It’s common for snake keepers to find themselves curious about breeding ball pythons and even considering trying it themselves. Breeding these snakes is not as simple as it may seem; it involves knowledge of their genetics, behavior, environmental needs, and more.
It’s important to note that breeding is often best left to the experts, as there are plenty of ball python breeders out there and no shortage of these snakes available in the pet trade. If you do plan on breeding though, you are going to need to understand all aspects of the process, including the best age to breed both females and males. Male ball pythons reach sexual maturity between 16 and 18 months of age, while females take about 27 to 31 months, and can successfully reproduce for most of their lives once they’ve reached sexual maturity
When to Breed Ball Pythons
Breeding snakes that are too young or underweight can be harmful to their health. The entire reproductive process requires a lot of energy from both the male and female, but the female especially. She can lose a significant percentage of her body mass through gestation and egg-laying.
But both males and females can successfully reproduce for most of their lives once they’ve reached sexual maturity. Both parents should have a clean bill of health and a good feeding response before they are considered for breeding.
Female ball pythons will reach sexual maturity sometime between 27 and 31 months of age. In addition to waiting until she’s fully mature, it is highly recommended that she weigh at least 1500 grams before there are any breeding attempts.
Egg development depends greatly on the snake’s fat reserves, so larger ball pythons often produce the healthiest eggs and are much less likely to suffer from health problems related to breeding.
Male ball pythons reach sexual maturity much sooner than females, between 16 and 18 months. The males are usually smaller than females once they reach full maturity, so they can safely be bred around the 700-gram mark.
Ball Python Mating Behavior
In the wild, the breeding season for ball pythons falls in line with the minor rainy season from September through mid-November, so that they can lay during the major rainy season that occurs from April to June.
This timing is very important in the wild because the rainy season is an ideal time to incubate the eggs and prey will be abundant towards the end of the season after they hatch, allowing for both the mother and babies to feed.
Things work a little differently in captivity since there is no minor or major rainy season, but keepers must provide their ball pythons with ideal temperature and humidity levels to encourage breeding, and they can sometimes be bred all year round.
Encouraging Captive Breeding
Before placing a male and female together, it’s best to replicate the conditions of their wild breeding season to allow their natural instincts to kick in. This is called cycling and it involves dropping the cold side of the enclosure to 72 to 75°F (22.2-24°C)and the warm side to 82 to 85°F(27.8-29.4°C). Lighting can be set to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, though 10 hours of daylight and 14 hours of darkness is also acceptable.
After about 4 weeks of cycling, the male can be introduced to the female and can stay in her enclosure until she ovulates. If need be, they can be separated and fed during the process. When the female is ready, she will allow him to touch her with his spurs, which will stimulate receptiveness and eventually lead to locking, if the breeder is lucky.
Things to Know Before You Start Breeding Ball Pythons
You Can Easily Buy from a Reputable Breeder
If you love ball pythons and are interested in breeding because you’d like to have more snakes, you can easily do so by contacting a reputable breeder that already has the knowledge and experience with breeding these animals.
Ball pythons may not be the most difficult reptile to breed in captivity, but it takes education and experience with the species, and may still even be difficult to achieve. If you don’t plan on becoming a breeder yourself, there are plenty out there that will have what you are looking for.
It’s a Saturated Market
Ball pythons are incredible snakes. Not only are they naturally beautiful, but they are generally docile, easy to handle, and reach a reasonable size without being too big. They also come in so many color and pattern morphs that pique everyone’s interest. All of these unique qualities of the ball python have led many keepers to start breeding.
The truth is, the ball python market is quite saturated at this time. If you show up to a local reptile show, the large majority of available snakes will be ball pythons being sold by various breeders. If you plan on breeding, you must be committed to the health and welfare of your snakes and gain all the knowledge you need to be successful.
The Importance of Proper Pairings
Ball pythons come in a wide variety of morphs. These various colors and patterns are achieved through selective breeding and require a knowledge of their genetics. New combinations are being put together all the time to create even more variations.
Incorrect pairings with certain genetics can result in hatchlings with a variety of inherited health conditions including neurological disorders, deformities, fertility problems, and more. This can drastically reduce the snake’s quality of life and can even be fatal.
If you don’t know your stuff, don’t even attempt breeding. If it’s something you are passionate about, take the time to learn the ins and outs before you put anything into action.
Ball Pythons Can Lay Up to 15 Eggs or More
Clutch sizes for a ball python can vary significantly. On average, there are typically about 6 or 7 viable eggs that will successfully hatch but clutch size can vary from 1 to 15 or so. This is something to keep in mind for those that want to breed.
You will have to be prepared to ensure the female has everything she needs through her gestation period and then be able to care for all the hatchlings once they’ve arrived. This also means that you will be responsible for finding homes that are prepared to take on the responsibility of owning a new snake and caring for it properly throughout its life.
These Snakes Can Live Up to 30 Years or More
Ball pythons may be fairly easy to care for once you have all their needs set up, but this is a very long-term commitment. These snakes have been known to survive up to 30 years or longer in captivity when provided proper care and husbandry. Bringing new snakes into the world means you need to be prepared to care for them for this amount of time or find someone else that can.
Male ball pythons reach sexual maturity between 16 and 18 months of age, much sooner than females which take about 27 to 31 months. These snakes should not be bred until they have reached full maturity, are completely healthy, have a great feeding response, and are at a proper weight (700 grams for males, 1500 grams for females).
Breeding ball pythons requires knowledge of not only their natural mating behaviors and environmental conditions but also their genetics. It’s best to leave breeding to the experienced, reputable breeders out there since there is currently no shortage of ball pythons or ball pythons breeders out there. If you must breed though, keep the health and welfare of your animals as your top priority.
Featured Image Credit: Agus_Gatam, Shutterstock