Reproductive Data and Method for the 1999 - 2000 season
*Note: A new row started for FBP - 01 for the 2001 - 2002 season
My adults are all
in a Freedom Breeder rack with two types of levels. I maintain
adults in model number FB-CB70-8LK trays and smaller adults in FB-CB70
trays. The pythons are kept on newspaper substrate with a small
cat litter pan for a hide box (large entrance hole cut into one end)
water with 5" ceramic bowls. Babies and young animals up to a
of age may be housed in appropriately sized plastic shoe boxes or
boxes. They too are kept on newspaper with the only exceptions
smaller water bowls and no hide box. Basking heat is provided by
low wattage heat panels under the Freedom
live small mice or small rat pups as a first meal after their first
shed. I then
every attempt to convert them to thawed mice or rat pups for ease of
I keep Ball Pythons under two years of age on feed throughout the
year (provided they do not go off feed on their own).
Adult males are kept on feed from around April until the end of
October (or whenever they decide to feed in some cases).
I feed all my adults medium rats. If a male python
out of the winter cool down is reluctant to feed in April, I will
with a live rat. This generally helps get the feeding pattern for
the summer established again. I currently offer females small
meals during the winter (breeding) to keep body weight up for possible
ovulation. Years past I made no attempt to
feed females during the winter cool down. I would simply wait
until after they clutched or were sure they were not gravid. I'm
trying the small meals technique to see if I get better clutches.
Once a female has
deposited eggs I will allow her a week to rest quietly, then I resume a
normal feeding schedule.
Temperatures (Fahrenheit): I keep spring and summer ambient temperatures in a range of 83 to 87 for a daytime high and a range of 80 to 76 for a night time low. I keep winter ambient temperatures in a range from 78 to 80 for a daytime high and 65 to 75 for a night time low. Basking sites are supplied by the 3 inch heat bars underneath the Freedom Breeder trays. Heat tape is set to 92 degrees most of the year and turned off for 12 hours over night from roughly the end of December to the middle of February.
Light cycle: I maintain a light cycle that coincides with the natural light cycle here in Southwest Florida.
Males placed with females: During the winter cool down, I place opposite sexes together around the second week of December (about four weeks after cooling). I generally place a single male into a single females enclosure. Males tend to care less about their living quarters during the breeding season. If males are actively breeding I will leave them with the female until they show no more interest. Then I will separate them for a few days, sometimes a week and reintroduce. I generally repeat this cycle through April or until a female ovulates.
Observations, nest box and eggs: Gravid females will bask quite often over the heat panel area. Mine have a typical cycle of heat up, then cool down and repeat the procedure all day. When a female is near her egg deposition date, I put about 3 inches of decorative, damp sphagnum moss in the bottom of the tray. Females will push the moss around to make a nice round nest area over the heat panel. Once a female lays her eggs, be warned! The most docile Ball Python may become incredibly aggressive and strike out repeatedly when approached. Prior to removal, make a depression in the vermiculite inside the incubator in which the egg mass can rest (see next topic for incubation medium). The eggs are gently moved to the incubator. I typically make no attempt to separate eggs that have already adhered to each other. I cover the majority of the egg mass with vermiculite and then lightly mist the whole mound once the transfer and setup is complete. I generally do not remove eggs at any point during the incubation for inspection or to determine weight gain or loss. I only remove nonviable or dead eggs if they can be removed. If bad eggs cannot be removed, I simply leave them alone.
Incubators, incubation medium and temperature: I currently use Neodesha incubators. I set up and monitor the daily temperature levels of all incubators at least two weeks prior to any egg deposition. I use three different thermometers to ensure relatively accurate temperatures are being recorded. For an incubation medium I use small grain vermiculite exclusively. Any brand is fine, but I prefer the small grain opposed to the large type. I believe a better overall humidity level is achieved with the small grain. I dampen the vermiculite until is will just barely clump when squeezed. Too dry and it will not pack well. Too damp and you have slush or in this case, mud. Just the right amount of water and it will pack nicely, yet crumble in chunks if desired. Overall temperature range for all my python egg incubation is from 87 to 91. I prefer to keep the temperature in a tighter range of 88 to 90, but a degree on each side of this range has not resulted in any egg problems or birth defects.
Babies! In about 50 to 60 days babies will begin to pip out. This is always an amazing event and something I appreciate every time. Once the first baby has piped I will snap a picture or two and move the entire clutch to a shoe box with wet paper towel on the bottom. Babies that have piped, will typically rest in their egg for a day or two, then emerge to the world. At this point I inspect overall appearance. If excess umbilical material is still connected I leave the baby on wet paper towel until it disconnects. I allow babies to undergo their first shed before I offer food. After their first shed is complete I offer food in the form of hopper to small sized live mice or rat crawlers.