Whether a female snake is pregnant or just digesting her most recent meal is definitely something I would want to know. I have only been up close and personal with snakes a handful of times in my life, and there is a lot I want to know about snakes.
So, how can you tell if your snake is pregnant? The easiest way to confirm that your snake is pregnant is to visit your local veterinarian and have them do an x-ray or ultrasounds, but there are a few other telling signs. Most female snakes will become thicker in the area from their midpoint to their vent.
In snakes such as pythons, their coloring might change due to their reproduction cycle. However, this is not a singular indicator because their color could change during other stages of the cycle and not just pregnancy. Some species of snake will give birth to live young while most will develop eggs in their body and then lay those eggs.
What to Expect From Your Pregnant Snake
There are many ways to tell when your precious snake is expecting. A change in temperament is a rather physical sign that owners are often sad to see. However, once your snake has had her clutch (and in some cases waited for them to hatch) she will most likely go back to her normal temperament.
Even the snakes with the most docile natures may become instinctively defensive as she develops her young and guards her eggs.
Another sign that your female snake might be expecting babies is her sudden lack of appetite. Female snakes tend to avoid eating while they are pregnant. Some species, like the Ball Python, wrap around their eggs to keep them warm. During this time, she will refuse food in favor of keeping her clutch safe.
Some females will eat only smaller portions of food, so try to offer your female some food but don’t force her to eat. Your female snake may also lose some weight during pregnancy due to her lack of appetite. A good way to combat this is by making sure she is properly fed before breeding begins.
Some female snakes will expose their underbelly when they are basking in warm light. This can be a sign that your female snake is developing a clutch.
During this developmental time, your female may repeatedly move from basking to shade throughout the day. You should make sure that your female snake has a basking place with a temperature of at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure her comfort and the proper development of the eggs.
Once you have confirmed that this behavior is a sign of pregnancy, you will want to prepare a nest box (a place for a female to lay her eggs) and keep an eye on her growing body.
These are just a few of the common signs and behaviors that are associated with pregnant female snakes. Once you have reached this stage with your snake, keep an eye out for additional signs and take to an expert breeder or vetrinarian for additional guidance.
Breeding Your Snake
Many snake owners also take pride in breeding their snake and raising the young. Since snakes don’t care for their young after they hatch or are born, it is up to you to make the decision of raising several extra mouths.
Once you’ve made that choice though, you probably will want some tips on how to breed your snake. I’ve collected some information to walk you through the processes. Remember, not all snakes are easy to breed in captivity.
Do Some Research on Your Individual Snake
Each snake is very different, and you will need to be aware of those differences as you begin the breeding process. Breeding needs vary between species. For example, Ball Pythons are one of the easiest snakes to breed in captivity, but there are still many procedures that you must follow when breeding your snake so you don’t cause any damage to your snake.
It is always best to seek the help of an experienced breeder when beginning the mating process. Reptilemagazine.com has some great articles on several species of snakes. Each article deals with a particular species breeding needs.
Decide if You are Selectively Breeding
When you selectively breed your snake, you are breeding so that certain traits (like a particular pattern or color) will show up in the babies. Let’s say that you have a Python with a particularly pretty pattern, and you want to breed that python so that you can have other snakes with similar beautiful patterns, this is selective breeding.
If you don’t really care about the colors or patterns of the babies, then you don’t have to worry too much about genetics and breeding partners.
Double Check Your Timing
In the wild, nature has its timing, and snakes know when mating season is. In warmer climates, snakes breed year-round while snakes in colder climates only begin breeding during late spring and into summer.
However, in captivity, you are in control of many key factors such as ovulation and temperature. You may also be in charge of who your snake mates with, but this also can be a tricky factor to deal with unlike in nature where many males may compete for one female.
Create the Proper Environment
Unlike in the wild, there are no seasons for your snake. This can create a bit of a problem when you are trying to breed your snake. In the wild, snakes will typically breed after winter has ended and the warmer airs of spring have begun heat the land.
In captivity, you will need to create periods similar to winter and spring to promote successful breeding. Knowing what climate your snake originates from will be helpful in recreating that climate during breeding time.
Watch for Signs of Success
This can be tricky because some female snakes might show signs of pregnancy right away while others take longer to show. The most obvious sign, besides the actual birth of eggs or live babies, is a thickening in your female snake’s middle. It may look like she has just eaten a particularly large meal, but it is actually her body developing the eggs or young.
As always, be careful when you are breeding your snakes because some snakes can become aggressive before and even after mating. Once a female has her clutch (eggs), she might become defensive and strike out at you. This is the same for species of snakes, such as garter snakes, that give birth to live young. No matter the temperament, your snake may get defensive.
