If it’s your first time trying to feed a ball python, you probably have a lot of questions: What to feed it and how much? Fortunately, feeding a pet snake is rather straightforward and this quick guide will help you answer all your ball python feeding concerns.
What To Feed a Ball Python
The vast majority of pet snake species (with only a handful of exceptions) live on diets that primarily consist of rodents. The type of rodents to be used (mouse, rat, hamster, gerbil, or even guinea pig) will ultimately be determined by the size of your snake. Since most casual snake owners don’t own gargantuan serpents, mice and rats suffice for most.
Ball pythons grow to be between 3-5 feet in length and are considered mid-sized snakes (though the males of the species fall on the small side of the snake size range). As such, mice are often the go-to choice simply because the ball python’s small stature makes it difficult to eat anything larger. Once a ball python nears its full size (a year for males but three or four years for females), rats could certainly be an option. Just remember the golden rule to never feed a snake prey larger than its widest point and you’ll be just fine.
Pet owners should consider the interchangeability of live or frozen mice and rats. A small, juvenile rat might be the equivalent size of an adult mouse. This flexibility means that there’s no one single ‘correct’ choice of what to feed a ball python. And while that answers the first question, that still leaves the particulars of determining how much to feed a ball python.
How Much To Feed a Ball Python
Younger ball pythons will need to eat more frequently than adults, eating twice a week compared to once every 2-3 weeks. Frequency aside, there are no major differences in determining the precise size and quantity of prey to give your pet snake. One helpful guide is the 15% rule. Feed ball pythons prey that’s the equivalent of 15% of their body weight. So a 100-gram ball python should be given 15 grams of food.
However, this primarily applies to younger balls that are less than 500 grams. Once you become more familiar with your snake’s behavior and can tell the signs that it’s hungry, you’ll be able to adjust prey size and amount through observation.
Owners are not limited to providing meals in the form of a single rodent. It’s perfectly acceptable to use two smaller rodents which might be the equivalent of a larger one. This is handy if your snake has grown and you still have frozen mice or rats on hand that you want to use even though they seem tiny in comparison.
Should You Use Live or Frozen Rodents?
There are benefits to both. Live prey can bring out a snake’s instinct to hunt, very helpful when dealing with ultra-picky eaters. However, even a tiny mouse can cause significant injury to a snake with its teeth and claws. Pre-killed, frozen rodents offer safety, convenience, and affordability.