As simple as many breeding recipes seem, getting your ball pythons to actually “lock up” can sometimes be tricky. In my experience, the vast majority of the time, properly cycled animals with good body weight will generally copulate when introduced. Although, it is usually the one big project that you are really excited about that always seems to be a dud when it comes to catching the animals in the act.
The following list is some of the things that I have done over the years in order to get males and females to breed. This list is my no means comprehensive, but it is a good place to start. When attempting to get these animals to breed you should never just throw your hands up and quit. Be creative, think about your situation as a problem that needs to be solved. Call around and talk to other breeders and see what advice they have. You should always keep trying whatever you can until you get those eggs!!
One of the first tips that I ever received was that fat males make lazy breeders. I absolutely believe this to be true! In the late summer and early fall when I normally put my adult females on a heavier feeding schedule, I lighten the feeding schedule of my breeder males. You don’t want them to be thin, but if they are pudgy or “fat”, there is a chance that they will not breed with the enthusiasm that you’d like. I like to make sure my males have an “athletic” look to them going into the breeding season.
You will frequently hear breeders talk about male combat to stimulate males to breed. This is a trick that I have used with some success as well. Placing a male that seems to be a little lazy in an enclosure with one of your “strong” breeder males for a couple of hours usually gives the sluggish guy the hint.
While I am normally very meticulous about keeping changes clean, during breeding season I try and be a little more realistic. It seems that constantly cleaning a females cage and disturbing her makes her less interested in locking up with males. I certainly keep the substrate dry and free of urine and feces, but leaving old sheds in the cage and laying off the cleaning solutions helps my females to stay focused on breeding.
A tip that I picked up from talking with different people is to try feeding a female and then putting the male in with her one or two days later. This has worked for me many time. It seems to me that males seem more interested in females that have just taken a meal. It could be just a coincidence, but I’ll try anything to get those pairs locked up!
Using damp sheds from males and females can sometimes spur reluctant breeders into action. If you have animals that are breeding well, save their sheds! I like to mist the sheds slightly so that they are a little “stinky” and put them into a cage with a pair that isn’t doing much breeding wise. I’ll try male sheds and female sheds and usually see good results with this method.
Swap the bedding from a female that is breeding with a female that isn’t. This one is a lot like the shed trick above, but again, do what you have to do in order to get those pairs locked up! I like to think that the smell of “snake sex” from the bedding of the female that was breeding gets the reluctant breeder to wake up and “smell” the roses.
That’s all I have for right now. As I think of and learn new tricks I will definitely add them here.