After your ball python lays eggs, the most important part of hatching them is the incubation process. Since we’ve started breeding ball pythons, we have hatched over 300 ball python eggs successfully using these methods.
Over the years, we’ve improved our incubation process, so here’s our proven method to a perfect ball python incubation.
Why incubate the eggs?
We want all of our eggs to go through its complete stages so that they all have a chance at life.
In the wild, female ball pythons will lay their eggs in a burrow, incubate them, and leave them to venture out on their own once they hatch.
Although ball pythons can incubate the eggs themselves, incubating the ball python eggs separately will ensure their best chance of survival.
Preparing for Incubation
Before your ball python lays her eggs there are a few things we’ll need to prep for these baby noodles to stay warm, healthy, and growing.
- Incubator with thermostat – if you don’t have one, MAKE ONE!
- Storage Tubs with lids (at least 8 inches tall)
- Perlite or Vermiculite
- Egg crates(optional)
- Press n Seal
How to Incubate Ball Python Eggs
Step 1: Prepare the incubator
Ball python eggs need to incubate between 86°F-91°F for 55-60 days.
If you don’t have an incubator it’s simple to make one using this guide.
If you are expecting more than one clutch you can make a bigger incubator out of an old refrigerator like we did.
The incubator should have a thermostat to control the temperature, humidity reader, a fan for circulation, and enough room to store the egg tubs.
To prep the incubator turn on the heat so that the ambient temperature inside the incubator is 86-92°F
Our incubator stays between 89° and 90° with very successful results. You want the temperatures to stay as steady as possible so if or when you open the incubator be sure to make it brief.
A small computer fan in our incubator helps keep the air circulating which prevents molding and hot-spots.
Step 2: Prepare the egg containers
For the best chance at survival we keep the temperature and humidity as consistent as possible. By putting the eggs in a tub and then putting that tub in the incubator you give the eggs the best chance at hatching.
The tubs help give the eggs as much humidity as necessary(typically 100%) promoting growth and incubation.
To keep humidity we us a perlite and water mixture. Some breeders will use a vermiculite and perlite mixture which allows you to put the eggs directly in the mixture, covering about 40% of the eggs.
Place a 3/4-1 inch layer of perlite into the tub. Add water to the tub so that the water is just below the top layer of perlite. Since this mixture is too wet to put the eggs in directly, we separate the eggs from the mixture by adding a piece of light diffuser.
I’ve found if the eggs come in contact with too much water, they will start to mold and possibly rot. The diffuser creates just enough space to separate the eggs from the sitting water.
Ball pythons can lay two types of eggs, fertile and infertile. Fertile eggs will look plump, full, white and have an embryo inside(I will show you how to check later on). These are the eggs you can incubate and hatch.
Infertile eggs are called slugs that look small, yellowish, and will have no embryo. These eggs will not develop into baby noodles, but can make a yummy snack for a willing lizard.
Step 3: Egg Retrieval
Before retrieving the eggs you want to make sure your ball python is done laying. One reason is so that you don’t disturb the process and stress her out.
You’ll know she’s done laying when she is coiled around the eggs and no longer has her tail in the middle. It can take several hours for her to finish.
Now that you have everything set up and your female is done laying you can retrieve the eggs.
It’s ok to be nervous.
Momma python will be too.
Slowly remove the female from the enclosure and put her in a separate enclosure. Remove the eggs and place them in the tub on the egg crate.
It’s normal for the eggs to stick together.
Here’s how to Safely Separate Ball Python Eggs without tearing them.
This happens so that the eggs don’t roll around and “drown.”
Try to separate the good eggs from each other without tearing them and keep them in the same position as how they were stuck. The shells will be soft and slightly delicate, but the eggs can be separated with a gentle tug.
Candle the eggs
Once the eggs are separated you should “candle” them. Candling an egg is the process of shining light through the egg to see the embryo and make sure it is at the top of the egg. This gives the egg the best chance at survival so that the embryo can “breathe.”
Mark the tops of the eggs with a marker so you know which way they need to lay. Place the clutch of eggs in the tub you have set up.
