Even before the designer morph craze, ball pythons were a very popular choice when selecting a pet snake. Many people will agree that, across the years, the two most popular snakes to choose as pets have been ball pythons and corn snakes. Their relatively small size and generally casual demeanor make them great choices for people who love snakes but aren’t down with wondering if they are about to get chewed on every time they open the enclosure. When coupled with the staggering number of color and pattern variations (from both species) it’s easy to see why they are eternal staples of the reptile world. But despite all of the wonderful qualities that make ball pythons a great choice there is one quality that keepers will inevitably lament: the ball python appetite. The feeding response of ball pythons can be nothing short of a mystifying source of frustration.
My rodent delivery day is Friday. As a result Friday night and Saturday are heavy feeding times. But I usually get more rodents than I need because I like to feed throughout the week. I try to keep a small number of rodents all the time (small is a relative amount) because I know it’s on when I open a cage and a ball python gives me that special “let’s do this, let’s eat” look. Ooooh Yeah! It’s definitely on! You know the look, too. It comes in a few different forms; there’s the S-neck, facing forward, tense body look. There is also the shoot up out of the cage and defy the laws of physics by holding most of its body suspended in space and perpendicular to the floor look. And finally, my favorite: you slide open the drawer and they eagerly lift the first 3-4″ of their head and body and look straight up in the air, head darting back and forth, tongue flicking quickly in and out. In a snakes world rodents seem to rain down from heaven so it makes sense that this is the first place one should check when the possibility of food arises.
Most of the time ball pythons are voracious feeders. But sometimes …ooooh, sometimes, they can make you crazy with their finicky nature. So I take the Boy Scout approach and “always be prepared”. When a ball python wants to eat, it’s going to eat. That’s it. If I don’t feed it when it’s giving me all the right signals I know I’ll be kicking myself the following Friday when Murphy’s Law steps in and the snake says, “Nah. I’m good. Thanks anyway. Eat it yourself.”