults can handle taking large rats as prey, I tend to go with a smaller prey item to lessen the chance of the snake receiving an injury because rats can harm and kill an adult ball python if left unmonitored.
When in doubt, seek a prey item that is a quarter larger around in diameter than the largest part of the snake and you’ll be on the right track.
Live vs Pre-killed or Frozen/thawed prey items.
Both options considered, it comes down to which method works best for you.
If you choose to feed live, don’t leave the prey item in with the animal more than 2 hours, if the snake hasn’t eaten in 2 hours, chances are it’s not going to happen and the longer you leave the prey item in with the snake the higher the chances are that the snake will be injured by the prey item or become stressed as a result.
Back in the 80′s when I was shopping the pet stores for feeder mice there wasn’t an option to buy the mice already dead and packaged up all nice and neat like there is today so I feed my animals live mice/rats pretty much ever since I can remember.
Being that ball pythons as a species tend to be more particular to live prey items more than other species of snakes, offering live prey is always going to yield better results. That being said, getting animals to take thawed mice/rats is very convenient, especially, since ordering frozen mice/rats on the internet straight to your door is much cheaper than buying live and doesn’t require you to care for the live mice/rats if the snake decides to not feed.
The timing of feeding can also affect your snake’s feeding habits.
Ball pythons are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. I recommend to feed your snake in the evening or at night, as this is when they are most likely to be hungry.
Good to know:
|How Often to Feed
|Hatchling (<50 g)
|Fuzzy Mouse or Rat Pup
|Every 5-7 days
|Juvenile (50-200 g)
|Small Mouse or Rat
|Every 7-10 days
|Sub-Adult (200-400 g)
|Medium Mouse or Rat
|Every 10-14 days
|Adult (400-1200 g)
|Large Mouse or Rat
|Every 14-21 days
|Large Adult (>1200 g)
|Jumbo Mouse or Rat
|Every 21-30 days
Please note that this is a sample chart and feeding frequency and feeder size may vary based on individual snake and its needs. It is important to track your snake’s weight and body condition regularly to ensure it is not under or overfed.
Due to their natural habits and feeding pattern, most ball pythons do not need any extra vitamin supplements.
These nocturnal hunters consume entire prey animals, which provide them with all the necessary nutrients to meet their dietary requirements.
Ball pythons require a well-balanced diet that includes the proper amount of protein, fat, and vitamins. It is important to feed your snake a variety of prey to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.
Although ball pythons follow natural feeding strategy of consuming whole prey animals that allows them to obtain all the necessary nutrients, they may experience health issues as some vitamin deficiencies cause serious and potentially life-threatening problems, It is important to consult with a veterinarian and not administer supplements without professional guidance.
How much does cost feeding a ball python ?
Feeding a ball python might cost anything from $50 to $170 annually. Mice and rats are the most common feeders for ball pythons, and they can be purchased at most pet stores. The cost of a feeder can range from $0.50 to $7.00, depending on the size and type. Frozen feeders are typically less expensive than live feeders, but they may require additional storage space and equipment to thaw.
Undoubtedly, one of the most common questions in the world of ball pythons is ‘My ball python won’t eat?”
Reason being ball pythons are naturally on and off feeders throughout different times of the year for various reasons.
Most of those reasons all relate back to breeding interests that the animal may be experiencing.
That being said, a sexually mature male ball pythons will frequently turn down food during and around the breeding season (December – March) simply because they tend to focus all their interest on breeding and the possibility of breeding, not on eating.
Other reasons why ball pythons turn down food is related to stress which can be caused by improper ball python care methods.
If your animal happens to refuse several meals in a row, the first thing to consider is whether the animal’s enclosure is setup and operating properly because if the animal experiences a sudden drop or increase in temperature due to a bad heating element or faulty thermostat they almost immediately go into fasting mode.
They do this to better handle any harsh conditions that they perceive to be in their future because the last thing ball pythons want to do is worry about digesting a recent meal when there isn’t the necessary warmth to assist in that digestion.
Just keep in mind pretty much all ball python adults go off feed from time to time and as long as they are maintaining their body weight and kept well hydrated the animal can go for several weeks or even months without any ill effects from not feeding.
Below is a list of tips and tricks you may find useful to successfully get your ball python back feeding on a regular basis:
- Provide your animal a hide-box inside the enclosure: Something that’s small enough were the animal’s body is nearly touching all sides. This is a great stress reducer and works wonders for getting ball pythons to feed.
- Crumple up newspaper inside the enclosure.
- If feeding frozen/thawed offer a live prey item.
- If feeding rats offer mice for a change or vice versa.
- Try offering the meal as late at night as possible.
- If the snake refuses don’t attempt to feed again until at least 5-7 days, If it refuses again wait another 5-7 days. Never offer meals repeatedly as this only stresses the animal out and will prolong the time that it refuses to feed.
- Place the enclosure in a place that receives as little human activity as possible.
Feeding your ball python can also poses some safety risks. It is important to take proper precautions when feeding your snake to avoid injury to both yourself and your snake.
Here are some good practices and safety guidelines to a safe feeding process:
- Use feeding tongs or hemostats to handle the prey: Avoid handling it with your bare hands. Even though they appear clean and healthy, feeder rats might have germs. From diarrhea to birth problems, these microorganisms can bring on a variety of diseases. Watch the video below as Steven The Pet Man from BigApplePetSupply.com explains the importance of hemostats in feeding your snake.
- Never leave live prey unattended in the enclosure with your snake more than 2 hours: Live prey can injure your snake during feeding or after, and they can also bite you if you try to intervene.
- Use frozen prey when possible to lessen the risk of harm coming to you or your snake.
- No handling on the next 24 hours the prey is offered.
- Never feed your reptile wild or large rodents as prey item.
- Wash Your Hands: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling rodents and reptiles, or touching anything that has come into contact with these animals.
- Clean supplies: Clean and disinfect the area and supplies in contact with rodents.
- Keep rats, reptiles, and their supplies out of kitchens and any other areas used for preparing, serving, storing food for human consumption.
Feeding your ball python a well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential for their health and well-being.
By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure your snake is receiving the proper amount of food and nutrients needed as it grows healthy.
Remember to monitor your snake’s weight and adjust their feeding schedule accordingly, provide a variety of prey options, use proper feeding techniques and tools, and take safety precautions to avoid injury.
If you have questions please visit the Question and Answer page