How to Breed a Ball Python (With Timeline and Pictures)

Ball pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes around. People love them for their friendly nature, interesting scale patterns, and their ease of handling. So how can you get more? You may be one like many other snake owners that has desired to stuff their snake enclosure to the brim with these cute little guys, but who has the money when a ball python can easily sell for $250 a pop? It is now that you turn to the daunting task of breeding your python. Fear not, dear snake lover, here is the complete guide on how to breed your very own ball python.

How do you breed a ball python? The breeding of ball pythons generally takes about a year’s time. This complex process requires precise temperature gauging and proper stimulation of the male and female snakes. Timing is key throughout this delicate time.

Breeding can be difficult, but to the true python lover it is sure to be a rewarding experience. Before we get into the specifics of breeding there are a few things you should consider before you get started.

To Breed or Not to Breed

A lot of young crazy kids nowadays are considering throwing caution to the wind and getting involved with the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced snake breeding industry. Who can blame them? Who among us hasn’t felt the call of excitement that only pythons can fulfill? Yes, it is a thrilling prospect, but is it a smart reason to get involved?

Why are you getting involved? Are you trying to turn a profit, or are your merely in for the love of pet pythons? If you are trying to breed for profit, again make sure you are doing this safely and legally. If you are doing those things, you can find an article here that we recently wrote about how to breed and sell snakes for a profit.

Breeding can be a time consuming and laborious process. Remember, ball pythons are notoriously tricky to breed, and a first timer might feel overwhelmed if this is his first experience with snake breeding.

And while ball pythons can sell for quite a bit on the commercial market, making any substantial profit usually requires a huge down payment to invest in tanks, animals etc.

Even if you are breeding for fun, there are some risks to consider regarding the health of your snake as well. Mating can be taxing on your ball python and may result in serious disease or injury. Just by putting your snake in contact with others of his kind opens pathways that may introduce any kind of harmful bacterium or virus.

I don’t want to scare you away from breeding, but be cautious. Make sure your ball python is in tip-top condition and at full maturity before considering him a candidate for breeding.

Now that we’ve gotten the scary bit out of the way, let’s launch right into breeding.

Preparation for Breeding

First things first, you are going to want to gather all the right materials to help you in your snake breeding adventure. Let’s start with selecting the right ball pythons for the job.

Female ball pythons need to reach maturity before they are ready to breed. Generally, shoot for around three years of age. If the female python is anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 pounds, that is considered a healthy breeding weight. Be sure that she is free from any illness and abrasion, and she should be good to go!

Males are able to breed much earlier. Some start their males off as young as one year old, but it is safer to start them off at least their second winter. If a male is over 1.5 pounds in weight, then he should be healthy enough to breed. Once again, make sure that he is healthy and strong before you set him off breeding. If you are unsure, consult a veterinarian.

A quick note on sexing pythons. You obviously want to make sure that you are putting a male and a female snake together or I promise you that you will not get very far breeding.

Sexing can be dangerous, so make sure that you receive proper instruction before attempting anything. I will briefly describe the procedure in the following paragraph.

To determine the sex of your pythons, you will need to execute a process called probing. To probe, insert a sterile sliding probe into the cloaca of the python. The cloaca is located on the underpart of the snake towards the tip of the tail.

How far the probe reaches before encountering resistance, will demonstrate where the snake is male or female. If the probe reaches a length of about 8 subcaudal scales, the snake is male. If the probe only reaches a depth of 4 scales, then it is female. Be aware, if the snake is not held properly during the probing process, the probe may be artificially stopped short preventing you from accurately determining the sex of the snake.

There are plenty of video guides that can help you understand the process, and as always, feel free to contact an expert.

After you have determined the sex of your pythons, and have properly evaluated their health you are ready to begin breeding. Make sure that you keep your males and females in separate cages until you are ready to breed.

You will need an incubator ready as well, as the eggs need to be directly transported as soon as they are laid.

So! Let’s get started with stimulating both the male and the female pythons.

Female Stimulus

In order to make sure that females are healthy and fertile. To ensure the fertility of your female pythons a period of brumation. Brumation is a hibernation-like state that snakes enter during the winter months of the year.

The artificial winter that you create for your python, should mimic the lighting and temperature that a ball python would experience in nature. Remember that your snake will still need a warm and cool spot in the tank.

During the day the temperature should rest around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm spot should hover anywhere from 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. During the day, normal temperatures should range from 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The brumation period should last anywhere from one to three months. Remember that the idea behind this is to replicate winter. When your “spring time” comes, your female ball python should have been stimulated and will be ready to begin breeding.

When you terminate your brumation period, do not feel obligated to gradually warm up your cage. Slowly warming your pythons enclosure may warm harmful bacteria that will infect your snake before her immune system is fully up and running. Better to immediately heat things back up at once.

Now lets take a look at stimulating a male python.

Male Stimulus

Male ball pythons are curious in that they don’t seem to be, shall we say, “in the mood” that often. Yes, it can be difficult to get a male python to be romantic in any sense, but there is one sure-fire trick.

The quickest way to get a male ball python ready for mating is to stick it in a cage full of other dude pythons. I really have no idea why this gets them going, but it seems to work every time.

When a number of pythons take notice of one another, they will rise to an almost vertical stance in what is, I imagine to be, some sort of macho manly man contest. It’s like seeing which of your friends can touch higher on a basketball net. Snakes do the same thing.

Whatever the reason, when your male raises himself to a vertical stance, he will be ready to be introduced to the female.

Introducing the Male

Now here comes the fun part.

