Snakes are not slimy as many people believe. They are cool, dry, and very smooth to the touch. They,who keep snakes, say it's very calming to handle them. The ball python is a good starter reptile for the beginning snake keeper and a favorite even among advanced snake breeders.
Ball pythons are not long snakes. Adult female ball pythons average 3 to 5 feet long, and adult male ball pythons average 2 to 3 feet in size. In other words, a 5-foot long ball python is a big snake! Instead of putting its growth into length, if properly cared for, the mature ball python will grow into what is called "a heavy bodied" snake.
The pattern of the normal ball python is lovely, but each year breeders come up with even more variations that keep the ball python high on the list of popular snakes.
Feeding the Ball Python
Small snakes like ball pythons normally eat smaller pray such as mice and rats. Ball pythons do not "strangle" their prey. The ball python is a constrictor that coils around its prey and uses its strong coils to suffocate the prey. However, while snakes must have warm prey, it doesn't have to be alive. Prey also needs to be intact (undressed) since some of the important nutrients are in what the rodent has recently eaten.
Many snake keepers prefer to feed frozen-thawed prey to their snakes. Ball pythons can be irregular in their feeding habits. Its normal for snakes to go a week or two, sometime longer between feedings. Yet, I have heard of ball pythons that go months between accepting prey. Putting a live rodent in with your snake puts it in danger. Frozen-thawed prey keeps the snake safe.
When constrictors are ready to eat, they will grab the food item and coil around it whether it is living or not, so you do get to see the action of coiling.
A big problem with ball pythons comes from their irregular feeding habits. As mentioned, it's natural for them to go for weeks between feedings. When they become stressed they can actually starve themselves to death, often before their care giver recognizes that there is a problem.
Ball Python Habitat
All snakes are escape artists and must be put in a secure enclosure, for their own protection as well as yours. However, there is no documented report of a ball python killing and eating any human. Because of their size and body type, it would be nearly impossible.
Additionally, nearly all captive snakes are prey specific. You would be hard-pressed to get a ball python to eat anything it is not used to eating.
You won't need a large enclosure for a ball python. They are completely happy in something as small as a plastic tub as long as you have a secure lid for it and have added sufficient air holes to it. But, you may want an acrylic vivarium for your snake so that you can enjoy watching it as you learn to care for it and handle it.
If you do have it out in the open, you will need to provide a "hide" area for it. You can find them at pet stores or make one yourself out of a plastic container or a clay flowerpot. The snake isn't going to care what it looks like as long as it works.
Warming Up to Your Ball Python
If you are feeding her enough, your ball python should be pretty mellow after she eats and you may be tempted to handle her. Handling immediately after feeding can cause the snake to regurgitate so it is best to wait until you can no longer see the lump. It should be okay to handle her next day, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a reptile?
Ball pythons are the least aggressive pythons. If you are waiting until next day and she still rears back ready to strike, walk away and try again when she is calm. Patience is a virtue in building trust with a ball python. They are usually quite shy. Possibly due to their shyness, some of them never get used to being handled.
Most snakes don't need a lot of light, but they are cold-blooded and they do need something to help them warm up. There are various appliances you can use to add heat to a reptile's habitat: heat tapes, basking lights and hot rocks are just a few of them available at pet stores.
For expert help in outfitting your snake, look to Reptile Magazine. This page from Reptiles magazine is an excellent free care sheet. Reptile Magazine is like a bible for reptile handlers, whether new, intermediate, or advanced with all the information to help you and your ball python warm up to each other.
- By Squamata55 - Lucy, female Ball python (Python regius), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16795143
- By Kaorte - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28558315
- By Eclipse Exotics - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19458529