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Just Acquired My First Ball Python

Posted by Michelle at 12/24/2016 1:22:42 AM

I have always thought snakes were neat; as a kid, I would pick them up without thinking.  Thankfully, I was only bitten once, and I'm pretty sure that none of the snakes I just happened to grab were venomous. 

A couple of weeks back, I acquired a Ball python from a good friend.  I knew nothing about Ball pythons, but I had handled this little guy once and thought he was, well...nothing short of awesome.  When I brought him home, I knew I would have to do a lot of learning, and quickly at that.  I was willing to put the time in, so I just went for it, even though I would be the first person to say that such a situation is hardly the ideal way to go about getting a pet.  

I named my little guy, Juju, after the snake in the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog.  His former keeper told me that Juju was about six-months old.  I did not handle him for a week after I got him, and then fed him a live rat pup.  He ate just fine, and I waited two more days to handle him.  He is as sweet as can be but has had a hard time with his last shed, which was just ending when he came to live with me.  I am amazed by his friendly personality, despite his shedding difficulty.  

I bought a short book on Ball pythons, and I'm about halfway through. I have changed out Aspen for Eco Earth coconut fiber substrate, added a cool mist vaporizer to the room, and was able to boost the humidity from a paltry 35% to 50%.  I have ordered an ultrasonic warm mist humidifier, which I hope will raise the humidity another 10%.  

Juju also needs a new enclosure, as he is in a tall tank, with not much floor space.  Right now, I am unable to create both a warm and a cool spot for him.  He has only got a red light for heat, and I have just discovered that this is hardly ideal.  I plan to add some belly heat for him this week.  

I was a bit nervous last night, as he would not eat the second rat pup that I had purchased for him.  This morning, his meal was covered in substrate, so I took the poor thing out and rinsed it off.  I put Juju in a plastic feeding tub with some warm water and a folded hand towel.  He seemed much more energetic after his half-hour soak (maybe spa-like for a snake).  I dried out the tub, added the rat pup and put Juju back inside.  About two hours later, I checked on him.  I was scared to death to see him lying on his side at a rather awkward angle.  I thought he might be dead.  But he was rolled around the rat pup, and I could see his obvious breathing.  About ten minutes later, I walked back in the room with my iPhone and captured him eating his meal, quite by accident.  I uploaded the video to YouTube, but I'm not sure if there is a way to share it here.  I know many people recommend against live-feeding, but that's what he was started on, so I intend to stick with it.  

Of course, now I am hooked on these creatures called Ball Pythons, and snakes in general.  I can't wait to get more.  

 Comments: View Oldest First  

Rebecca ,
Posted At: 12/24/2016 4:27:22 AM  

Congratulations on your new pet!  Great that you found iHerp, too! 

Even with Juju started on live, you don't need to keep feeding him live.  It is fairly easy to transition live feeders to frozen-thawed (F/T) prey.  Over time, F/T is not only less direct risk to your snake, it is also much cheaper and more convenient for you.

For the shedding issue you mentioned, the cage you described combined with the red heat light may be the main causes.  In the short term, a 30+ minute soak in some luke-warm water will resolve a bad shed.  In the long term, it is important to have the floor space that allows you to be able to create a temperature gradient, preferably with hides at the warm end and cool end.

When you use belly heat, or an "under-tank-heater" (UTH), it is essential that you find and use a thermostat, and check the surface temperatures in the cage often.  There are tons of thermostats available, and plenty of sources you could buy one from, but here is a link for thermostats on Amazon.  For checking surface temperatures in the cage, I am a big fan of infra-red temperature sensing guns (or just "temp guns"); they're quick, easy to use, and very convenient.  Here is a link for temperature guns on Amazon.

I hope this is helpful.  Best of luck to you & Juju!

George H. Wessel VII,
Posted At: 12/24/2016 10:42:33 AM  

Everything Rebecca said. Congrats on the new critter!

Sonja ,
Posted At: 12/24/2016 10:43:57 AM  

I totally agree with Rebecca on switching to frozen/thawed.

If you are going to continue to feed live, you can not just walk away and come back the next day.  A rat can and will tear up your snake if the snake doesn't eat it.

Michelle ,
Posted At: 12/26/2016 2:29:01 PM  

Thank you to all of you for the advice. I have done more reading and see that the rats can injure the snake. I will look into frozen food. I am concerned that my snake won't enjoy his meal as much if he is not fed live food. Thanks too for the advice about Juju's cage. Yes, I can see that floor space is an issue. I will check out the link on Amazon. I did already buy a temperature gun and it is on the way. I am excited about it. 

Rebecca ,
Posted At: 12/26/2016 4:52:40 PM  


When feeding F/T, you need to have forceps, if you don't have them already. Most snakes will still "kill" F/T prey, and seem to enjoy it quite well.  

Michelle ,
Posted At: 1/15/2017 10:34:26 AM  

I do have forceps. For now, I have just been putting the food in a feeding box and then adding the snake to the box so he can eat. :) 

George H. Wessel VII,
Posted At: 1/15/2017 10:51:50 AM  

Can I ask why you are feeding in a seperate container? 

