This is just a quick overview on how to breed ball pythons. Just about anyone can breed ball pythons to a degree (just have a lot around the web and you’ll find a hundred self-proclaimed experts) just breeding ball pythons isn’t the goal, the goal is having as much success as possible. If you’re looking for detailed instructions on each element of breeding please see some of the other breeding articles on this site as this is just a basic overview.
For this article I’ll cover the basics like:
- Pre Breeding Conditioning
- Temperature cycling your ball pythons for breeding.
- Rotating males through females.
- Breeding behavior
In order to be successful in breeding your animals you must be sure you do in fact have a male and a female ball python. Yes, this sounds very obvious, but I can’t tell you how many experienced breeders have attempted to breed two males or vice versa because they either incorrectly sexed an animal or they bought a missexed animal on error. Heck, I’ve done it myself so I know it can and does happen. If you’re not confident on determining the sex of your animal(s) seek the help of an experienced local breeder or reptile veterinarian.
Pre Breeding Conditioning
Now that you have healthy male and female snakes lets talk a little bit about getting these animals in shape to breed. Ball pythons can and do breed year around in captivity, but I’ve had the best success cycling my animals to breed based on the seasons. With that, breeding season runs from October/November all the way through May/June sometimes a litter earlier sometimes a little later, just depends on the animals. One important factor in determining your success in May/June is how to condition your animals in the Summer and Fall months. During these summer and falls months I feed my female ball pythons as much as they’ll possibly eat which typically comes out to be 2-3 rats a week, but that’s of course not set in stone. The goal during these months is to put as much weight on these females as possible. It’s not healthy to power feed your breeder snakes. Since they are actively involved in the breeding process they will expend tons of calories during the breeding season and those females that go on to lay egg will surely need the extra weight for egg development.
Temperature Cycling for the Breeding Season
You’ve been pounding those females all summer and now it’s time to start cycling temperatures to get these snakes to take notice of the changing season. Instinctively they’re programmed to switch over to breeding mode during these months of the of the year (Oct/Nov through Spring) because it’s the optimal time for the young hatchlings to find food and shelter in the wild and therefore have a much better chance at survival.
Starting in late October or early November I start my temperature drops. I go from giving the animals constant heat of 24/7 down to 12 hours of normal daytime heat which is the same daytime temperature I use all year 85-87 degrees and 12 hours of night time heat drop of just a degree or two that first week of the ball python breeding season. I continue to drop the night time temps every week or two until I reach a low of about 78-80 degrees. I hold that 12/12 hour schedule until the beginning of April where I start to bring the temps back up to normal off season temps of 24/7 of 86-87 degrees for the heat spot. In my opinion it’s very important and raise temperatures gradually because if you increase the temps too quickly you run the risk of rushing the female ball pythons into a premature ovulation which ultimately ends in that female producing a bad clutch of eggs for the year.
Rotating males through females
Everybody has their own method of rotating reptiles for breeding purposes, I’m not saying my method is the gospel but it works for me and as you gain experience I’m sure you’ll develop your own method as well. Let’s make this real simple, try to have your pairing introduced together at least a minimum of once a month. If your pairs are seeing each other at least monthly they’ll have plenty of chances to successfully breed. Now the day you start breeding several pairs is the day things get a little more complicated, in which case this is how I rotate my ball pythons, I always introduce the males into the female’s enclosure. The female’s enclosures are full of juicy hormonal smells and scents this time of year, these hormonal scents have an incredible effect on the males and getting the males in breeding mode. I introduce the male into the female’s tub for a full 24hours before I check the pairing, if they are breeding then I leave them alone if they’re not breeding I move the male into the next female’s enclosure that I plan to breed him to. If the pair does have a successful breeding, I’ll pull the male and offer him a small meal and 48hours rest before he goes back to work in the breeding rotation. Every six weeks or so I’ll give all my breeding males a week off to rest, it’s that simple.
Ball Python Breeding Behavior
During the first month or two of breeding your ball pythons it’s very important to take note of breeding behavior displayed by your female ball pythons that are being bred. The quicker you know which females are going to produce for the year the better. In any typical year breeding ball pythons you’ll have some females that produce and some that don’t. Depending on how well you dial in your micro factors like temps, conditioning, etc will depend on what level of success you have for the year. I’ve found that 60-70 percent of females bred will produce eggs consistently if those factors are dialed in.
What you want to look for are signs of females developing follicles. When female ball pythons start to develop follicles that often times behave differently, for instances they’ll start to seek out the cooler end of the tub. They’ll also wrap their bodies around their water dish which a lot of breeders including myself believe this is an attempt to lower their body temperature even more. As the season progresses you may also notice that some of your females begin to get a lot brighter in color, this has been referred to as the “Glow.” The phrase “Glow before they go” was coined by Canadian master breeder Marc Mandic and it says it all, a large majority of female ball pythons will color up as they develop follicles, those females almost always go on to lay eggs that season. If you see the “Glow” make sure to take note of it and continue to pair that female up with a male until ovulation.
That’s it for this quick overview. For more detailed information on breeding check out some of the other articles on this site.