Slitherin' Sisters

 My Ball Python Won't Eat!

Feeding can be a bit tricky, especially with baby bps. They haven't quite figured everything out and could be stressed from traveling, being at pet store, or being in a tank/tub they don't feel secure in. If your bp isn't eating the problem probably lies with his feeling insecure if everything else is good. Also remember that if your snake is not eating you should not be handling it. Don't even look at it!!! I also have a "things to remember" at the bottom of this page that I suggest reading through.

Take these steps and see if it helps and only offer food once a week to minimize the stress:

First thing is first

Make sure his hide is snug for him, a big hide is a big problem. He should have to ball up or squish himself a little inside of it. They like to feel snug! Log hides are no good for bps, the hide should only have one opening. You also don't want a big enclosure, open space can stress them.

Offer a prey item once a week. If you are feeding frozen thawed (and warmed up!) do the zombie dance with it, if the snake isn't interested leave it in overnight. A few of my snakes won't eat frozen thawed till about 2 in the morning when I put the F/T in at 9pm. If you are feeding live you can leave it in for 10-30 minutes ONLY if it is well watered and fed. If you got it from the pet store I suggest setting up a cage and feeding and watering it yourself before putting it in the tank. Pinkies and hoppers are fine left in the tank/tub for the night because they don't have teeth, if you aren't sure, check for teeth it's pretty simple. 

You can also try putting the bp in a paper sack with a pinky or a hopper overnight (be careful with hoppers because they may be old enough to chew on your snake). 

I've heard of dipping them in chicken broth, I've never had success with it, but I have heard of a couple people having success. 

Fill in the extra space

Add some crumpled newspaper to his tank/tub to help fill in the open spaces. If you're looking for a nicer look you could add fake plants to fill the space, but keep in mind right now the main issue is getting him to eat, not tank aesthetics.

Continue to offer whatever your snake was eating before, ONCE a week. 

After several
feeding attempts

Try a different food item. If you are feeding frozen thawed offer live. If you've done that and it didn't work offer a different rodent than you've been trying (mouse/rat). You will most likely have more luck with live than F/T.

My advice at this point would be to offer live mice once a week. If your ball python is still very small you might be able to find some very small adults, or if you're lucky hopper mice. I suggest mice because they are smelly and move a lot more than rats.

Might need to down size at this point

If these don't work and you still have your snake in a tank you may want to move him to a smaller enclosure. If it's a young/small snake a shoebox size tub is a good option. If your snake has been eating regularly before, 6+ feedings, and you haven't changed his tank around other than the advice I offered earlier you may not want to change it. It's one of those, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

If you move your bp to a tub you will want to use a heat pad to warm 1/3 of the tub. If you use the lid you do not have to put holes in the tub because those tubs are not air tight. You will have to watch and make sure the humidity doesn't get out of control. I also suggest putting a towel over the tub, or taping construction paper to the outside of the tub to help block out the light and make your bp feel more secure.

Continue with a live mouse/hopper once a week from this point.

Don't forget
A recap: you can leave the mouse in for 10-30 minutes at a time as long as the mouse is well fed and watered. You do run the risk of the mouse eating your snake if it is malnourished. If you got the mouse from the pet store, set up a tank or cage for it, and feed and water it before putting it in with your snake. 

Remember to leave your bp alone for a week at a time between each feeding. Like I said before, if your bp isn't eating you shouldn't be handling it. 

Continue to offer live prey items. You can try f/t, but you will probably have more luck with frozen. Remember you can try switching between mice/rats. My snakes will all take live rats or mice without troubles, but I did have luck with my male who stopped eating for 3 months with a live mouse. Also, now that I'm in full swing breeding season, several of my snakes stopped taking frozen thawed but will take live mice with no problems.

Give them some privacy!
You should leave the room during this time and turn off the lights. Some snakes are very shy and will not eat with someone in the room. You can try the paper sack during these weeks with a pinky or hopper again if you wish. Remember that nothing with teeth should be left in for more than 30 minutes.

After 2-3 months

If you have an adult or juvenile (5-6 months or more) give it time! Keep offering once a week. An adult snake can go for an entire year without eating as long as its weight stays in a safe range. The record has been 22 months, at a zoo I believe. I had a juvenile male stop eating on me for 3 months, but eventually with a small live mouse offered he took it with no ill effects. I really wouldn't worry unless your snake is losing weight and looks very weak. 

You don't have a lot of time with young snakes

If you have a baby on the other hand, there can be some ill effects if they have gone too long without eating. I would say a good measure for babies (4 months old or less) is if they haven't eaten in 2-3 months you may want try assist feeding. I suggest this step if all other options are unsuccessful AND your bp has been loosing weight. If they are babies, they have probably lost weight, and may even be noticeably weak. You should only use this as a last resort because it is very stressful for your snake. You must have a thawed pinky and open your snakes mouth and place the pinky inside. The snake should begin to eat the pinky on its own. Feel free to email me and ask any questions. I can help you decide if you should use this step or not. ***It should only be used in extreme cases because it's very stressful for your bp, it can kill them*** 

To open the mouth I use to use a Q-tip with the cotton cut off one side, but now that I have more experience I can open the mouth by squeezing their jaw. If you put it in the mouth sideways and move it back towards the eyes the snake will be forced to open it's mouth. Once you have the mouth open place the pinky as far back as you can. The snake should start to eat the pinky on its own. If it spits it out, you didn't get it in far enough try pushing it farther in. But don't try too many times because it will cause more and more stress. If you haven't got in three tries wait for a few days and try again. If you were successful and your snake is very weak and thin try assist feeding every 4 days until the snake eats on its own. 

(Very extreme cases)
After this step there is one more which is called force feeding, but it's really only for hatchlings that didn't soak up their yoke. This is a process in which you get a tube and pour egg yolk straight into your snakes belly. I'm not experienced with this step therefore I won't be able to help you with this extreme. There is never any reason to force feed an adult ball python. The stress of force feeding call kill your bp.

Things to remember when feeding

***never leave a live food item in with your snake for more than 30 minutes. A pinky, fuzzy, or hopper are ok left with your snake overnight, but you'll want to check the hopper for teeth to be safe. A rodent that is eating on its own should never be left with the snake for more than 30 minutes because they could literally start eating your snake for protein. 

***you can leave a live mouse/rat in for 10-30 minutes as long as they were fed and watered sufficiently before they were put in the tank with your snake. 

***when feeding frozen thawed food I suggest warming them up in warm water or on a heat pad. Do NOT put them in the microwave! From what I've heard you will have rodent innards all over your microwave.

***feed prey items that are slightly thicker than the thickest part of your snake.

***it is recommended to feed every 3 days at most if your snake needs to put on some weight. If your snake gets to the point that you can see white between the scales you've gone too far. To fix that problem, feed smaller food items every week, or feed every two weeks for a while. 

***breeding season*** can affect eating habits. The breeding season is roughly between October and March. Some snakes stop eating during this time, but for the most part they should eat. I really think some people keep their temps too low during the winter and that's the reason why the snake doesn't eat. Nearly all of my snakes eat throughout the winter, there are only a few that will skip meals, but that's pretty typical of them.


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