How often should Ball Pythons eat? There are some general guidelines, but you need to factor in age, fasting, and breeding if you want to feed your Ball Python the correct amount.
When fed appropriately sized prey, adult Ball Pythons should eat every 7 to 10 days. Baby Ball Pythons are growing more quickly, and need feeding every 5 days until they reach roughly 3 months in age. Nonetheless, there are exceptions to these guidelines, keep reading to find out more.
How long can Ball Pythons go without eating?
Ball Pythons can go a long time without eating. In fact, I’ve seen adult female Ball Pythons that have fasted for over 12 months, before starting to feed again as if nothing happened. I also have several male Ball Pythons that fast for 3 to 6 months each winter.
If your Ball Python has gone a while without eating, the best way to make sure it’s ok is with monthly weigh ins. If it’s losing weight fast – you need a vet. Conversely, if it’s losing weight very slowly, it’s a natural fast and nothing to worry about.
Nonetheless, in captivity, the question isn’t so much how long they can go, as how long they should go. After, all our goal as keepers should be to give our pets a comfortable, easy life. That’s the deal: we get to enjoy their company, and in return they get a good life. This is why in this article we’re going to look at how frequently we should feed them when they’re not fasting.
How do I know if my Ball Python is hungry?
Ball Pythons make it very clear when they’re hungry. You know a Ball Python is hungry if it has its head and neck raised in an “S” at the entrance to its hiding place. This is how they stage an ambush. In this posture, they’re on high alert and ready to strike when something comes into view. If, on the other hand, they are not even poking their nose out of the hiding place, it’s safe to say they aren’t hungry.
I actually use this body language to judge who to feed and who not to feed at times. Most weeks, I split feeding in two: half the snakes on day 1, and the other half on day 2. This helps reduce waste because on the first day I get to see who’s hungry. If some of the snakes are hiding and completely curled up in their cave, despite the smell of rats in the room, I know there’s no point getting food out for them the day after.
Can you overfeed a Ball Python?
You absolutely can overfeed a Ball Python. In fact, this is one of the leading causes of constipation in baby Ball Pythons. They’re cute and a lot of them are hungry all the time! As you can imagine, this leads a lot of well-meaning keepers to give in and feed them way too much. The result is more food than their little digestive systems can handle, and, inevitably, constipation.
Overfeeding adult Ball Pythons is less often associated with constipation, and more often associated with obesity. An obese Ball Python starts to get jowls, a fold of extra skin along its neck, and rolls of fat that fold over when it’s curled up. Again, it can look kind of cute… The problem is that it leads to heart disease and premature death. If your Ball Python is over 3 or 4 years of age, don’t let its weight continue to rise.
Feeding frequency for baby Ball Pythons
Baby Ball Pythons should be fed every 5 days for the first few months of their lives. You’ve probably read this many times, and it’s pretty much the standard point of view on the subject.
The problem is that babies all grow at different rates. I’ve seen baby Ball Pythons that were 3 months old, weighing at 150 grams and eating rat pups. Other babies that I’ve encountered have reached 300 grams by the same age and been switched to small weaner rats.
If you have a baby Ball Python, by all means, feed it every 5 days, but if it is constantly restless and acting hungry, you probably need to increase the size of its meals.
Feeding frequency for adult Ball Pythons
As a general rule, you should feed adult Ball Pythons a meal the same thickness as their greatest girth every 7 to 10 days. This is appropriate for adults between 1 to 10 years old. If the animal’s weight is climbing, despite being fully grown, reduce feeding to every 14 to 20 days.
What I’ve said above is obviously a basic guideline, and there are exceptions. Two circumstances in particular come to mind when judging how often to feed an adult Ball Python.
First is following a fast. Most of my Ball Pythons only fast for a few months, then get back to normal. A couple, however, fast for 6 months, then like to binge for a few weeks to get back on track. It’s just how they are… For these individuals, I often increase feeding to twice a week for 2 or 3 weeks if they suddenly get extremely hungry. This is a temporary measure to help them gain weight and strength back quickly.
