how to tell if your snake is pregnant

Snake in Gravid – How To Tell If Your Snake Is Pregnant

The best way to confirm pregnancy in snakes would be to take them to your local pet store.  Most pet stores that specialize in snakes will do a quick scan that will confirm the pregnancy.

Below is a list of ways that would suggest a pregnant or a gravid snake:

  • Your snake will not eat.
  • The snake will lie down on its back.
  • The snake will stay in sunny areas – this will be the case as they are warming their pregnant body up.
  • They will become more aggressive.
  • When the eggs are almost due you will notice bumps on the snake’s body.  These are the eggs inside the snake.

If you see the above changes in your snake this could mean that it is carrying a pregnancy.


If you keep animals as pets, the thought must have crossed your mind as to whether you’d like them to produce offspring.

Whatever animal you keep as a pet, you may have to realize that there are some species that won’t breed in captivity. You can coax them all you like into sexual activity but some don’t respond. If you keep a snake in captivity, it will be important to choose one of the snake-types that do well in captivity.

For many snake lovers, the thrill of keeping a pet snake in an enclosure is the thrill of seeing them go through all their ‘seasons of life’.

How long do snakes stay pregnant/gravid for?

All snakes are different and can all have different gravid/pregnant periods.  See below:

Ball Pythons 4-5 WEEKS 6 14 DAYS
Corn Snakes 4-5 WEEKS 6 8-28 DAYS
Milk Snakes 4-5 WEEKS 8 8-28 DAYS
King Snakes 4-5 WEEKS 8 8-28 DAYS
Burmese Pythons 4-5 WEEKS 100 10 DAYS
Egg Eaters 4-5 WEEKS 6 10 DAYS

Selective Breeding – Wanting Certain Characteristics

Getting certain snakes to mate and have healthy young in captivity isn’t just all plain sailing. There are techniques to follow so that you can see your snakes’ courting, mating, being pregnant and producing healthy young.

After all, when selectively breeding your snake, you’re wanting those certain characteristics to show up in the babies. You may even have chosen a certain snake breed so that you can make money from the sale of the babies.

With a Ball Python for instance, if you want certain patterns, this is what is known as selective breeding. If however,  you’re not interested in patterns and colors, then you don’t need to worry about genetics and proper breeding partners.

How long are snakes pregnant for is a question most novice snake owners want answering. This is because it is after the pregnancy that it will be determined whether their snake set-up was successful after all.

Eggs or Live Young?

There is a difference in the way the animal kingdom give birth to their young.

With a snake pregnancy, do snakes lay eggs or do they give birth to live young?  

There are some snakes which give birth to live young, just like mammals do. Most vipers and all rattlesnakes, boa constrictors and anacondas give birth to live young.


The baby snakes develop inside the female and are covered with a thin membrane when born. The baby snake wriggles free and is off, knowing full well that it won’t be getting any kind of assistance from its indifferent mom.

There are many other snakes that lay eggs.  Most snake species, around 70% of them, in fact, reproduce by laying eggs.   The babies grow inside the eggs until they are ready to emerge.

Temperatures Dictate Breeding Times

In the wild, snakes know exactly when to mate according to hot and cold temperatures, but in captivity, there aren’t seasons. In captivity, you will be in control of the snakes mating habits.

You can decide on temperature and you can also decide on what snake your snake is going to mate with. In your snake enclosure, you will need to create an environment much like the snake would experience in the wild.

Survival of Eggs Require Right Temperatures

A snake is a reptile and if you want to see your female snake pregnant, a reptile’s reproduction depends on temperature.   You want to be sure of the right temperatures within the cage to ensure proper development of the eggs and to ensure her comfort.

It’s not easy controlling temperatures. Temperatures vary between the different snake species too. Corn snakes, for instance, will want temperatures between 80° and 90° Fahrenheit.

Controlling the temperature is critical to the eggs

Controlling temperature is critical if you want eggs to survive till hatching time. The wrong temperatures could mean birth defects. Also, proper levels of humidity are important and they can also vary according to different snakes. You want to make sure you get the proper humidity levels going in the snake cage.

Once the right temperatures and humidity are set up properly and the pregnancy is confirmed, a nice nesting box will keep her content. Once you see the eggs and perfect young, you’ll realize what an awesome learning experience the breeding of snakes can be.

You will know that you have successfully provided your pet snake with the right habitat that allowed it to mate and produce successfully ‘under your watch’. You may even feel spurred on to breed other colubrids later on.

No Mating Bonds are Formed

Once the snake comes out of hibernation, it has mating on its mind.  Mating can take place after spring and continue throughout the summer – it all depends on the species.


Some males fight for the right to mate with the females and some snakes mate several times during the year. Snakes don’t form mating bonds, and once copulation takes place, males and females part company without a second glance.

The very habits of female snakes will give something away as to how these snakes get pregnant. Previously scientists believed that female snakes were pretty submissive during courtship and mating. They’ve since changed their minds and have discovered that the females actually have an active, prominent role.

The female snakes are imposing and not to be messed with. They are able to overpower the males, many times being larger than them and with some female snakes species devouring the male.

Anacondas Breeding

With anacondas, mating is usually in the Spring. Females emit airborne chemicals to alert the males to the fact that they are ready for mating. The males pick up the scent by flicking their forked tongue and then follow the trail to reach the females in heat.

Mating of Anacondas often takes place in rivers. A single female Anaconda attracts multiple males and these coil around her. A  sexual orgy or mating ball like this can last for a few weeks.

