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How To Breed Ball Pythons: A Complete Guide

Ball pythons (Python regius) are one of the most popular species of snake available in pet stores today. However, it is often difficult to obtain this species due to its extreme popularity.

When bred in captivity they almost always produce live young rather than eggs. This makes them an obvious choice for someone who wishes to breed snakes but cannot keep a large number of snakes. This article will help the reader learn how to breed ball pythons.


How To Breed Ball Pythons

Gestation is the time it takes for a female to lay her eggs and then carry them until birth. The gestation period for Ball Pythons is around 50-60 days, give or take five days on either side. In order to successfully breed your snake you must consider several things:


1. Age of the Snake

How long have they been alive? Snakes reach sexual maturity at around one year of age. Snakes that are two years old are more likely to produce offspring than snakes only one-year-old, though this is by no means a guarantee. But don’t worry too much if your snake isn’t of breeding age yet, all ball pythons can breed, so sexing is never a concern.


2. Weight of Snake

Snakes should be around 80-100 grams before attempting to breed them. If your snake is too skinny it will have trouble laying eggs, and if your snake is not heavy enough it won’t be able to store the energy needed to carry its young for so long. It’s best to wait until your snake reaches about 85% of its maximum weight before breeding.


3. Breeding Temperature

A female snake will not breed unless she is in the optimum temperature range of 27-30 degrees Celsius, or 80-86 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to remember that snakes are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to keep warm.


4. Optimum Day Length

Snakes rely on the amount of daylight their receive to determine the breeding season. Daylight is measured in ‘photoperiods’ or hours of light per day. The optimal photoperiod for this species is around 14-16 hours per day at the beginning of spring (late October).

Expert Tip: Be sure to provide your snake with the appropriate photoperiod for its species before attempting to breed.


5. Snake Health

It’s important to make sure that your snakes are in good health before they breed. All of the stress that breeding puts on a snake can be damaging, so keep an eye on your ball python’s weight and overall appearance to make sure they are both in good shape.

It's important to make sure that your snakes are in good health
It’s important to make sure that your snakes are in good health


6. Basking Spot

Snakes like to bask to raise their body temperature before breeding, a basking spot of at least 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) is needed. Sometimes, the male and female will breed without needing a basking spot but this usually results in ball pythons fighting and is not recommended.


7. Privacy

It’s important to give your snakes their own private breeding chamber so that they feel unthreatened. You can do this by providing a ‘breeding box’ or an appropriately sized box with enough room for the snake(s) inside. This will ensure that neither of your snakes feels threatened, giving them the best chance of mating successfully.


8. Mating

Although ball pythons are oviparous (lay eggs), they are viviparous (give live birth) for the first few months. Therefore, you will need to incubate your snake’s fertilized eggs until they hatch. A great way to ensure that your eggs are at the perfect temperature is by using a heat mat.

If you don’t have a heat mat. I recommend placing the box with your snake’s eggs on top of something warm, like heating pipes or an aquarium heater. Maternal ball pythons will spend most of their time basking and checking on their eggs until they hatch.

Expert Tip: Ball pythons are not the most attentive mothers, but their instinct to protect their young is strong.


9. Egg-laying

Your female snake will generally coil itself around its eggs after they have been laid. This is normal behavior and does not mean that your snake has abandoned her eggs. Your female ball python should stay in contact with her eggs until they hatch, and if she does not, you should make sure to check your snake’s body temperature.

If it is too cold for your snake to remain coiled around the eggs for a long period of time, provide it with a basking spot or move the whole box (with female ball python and eggs) to an appropriately warm location.


10. Hatching

After around 65 days of incubation, your snake’s eggs should hatch. Ball pythons give live birth (parthenogenesis) so the young will be genetically identical to their mother. If you are sure that your egg-bound ball python is female, there is no need to worry about the snakes not being of the same species.

It’s important to make sure that your female ball python is healthy enough for her eggs to hatch, as she might need a little extra care after giving birth.


11. Housing

After hatching, it’s important to house your baby ball pythons separately from their mother until they are old enough to eat mice, around 55-65 days. Hatchlings can be housed inappropriately sized small plastic containers or shoe boxes lined with newspaper and paper towels.

