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  1. #1
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    Advice Needed! My ball python wonít eat!

    Hello, Iím seeking some advice on feeding my ball python. I was given a ball python for Christmas. Iíve had one other ball pythons before, but I got him as an adult, so this is my first time with a juvenile ball python. Since getting him on Christmas morning, Iíve had some difficulty with feeding my new snake.
    So far, I have not had any success feeding him. He was purchased from Petsmart and had always been fed frozen ďfuzzies.Ē I finally was able to talk to the person who cares for the snakes. He said that they have always fed him in a separate container. In all my previous attempts, I have tried to feed him in his own enclosure. Last weekend, I tried feeding him in a separate container, with no success. I feel like I only stressed him more. I know itís not ideal, and I did not intend to stress my snake, I just want him to eat. I would prefer to feed him in his enclosure. Any tips/tricks to ďtrainĒ him to do this successfully?
    Also, I have noted that he seems rather fearful of me. I think that my presence during feeding is a deterrence. I would like to make him realize that Iím not a threat, but according to everything Iíve read, handling should be a minimum until he feeds. But, if he is not eating because he is scared of me, should I try to handle him more?
    Sorry if I seem ignorant. Because he was a gift, I donít have any of his previous records. Iíve tried to do so much research and Iíve tried several different ways of feeding. Itís just hard because my old snake had such a great eater and was always super friendly. I never had any difficulties with him. I am getting mildly anxious, because my ball python hasnít fed for me yet since I got him. I just want the best for my new guy. I would value any input into my feeding situation. Thanks!

  2. #2
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  4. #3
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    Re: Advice Needed! My ball python wonít eat!

    First and foremost I would recommend checking your setup to ensure for any issues. Is it to large for your BP? Do you have enough hiding spaces (hides on both hot and cold side? Are your temps good both on hot and cold sides? How is your humidity? Then you can try possibly feeding in the late evening as BPs are nocturnal by nature. Also some suggest scenting with chicken broth (although I have never done that) or ASF or mice. Make sure you are heating up the prey item thoroughly. You can try putting the pup/fuzzy in the hide with your BP and block the entrance to the hide overnight to see if it takes it. I'm sure others will make suggestions as well as there are other ways people have used to get hatchlings to eat. Depending on your BPs body condition you may need to assist feed. I would suggest seeing if you have a local breeder around to show you how to properly assist feed if you end up having to go that route. If you do not have a breeder close by, you can look on youtube for videos on assist feeding as well. Good luck with your little guy/girl.

    I see someone commented pointing to Deb's sticky. Definitely good advice there as well.
    Last edited by PghBall; 02-13-2020 at 12:48 PM.
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  6. #4
    BPnet Veteran Craiga 01453's Avatar
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    Can you tell us more? The more you tell us, the more accurately we can help you.

    What type/size enclosure is he in?
    Are there at least two proper hides?

    How are you heating the enclosure?
    What are your temps?
    How are you reading temps? What type thermometer?
    Are your heat sources regulated by a thermostat??

    Are you handling the snake? How often?

    What size prey are you offering?
    How often?
    How are you heating the prey?
    Last edited by Craiga 01453; 02-13-2020 at 12:50 PM.
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  8. #5
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    My ball python is in a 10 gallon glass tank. There is a hide on both the warm and cool sides.
    I am heating the enclosure through heat lamps. I have a bulb for basking that runs 10 hrs a day. The other bulb is an infrared that runs 24 hrs a day. I originally had a heat pad underneath on the warm side, but that increased the temperatures into the 90ís. My snake was always on the cool side and, Iím response, I turned off the heat pad. Currently the ambient temperature is around 80 degrees.
    I have a basic thermometer for the inside, but I use a laser thermometer frequently to check the temperatures. The warm side basking spot is around 87. Unfortunately, I do not have a thermostat to regulate the heat sources.
    I have not been handling the snake, because I do not want to stress him. The first time Iíve removed him from the tank in the last month was last weekend, trying to feed him in a separate container.
    I was told that Petsmart was feeding him frozen mice fuzzies. That is what Iíve been trying to feed him. Feedings have been attempted every Wednesday and Saturday since early January. I have been heating the prey by putting the mice in a plastic baggie, which is immersed in hot water. Once the mouse has softened up, I have been using a Hair-dryer on high heat to warm it up more.
    I havenít been able to weigh him yet, because Iíve read everywhere that handling him will stress him more. Heís around 1.5 ft long, so I wasnít sure if I should follow the hatchling guide because he seems bigger than a hatchling, more like a juvenile. I could be wrong though.

    Anything other information that would be helpful to know? I am thankful for your input.


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  10. #6
    BPnet Veteran Craiga 01453's Avatar
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    Ok, it sounds like you're in pretty good shape. Just a few things to work out...

    First and foremost, you definitely want to get your heat sources regulated by a thermostat. The reason the heat mat was too hot is because it wasn't regulated, so it just goes full blast. You made the right call unplugging it. When regulated you just set it, dial it in and you're good. Just a quick daily equipment check is all you'll need. The same goes for the lamps. Once dialed in, they maintain the temps for you.
    Your temps actually sound good, so just get them regulated and you're all set there.