Caring for Eggs
Caring for snake eggs can be tricky. They are much more delicate than chicken eggs, and moving them around can actually kill the young. So, it is helpful to know what you are up against before you have a pile of eggs and an exhausted female in front of you.
If you have a snake, like a Ball Python, that is naturally inclined to care for her clutch, one of the first things you need to decide is whether or not you are going to let your female snake do the job of warming the eggs and keeping them at the appropriate temperatures.
Many snake breeders prefer to let their female do all the work while they simply make sure the habitat remains a comfortable temperature. Other breeders prefer to handle the eggs themselves and keep them warm using artificial methods.
After they lay their eggs, some female snakes are known to abandon them and discontinue all care. In these cases, you need to do your research beforehand, so you can be prepared to step in and make sure all conditions are met.
Providing the right environment ahead of time can ensure that your clutch has a high survival rate. Pythons are known for staying with their eggs until they hatch. However, no species of snake stay with their young after they hatch.
If you don’t have a female snake that cares for the eggs, here are a few factors you need to control to care for your eggs:
An adequate nest box will help ensure that the clutch of eggs stays protected and maintains the proper temperatures and humidity levels. A nest box must be set up in the early stages of a female’s pregnancy. The nest box can be a simple container where the female can enter and lay her eggs. Typically, it is a smaller space.
Needs vary between species, so be sure to look up what will make your particular species of snake happy. For example, because Burmese Pythons typically stay with their eggs and warm them, they need a space large enough to wrap themselves around their eggs.
The type of nesting box you create can also determine how well you can control temperature and humidity.
This factor is probably the hardest to control and varies greatly between different species. For example, corn snakes typically enjoy temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit with the highest being 90 degrees while Ball Pythons typically enjoy the high 80 to 90 range.
Controlling temperature is the largest factor in ensuring that your eggs survive till hatching time. If the temperature is not properly controlled, your snake may experience birth defects or die before it has hatched.
Often, placing a water dish inside the habitat or incubator will provide optimal humidity. This is because the high temperatures cause the water to evaporate and moisten the enclosure.
Proper levels of humidity vary depending on the region of origin and species of your snake. Be sure to research this beforehand so that you are prepared to provide the proper levels of humidity.
Once the female lays her eggs, avoid moving them so that no damage is caused to the young. Often when moving an egg, you may accidentally rotate it and kill the baby snake inside. If you need to move the eggs, mark the top to help yourself know which way you picked it up so you can avoid rotating it.
When the eggs begin hatching, do not remove the baby snake from the egg yourself. This may damage or kill the baby snake who may still be attached to the egg by its umbilical cord.
Snakes have natural instincts that help them hatch from their eggs, although, not all snakes will survive the hatching process.
Caring for Live Young
Once your baby snakes hatch, you will be in charge of caring for them. In the wild, baby snakes can instinctively care for themselves. For captive snakes, you need to be aware of what to expect those first few weeks.
One of the first things you will want to do is rinse the baby snakes off with water to remove any remaining goo. Be gentle as you do this. After they are rinsed off, place them on a paper towel in a safe container.
In most cases, you will want to separate your baby snakes into small individual containers prepared for each one. Each container should be lined with the appropriate material and contain a water dish and hiding place. Your baby snake might not want to eat right away and you should never force your snake to eat if it is not ready.
Once the baby snakes are settled into their individual containers, leave them alone for a few days and allow them to acclimate to their new environment.
Feeding your newly hatched snake may be tricky. Some baby snakes may refuse to eat. In any case, you are usually safe to feed your snake pinky mice. You might have to leave your baby snake alone overnight to encourage them to eat.
Be sure that the portions you are feeding your mice are small enough and do not leave a large lump in your snake’s body. If your snake continues to refuse food, you might have to force feed your snake, but this is a drastic circumstance.
Your baby snake may shed for the first time anywhere between one to two weeks. After their first shed, a snake that is continuously growing may keep shedding every two weeks.
If a baby snake does not shed after two weeks, there could be something wrong with your snake, and you might need to seek help from a veterinarian or snake breeder.
How often do snakes reproduce? Snakes will typically only reproduce anywhere from once or twice a year to every three years. However, this can vary depending on the species of snake.
How many eggs does a snake lay at a time? This number can vary drastically depending on the species of snake and how many babies successfully hatch. The range can be anywhere between one and 150.
Can female snakes reproduce without a male snake? The simple answer is yes. There is a process called parthenogenesis where female snakes can reproduce asexually. Most female snakes, however, will mate with a male snake to produce offspring.