Newspaper is the best substrate for hatchling ball pythons as it helps them to retain humidity. Be sure not to use carpet because it holds onto smells which will make it difficult for you to find the snake when you need to.


12. Sexing

Ball pythons can be difficult to have sex with, so it’s important to test your snake when they are young. There are several different techniques for sexing ball pythons but here’s one that works well, gently massage your snakes in between their neck scales near their head for a few minutes.

If they are male, there will be a bulge that develops between the neck and shoulder, this is called a hemipenis. If you’re not sure if your snake is male or female, it’s best to leave them alone until they are ready to breed at around 18 months old.


13. Breeding

You will not need to bring your snake(s) to a vet for breeding, but it is important that you regularly check their weight and general health. If your female ball python does not seem healthy enough to breed, do not force her.

Expert Tip: It’s also a good idea to take your snake(s) in for an annual check-up just in case there are any breeding-related issues that need to be addressed.

Ball pythons can live for 25 years or longer
Ball pythons can live for 25 years or longer


14. Age

Ball pythons can live for 25 years or longer, so it’s important that you have the time and money to commit to raising your snake(s) properly. Since they are viviparous, ball pythons give birth to live young which means that it will take at least 3 years before your snake is ready to breed.

Breeding ball pythons can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. If you are not ready for these commitments, breeding may not be the best option for you.


Is it easy to breed ball pythons?

Breeding ball pythons are very easy
Breeding ball pythons are very easy

Yes, breeding ball pythons are very easy. Ball pythons are one of the easier snake species to breed in captivity. Males are usually ready to mate when they are 18 months old while females take a little longer at around 2 years old.

However, this age can be sped up with human intervention, by exposing them to artificial light beginning at around 10-12 months. Selection for favorable traits such as docile and calm temperament and regular feeding should be practiced to help make breeding easier.

Males can be placed in the female’s cage (without them actually seeing each other) and feel out a suitable area to lay their eggs by burrowing or finding an area that is comfortable. Females should then be put on a strict feeding schedule of once every 5-7 days which will stimulate them to lay their eggs within that time frame.


How do I start breeding ball pythons?

Welcome, If you’ve come here, you must be interested in breeding ball pythons. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of breeding ball pythons as well as some advanced techniques that experienced breeders use to ensure successful clutches. Let’s get started!

The Breeding Season The breeding season for ball pythons typically lasts from September through November. The exact timing can vary by geographical location, but mid to late fall is the time for most people.

Expert Tip: If you want your bred females to have fertile eggs in time for next year’s breeding season, keep them cool until early-mid December to simulate winter conditions. Enclosure temperatures should be kept below 80F during this cooldown period.

This is an adult male ball python. He is in breeding mode, which means he will try to breed with any female that is available (and many that aren’t).


Breeding Methods

There are two primary methods of breeding ball pythons: natural and induced. If you plan to keep your female coiled up during the breeding process, you must induce her. For females kept in a well-ventilated enclosure without substrate, natural breeding is possible (and preferable).


Natural method

When the weather is warm and the days are long, ball pythons enter a pre-breeding “wander” cycle where they look for other snakes to breed with. This period can last anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the individual snake. Usually, males will breed every other day or so during this period.

Ball pythons natural breeding method
Ball pythons natural breeding method

While looking for potential mates, male ball pythons may come across your female and intend to mate with her even though she isn’t ready. The two of them will struggle until he either wins or decides she’s not interested. If you want your male to breed with your female, you must separate the two before he gets a chance to mate.

You can do this by placing a barrier between them or moving one of them into a different enclosure.

If there is no other snake around for him to breed with while he’s in “wander mode”, he may decide to breed with an inanimate object. This is more common when you’re using natural lighting without a screen cover, but it can happen under any conditions where the male cannot see another snake nearby.


Induced method

If your female is too large for her enclosure, has poor ventilation, or you don’t have room to separate her, you’ll need to induce the female into breeding mode. If you intend to breed your female during winter, do not induce until early December unless she is very small (not likely).