    I'm glad you're not handling the snake yet. Good call there too
    There will be plenty of time for handling once he's eating.

    Next, mice fuzzies are WAAAY too small for a BP. Hatchlings eat hoppers from birth for typically 3-5 meals before moving up to small adult mice. He may not be eating because it's so small he doesn't even recognize it as food.

    You'll also want to slow down offering. Once a week is plenty. Offering too often can actually stress the snake and lead to further refusals.

    And yes, definitely continue feeding inside the enclosure. Separate feeding tubs are old school and proven counter productive over time.
    Unfortunately, the vast majority of PetSmart employees are highly under educated and really don't know what they're talking about. One of the reasons they feed smaller prey items is that the snakes will stay smaller and "cuter" and sell more quickly. It's also less expensive to feed smaller prey. And unfortunately, those big box stores put profit above the animals well being.

    Feel free to ask any questions you may have, we're happy to help!
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  12. #7
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    Should I handle my snake in order to weigh him? Some sources I've read say that this is a good way to monitor whether he is loosing too much mass. He seems scared of me, and I don't want to cause him any more stress, but I also want to make sure that he remains healthy. If so, how often should I weigh him? Also, at what point do I consider taking additional steps to get help for him (considering he hasn't eaten for over a month)?

    Thank you!

  13. #8
    BPnet Veteran Craiga 01453's Avatar
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    It wont hurt to get him out to weigh him. It would actually be good to have a reference point.

    A month isn't all that long for a BP, but as a juvenile you definitely want to get him eating sooner than later. As long as he's not losing weight I wouldn't worry about additional measures any time real soon.

    If he doesn't eat, I wouldn't bother weighing him unless you feel you can see he's lost a decent amount of weight.

    Make sure you're feeding at night, since they are nocturnal by nature. You can also use your temp gun to check to see if the prey is warm enough. You want it to be around 100į making sure the head is good and warm. When the prey is that small, it cools quickly, so you may need to reheat and re-offer a few times. Try to make sure he's in one of his hides when feeding too. This will mimic how they would eat in nature since they are ambush predators.
    Don't put the mouse in the hide, just dangle it in front of the opening and slowly move it trying to mimic a mouse walking past his hide.

    Be patient, he'll eat. He won't starve himself to death and as long as he's not losing weight he's likely healthy, it's just a matter of finding what works to get him eating.
    For now, be consistent with how you offer, same prey, same time of night, etc...
    If he's still not eating in a few weeks we'll tweak a few things and go from there.
    ...life is beautiful...

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  15. #9
    Registered User Absololol's Avatar
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    In terms of feeding, my snake was nervous and jumpy when I first got her. She did not eat for the first 2 weeks at least!
    Then, I decided that I would do everything in my power to make a 'perfect' feeding time, and ever since, she has been voracious and has NEVER refused a meal, even in shed.

    Here is what I did:

    I left her alone completely for a week. I didn't handle her, the only thing I did was change her water supply, and double check the temperature and humidity.

    When it came to the day of the feeding, I took a small, tupperware-style tub and filled it with cool water. I put the f/t rodent in a plastic ziplock bag, and put it in the water. I put this tub on top of the viv, so help introduce the 'scent' of the rodent into the room whilst it was defrosting.

    Once defrosted (a few hours), I turned the lights off (save for a very dim light) so that it was almost complete darkness. (It was also evening.) This helps because it means that the snake will be going on SMELL and HEAT alone. Since they are nocturnal, they should really be in feeding mode. I grabbed the rodent by the body with the tongs, and used a hairdryer to heat up the rodent, with the viv's door slightly open. This helped to 'waft' the smell further into the vivarium. I paid extra attention to the head.

    Then, once the feeder is nice and warm, and holding the rodent with the tongs by the body (Not the tail), I made sure I was stood as far 'behind' the snake as possible, and slowly lowered the rodent to the floor in front of the snake. This way, my big, scary heat signature was behind the snake, and the only thing immediately obvious to my snake was the smell and heat signature of the rodent in front of her. I then tried to make 'scurry' motions with the feeder. If your snake is doing a bit of an 's' pose with its neck, and is making tongue flicks, you're probably almost there! Continue to entice with small movements. Rodents cool off fast, so you can try reheating a few times.

    This really helped. Now, all I have to do is heat up a rodent with a hairdryer, and even if it's the day, no matter where she is hiding, she will immediately clock the smell and come out, ready for food if she's hungry.
    Last edited by Absololol; 02-16-2020 at 11:20 AM.

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  17. #10
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    One thing that stood out to me above is that you took out the UTH heater because it was increasing the tank temps. I UTH will not have much (if any) impact on ambient temps. If you put the UTH under the hot side with a thermostat, and then adjust it until the glass floor surface of the tank gets to 90 degrees then you can cover back over with your substrate. I would think if your ambient temps are spiking it was not because of a UTH.

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