If there is one thing that most surprises new ball python owners, it is how much their new pet eats.
Or should I say: how little?
Ball pythons, and snakes in general, eat far less than you might expect.
More accurately: they eat far less often.
True, they eat large meals for their size.
But then they go weeks, even months, before their next meal.
So, how many mice should you feed your ball python? And how often should you feed it those mice?
Kee reading to learn exactly how many mice you should feed your pet and how frequently it needs to eat.
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How Many Mice Should I Feed My Ball Python?
You should feed your adult ball python either one single rat or a few mice every two 10 to 14 days. As they age, you should increase the time between feedings, as well as the size of the prey.
A hatchling should get a hopper mouse every 5 days. A 3-month old snake gets a small mouse or a fuzzy rat once a week. At 6 months, it gets a rat pup or a mouse every 7 to 10 days.
Feed a 1 year old ball python a small rat or two adult mice ever 10 to 14 days. Once the snake reaches 18 months of age, keep the frequency the same, but up the amount to 3 or 4 mice, or 1 medium rat.
After a snake has reached the age of three, continue to feed it a medium rat or 3 to 4 adult mice, but reduce the frequency of feeding to once every 14 to 21 days. After 5 years, feed it the same once every 21 to 50 days.
In general, you want to feed your snake prey that is almost as large as the snake’s body right in the middle. So basically, at the largest point. Use the frequencies given above and simply modify the amount to match the size of the snake.
If this feels like you are not feeding your ball python often enough, remember that snakes do not require a lot of food. It takes them a while to digest food and it stays in their system, providing energy, for a long time.
You may have noticed that all of our feeding recommendations above were either rats or mice. That’s because those are the easiest things to find that ball pythons like. But they eat plenty of other animals in the wild.
Foods Ball Pythons Like
These types of pythons enjoy eating small animals and birds. In the wild, the ball python lives in west and central Africa, where its diet consists of giant rats, black rats, grass mice, weaver birds, and rufous-nosed rats.
Male and female preferences differ a bit when it comes to food. Male ball pythons prefer birds while females prefer small mammals. However, both sexes will eat anything they believe they can swallow.
Your pet ball python will enjoy eating mice, rats, and chicks. They also like variety in their diet, so it’s a good idea to try and switch their food up every now and then.
For example, you could sometimes feed them a small bird or rabbit, instead of rats or mice. It’s also worth noting that ball pythons don’t enjoy eating any amphibians, other reptiles, eggs, or fish. They’re not a huge fan when it comes to other scaly creatures.
How To Feed Your Ball Python
You can feed your ball python either live or dead prey. I recommend dead prey to feed your snake, because it is safer. A rat fighting for its life can easily injure your snake.
Plus, it can be distressing for some to feed their pet a live animal. The good news is that you can easily buy frozen prey at your local pet store or online. You can store frozen rats or mice in your freezer and simply take one out when needed.
If you choose to use frozen prey to feed your snake, you want to make sure you defrost it first. To do this, put the prey into a plastic bag and then put the bag into a bowl of water at 110° F.
Once it is defrosted and at room temperature, dry it. Then use feeding tongs to feed it to your ball python.
It’s very important that you use tongs. You don’t want your snake taking out a chunk of your hand as well.
You can also place the prey straight into the enclosure for your snake to eat. However, if your python has not eaten its food within 12 hours, remove it from the cage.
Feeding your snake live prey is slightly different. To start with, you won’t have to defrost it. You should still make sure the prey isn’t any wider than your snake’s girth, or it they may have problems digesting.
Make sure the prey is free from any injuries or parasites, since they could potentially harm your snake. Use tongs to pick up the rat or mouse by the tail and feed it directly to your snake.
Don’t put the prey into the enclosure and let it run free. That increases the risk of it injuring your snake considerably and you don’t want the ball python you care for to suffer.
Common Mistakes When Feeding
A common mistake pet owners make is to overfeed their ball python. To avoid this, stick to a strict schedule when it comes to feeding.
If you live with other people, make sure they know the times your snake should be fed and whether it has already eaten, so that they do not end up feeding your snake twice.
You can tell if your snake is overweight by its shape. A snake should look almost triangular from the front, where its body starts to become smaller and smaller.
If your snake is overweight, it may feel soft when you hold it, or even have fat rolls along its body.
Feeding your snake in its cage can also cause behavioral issues. Your python may begin to learn when feeding time is and start to get overexcited when it sees the cage being opened.
This can cause it to strike early, even when you don’t have any food in your hand! To help with this issue, you can feed it in a separate enclosure, so that it is able to learn when meal times are and save your hand from being eaten alive.
It can take ball pythons a while to digest their food, because they have a slow metabolism. You should avoid handling your snake for at least 72 hours after it has eaten. Let your snake rest after eating to avoid any digestive issues.
Can I Feed My Ball Python Two Mice At Once?
Yes, you can feed your ball python two mice at a time. But make sure you are not feeding too much. The mice should be considerably smaller than your snake’s girth, if you feed more than one.
Two large mice that are almost the size of your snake is excessive for your python. Feeding that much can cause digestive issues, weight gain, or even regurgitation.
How Do I Know If My Ball Python Is Hungry?
Your snake will try to let you know it’s hungry in a variety of different ways. It may prowl the front of the cage, where you usually stand when feeding.
Your snake may also become more active, or start flicking its tongue, which is how your snake tastes the air, trying to sense if there is any food around. It may also just give you attention whenever you come near the enclosure.
To stop your snake from becoming hungry, you should make sure you’re feeding it the right amount for its age. Remember, younger snakes eat more often than older snakes.
You should also make sure you have a feeding schedule in place and that you stick to it, so that your snake’s body becomes used to feeding times.
You should also make sure that you provide your snake with a nutrient-rich diet. Along with mice and rats, you can look into feeding your ball python small birds such as chicks or quails, or even animals like rabbits.
How Many Mice To Feed Ball Python: Final Thoughs
How many mice or rats you should feed your ball python depends on your snake’s size and its age. Younger snakes eat smaller meals, but they eat far more often.
Once snakes get older, they only eat once a month or less, but they have larger meals each feeding. It is important to make a feeding schedule and stick to it, to ensure you do not overfeed (or underfeed) your ball python.