For this addition to the ball python breeding articles section I’d like to talk about the process and importance of ball python ovulation. Before we get into how to identify if in fact a female has ovulated let’s talk a little bit about what an ovulation actual is, and why it’s important to be able to identify an ovulation if you want to be a successful ball python breeder.
Ovulation is the process in which mature unfertilized follicles are moved into the oviduct and fertilized with the end result being those follicles becoming eggs. The process of ovulation takes about 24hours but females start building towards ovulation about 2 weeks out from the big day. During the building process females will become distended in the lower third of the body. The building process continues to up until the day of ovulation. Once you witness an active ovulation taking place you’ll never forget the look and you’ll easily be able to identify them in the future.
During active ovulation female balls have a very large “swell” towards the bottom third of the body. This “swell” looks as if the female has just consumed a very large meal but the area of the “swell” is lower down in the body than the typical lump after a large meal. You’ll also notice that females often display what is known as the “tail suck” to ball python breeders. This “tail suck” appears as though the female is pulling her tail towards her body creating an awkward “J” shape which is indicative with just about every ovulation I’ve personally witnessed. If you just sit and watch a female ovulating you’ll actually be able to see movement as the follicles are moved to position for fertilization. The whole process appears to be very uncomfortable for the animal.
The reason why it’s so important to be able to identify if a female ball python has ovulated or not is because this is a huge deciding factor in whether to continue breeding that female or not. When your goal is maximum projection you want every advantage you can possibly get and knowing when to continue pairing up animals and when to stop is just another tool in the successful ball python breeder’s toolbox.
Now that we’ve talked about how to identify an active ovulation, what about times when you don’t witness the event and you want to know if the act actually took place or not. This is one of the more common questions amongst novice breeders because there isn’t a lot of information out there on the subject so I’ll do my best to break it down for you. First you can start by observing the females behavior, female ball pythons that have ovulated are now in heat seeking mode so by observing where the female spends the majority of her time is a great you’ll be able to tell whether she has ovulated or not. If she spends time on the cool end of the tank or wraps her water bowl this is a great indicator that she has NOT ovulated and breeding needs to continue. If she is clued to the heat in a tight coil and never budges then chances are very good she has in fact ovulated and is done breeding for the season.
There are other ways to tell if she has ovulated like taking a closer physically examination of her. I use this next technique quite often and it’s very effective and pretty much 100% accurate. Take the female out of her tub and palpate her. I’m going to write more about palpating in a later article but for the time being palpating is the act of applying pressure with your hands in the shape of a “C” as the snake passes through and feeling for the presence of follicles or eggs. If while palpating you feel hard follicles towards the lower third of the body then that female has not ovulated, on the other hand if you feel follicles that feel almost like water balloons then that female has ovulated and those are now eggs not follicles at all.
Once you have determined your female has ovulated then congratulation you will be getting eggs! Depending on the temperature you can expect your female to go through a shed cycle in about three weeks. Once the animal has shed you can expect eggs anywhere from 28-50 days from that shed so be sure to mark that shed down in order to keep track. The shed right after ovulation is known as the “post ovulation shed” or “POS” as you often see on the forums. Marking down that POS and keeping good records will prevent you from discovering eggs that you didn’t know were on the way. That’s about it for this topic, good luck with your breeding and let me know if you have any questions.