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How to Breed Ball Pythons

The goal of this article is to increase your chances of success in breeding ball pythons. I’m going to show you some quick and easy tips to help you on your way to success in raising these awesome animals.

Right sex – Make sure your animals are of the correct gender, and you actually have a male and a female. There are two ways to determine the sex of a ball python, one is by “spitting” and the other is by “feedback”. In my opinion popping is the easier method of the two, requires no tools and involves no risk or harm to the animal. To probe a ball python requires inserting a metal probe backwards towards the tail on the left or right side of the cloaca. Once the catheter is in place, you weigh a scale to determine the sex of the animal. Males usually probe quite deep around 8 or more subcaudal scales and females will probe about 2-4 subcaudal scales. I will cover more detailed instructions for determining the sex of your snake in another article, if for any reason you are unsure about determining the sex of your animals, find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area for help.

Sexual maturity – Males and females mature sexually at different ages and weights. Sexual maturity in ball pythons appears to be determined more by weight than age, although age certainly plays a role in sexual maturity. Females usually mature around two-three years of age and 1200-1500 grams in weight, some may mature a little sooner or a little later, but the overall majority will mature in this age and weight range. Males mature much faster than females and usually mature between 6 months – 1 year, although I have had some young males breeding as early as twelve weeks of age! Breeding weight for males ranges from 400 grams for juveniles to 800 grams or more for first-time breeders.

Seasonal change and temperature drop – In the wild pythons are seasonal animals and usually breed between October and December in the rainy season, with the spawning season around March and April. Baby ball pythons begin to hatch and eat their first meals after the rainy season when prey is plentiful. Now in captivity, they can breed every year, but the seasonal change and drop in temperature increase your chances of getting maximum production. I like to start gradually dropping my temperatures in November by a degree or two each week until I get the temperature drop 5-7 degrees lower at night than my daytime highs which in the off season is 85 -87 degrees. In breeding season I go down to 80 degrees overnight low on the hotter side of the tub for three or four months and then come back to off season temps of 85-87 degrees.

Pair them up for reproduction – Once you have decided that you do have a male and female and they are at the age and weight of sexual maturity, it is time to start mating these animals for breeding. I introduce my males into my females’ tubs and not the other way around because female ball pythons release a lot of pheromones during breeding season and these pheromones are great at signaling to male pythons that it’s time to breed. Once I introduce the male to the female I leave the pair undisturbed for 24 hours after which I check to see if they are actively breeding, if they are I give them another 24 hours, if not I move the male to the next female tub and start the process all over again . Once the male has successfully mated with a female I offer him a small meal which is usually a small rat and 48 hours of rest. Once he is well rested I repeat the process. I continue this process of mating my males with females until the females are either ovulating or it is clear that they are not going to produce for the season.

Ovulation – Being able to correctly identify an ovulating female ball python is extremely helpful when breeding for maximum production. Here are some quick tips to help you identify an active ovulation and a woman who is already ovulating.

Determination of active ovulation – A female ball python that is actively ovulating will have a very noticeable swelling in the lower 3rd of her body. it may even look like he just ate a big meal. You’ll also notice that her tail is tucked into her body in an awkward “L” shape. This classic position is known as “Suck” to veteran python breeders and is an excellent indicator that the female is in the process of ovulating.

Ovulation has occurred – If you miss active ovulation, all is not lost and you can still tell if your female python is ovulating using these quick tips. First of all, just follow her over the course of a few days and see where she spends most of her time. Is it on the cool end of the tub or the warm end? If it is on the warm end of the tub, then your female is already ovulating and no longer needs to be bred. If she still seeks the colder end of the tub and laps the bowl, then chances are very good that your female is not ovulating and still needs breeding.

Egg production and incubation – After ovulation, your female python no longer needs to mate with a male and you can start setting up the incubator and making arrangements for the baby ball pythons. Right around three weeks after ovulation she will enter a litter cycle known to veteran breeders as “POS” which means “post-ovulation shed”. After “POS” you are looking at about 30-40 days until your female lays multiple eggs.

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