You are the proud new owner of a new ball python. The enclosure is perfect; it likes to be held and is comfortable with you.
You know what to feed; you have frozen food in the freezer and the number of a live food supplier saved in your contacts.
However, a snake’s appetite can vary widely at different stages of its life.
In this article, we will tell you how frequently you need to feed your snake, how much to feed, and how to tell if its hungry.
It is important to note that snakes are cold-blooded and have slower metabolisms than other common house pets like dogs and cats.
Therefore, they will not require daily feeding unless under direct recommendation from your vet.
Baby ball python
The average hobby snake owner will not have to worry about baby pythons, while most breeders ensure that pythons are eating consistently and eating well.
Baby pythons may not eat for a couple of weeks because they are still full from their egg; however, offering food is still a good idea.
Once the first couple of weeks has passed, a baby ball python should be fed about every 5 days.
Small python (first year)
A smaller snake will eat smaller meals more frequently than a larger snake eating larger meals.
Small ball pythons will eat every 5-7 days, so you should feed them more often than older and larger pythons.
Due to their smaller appetite, they digest the small feeder quicker and thus need to be fed more often.
Young python (year 2-3)
Generally, a python in its second and third years of life is still growing, but its growth rate has slowed.
They will eat larger feeders but in lower frequency than when they were small and younger.
These snakes should eat about every 10 days.
Adult python (over 3 years old)
After your snake is over 3, its growth rate will decrease, slow and even. These snakes usually require feeding every two weeks or so.
You will want to monitor their weight carefully. If you notice that your snake is losing weight, you will want to feed a little more frequently.
Feed the right size!
If you are feeding too small, your snake may go hungry quicker. The best practice with feeding your ball python is to base the feeder’s size on the snake’s size.
You should feed your snake one feeder animal (usually a mouse or rat) that is the same size as the widest part of your snake’s body.
Another way to decide what to feed is to use a feeder of about 10% of your python’s body weight. For example, if your ball python weighs 150 grams, you could feed a medium mouse that weighs around 13-18 g.
It is always better to offer one feeder of the correct size than to use two smaller feeders that make up the same weight.
Weighing your snake regularly is an excellent habit to integrate into your snake husbandry routine, and a simple kitchen scale will do the trick.
A snake can survive without food for up to 6 months. However, this extreme should never be attempted for your pet snake. Snakes thrive on consistent, predictable feedings.
That said, there are different times in a ball python’s life when it will refuse food, like during the cooler winter months, around shedding time, and during the breeding season. These are perfectly normal.
Some snakes will limit their food intake for a while in the winter. This is nothing to worry about and is perfectly normal.
Not all snakes will do this, but it is fairly common. Simply keep offering your snake food at regular intervals until feeding picks up again.
If you notice that your snake looks thin, refuse to drink water, or act very strangely, check with your local exotic animal veterinarian.
Shed time is always a slightly off time for snakes; they can be a little more irritable and skip a meal or two.
You can tell that your snake is getting ready to shed by watching for milky or blue-looking eyes and dull or cloudy skin, especially on the underside.
Snakes that are shedding will often hide more and try to find rough spots in the terrarium to help ease off their shed.
It is very common for snakes to fast or refuse food during the breeding season, especially if there are both male and female snakes in the same area.
They tend to be focused on other things. So, don’t worry.
Keep offering food and monitoring its weight. Your snake will soon start eating again like normal.
Like other pets, snakes will let you know that they are hungry. However, it is essential to know that because ball pythons, as well as other snakes, have lower metabolisms.
This means they do not need to eat as often as your average house pet, like a dog, cat, bird, or small furry pet.
When a ball python becomes hungry, it will become more active, effectively “hunting” throughout its enclosure. It may climb along the branches or other enrichment pieces in its enclosure.
You may see them stretch out and slither along the bottom of their vivariums. My snake will come completely out of her hide when she wants a mouse.
Other snake owners have seen snakes poking around their enclosure openings, as they remember where and how their food comes to them.
Flicking tongues and heightened awareness
Hungry snakes will often track objects next to their glass walls, and you will see more flicking tongues as they scent and sense their way through their space.
This tongue flicking increases as your snake gets more hungry, all building up to excitement for the incoming food.
She will also be more attentive to voices around her terrarium.
One of the major benefits of snake ownership versus other common household pets is their slow metabolism. Even with young snakes, you will only be feeding your snake every 5-7 days.
This makes getting away, even for a long weekend, extremely simple. However, ensure your ball python stays happy and healthy while you are away.
Tip 1: Adjust feeding schedule
When you know you are going away for the weekend, you can make minor adjustments to your snake’s feeding schedule.
For example, if you normally feed your young, small snake every 5 days, the next feeding would land on a Saturday.
You could offer food a day early or hold your snake off for a couple of days until you return. A day or two of extra wait time will not hurt your snake.
With an older, larger snake, there is even more time between their feedings, so you have more freedom to adjust the days.
Tip 2: Extra water
Make sure that your ball will have access to extra water. This may mean switching its normal water dish for a larger or larger one, or placing a second dish of water in the vivarium.
An extra precaution to help ease your mind is doing a dry run with the water. Track how quickly your snake drinks and how fast the water evaporates.
Then, you will know for sure your snake will always have enough water.
Tip 3: Automate heat and light timings
If your snake vivarium has a heat and UV light that you usually turn on and off by hand, it may be time to invest in a timer.
You can purchase something as simple as a timing device that turns on and off at your predefined hours.
There are also more sophisticated setups that can adjust the heat and light by monitoring the enclosure’s temperature.
Tip 4: A friendly neighbor
If you have taken all of the above precautions and are still worried about spending a few days away from your scaly baby, you can always get in touch with a friend, family member, or neighbor to check in on your ball python.
They can simply check to ensure that the snake has water and that the temperature in the tank is normal.
Owning a snake, like owning any pet, is an adventure. They are unique and easy to take care of. They are friendly (most of the time), and unlike furry pets, they don’t require as much daily care.
As you care for your ball python, you and it will continue to learn more about each other and grow more and more comfortable together.