Michelle ,
Posted At: 1/17/2017 1:10:09 PM  

George, there are two reasons I feed in a separate container. One, so that the prey does not get covered in the substrate, which might be ingested by the animal, and two so that the snake does not learn to associate my hand going into the enclosure with food. I read a book about ball pythons, and it suggested that feeding should be done in a separate tank or tub. It sounded like good advice to me, so I took it. I gather not too many people do that?

George H. Wessel VII,
Posted At: 1/17/2017 5:32:52 PM  

Rebecca ,
Posted At: 1/17/2017 8:51:21 PM  

I am really surprised I wasn't on that post, G

More posts I am surprised I wasn't on:

Rebecca ,
Posted At: 1/17/2017 9:00:19 PM  

My 100% honest 2¢ on this topic is that for most snakes and set ups, it is not necessary to feed outside of the enclosure. 

More than anything, I am bothered by the fact that this is a contentious issue, because there are much easier ways to address feeeding aggression (or cage aggression) when it exists, and also because there are some rather limited situations that could make the use of a feeding bin a good thing.  Some shy animals benefit from the use of a feeding bin.  Most snakes do not need it.  There is even the argument that the use of a feeding contsiner could introduce feeding problems where they didn't exist.  The point to me, is that it isn't worth the argument that exists on this topic on the internet (I think we're all doing quite nicely here).

Feel free to use a feeding bin if it works for you.  If the use of a feeding bin seems to cause issues, try feeding in the cage.  Otherwise, if your snake is eating, and healthy, and safe, you're good.

Michelle ,
Posted At: 1/18/2017 1:46:52 PM  

Well, I am not dedicated to one method over the other. I am just a beginner and learning so if I see something that makes sense, then I try it. I surely see how impractical it can be if you have many snakes. That post did not cover the substrate issue, though, which to me is more of a concern. When I first got him, I did feed him in his tank and instantly saw the problem with substrate being stuck to his food. I do notice the strong feeding response, so I tip his tub over on its side when he is done eating and let him crawl onto my hand before I put him back in his tank. I do, of course, open his tank for spot cleaning and changing his water, so he is surely used to my hands being in there by now. I don't put the snake in first, though. I put the mouse in first. I use hand sanitizer three times before I attempt to pick him up. I smell like alcohol and not mouse when I pick him up. So far I have not had an issue with it, though that is not to say that at some point I won't. I appreciate everyone's two cents worth - thank you!

Dean Taylor,
Posted At: 1/18/2017 6:03:58 PM  
I read the links, great. Conclusions from the discussions are quite clear and obvious. Lot of paranoia out there about impaction and associating opening the cage with feeding time. I feed in enclosure with forceps and never handle for a few days after. For my part, I think hygiene, regurgitation, residual feeding mode are far bigger concerns with feeding boxes. My 10 yr old BP is so shy, would never eat if I handled her first. It's that time of year and hasn't eaten for 102 days anyway, but I am not worried. Hats off to the big guys and their goat feeding techniques, that's love!

Michelle ,
Posted At: 1/18/2017 6:18:49 PM  

Dean, it amazes me how different our pets can be! My ball is so curious. He can't seem to get enough of me handling him. He wants to see and smell everything and crawls into my hand so he can spend time with me. He loves it when I whisper to him and make cooing sounds. I'm not kidding. He will crawl right up to my mouth and spend a couple minutes just smelling and listening. No strike pose, no drama. He just likes it when I talk to him. I get nervous though, sometimes and always close my eyes when he does that. He also has no problems eating right after I have handled him. He is not shy and will eat with me sitting right next to him. They are just like dogs, aren't they? All with their different personalities.

Thanks for your input. I do appreciate it. Yes, I do see people argue about this a lot. I guess I don't see why; everyone is entitled to their thing. If the snake is happy and eating, what's the problem, right? I know they can go a long time without eating, though, and I am waiting for that to happen to mine. Thank you, again.

Dean Taylor,
Posted At: 1/18/2017 10:14:37 PM  
I very much suspect my BP is a wild caught import. 10 years ago I saw them in restaurants more often than pet shops here. Now all are captive bred but on the "black" market (only between friends or friends of friends) because it's completely illegal to have them. Still ok to have Corns, Kings etc but no Boids. Ridiculous when you can buy live turtles by the kilo in any supermarket. I know different states in the U.S. have different laws but for the most part you are very lucky.

Michelle ,
Posted At: 1/25/2017 7:35:06 PM  

Hi Dean, are you in the USA? I was confused a bit by your post. You mentioned turtles by the kilo, which is not something I have heard someone from the United States say. Are you in Canada? Are ball pythons illegal there? I guess we are lucky. I have heard though that they are starting to crack down on reptile sales these days and are about to impose a ban on certain snakes. A friend I met recently who has been 'doing snakes' for a long time, says that there are a ton of unscrupulous individuals in the reptile business. What do you think??

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