If you want to start breeding ball pythons there are some things you must consider.
I’ve been breeding ball pythons for 6 years. In this article I’ll go through the top ball python breeding questions and give you the best advice that I’ve learned over the past few years.
Are ball pythons easy to breed?
Ball pythons are fairly easy to breed. It takes a lot of time and patience, but overall you will get eggs that incubate and hatch successfully as long as you follow the right steps. As long as you follow the methods in this article, ball python breeding should be a breeze.
One thing to keep in mind before beginning to breed ball pythons is that you will need equipment that can help with the viability and ease of hatching the ball python eggs.
Although you can find or make equipment at a low cost, you’ll have an easier time breeding ball pythons if you get the products that we mention here
Ball Python Breeding Timeline
It takes ball pythons one year to yield 1 clutch of eggs although some breeders fast track the process and can yield 2 clutches per year.
How many times can a ball python breed a year?
Personally we breed our female ball pythons so they lay only one clutch a year.
However, you can breed a female ball python in a healthy way up to 2 times a year. Anything more than that can be detrimental to any ball python’s life since they won’t have the proper time to recover.
What months do ball pythons breed
In the wild, ball pythons breed during the rainy seasons of Ghana and Togo(their natural location), which is mid-September through mid-November.
Most ball pythons in the wild lay their eggs when it gets dry mid-February to the beginning of April.
After incubation, the eggs will hatch when it’s still rainy and humid in April and June.
Although ball pythons have an annual cycle of breeding and laying, some breeders will artificially mimic the seasons to produce more eggs in a year.
By changing the temperatures of ball pythons enclosures, some ball python breeders have success with their snakes laying 2 clutches per year.
What temperature should I breed ball pythons?
While breeding ball pythons, temperatures are important to maintain. Cooler temperatures tell them it’s time to breed and warmer temperatures afterwards tell the female it’s time to lay.
Following an annual breeding cycle, you should drop enclosure temperatures starting in December through February to a daytime ambient temperature of 82° F( no lower than 75°F at night).
This temperature change will trigger your ball pythons that it is breeding season.
In late February, bump the ambient temperature back to your normal temps of around 86°F-95°F which will trigger the female ball python to start ovulating. Their ovulation period can be anywhere from 6 to 30 days after their last “lock” with a male.
For maximum viability, ball python eggs should be incubated separately from their mother. Many factors can interfere with healthy eggs if the female ball python incubates the eggs itself including the egg rolling, incorrect incubation temperatures, and inability to control humidity.
Eggs need to incubate at a consistent 86°F-91°F with high humidity. We personally keep our incubation temperature at 89°F and have had excellent success.
How old should a ball python be before breeding?
When breeding ball pythons in captivity the snakes need to reach sexual maturity. Male and female ball pythons become sexually mature at different weights and ages.
It’s important to wait for them to reach these requirements so that the ball python remains healthy after breeding season.
|Minimum Age||Ideal Age||Minimum Weight||Ideal Weight|
|Female||18 months||27 months||1000 grams||1200 grams|
|Male||6 months||16 months||500 grams||650 grams|
IMPORTANT NOTE: Female ball pythons need to reach a particular weight before they can breed because it takes a large toll on their bodies. They will often stop eating and lose a significant amount of weight after laying eggs.
If you want to figure out which ball python morphs you want to breed, check out these calculators that calculate what morphs you’ll produce.
Caring for your ball python after she lays eggs
After your female ball python lays its eggs, they will lose a significant amount of weight and want to incubate their eggs.
You’ll find them tightly wrapped around their pile of eggs keeping them from rolling around. If an egg is separated from the rest of the bunch make sure to candle it to keep the embryo at the top of the egg.
Typically, we will soak our ball python in a warm bath after she lays eggs just long enough for us to change out the substrate in her enclosure. This will help get rid of the scent of eggs so it decreases the time she spends searching for them once you put the eggs into an incubator.
Female ball pythons will typically feed again soon after laying eggs. Although you can offer food to the ball python right after she lays eggs, we typically wait until the next feeding day to offer food.
Ball Python Eggs
The most important part of ball python breeding is the incubation process. During this phase of breeding, the eggs are delicate and require specific care to develop properly.
As mentioned before, the female ball pythons are capable of incubating their eggs on their own, but there is a much higher hatch rate for eggs that are artificially incubated.
YouTuber, Brian Barzcyk, who breeds hundreds of ball pythons a year, once allowed one of his ball pythons to self-incubate its eggs only to find that some of the eggs didn’t survive.
Ball pythons can lay unfertilized eggs called slugs which should be removed from the clutch before incubating.
Slugs are easy to spot because instead of the plump, white, fertilized egg, it will look yellowish, small, and misshapen.
Since slugs are unfertilized eggs, they won’t develop nor hatch. These should be disposed as they will rot and could cause issues for the other, fertilized eggs in the clutch.
People will often feed slugs or unfertilized eggs to other reptiles that naturally eat them such as certain lizards or even other snake species.
Prepare an egg box
Ball python eggs are best incubated in an egg box with some type of substrate to hold in moisture.
The type of egg box you use depends on your preference. Some use vermiculite which is a mineral that holds moisture.
Since vermiculite is often used for gardening, make sure it doesn’t have fertilizer when using it for ball python eggs.
Breeders typically mix vermiculite with water, just enough for the vermiculite to clump when squeezed in your hand. Then, place the ball python eggs in the vermiculite mixture to cover just about 1/3 of the ball python egg.
Although vermiculite works well for most breeders, I have taken a different approach to ball python egg boxes.
The method I use is a little more complex, but it helps prevent rotting or mold when incubating the eggs.
The mixture I use to hold moisture is perlite which is a type of volcanic glass, with just enough water to where the perlite doesn’t float.
This mixture isn’t meant for the ball python eggs to lay in directly. If you put the eggs directly onto this mixture, they will probably mold or rot.
Instead, I add a layer of light diffuser which separates the perlite from the eggs so they get the perfect amount of moisture without the risk of rotting.
Cutting ball python eggs
At day 55, it’s common for breeders to cut ball python eggs open for several reasons.
One reason ball python breeders will cut the eggs is so that it’s easier for a ball python to come out of the egg. It doesn’t hinder the development of the egg as long as you wait until day 55 to cut.
Some ball pythons won’t develop their egg tooth which is what they use to pip the egg, so cutting the egg help them along that road.
After Hatch Care
55-60 days after your ball python lays eggs, you should start seeing the snakes pipping. Pipping is when a snake breaks through its egg which will show up as a slit in the egg.
Since ball python eggs are soft and leathery you won’t see a crack but instead a little slit created by the snake’s egg tooth.
Once you see the first pip, it’ll take 1-7 days for the ball python to completely come out of the egg. It’s important to let them do this process on their own since they may still have egg yolk to absorb.
The baby ball pythons won’t all come out of their eggs at the same time, so it’s safe to leave them in the hatching tub together until they hatch out.
Once they all come out of their eggs you can separate them into their own enclosures. From my own experience, I’ve found that keeping them in the hatching tub until their first shed gives them the confidence they need once they venture out on their own.
De Vosjoli, P. (2012). The ball python manual. Fox Chapel Publishing.