How Big Do Ball Pythons Get (And How Long Does it Take for Them to Grow)?

Ball pythons are known for being one of the biggest pet snakes available while still being a reasonable to keep in your home. They are the perfect pet for a first-time snake owner because of their calm nature and low maintenance lifestyle, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are a little large for comfort. Well, I decided to do a little research to help you out a little.

How big do ball pythons get? An adult female ball python grows to the average length of 3 to 5 feet long, where an adult male ball python grows to the average length of 2 to 3 feet. Ball python hatchlings are about 10 inches long.  If a ball python is in the wild, it can take up to 4 to 5 years for it to reach its full size. Whereas in captivity, it can be up to 3 years till a ball python reaches its full size.

Their calm and docile nature makes it easier for people to appreciate them as pets. They can be easy to care for regarding their tank size, the amount of food they should be eating, and the temperature they must reside in. 

Ball Python Growth Rate is Dependent on Food Supply

There is not an exact size chart to how long ball pythons grow to at a certain age because that information varies to each snake. That is simply because each snake grows at a different rate. It can also depend on the size of their egg when they hatched, their prey size, how often it is fed, and many other factors.

While there is little information on length correlating to their age, there is information on their age and weight depending on the diet they rely on.

When ball pythons are fed mice:

Age of  SnakeWeight of Snake
Hatchling71.4 grams 
One Month78 grams
Two months 119.4 grams
Three Months 155.6 grams
Four months 200.3 grams

When ball pythons are fed young rats:

Age of SnakeWeight of Snake
Hatchling71.4 grams
One month99.4 grams 
Two months 130.6 grams 
Three months200.5 grams
Four months 277.7 grams 

As you can see, if you feed the ball pythons bigger food, they grow a lot faster and end up weighing more in the end.

The Diet of a Ball Python

It is essential to feed your ball python all the nutrients it needs to be healthy and live out its fullest lifespan. By being able to meet the nutrition your ball python needs, as well as their dietary preferences, you can feed them without difficulty. You also will not have to worry about whether it’s receiving the best treatment in captivity.

Luckily, the diet of a ball python in the wild does not differ much from the diet of a ball python in captivity. They are carnivorous snakes and need to eat plenty of meat in order to be healthy.

The most popular foods to feed your ball python are the following:

  • Mice
  • Gerbils
  • Chicks
  • Rats

Keep in mind, that the food you give you snake depends heavily on its age. You will not want to feed your young snake a prey that is too large to swallow and digest.

The ideal size of the prey should be the same size (or it can be just a bit larger) as the widest part of the snake’s body.

For example, younger snakes should be fed baby mice while the adult snake can be fed a variety size of prey. And because they are carnivorous don’t try and feed them insects, or vegetables. A vegetarian diet for a snake can be harmful to its health. It is in their nature to feed on meat, they rely on it for their vitamins and other nutritional value they cannot get from vegetables.

When finding the food to feed your python, you can go to any local pet store for a small stock of dead mice, or you can even breed your own supply of mice to feed your python. Do not try to capture mice or rats from the wild, they can hold many parasites like lice, fleas, and ticks, as these can be very harmful to you and your snake.

So be sure to purchase your mice at a store and have it be killed beforehand. The reason for this is because small mice can and will fight for their lives so they are most likely going to scratch or bite your snake in an attempt to save its life. These bites and scratches, while small, can become an infection and that is dangerous for your snake.

It is also advised to freeze the prey for as many weeks as you would like, but be sure to thoroughly thaw the mice before feeding it to your snake. Do not try and cook the prey beforehand.

How to Feed Your Ball Python

Feeding your ball python correctly according to its age and size is extremely important to how long and big it grows. By not feeding its proper amount of food your ball python can stay stuck on a small size and not grow to its average length. 

Young pythons can experience difficulty understanding how to consume pre-killed prey, you can wiggle the prey in front of your snake, and in a way trick it into thinking that it is still alive. Do this until your snake becomes conditioned to pre-killed prey.

An appropriate feeding schedule for your ball python again related to its age. The younger the ball python the more often they eat. A young ball python often eats one to two times per week. And the older ball pythons will eat just once a week. The best time to feed your ball python would be in the evening or near dusk. This is the time ball pythons naturally seek to kill its prey.

After your ball python is fed, it can take about four to five days for your snake to completely digest the prey. Make sure to have a dark and warm hiding spot within its terrarium to help smooth the digestion process for your snake.

Finally, knowing when you should feed your python again relies on whether it has defecated after digestion. If it has, you can feed it again in a day or two. While it seems reasonable to feed your ball python on a consistent, time-related schedule, it is best to try and randomize the feedings to simulate how it would feed if it were in the wild. We recently wrote an article specifically about how to feed your ball python in an effective way. It includes what to feed it and the schedule you should follow. Find it here.

Below is a chart on how often your ball python needs to be fed, and how much, according to its weight:

Ball Python Feeding Chart 

Snake Age/Weight Feeder Size How often?
first 3-5 mealsPinky rat or Hopper mouseEvery 5 days 
less than 200 gramsRatfuzzy or small mouseEvery 7 days 
200-350 gramsRat pup or adult mouse Every 7-10    days
350-500 gramsWeaned rat or Jumbo mouse Every 10-14  days
500-1500 grams Small rat or 2-3 adult mice Every 14-21  days
greater than 1500   gramsMedium rat or 2 small rats or 4-5 adult mice Every 28-56  days

If Your Ball Python Does Not Eat

It is very worrisome when your ball python seems to not be eating its meals when you give it to them. Some ball pythons can be picky eaters and even avoid the food you give them but it is always for a reason. Here are some reasons why: 

  • The prey can be too big for the python to swallow 
  • The python is preparing to shed its skin
  • If your python is female, it can be incubating its eggs 
  • The temperature of your terrarium or its humidity can be not properly set to your pythons needs 
  • Your python may be stressed from too much handling or even its environment 
  • Your python can be sick 

Don’t worry. Just because your python may not be eating does not mean that it is for one of these reasons. It is actually quite normal for a ball python to go weeks without eating, especially during the winter because it is breeding season.

Either way, make to watch your pythons health while it is not eating. If it has not eaten within forty-five to sixty days or if it shows signs of weight loss it may be a sign of distress. You will then need to consult a veterinarian with experience on pet snakes.

Related Questions 

What is the price of a ball python? At your local pet store, a ball python can cost up to $59.99. Though there are other options on where to purchase a ball python.

Can ball pythons hurt you? A ball python cannot kill you, but it can certainly injure you when it bites. While these types of snakes are calm creature they can bite if they feel threatened or if they are under attack.

Does a ball python make a good pet? Yes, a ball python is one of the easiest snakes to care for. They are relatively small and calm by nature.

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