Baby Ball Python care is easy, but ever so slightly different to that of adults. Keep reading to find out how to modify your husbandry for them.
Caring for Baby Ball Pythons is similar to caring for adults. Nonetheless, they are slightly more delicate and may be become dehydrated or stressed more easily. To counteract this, their feeding, enclosure, and humidity must be altered slightly compared to that of older snakes.
When it comes to the enclosure, the first thing to remember is to keep things simple! For babies, simpler means safer.
Juvenile Ball Pythons can get lost and stressed in large enclosures, this means that providing a small enclosure and then upgrading it in line with your pet’s growth is a good idea.
Moreover, some babies find it harder to thermoregulate when their heat source is far away from the cool end. They get confused and end up hiding somewhere cooler than they would really like. Though loveable, it’s fair to say these snakes aren’t terribly smart!
The easiest to house hatchlings is to provide small plastic tubs for the first few months of their life.
Hatchlings are fine in tubs roughly L12 x W7 x H5inches (30 x 18 x 13cm) until they reach 150grams in weight. Then tubs of L16 x W10 x H8inches (41 x 25 x 20cm) are suitable for a further 2-4 months, depending on how fast they grow.
When the snake starts to look cramped in this tub size it’s time to move it into its adult enclosure.
Sterilite tubs like this one are a cheap and easy housing solution for baby Ball Pythons.
Very young Ball Pythons do best if kept at a slightly higher humidity level than adults. Personally, I aim for 70-75%. I do this for two reasons.
First, though I have no absolute proof of the relationship, over the years I’ve noticed that hatchlings maintained at this slightly higher humidity level are less likely to suffer from constipation.
Second, juveniles have thinner skin, and dry out more easily. Maintaining higher humidity probably makes them more comfortable in general.
Whilst this higher overall humidity helps things run smoothly, you still need to increase the humidity a touch when your baby is in its shed cycle.
If you’ve read my Ball Python Shedding and Humidity article, you know all about the four stages of shedding: dark colouration, pink belly, blue eyes, shed.
You’ll also know that when the eyes are blue, it’s time to up humidity even more. The problem is that babies grow at a much faster pace than adults. In fact, juveniles can go through the process in days, rather than over a week for an adult.
As soon as you see darkened colouration you need to up the humidity to 80% and check it morning and evening. This is vital to avoiding a bad shed.
What do baby Ball Pythons eat?
Acceptable food items include:
- multimammate mice (African soft-furred rats)
Multimammate mice, like the one pictured, can be a life saver when dealing with picky juveniles.
Juveniles will eat exactly the same prey species as adults. The difficulty can be in finding which one they prefer. Generally, most of my hatchlings start out on fluff (hopper) mice, then medium mice before finally switching to rat chubs when they reach around 100grams in weight.
Though offering mice seem to work well, it is true that certain babies are picky right from the get-go. From one of this year’s clutches, for example, 6 out of 7 babies ate mice without any issues. Number 7, on the other hand, refused both mice and rats of various colours and sizes.
As luck would have it, I had some Multimammate Mouse (African Soft-furred Rat) hoppers in the freezer and offered her one of these. Problem solved! She’s now happily plumping up on a diet of Multis’. She may never accept rats as a food source, but that’s just how it is.
Even babies can have preferences and before trying assist or force-feeding it’s best to try to accommodate them.
How do I know if my Baby Ball Python is hungry?
Once feeding, a lot of baby ball pythons will act hungry all the time. This isn’t begging in the way that dogs and cats do, but sometimes it still makes you wonder if you’re feeding them enough!
When they’re hungry, the main clue is that they sit halfway out of their hiding spot with their body raised in an “S”. Other times, they will constantly pace the enclosure, pushing their nose into corners and foraging. All-in-all it’s hard to miss.
The problem is that sometimes they act a little too hungry. What I mean is that act as if they are starving, when you just fed them an appropriately sized prey item 3 days ago.
If you are sure that the meal you gave them was large enough (a little wider than the widest part of your snake’s body), don’t give in and feed them again.
It’s always tempting to give babies as much food as they like, hoping they’ll grow up big and strong. In reality, this doesn’t work out well. In fact, overfeeding quickly leads to constipation, which can take a few days of lukewarm baths to cure!
Just stick to one appropriately sized prey item every 5 days for hatchlings, decreasing to every 7 days after a few months.
How often should you handle a baby Ball Python?
First and foremost, only handle juvenile ball pythons that are feeding well and have been with you for at least a week.
Handling can be a stressor and is best reserved for animals that are doing well. If a baby Ball Python is hiding all the time and reluctant to eat, it is extremely important to give it peace and quiet.
That said, the more confident babies are pretty obvious and can tolerate handling 2 to 3 times a week. In fact, if you handle a young ball python regularly like this, it can lose all fear of you and become a very outgoing, inquisitive animal.
Babies like this will enjoy exploring your desk or sofa, and even climbing bits of furniture. Notwithstanding, you must consider the fact that as reptiles, Ball Pythons are poikilotherms. This means they have a limited ability to regulate their internal temperature, other than changing their spatial orientation.
Small poikilotherms, like juvenile snakes are even less able to keep their body temperature up and will quickly get cold when away from a heat source. With this in mind, it’s best to keep handling sessions down to 5 minutes maximum for very young ball pythons.
Do Baby Ball Pythons bite?
Sorry to break it you but, yes – sometimes. I actually got bit by a baby just a couple of weeks before writing this post.
Fortunately, it only happens occasionally, and I hadn’t actually been bitten in years beforehand. To this baby’s credit, it was shedding. This process is stressful for adult snakes, so for a fragile hatchling it must be even more so. On this occasion, I shouldn’t have handled it, it’s as simple as that.
All in all, bites from babies are uncommon, but more to the point, they are about as painful as a tiny scratch from a bramble or a kitten. Not exactly painful, or even frightening to be honest.
You should maintain a hatchling Ball Pythons hygiene in the same way you would for an adult. Cleaning mess immediately, changing substrate regularly and enclosure disinfection all play a role.
The main difference here is that babies are smaller and therefore have a faster metabolism. As you might imagine, a faster metabolism means waste is produced at a faster rate, and therefore pee and poop are almost a daily occurrence.
To help deal with this problem, I recommend a cheap substrate that is easy to remove, such as (unscented) paper towels.
Baby Ball Python care is only very slightly different to that of adults. All you need to do is alter some of the parameters slightly to make your husbandry hatchling-specific.
By doing this, you can promote a healthy rate of growth and development, all the while keeping the enclosure and general husbandry incredibly simple.
- How to tell if a Ball Python is male or female
- When is ball python breeding season?
- Breeding Ball Pythons for profit
More on Ball Python breeding in general:
Back to the Ball Python reproduction page