In the wild, Ball Pythons feed on common pests, including live birds, mice, and rats. When a Ball Python is a pet, their diet primarily consists of rodents, but they will eat either pre-killed or live prey.
Whether you are an experienced snake owner or this is your first time owning one, a feeding chart can help you keep your pet healthy. In this article, we tell you everything that you need to know about feeding your Ball Python.
What to Feed a Ball Python
Like other snakes, Ball Pythons are carnivores that prefer to hunt and eat small birds and mammals. Since these snakes are native to West and Central Africa, they most often eat black rats, giant rats, grass mice, rufous-nosed Rats, and weaver birds in the wild. Unlike SOME other snakes, Ball Pythons do not eat amphibians, chicken eggs, fish, or other types of reptiles.
As pets, Ball Pythons will still eat rodents and birds. However, the types that they are most exposed to in the wild are hard to come by in other areas of the world. Therefore, pet Ball Pythons mostly eat mice, rats, and chicks.
Ball Python Feeding Schedule
One thing that is important to know about Ball Pythons is that they are ambush hunters. This means they will wait for their prey and attack whenever one passes. You might be wondering why this matters if you have a pet Ball Python.
This ambush style of hunting means these snakes have a very slow metabolism. They can go for long periods of time without eating. As a snake owner, you will have to know how frequently to feed your pet. Unlike with other common pets, you do not feed your Ball Python every day.
How frequently you do feed your Ball Python depends on their age. Here is a helpful feeding schedule based on the snake’s age, general weight, and size of the food:
|Age||Weight||Quantity of Food||Frequency|
|Hatchling||50–100 grams||Very small mouse or rat (like a pinky rat)||Once every 5 days|
|3 months||120–200 grams||Small mouse or rat||Once a week|
|6 months||300–370 grams||Adult mouse or baby rat||Once every 7 to 10 days|
|1 year||500–900 grams||1 to 3 mice OR 1 small rat||Once every 10 to 14 days|
|1 ½ years||700–1,500 grams||3 to 5 mice and 1 medium-sized rat OR 2 small rats||Once every 10 to 14 days|
|3 years||1,200–1,800 grams||4 to 5 mice and 1 medium-sized rat OR 2 small rats||Once every 14 to 21 days|
|5+ years||1,800–2,300 grams||4 to 5 mice and 1 medium-sized rat OR 2 small rats||Once every 21 to 50 days|
How to Feed Ball Pythons
If you have a Ball Python, you have two feeding methods to choose from: live prey or pre-killed prey. On the one hand, live prey creates a more similar hunting experience for the snake and may be less gross for you to watch, but live prey can also injure your snake during the hunt.
On the other hand, pre-killed prey is frozen and needs to be thawed out, which can be a bit difficult to stomach. Additionally, Ball Pythons that have already been fed live prey may take a bit more time to adjust to the pre-killed option. Still, Ball Pythons will eventually eat the pre-killed food.
No matter which option you select, it’s best to feed your Ball Python at night. Since these snakes are nocturnal, that is when they are more prone to eating. Now, let’s look at how to feed a Ball Python based on each feeding method.
How to Feed a Snake Live Prey
Whenever you feed your snake live prey, make sure it is the proper size for your snake. The animal should not be larger than the snake’s widest point. Additionally, ensure that the prey does not have any signs of injuries or parasites.
Using tongs, gently lift the prey up by the tail, and begin to put it in the python’s enclosure. Do not place the prey on the enclosure’s floor because it will fight back, potentially harming your snake in the process. Instead, use the tongs to dangle it above your snake so that it can strike.
How to Feed a Snake Frozen Prey
Feeding a Ball Python frozen prey takes a bit more prep work, but it is pretty simple. You will need to defrost the prey inside your refrigerator before feeding. This will typically take about 5 hours for a rat or 2 hours for a mouse. Do not dethaw the prey in the microwave because it may not heat properly or it can explode.
After the prey is thawed, put it inside a plastic bag, and place it in warm water. Let it heat up to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it has reached the proper temperature, dry it off, and use tongs to lift up the prey by its tail.
Since this animal is already dead, it won’t fight back, meaning you can place it on the floor of your snake’s enclosure. Remove the animal if your snake has not eaten it within 12 hours.
Tips for Feeding Your Ball Python
Although feeding a Ball Python is relatively straightforward, there are some tips you may want to keep in mind. These can make the process easier and ensure that your snake is healthy.
- Related read: 9 Snakes That Don’t Eat Mice & Other Rodents
Feed the Snake in a Different Enclosure
If you feed your Ball Python inside their regular enclosure, they may begin to associate you opening the cage with being fed. As a result, the snake may strike when you open the enclosure or try to escape.
To keep this from happening, we recommend feeding the snake in a different enclosure. This can be a plastic bin or some other secure and separate tank. Feeding the snake in a different enclosure means they will not associate you opening their regular enclosure with being fed.
Do Not Hold the Snake for 72 Hours After Feeding
Although it may be tempting to hold your snake as soon as they are done feeding, fight this urge for at least 72 hours. Since reptiles have such a slow metabolism, it can be stressful for them to be held after eating. Waiting 72 hours to hold your snake means they won’t become stressed or regurgitate their food.
Don’t Worry About Vitamins
Unlike other animals, Ball Pythons do not need vitamins or supplements if they are given the right environment and food. Focus your attention on those things instead of finding a good supplement for your snake.
Since Ball Pythons have such low metabolisms, you only need to feed them at specific times. Familiarize yourself with the feeding chart to know how much and how often you should feed your snake. You can select live or frozen mice, rats, or chicks for food. Being diligent in providing your snake with the proper diet can help them stay healthier for longer.
Featured Image Credit by: Lamnoi Manas, Shutterstock