Second is during follicle building or after laying eggs. The whole process of building follicles, and then eggs, is hugely taxing on female Ball Pythons. If they have been pairing, and are most likely building follicles (also known as vitellogenesis), then they need more food. Same goes for a female that has just laid eggs – it’s a lot of energy and nutrients to replace. Again, I let females eat twice a week during these times.
How long should I give my Ball Python to eat?
One mistake I used to make, which really made me kick myself, was not leaving a Ball Python long enough to eat. There’s been a few times where I’ve had one strike, closed the tub, then come back to peek and disturbed it. Sometimes they will even skip the meal completely, just because you’ve bothered them.
I recommend that you leave a Ball Python at least 30 minutes to eat, without disturbance.
Can I feed my Ball Python once a month?
You can feed a Ball Python once a month if it is very old, or if it has eaten a very large meal. Some older Ball Pythons (i.e., over 10 years in age) get a very sluggish metabolism and have to have feeding reduced to avoid obesity. An alternative way to deal with the issue is to simply feed the snake a small meal twice a month. I personally find this stops some of them getting as frustrated.
When it comes to very large meals, many keepers notice that Ball Pythons don’t like the struggle of swallowing them. Interestingly, it also seems to make some of them more likely to go on a fast.
How often should I feed my three-month-old Ball Python?
When your Ball Python gets to three months old, it should be a good 150 to 200 grams in weight and feeding on large mice or rat chubs (these are usually around 25 -30 grams).
At this point, you should start feeding your Ball Python every 7 days instead of every 5. If it is usually feeding on anything smaller than a large mouse or rat chub, then switch it to one of these to keep its growth consistent.
Ball Python feeding frequency table
|Age/circumstance||How often should they eat?|
|hatchling to 3 months old||every 5 days|
|3 months to 1 year old||every 7 days|
|1 to 10 years old||every 7 to 10 days, reduce to every 14 – 20 if necessary|
|over 10 years old||once a month or twice if giving small prey|
|while building follicles||twice a week|
|after laying eggs||twice a week|
|after a long fast||twice a week for two to three weeks|
Can I feed my Ball Python raw chicken?
You cannot feed your Ball Python raw chicken. Don’t get me wrong, there are snakes that will accept raw meat, including chicken and beef heart. Believe it or not there’s even snakes that will accept (cold) scrambled eggs.
The problem is that snakes need whole prey. The skeleton, brain, organs, etc. all have different vitamins and nutrients that make up a Ball Python’s dietary requirement. This is why you can’t feed them raw chicken alone. If you did, you would risk your snake developing metabolic bone disease or a similar disease related to malnutrition.
Should you feed your Ball Python in its cage?
One of the greatest pet snake myths of all time is the idea that you should feed them in a separate tank! What a terrible idea!
You should always feed your Ball Python in its cage. That is where it is the most comfortable, and most likely to feed, period.
Moving a snake to a different cage to feed does two things. First, it disturbs the snake and makes it less likely to eat. Second, if the snake does eat, it disturbs it again to return it to its regular cage. This will make it more likely to regurgitate.
Do Ball Pythons prefer to eat at night?
This is probably one of the most important factors to consider when feeding this species. Ball Pythons always prefer to feed at night, or dusk. Most of my snakes start to poke their heads out between 7 and 8 PM, then by 9 PM are ready to feed. Don’t forget that they don’t have amazing vision, they also rely on heat to see their prey. Make sure the food is thoroughly thawed out and very warm.
Also on this topic:
- What is the best way to feed a Ball Python?
- Do Ball Pythons Need Vitamin Supplements?
- Ball Python not eating (what should I do?)
- When should you assist feed a baby Ball Python?
- Ball Python heat pits
For more on Ball Python diet in general:
Back to the Ball Python food page