Breeding Ball Pythons the Natural Way…

Posted: April 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

So I know it is late in the season to post this, especially considering I wrote it in November of last year, but I figured I would go ahead and post it anyway. I still have pairs breeding so it is not too late for this season.

For nearly a decade, I have successfully bred ball pythons and in the process have hatched out literally hundreds of babies. Throughout that time period, I have found certain techniques that work well. This has enabled me to reliably breed and hatch animals every year. At times I have had over 250 ball pythons, plus other snakes, in my collection. This coming breeding season looks to be the best one yet and I recently decided to share the breeding process that I have used in the past, detailing it from the start of breeding season to babies hatching. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I never do things the conventional way and this report will illustrate how one can have great success while doing things that go against the industry standard.

Breeding ball pythons has proven to be a very exciting hobby. From feeding, breeding and hatching, there is never a dull moment. This research in this report will cover: housing, breeding, &  hatching. Essentially, I am wanting this report to explain the basics of how to successfully breed ball pythons. This is being geared towards a first time breeder but some of my advice would be beneficial for more seasoned breeders.


By now you probably already have breeding plans for your ball pythons, but before we get to that, you have to first have the proper caging that you can successfully breed them in.

When housing a large group of ball pythons, it is best to use rack systems of some sort. I have used all kinds, but prefer to use home made ones for my animals. They are more versatile and can be custom made to meet your specifications. In addition to that, they do not cost an arm and leg to make. You can literally spend thousands of dollars on racks and not even house your entire collection. Just think what you can do with all that money: buy more snakes! My snake room is floor to ceiling with racks of all shapes and sizes, many of which I made from painted plywood. I use opaque plastic cat litter boxes for many of my racks.

The snakes do better in this type of enclosure since they prefer small tight spaces. In the wild ball pythons would live under the ground, so using these types of boxes is similar to their natural habitats. For the adults I use cypress mulch as bedding and provide one water bowl per cage. Unlike most breeders, I do not use any heat tape or individual heat elements. I heat the room. During the day the building will get up to 92 degrees and at night night will drop to the lower 80s. It stays this way year round and I have never had a problem doing this. Since ball pythons are from Africa, they need to be kept warm. There is some wiggle room, but I would not recommend letting the temperatures get below 70 degrees for a long period of time. Should that happen, the snakes will get sick and could possibly die. One of my greatest fears is that the power will go out in the winter time. To solve that I recently invested in a portable generator. The generator is powerful enough to run a space heater in the snake room until the power problem is rectified. Knowing I have a generator allows me to worry a little less than I normally would in the winter time.



For most ball python enthusiasts, the breeding season is the most exciting time. After all, who does not like sex? You get to decide what animals you will pair and imagine what their future offspring will look like. A lot of cool “what ifs” are pondered. What if I hatch all ivories or an albino pied? What if I hit the odds of something spectacular?

The above pairing is an Ivory male to a female yellowbelly or het Ivory female. Next year will hopefully be the first year that I hatch out ivories. Most breeders do not start breeding their balls until November. I have found that starting earlier does not hurt. The above pair started breeding on September 1, 2013. That is an early start for the 2013/2014 breeding season, but I believe the female will have a viable clutch of eggs. When breeding ball pythons, size does matter but not as much as some breeders will tell you it does. Most breeders say not to breed a female that is below 1,500 grams. I have never believed that. I have disproved that theory many times. A lot of my original animals were African imports and several them have never broken 1,000 grams. I am not sure it this is a locale thing or some sort of a genetic thing, but they eat voraciously; they just do not get any larger. I had a female ball python that at 966 grams had 5 perfect eggs this past year.

This particular female was acquired as an import baby in 2006. She is 7 years old, eats  great but is completely full grown. I have found that female ball pythons will not produce eggs if they are not physically mature enough. Every animal is different. Another misconception is that smaller females who do not eat well should not be bred. I disagree. On many occasions I have placed a smaller female with a male, let them breed for a few days, and then separated them for feeding to find the stubborn eater is now a feeding monster. As I have told many clients, female balls want to have eggs. It is literally in their DNA. They will do whatever it takes to produce healthy eggs. We as humans like to control things, but sometimes it is best to let mother nature do her job. We need to take a step back. If an 800 gram female cannot produce eggs, she will eat well and gain weight fast so she can produce a viable clutch of eggs.

