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  1. #1
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    BCI Possibly Underfed

    In June, I purchased a sub adult female BCI from a reptile show, she is approximately 6ft long. I have owned ball pythons and corn snakes for several years but this is my first Boa.

    The guy I bought her from, told me that she was a hold back he was raising up to breed and that she had been living in a rack system and eating a small or medium rat every 2 weeks. He was selling several sub adult & adult boas because he wanted to concentrate on other breeding projects.

    I currently have her set up in a Boaphile enclosure. After I brought her home I noticed a few things. She is very active compared to my ball pythons and she seems like she is always hunting. I have always heard that boas have a strong feeding response, so I assumed this was normal. I also started hook training her, hoping to avoid any incidents where should would mistake my hand for food. I have not handled her very much, except to move her in to a tub while I clean the enclosure and stuff like that. But she seems like she is always super alert to any movement near her enclosure and even the ceiling fan in the room seems to get her into hunting mode.

    Last night, I had taken her out to clean her enclosure and was holding her for a minute before putting her back in. I was sitting on a couch while I was holding her and there as a large teddy bear (24" tall) on the couch as well. She got close to the teddy bear, then struck its foot and and wrapped up to constrict it. She eventually let go and I was able to get the teddy bear away from her, but this didn't seem like normal behavior to me. To the best of my knowledge this teddy bear has never been in contact with any prey items and should not have smelled like prey. I do have a cat and a dog but neither one was present in this room or had been in there lately.

    All of this is making me wonder if she is underfed. I have been feeding a medium rat every 10 days since I brought her home. When I look at pictures of other boas of similar length she seems thinner and like her skin may be looser, but it is hard for me to tell. I wanted to post this and try to get some feedback from people with more experience.

    Is this normal boa behavior? Have you ever had one try to eat a stuffed animal or other non-prey item? Does she look underfed? What feeding schedule would you recommend?

    Thank you,
    Brian












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  3. #2
    BPnet Senior Member EL-Ziggy's Avatar
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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    She’s got a little loose skin but still looks to be in good shape. If she’s 6’ I’d feed her a medium rat every 2-3 weeks or a large rat every 4+ weeks. Congrats on your new boa. She’s a cutie.
    Last edited by EL-Ziggy; 09-12-2021 at 02:55 PM.
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    She doesn't look starved to me either, but boas (especially females) DO know how to eat. Eating a teddy bear would be dangerous, as I'm sure you know- mine never tried any such thing- it sounds like the furry texture really made her "hopeful", lol. I'd feed her a medium rat every 2-3 weeks also (depending on the season) & keep her away from teddy bears. Nice addition.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  7. #4
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    Definitely not underfed, in fact I'd say she's in perfect weight and body shape. Being in a tub she may be lacking a bit in muscle tone but if you have her in a larger enclosure where she can move around more then she'll be fine.

    Boas are very strongly food-driven and mine react the same way to the ceiling fan. I think the shadows on the ceiling that they throw trigger a response since mine all want to go up to the ceiling whenever they are not in their enclosures.

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  9. #5
    BPnet Senior Member dakski's Avatar
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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    I agree with what's been said. I'll add a few things.

    I would be offering a medium rat (F/T if she'll take it) every two weeks. Boas are incredibly efficient with food and she should start to put on weight easily with that regiment. I wouldn't go to larges yet, as I'd get her up to speed first and feeding every two weeks on a medium will get growing and eating regularly, while keeping the meals easily digestible. For what's worth, my female BI, Behira, is about the same size and still growing one mediums every two weeks and occasionally every 3 weeks. If/when you do go to large rats, I would feed every 3-4 weeks, as Ziggy mentioned. Once she's filled out, although she doesn't look famished or anything, I would go to a large every 4 weeks in perpetuity. That's assuming you want a big girl. She can sustain happily on medium rats (100-150G) 2X a week for a long time, if not life. I plan to get Behira on large rats eventually, but I'll also play it by ear. She's healthy and has good body definition and I am not trying to grow her huge. Again, a medium every two weeks vs. a large every 4 is really up to you and the size of the snake. Boas can and will grow on less than 5% body weight per meal if spaced properly. To be clear, if she does get large - over 3-4KG, I would go to large rats. I just wanted do it to make her grow faster or pack on weight. Others may disagree, but I've talked to Jeff Ronne (The Boaphile) at length about this and he's sustained females for life on medium - larger rats. A long life too. I would not feed over a large rat as they are too fatty and boas do not do well with that. Again, food spacing is your friend if she gets really big and you can feed a large rat more frequently, if she really needs it. Again, Boas are incredibly food efficient.