Make sure none of the eggs are touching the sides of the tub and the lid to avoid condensation dripping onto the egg. This is where the straws come in handy. Secure the eggs in the right spot with straws by sticking them through the diffuser making a “frame” or guard.
This step is optional, but I’ve found humidity stays high when I seal the tubs with Press n Seal first then the lid. Be sure the Press n Seal doesn’t touch the tops of the eggs.
Step 4: Place them in the Incubator
Place your tub in the incubator and now it’s just the waiting game. Ball python eggs need to incubate for 55-60 days before they hatch.
Pipping is the term for baby ball pythons cutting the egg open with their egg tooth. You’ll see little slits in the egg shells and that’s the little babies trying to come into the world!
Step 5: Bath for the female
Once you get your eggs marked up and settled in the incubator give momma python a good soak and clean her tub.
She worked hard after all.
A warm soak will get the egg scent off of momma ball python so she won’t stress and keep searching for her eggs. If only there were a way to let her know that we’re taking good care of them. Does anybody speak snake? If so let me know 😅
The egg scent can also be in the tub and substrate she laid in so cleaning that will calm her down from searching for her eggs.
Now you can put momma back in her clean enclosure.
Step 6: Wait…Wait…Wait some more
It’s incubation time.
Now it’s a matter of letting nature take its course and the babies to develop nice and warm in their incubator. The incubation period for a ball python egg is 55-60 days.
During this time they’ll be developing all their little parts… including their egg tooth.
Check regularly to look for any abnormal changes in the eggs.
Egg should stay plump(some dimpling is ok). Discoloration is normal unless it starts to get green and moldy.
The down side about the hot and humid in the incubator is that it’s the perfect environment for mold to grow.
If you see signs of mold there are a few things you can do to stop it from spreading. Anti-fungal foot powder has been an effective way of keeping mold at bay. I sprinkle some foot powder on eggs if I see anything odd going on.
Check for rotting eggs. Sadly, not every egg makes it. If the egg doesn’t develop as it should then it will start deteriorating. Remove any eggs that rot right away to stop any bacteria from spreading.
The last couple of weeks before the eggs hatch the eggs will start to deflate. This is the ball pythons soaking the yolk and all the nutrients before venturing out to the big scary world.
Step 7: Cut the eggs
After the 55-60 days have passed the baby noodles will start pipping. Once I see pipping on one of the eggs in the clutch I will cut the eggs. It’s a big debate whether the eggs should be cut or not, but in my experience it gives all the babies a fighting chance.
One reason I cut is because the baby could be missing their egg tooth and won’t be able to pip.
Another reason a snake won’t pip on their own is because they’re too weak to do it themselves.
As long as the eggs aren’t prematurely cut, the babies will come out on their own and thrive. We have had ZERO complications cutting the eggs.
Some babies will stay in the egg for 5-9 days. Once all yolk is absorbed they will come completely out of the egg. You should never force the snake out of the egg since their yolk might still be attached and it could cause complications.
Step 8: Congrats! You’re a snake parent
Once all snakes are out rinse them off or give a brief soak. This will help with their first shed and get any gunky stuff off.
Keep babies in clutch in the same tub until they all shed. I like to think this helps them build confidence to eat and be on their own.
After first shed the babies are ready to be separated into their own enclosure.
For the best feeding response be sure to feed the right size food. Check here for a detailed chart on what size to offer(link). Food can be offered right away but I get the best feeding response a few days after their first shed.
The rest is history. This part of the process of breeding ball pythons is once the most exciting for me. To get a female to lay eggs is like getting presents on Christmas morning. While the eggs incubate I’m so excited to see the process and count down the days until they’ll be squirming around. The actual incubation period is about 2 months but be sure to prep and set up the best way to prevent any complications. I hope this gives you some value in your ball python hatching adventure. Tag me in any photos you post! I’d love to see your journey.
Can you incubate eggs without an incubator?
Female ball pythons have the instinct to incubate their eggs, but for the best chance of survival of the eggs it’s best to put them in an incubator. Check out online tutorials on how to make one yourself.
Do you have to cut the eggs when they’re ready?
No, its not necessary and you can let them naturally break the egg shell