To induce your female into breeding conditions, you should provide heat and extra humidity. A heating pad under 1/3 of the enclosure will give off enough heat to induce breeding. A humidity level of 70% or greater is recommended.

At this point, your female should be provided with an appropriately sized male for mating (one that isn’t larger than the female).


The Actual Mating Process

This part might seem like common sense, but if you want healthy babies, don’t let your male ball python mate with your female for more than about 45 minutes. If you want to maximize the number of babies, don’t let them mate at all.

Finally, make sure the enclosure is big enough to accommodate plenty of hiding spots because ball pythons like to tangle themselves up when mating.


Is it legal to breed ball pythons?

Is it legal to breed ball pythons?
Is it legal to breed ball pythons?

No, it is illegal to breed ball pythons. “Illegal” is a strong term and may cause an argument, but there are arguments that support the statement that it is in fact illegal.

Also, keep in mind that this article is about breeding ball pythons for profit (selling). If you’re reading this article because you’re thinking about breeding ball pythons and then giving them away, that’s illegal and you can stop reading now.

If you’re here because someone offered to pay for your ball python babies but you still want to learn more about the legality of this, keep reading.


What is the law exactly?

The Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42) is a law passed in 1900 that prohibits trade between the United States and foreign countries of species protected by the U.S or international law, with some exceptions including captive-bred animals of species listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

According to the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, a “commercial activity” under the Lacey Act includes interstate or foreign commerce of any listed species or any parts or products made from such animal.

Expert Tip: Ball pythons cannot be legally sold across state lines. In some states, it might be legal to sell ball pythons within state borders, but there is no way of knowing whether or not the Lacey Act applies to your state.

The Lacey Act was amended in 1981 and 1992 to include new provisions that define “commercial activity” more broadly, but it still does not apply if you breed ball pythons without selling them. Therefore, there is no prohibition on “selling” ball pythons within state lines, but no one can buy from you because interstate commerce is prohibited.

In addition to the Lacey Act, people have been charged under other laws for selling ball pythons that they bred in the United States. If a snake buyer was tricked by a seller into believing that the animal was captive-bred when it fact it was not captive-bred, that person could potentially be charged for making a false statement

You can own ball pythons as pets all you want, but breeding them is illegal. This means that if you have any offspring from a snake that is not captive-bred, it is illegal to sell those snakes with the offspring included. If you do start to breed ball pythons, you have to be able to prove that the parents were captive-bred from the start.


How do I know if a snake is captive-bred?

How do I know if a snake is captive-bred?
How do I know if a snake is captive-bred?

There are two ways of knowing whether the snakes were captive-bred: looking at registration papers and seeing where they came from. First, let’s look at registration papers.

Although not all states have a registration system, ball pythons in the United States are supposed to be registered with a state or federal agency so that they can be tracked as captive-bred (or anything else).

Expert Tip: If you buy snakes from someone who does not care about registration, or if your breeder cannot provide proof of registration, do not buy their snakes.

Unfortunately, registration is only helpful when the seller is honest and good at record keeping. Registration papers can be forged or falsified, so just looking at paperwork is not enough to know that you’re getting captive-bred animals


Male/Female Selection

Different species have different sex-determining factors, but most have some sort of visual or physical identifier that can be used to determine their sex. In ball pythons this is very simple, all it takes is looking at the underside of their tails.

The male’s tail will have two hemipenal bulges that are easily identifiable, while the female has only one bulge on the backside.


Male Interaction

There are several different mating techniques for ball pythons, but they must be done carefully because this species is known to cannibalize the female during mating. This is not always the case, but it is something that must be guarded against. The male will approach the female and immediately begin to smell her tail with his forked tongue.

If she submits, she will lift her tail up so he can mate with her.


Male Gestation

After mating, the male ball python will usually be a very dark color and he will stay this way for a period of time. Females can become pregnant without mating, but it is best to have them mated as additional clutches are common on either side of pregnancy. The gestation period is usually about 50 days before the female gives.

With these basic guidelines under your belt, you should be able to successfully breed your ball pythons. Good luck.

About Rencel Leyran