Snakes are long and thin, with their mouth being the only apparent opening.
So how do snakes lay eggs?
Well, it’s not through their mouths.
They actually do have a another opening, which they use to urinate, defecate and for sexual reproduction. The females also use this opening to lay eggs.
But only some females. Not all species have eggs. And some actually have eggs, but they hatch while still inside the mother.
And I bet you thought the answer to this question would be simple!
Well, it’s not. So let’s dive in and clear it all up.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do Snakes Lay Eggs?
- 2 Egg-Laying Snakes: Some Examples
- 3 How Snakes Lay Eggs: Final Thoughts
How Do Snakes Lay Eggs?
In their natural environment, snakes carefully select a nest site to lay their eggs.
The reason they choose the nesting site carefully is that the eggs require an ideal temperature and humidity range. This is important because if these environmental needs aren’t met, the eggs of the snake won’t hatch.
Most snakes live in warmer, tropical regions, but snakes are capable of making different habitats their home. Deserts, water, and forests are other places where snakes live, lay eggs and produce their young.
You might well ask yourself “how do snakes lay eggs?” when you see the long, slender body that some snakes possess.
Snakes reproduce through the process of internal fertilization. Just like birds and marsupial mammals, snakes have a cloaca. The cloaca isn’t only used for waste elimination but for reproduction purposes too. When the time comes to lay their eggs, these eggs pass through the cloaca.
Do All Snakes Lay Eggs?
Most snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs which are incubated till birth. But not all snakes are. There are snakes that give birth in other ways.
Oviparous snakes have the eggs growing in the oviduct of the female. They lay from 2 to 50 eggs per clutch. The number of eggs depends on the species. Some species bury their eggs to incubate them while others wrap themselves around the snake.
Typically, the mother snake doesn’t hang around to see her young come into the world – she knows that they’re pretty independent from word go.
Viviparous snakes have no eggs. The baby snakes receive nutrients through a placenta and yolk sack until they are ready to be born. When they are born, they emerge live. Developing inside the mother keeps the embryos protected from predators and colder conditions.
In ovoviviparous snakes, the babies develop in eggs within the female snake. When they are ready to be born, they hatch while still inside the mother. The eggs stay inside the mother snake and the babies are born live. Rattlesnakes are the most common ovoviviparous species.
Egg Placement Influences Survival
The female snake chooses the nesting site carefully. Egg placement for reptiles influences survival. The egg stage is a fragile period, with the mortality rate being particularly high at this time.
The female’s selection of a nest site influences the survival of her offspring and it will need to offer some kind of protection from predators.
Development Of The Egg
With egg-laying snakes, development of the eggs takes place within the female snake’s oviduct before oviposition. The ovary releases an ovulated egg, and secretions from the oviduct coat the egg.
Production of the eggshell starts when the egg moves into the uterus. The gestated egg, with the help of rhythmic muscle contractions, moves out of the uterus and through the oviduct’s cloacal opening.
The female lays eggs in succession, with the eggs adhering to one another.
You need to keep an eye on your egg-laying female snake in captivity. There is a condition known as Dystocia. This is when your snake is unable to pass its eggs.
Your snake may have passed a number of eggs and then one becomes stuck. Sometimes, and particularly in the wild, the snake could get by with a couple of eggs left in her, as these would eventually pass through. However, when its an entire clutch that is stuck, the snake can die if she isn’t taken to the vet.
We know that when a female snake lays her eggs, they should be laid in a constant succession one after the other. There are some snake experts who know how to help a snake that can’t pass eggs.
They insert a needle through the snake’s belly into the egg and remove some of the yolks of the egg. This process is known as aspiration.
Egg Laying In Captivity
If you’ve got a snake in captivity and the female has produced eggs, you will no doubt need to incubate them yourself. Just like in the wild, the eggs need to be kept at precisely the right temperature and humidity.
You can buy good reptile incubators at pet shops or online and some even have a transparent cover so you can see the state of development of the eggs. A good snake rack works well if you are breeding many snakes.