    Boas rely heavily on smell. It's possible the teddy bear smelled like a cat, or dog, or who knows, and she got excited. I've never had an issue out of the tank, but all my boas, and my Carpet Python, have an incredible food response and I am a) careful when feeding, and b) hook train all of them.

    Also, she may still be getting used to you and the environment and not know she is only fed in the tank yet. My boas are saints when out and sinners () in the tank. They strike first and ask questions later. I've even had to put up drapes over their Boaphile enclosure fronts so they don't randomly strike at movement.

    Give her some more time to settle in and put on some weight, but I bet the teddy bear strike had to do with smell/texture and to related to food intake. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat every day if allowed. They are always in hunt mode.

    Any other questions, just ask, there are quite a few Boa peeps on here and we are happy to help.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

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  11. #6
    BPnet Senior Member CloudtheBoa's Avatar
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    I personally feed 6' boas large rats, 4-8 oz rabbits (whatever is equal to girth without leaving a lump), half pound chickens, and adult quail. All every 4-6 weeks. I'm not sure medium rats are enough, even on the 10-14 day schedule being used thus far. She doesn't look bad, but definitely is leaner than I'm used to - though I doubt the loose skin is due to her weight. She's been eating mediums quite often for a long time, and you're feeding even more often since getting her, so I would take that as a sign it isn't sufficient at this point. Just all depends on the body tone you're aiming for, she could probably be just fine at her current weight with some work to build up muscle tone, if she doesn't lose mass over time or anything. I'm not totally sure that schedule and her tone is sufficient for breeding, but would work for a pet only lifestyle.


    I've also never had a snake strike and constrict a toy out of the blue (or any inanimate object at all). I don't think this is a sign she's hungry, just that nobody has been working on her feeding response. Boas tend to strike first, ask questions later. You have to actually get hands on with them, and practice breaking their feeding responses to curb that. Upping food unfortunately isn't sufficient, and will only make them fat where increasing food isn't necessary.
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  13. #7
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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    Iíve got a friend who owns a boa to just use as a garbage disposal when other snakes refuse feed. They are notorious for there feeding they will pretty much eat anything offered if they are in good health.


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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamiekerk View Post
    Iíve got a friend who owns a boa to just use as a garbage disposal when other snakes refuse feed. They are notorious for there feeding they will pretty much eat anything offered if they are in good health.


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    That's not really a practice I'd recommend or care to copy. It can result in an over-fed unhealthy boa, to say nothing of sharing pathogens from snakes that touched but refused the prey initially- what if they turn out to be sick & that's why they refused to eat? Now you may have 2 sick snakes.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    That's not really a practice I'd recommend or care to copy. It can result in an over-fed unhealthy boa, to say nothing of sharing pathogens from snakes that touched but refused the prey initially- what if they turn out to be sick & that's why they refused to eat? Now you may have 2 sick snakes.
    Did I tell people to do it or copy it itís not something I do either I donít own a boa. I was just stating how boas will pretty much eat anything they can


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    Re: BCI Possibly Underfed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamiekerk View Post
    Did I tell people to do it or copy it itís not something I do either I donít own a boa. I was just stating how boas will pretty much eat anything they can


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    No, & no need to get defensive either. My post was merely intended to clarify to anyone reading this thread & getting ideas to imitate what you described why it's a bad idea. You'd be surprised how many times that many people think it's a great idea to re-offer prey items to save $, and how often snake keepers mention having a "garbage pail snake" that always eats all their rejected prey.

    Unfortunately, every now & then such practices produce a very unhealthy outcome that was entirely preventable. It doesn't usually happen right away either- it takes a while for the recipient snake to get sick, so typically the owner never makes the connection to anything they did. Many people also are not aware of the harm of over-feeding snakes- that they may end up with "fatty liver disease" & a much shorter lifespan. This forum seeks to promote "best methods"- because it's so much easier to keep snakes healthy than to bring them back to health once they become sick.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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