The success you have at the end of the breeding season is largely contributed to your preseason preparation and how you maintain your animals in the off season (summer months). For this ball python breeding article I’d like to discuss what I do every year in the off season to condition my animals for the big show come breeding season. It’s easier than you think to become complacent in the off season and neglect regular care and maintenance duties, but this time of year is critical to having a successful breeding season.
Huge window of opportunity
There is a huge window of opportunity coming out of the previous breeding season into the off season because every female ball python that produced a clutch of eggs last season has a ravenous appetite. I really try to capitalize on this window by feeding these females as much as possible and they’ll usually take pretty much everything I throw at them. You can credit this super charged appetite to the fact that these females are in recovery mode after giving up so many resources to produce that viable clutch of eggs.
I like to take advantage of every bit of this window by cleaning my females and their tubs really well after laying which has proven to help get that female back on feed almost instantly. As soon as you eliminate the odor of eggs from her as well as her enclosure she seems to forget about the clutch of eggs and move right into recovery mode. On the other hand if you fail to clean her and her enclosure you can expect that she’ll be off feed for the next two months because instinctually she still detects those eggs and could care less about feeding. If you’re wondering how to clean her, it’s very simply just rinsing her off with some mild dish soap will do the job, just be careful not to get any near her head. Same thing goes for tub, some mild dish soap and fresh substrate and she’ll be ready to go.
Heavy Feeding with Larger Meals
The off season is also a great time to start doing some heavy feeding to those other females in your collection that you plan to breed in the upcoming season. During these hot summer months I like to also take advantage of the warmer temperatures by offering my females larger meals. A mature female ball python can easily handle a medium size rat with larger females even taking large size rats. During the breeding season I typically stick to offering small rats because with the temperatures being down it’s much easier for them to digest and process a smaller meal than a lager meal. With that, I do just the opposite in the off season, offer larger meals because with the added heat they don’t have any issues process and digesting the larger meals. These larger meals work wonders for putting on a lot of extra weight on the females in a short period of time. When I’m feeding large meals I’m only offering them a meal once a week, but it’s not uncommon for me to double down on aggressive feeding females as I’ve come to learn than those females that feed super aggressive then to be the best producers come breeding season.
Proven breeder males don’t require very much conditioning; I just try to stay consistent with my meal offering. I never feed males anything larger than a small size rat simply because they don’t need the extra body size and I’ve found that they perform best at a leaner weight. Now preparing young males for breeding is a science and will require another article to cover the topic in detail.
The bottom line is ultimately taking advantage of the window of opportunity for recovering female ball pythons after they produce a viable clutch of eggs. Also, utilizing the warmer off season temperatures by increasing meal size and maintaining a consistent feeding regimen to prepare your female ball pythons for the upcoming breeding season. Sticking to these few simple tips will increase your success at the ultimate goal of maximum production