After about 2 to 3 months the eggs will hatch on their own. Snakes don’t incubate their own eggs, because they’re cold-blooded – they don’t produce body heat. That said, a few species do incubate their eggs by shivering, which generates heat.
Egg Laying Cycles Differ Among Species
Different snake species have different gestation and laying times. That is why it is important to do research if you keep pet snakes and are thinking of breeding them. You need to understand the breeding and egg laying cycles of your particular species.
Generally speaking, snakes lay their eggs around 60 days or so after mating. A couple of prior to laying the eggs, they have their pre-lay shed.
This is when it is important that your enclosure temperatures are correct and that the environmental conditions are correct for egg laying. In captivity, you will need to provide your snakes with an egg-laying container.
There is no need to rush out and buy a special container, though. You can simply use one of those 2-liter ice-cream tubs with a lid or something similar. Make a hole in the lid large enough for the snake to climb through.
Do Snakes Lay Eggs In The Ground?
Snakes lay their eggs in a large variety of places, like under logs, in damp burrows, and also in the ground. They like sand or soil, because these help incubate the eggs.
It’s important to know about the egg-laying habits of snakes because it can give you an idea of who the eggs belong to. Most snake eggs are white in appearance, so the appearance alone is not always enough to tell the species.
If you’re wondering if you are dealing with a bird or snake egg, for instance, the location in which you found it can be extremely helpful.
There are some snakes that return to the same nesting spot every year, and they may even travel long distances to use the nest site they used before. These snakes rely on familiar nesting spots.
Snakes Lay Many Eggs
Snakes lay a large number of eggs, because it ensures that at least some of their young survive. There are quite a few factors which threaten the unhatched eggs.
- predation by egg-loving animals
- the habit of egg turning with snakes in captivity
- temperature variations
Egg-Laying Snakes: Some Examples
Most of the world’s snakes are egg laying. This includes all snakes from the large Colubridae family, which includes 1,938 different species, at current count.
Most of these are non-venomous and they come from all corners of the world. Some of the aquatic types are live-bearing. Members of the Elapidae family also lay eggs. Examples of this family are are mambas, cobras, adders, etc.
Do Black Snakes Lay Eggs?
Black snakes are found on all continents and are known by different names – black rat snake, black racer, pilot black snake, and others. They are constrictors and some species look so similar that it can be difficult identifying them with their black coloration.
Black snakes are oviparous (egg-laying) with repeating reproductive cycles. Females lay between 6 and 24 eggs. The eggs are deposited under logs, in hollow trees or in compost. The eggs take between 37 to 51 days to develop and hatch.
Do Pythons Lay Eggs?
Pythons are non-venomous snakes. There are 41 species in the family Pythonidae. Pythons are egg layers (oviparous), and interestingly, most species even provide some parental care to their eggs, which is highly unusual for snakes.
The female makes a nest of soil and vegetation, and once the eggs are laid, she coils around them, using what is known as thermogenesis (basically shivering) to keep the eggs warm.
Do Brown Snakes Lay Eggs?
Not to be mistaken for copperhead snakes, the brown snake is slender, and can be non-venomous or venomous, depending on the continent.
They mate once a year and are an egg-laying species. Females lay around 16 eggs, though clutches can be a lot larger. Eggs are laid in damp burrows, with the female staying with the eggs for up to 5 weeks. Eggs gestate for about 2.5 months.
Do Garter Snakes Lay Eggs?
Garter snakes are one of the most widespread snakes in North America, and they’re ovoviviparous. The embryos develop inside the eggs, but the eggs stay inside the mother’s body when hatching and the young are born live.
Do Tiger Snakes Lay Eggs?
Thick set tiger snakes, found in Australia, are a grayish brown color with distinct bands. They’re aggressive, venomous and dangerous.
The gestation period for these snakes is about 112 days and the females produce about 20 to 30 live young at a time. The baby snakes come out covered in membranous sacs, and once they’re out of these sacs they’re on their own.
How Snakes Lay Eggs: Final Thoughts
While some snakes give birth to live young (both with and without eggs), most species lay eggs. The egg-laying habits can differ quite a bit from species to species, so it is important to learn everything you can about your species, if you are planning on breeding your snakes.