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How Many Eggs Does a Snake Lay & How Many Survive?
Around 70% of snakes reproduce and give birth with eggs. Snakes typically lay as many eggs as possible to increase the chances of at least some of the offspring living after birth. As a result, snakes typically lay anywhere from 3 to 100 eggs, though the exact number differs based on species.
It’s impossible to say how many eggs survive because a number of factors affect survivability. For example, temperature, soil dampness, and predators all cause eggs or hatchlings to die. In captivity, only about 5% of hatchlings die, though it is estimated that wild snakes die much more frequently.
To learn more about snake eggs and their reproduction methods, read on. This article looks at how snakes mate, their birthing process, and egg statistics.
How Do Snakes Mate?
The mating process for snakes depends on the snake species and where they are located. Typically, snakes found in colder environments mate during late spring or early summer, which often occurs after the snakes go through brumation. Comparatively, snakes found in warmer environments can mate any time of year.
Regardless of when the snakes mate, nearly all snake behavior changes during the mating season. Most importantly, males tend to get very competitive and aggressive with one another. Especially when a female is around, males will fight for her attention. Ultimately, it is up to the female’s discretion to choose which male she mates with.
It is impossible to prevent males from fighting during the mating season, even in captivity. That is why you should not keep males together if you want to breed snakes.
Most of the time, the male snake will leave the female right after mating is finished. However, some males try to stick around, in which case the females become very aggressive. It is for this reason that breeders separate the males and females as soon as the mating has finished.
Assuming that the mating took, females will try to find an area or burrow to place the eggs in. She will specifically try to find an area that is warm and just a tad damp. Once the eggs are laid inside the burrow, most females will leave them entirely. However, a few female snakes will linger around in order to protect the eggs from any lurking predators.
Once the snakes are ready to come out of the eggs, they will use their teeth in order to break their way out. At this point, the young hatchlings will fight for themselves, and the mothers will no longer protect them, if they ever did. The process will start over again next mating season.
How Do Snakes Give Birth?
The majority of snakes are considered oviparous, which means that they lay eggs for reproduction. In fact, nearly 70% of snakes fall under this category. Some snakes that lay eggs include the Corn Snake, King Snake, Ball Python, Milk Snake, and Boa Constrictor.
Technically, some reptiles can be viviparous, meaning that they do not lay eggs. A few snakes fall under this category and have to take care of their young with the yolk sack and placenta, much like mammals care for their young. It is very rare to find snakes that give birth in this way, but it is possible.
There is another way that some snakes can give birth. Simply put, this third form of birthing involves the eggs developing and hatching inside the snake. This form is called ovoviviparous. It differs from oviparous snakes in that the eggs never actually leave the snake’s body, only the hatchlings.
How Many Eggs Do Snakes Lay at a Time?
How many eggs a snake lays at a time depends on its species. Some snakes can lay as many as 100 eggs at a time in one large clutch. In comparison, other snakes may lay small clutch is that only include 25 eggs or less. Here is a look at how many eggs some of the most popular snakes lay:
How Many Snake Eggs Survive?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how many eggs will survive after hatching. In some cases, no eggs will survive. This occurs if a predator finds the nest, or the mother does not provide a warm enough environment for the eggs.
In captivity, most of the snake eggs survive since there are no predators and they are more carefully monitored by the breeder. Of course, a few eggs may never hatch if the snake is unable to break through the shell. Similarly, some captive hatchlings may die soon after leaving the egg.
According to one study, around 38% of wild eggs that were moved from their original position died after hatching. In comparison, only about 5% of eggs that were left alone died. In laboratory conditions, only about 5% of hatchlings died.
Is it easy to breed snakes?
Unfortunately, snakes are considered pretty difficult to breed. Certain breeds are especially more difficult than others. For example, Corn Snakes are difficult to breed, whereas Boa Constrictors tend to be a bit easier. It often requires an expert to successfully breed snakes repeatedly.
How do you care for snake eggs?
The most important part of caring for snake eggs is to create the correct temperature, which should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can monitor this temperature with an incubator, but you can try burying the eggs partially beneath mud and mulch. The mud and mulch method is a bit more difficult since the dampness can lead to egg rot.
In summary, most snakes lay eggs, but not all. The exact number of eggs laid will depend on the snake species, though most pet snakes lay between 3 and 20 eggs. As for the survivability rates, it is currently impossible to predict which hatchlings will make it and which will not. In captivity, though, hatchling survival rates are very impressive, so long as you can get the snakes to mate in the first place.
Featured Image Credit: Aree, Shutterstock
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.