If you are doubting what I am saying, just give it a try and see for yourself. It is quite amazing what these animals are capable of if we just let nature run it course. I am a firm believer that these animals are more than capable to do as they were designed to do. We have to remember that ball pythons have been breeding and hatching eggs for millions of years.

Allowing the snakes to do what they do naturally is a good thing that more breeders need to realize. In the wild ball pythons will breed without being separated. Many breeders will tell you to separate the animals every 3 or 4 days during the breeding cycle. I do not do that. I allow the males to breed for one week at a time and then feed them. After a few days I place the male with a different female and start the process over again. The pairing above follows that breeding schedule and is doing quite well.

Egg Incubation:

What type of incubator do I use? Take a wild guess… you can actually see the “incubator” below wrapped around a clutch of eggs!

This is the part breeders live for. Raising a female, breeding her, and then getting eggs is a very rewarding experience. For many years, I used artificial incubation to hatch my eggs. This means that I took the eggs from the female and put them in an incubator and let them “cook” at 89 degrees for 55 to 60 days. This past year was different. I decided to let all my females naturally incubate their eggs. I had great success with this method. The eggs did take much longer to hatch. In some cases almost 2 and a half months, but I found there to be more benefits to doing this than the artificial method. For one, females do in fact eat during this time and will actually gain their pre-breeding weight back more quickly than if you take their eggs from them. The females will leave the eggs, eat their rodent and then return to their eggs. Maternal incubation also means you do not have to worry about the incubator getting too hot. The female will keep the eggs at the correct temperature.

Once the clutch of eggs starts to pip, I remove them from the female and place them in their own 6qt sterilite container. I let the rest of the babies pip and remove the egg shells as they leave the eggs. I normally leave the entire clutch together until they have their first shed. Then I separate them and feed them. For first meals, I always offers small fuzzy mice. The mice more around a lot more than rat pups do and the baby balls will be more likely to grab a live mouse than a live rat.

For housing, I always place the baby balls in their own 6 qt sterilite container. I use mulch just as I do with the adults. Baby balls dehydrate quickly and it is best to have them in enclosures that retain humidity well. I will stack these tubs 3 high on my shelves in the snake building. I have had great success housing my hatchlings this way. I provide a water bowl as well as some sort of hide box for the babies. I normally use a piece of newspaper that is folded in half as a hide. It works well and can be replaced easily. The picture below is an example of how I housed some of my 2013 babies. I hatched out and housed close to 150 baby balls this year using the method that I described above. The 6qt containers are readily available at Walmart and cost less than a dollar a piece.

You can not beat that! The only down side is the cashier is sure to think you are crazy when you bring up a dozen or more these to checkout! I have housed baby balls this way for about 6 months, then I move them an appropriate sized rack. I do not heat their tub. I keep them the exact same way I keep the adults with no problems. Baby ball pythons are really cool to have around. It is one of the most exciting things to see a baby ball pipping out of the egg. I do not cut my eggs any more and I would recommend that you do not cut them either. More harm than good can come from doing this. You can end up killing that prized baby ball. We weight 365 days from the start of breeding to hatching in some cases. Waiting an extra day or two for them to pip naturally will not hurt anything. It could be the difference between having a cool baby or a dead one.



There are many ways to successfully breed ball pythons and I am hoping to have provided a glimpse of an alternative method to doing that. As an aspiring breeder yourself, you can change the methods to fit your circumstances or preferences. Just remember that the snakes have been breeding without your help for thousands of years. Sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to breeding balls. The majority of the time just leaving them together for an extended period of time will ensure a successful lock even if you do not see it. For all we know, they may be shy in their breeding habits.

  1. […] don’t feel anything, doesn’t mean they are not there. They are there. As I write this, I still have 2 pairs locked up. My Spider het albino and albino as well as my Pastave and Mojave het albino are still breeding. […]

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