Love is in the air of your snake enclosures. The feeling of spring permeates every snakes’ heart. They crave romance. Yes, you can see it in their black, unblinking eyes. It is time for you, the ball python love doctor, to help your snakes take those first steps of love. But where to begin?

Well, if your snakes have properly stimulated then you need only do one thing. Put them together. It is that simple. Just throw them in the same cage and watch those suckers go.

When the male is introduced into the cage of a female, he will very quickly become aware of the female snake in his new surroundings. While the snakes may fight for a second upon immediately getting to know one another, the tension will quickly pass. Just leave them be and the pythons will connect.

Be Patient

Ball pythons can stay intertwined for up to two days. Be patient. It is completely natural. If you disturb your snakes too much, they may disconnect too soon. Give your snakes all the time and space they need. It is okay to take an occasional peak, but just don’t go poking them or anything stupid like that.

After your snakes are done, give the male some rest before introducing him again. Male pythons need about a week or so of rest before they are ready to breed again.

How to Tell if a Female is Gravid

Telling whether a female ball python is gravid (meaning you can see the outline of the eggs she is carrying) can be difficult. To the untrained eye, it is hard to spot the small details that indicate your snake is ready to lay eggs. Let’s take a look at some of those details,

The surest way to know if your snake is gravid or not is to take her to the veterinarian. The vet will have tools to x-ray your snake and then know for sure if your python will soon lay eggs.

The downside to this method is the cost. You may need several vet appointments after each time your snake mates to ensure that she is gravid. Costs could quickly add up. Luckily there are other methods to help you know.

Another method of determining whether your snake is gravid, is by interpreting changes in body proportion. As the female begins mating, if she becomes gravid, you will notice that her belly, especially near the end of the tale, will become thicker. This is due to the ova swelling inside the female’s ovaries. In order to nourish the eggs, the female must use stores of fat that she has previously stored. This loss of fat will result in a small loss of length in the tail. Most prominent near the vent of the python. The heads of certain pythons will become gaunter as well due to loss of fat.

You may also be able to judge if your ball python is gravid due to a change in color. Many species in pythons will shift through different hues upon becoming gravid.

Ball pythons usually develop a deeper contrast between their lighter and darker scales. These changes in color can at times be subtle and are in no way conclusive evidence that your python is gravid.

Changes in posture and behavior can be interpreted to mean your snake is gravid. When a ball python is gravid, it will usually appear very uncomfortable, often appearing fidgety or frequently shifting positions.

As the time to lay her eggs becomes nearer and nearer, pythons become increasingly restless, pacing their enclosures searching for a good place to lay their eggs. This is a great indicator that the time of egg laying is fast approaching.

Some other unusual behaviors may ensue as well. You may notice that your python spends more time away from the heated end of the cage. Often, pythons coil around their water bowl or lie with their bellies in the air. These are good signs that you will be getting some eggs soon.

The best way to know though is when you witness ovulation. Ovulation happens where sperm from the male and follicles from the female meet and create fertilized eggs.

Amateur snake breeders may be shocked to see this first happen. It is not uncommon to see a big lump in your snake. Don’t worry, this is completely natural and a sure sign that your snake is full of fertile eggs.

Two to three weeks after ovulation, your snake should shed her skin. Once her skin is shed, she will lay her clutch in about 30 to 40 days.

Be on the lookout for a combination of these signs. If your snake shows one or more of the things mentioned above, you can be pretty sure she is pregnant.

The Miracle of Life

After your python has laid her eggs, she will usually coil around them. In order to place the eggs in an incubator, you will need to gently remove the female from around them.

While uncoiling her from around the eggs, mama python is likely to hiss and assume a striking position. Don’t hesitate. Rarely does a female bite someone at this point, but the worst thing to do is to hesitate and give her the chance to do so.

After you have gently uncoiled the mother snake and placed her in an empty enclosure, move the eggs to the incubator. Be very careful not to jostle the eggs excessively during transportation.

It is also important to place the eggs facing “right-side-up” when placing them in the incubator. If the side of the egg that was facing up when it was laid, is positioned facing down in the incubator it may kill the egg. I

have also read that in a lot of cases an egg placed facing the wrong way hatches just fine, but why risk it? You can mark the face of the egg lightly with a marker to keep track of the correct side.

At this point, you can also throw away any unfertilized eggs, that will be smaller than healthy eggs, waxy to the touch, and have a yellowish tint to them. 

Monitor the eggs closely during the incubation period. Any eggs that were laid stuck together should not be pulled apart. This will almost certainly lead to a tear in the shell of the egg and the death of the snake inside.

If an egg dies in the incubation process, it will turn yellow and moldy. It is a good idea to move the egg if it is easily accessible as the mold may spread and kill the others in the clutch.

After a period of about 55 days, the eggs will hatch. Resist the temptation to help the snakes break out of their egg shells as you may stunt their development. Babies should be removed to their own cage and should be fed within about a week.

Additional Question

Are ball pythons difficult to breed? Ball pythons can be tricky to breed due to the fickleness of male behavior, but with proper preparation, they shouldn’t prove too difficult. Ensure that you have proper cage space and food and you will be fine.

Is it at all profitable to sell ball pythons? It can be, but to make any substantial profit you would need a fairly large operation. Ball pythons are one of the most popular breeds of snake and can sell anywhere from $40 to $1000+ depending on the morph. For-profit breeding is a whole different process and should only be considered after thorough preparation and proper experience.

What is the most popular morph of ball python? Morph taste differs from person to person, but some of the most popular are the albino ball python, the fireball python, and the very expensive GHI (gotta have it) ball python. 

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