Once mating has been wrapped up, the female carries the embryos inside her body and they remain attached to a yolk sac. A  gestation period follows for 6 months.  She’ll bask quite a bit in the sun to help the embryonic growth process.  The pregnant Anaconda doesn’t feed during this time.

Anaconda snakes are known to be ovoviviparous – the eggs will hatch inside the body of the female Anaconda. After the 6 months is up, the eggs will hatch inside the female with the babies being wrapped in the membrane.

At the birth time, the babies emerge out of the cloacal region. The newborns are called neonates.

Corn Snake Breeding

If you’re a first-time snake owner and you want to keep a snake and learn something about the behavior of snakes, the Corn Snake is one of the easiest snakes to breed in captivity. It’s a snake where you stand a good chance of witnessing a pregnant snake giving birth.

It is one of the most bred snakes of all.  And anyone with sexually mature male and female Corn snakes should be fairly successful with breeding and producing a clutch of corn snake eggs.

These snakes are usually ready to breed from the age of 18 months to 2 years. Once you’ve got a suitable pair you can find out about the ways there are to prepare them for breeding.

The Breeding Of Corn Snakes are dictated by the season

The lives of corn snakes are dictated by the seasons. This timing is important for animals as the young are then born at times when their survival rates stand a better chance.

After a cooling period for the snakes, they are warmed back to their optimum temperature. They start eating huge meals in preparation for breeding. The snakes are then introduced to one another, putting one corn snake into the cage of the other.

It can be that breeding will happen immediately. Leave the snakes together for at least a week to allow chances for mating. With a Corn snake pregnancy, there are some things you can do to make it more pleasant for your snake.

And one of these is to simply give your pet a bit of privacy.

Snakes are shy by nature, and to have people constantly crowding around to watch their every move can be stressful. After the mating period, the male snake should be removed and the female should then be provided with a nesting box.  

This is where she can lay her eggs.  Some of these nesting boxes are awesome as they double as terrarium and pet carrier at the same time.

Ball Pythons Build Up To Pregnancy

Ball pythons are another popular pet snake as their amicable snakes with some fascinating patterns. Let’s take a look at the build-up to the snake pregnancy period and some other ins and outs of breeding ball pythons.

  • The breeding season for captive Ball Pythons in captivity is between November to March.
  • Make sure you have a mature male and female snakes. It can take anything from 18 months to 3 years for these snakes to be ready to breed. Males are ready before females. You’d be safe to settle for your female being 3 years of age for maturity. Weight can also be indicative of maturity and she will usually have reached a breeding weight of between 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.
  • As already mentioned, breeding requires precise temperature gauging as well as proper stimulation of the male and female snakes.
  • To get your male Ball Python into the mood for mating, a good trick is to put him in a cage full of other Ball Pythons. When he raises himself into a vertical position he is ready for the female. You’ll notice that your Ball pythons stay intertwined for a couple of days. You can do some research and find out how to place other females into the cage and how not to allow the male to mate with too many females and exhaust himself.
  • People who have successfully bred these Ball Pythons will tell you that in October they start to lower the snake enclosure temperatures at night. The hot spot goes down to 82° F and the cool end is 78° F. The lighting is then also adjusted to make the ‘days shorter – 10 hours of light made possible with natural sunlight spectrum bulbs.
  • With the breeding period being from November to March, you will notice that by January the female snake will have started developing egg follicles. It is important to keep watch on the likes of things like this so you know when to introduce the male to the females. You will also need to find out how to separate the male from the females for rest and refreshment. They need their stamina for the breeding season. If the male just seems too ‘used up’, it will be best for him to be removed from the breeding females so that he can start to recuperate away from the female snakes.
  • By the end of January, ovulation begins in the females. When you see the female ovulating, it means she is pregnant.
  • The time from follicular development till ovulation can be anything from a few weeks to 6 months. The female will shed her skin a few weeks after ovulation.
  • Ovulation happens where sperm from the male and follicles from the female come together and the eggs are fertilized. How long is a ball python pregnant? It will be about 53-55 days that the Ball python will be pregnant.
  • After shedding she will lay her clutch in about 30 to 40 days.
  • The female python usually coils around the eggs.
  • The pregnancy is over after the 55 days when the eggs hatch and break out of the egg shells.

When these young snakes break out of the eggshells they are independent of birth, and they can do pretty much all that the adult snakes can do.

What is Your Snake’s Gender?

As a snake owner, you may be wondering what the sex of your snake is in the first place. You may be wondering why your snake isn’t becoming pregnant.

It could be that both snakes are male or both are female.  Looking at a snake you could be wondering how can a snake get pregnant when they both appear so similar.

Male and female reptiles have internal sexual organs which can be somewhat difficult to detect. The male reptile’s testicles are within its body and have what is known as two hemipenes.

These are detected externally with bulges behind the cloaca near the animal’s tail.  Males and females can also be differentiated by secondary sexual characteristics such as size and coloring.

Snake owners who don’t know the sex of their snakes does what is known as ‘cloaca probing’. This is where the probe is then passed into the snakes’ cloaca. The snake is a male if the probe can be slid further into the base of the tail than into the tail of a female.

Elaborate Mating Orgy of Some Snakes

There are some reptiles which will display the most elaborate of courtships before mating takes place.

There are certain snake species such as the red-sided garter snake that gathers in massive groups to have a mating ball. The snakes release pheromones to attract the opposite sex.

With reptiles, egg fertilization occurs internally with the male placing sperm inside eggs which are inside the female’s body. The male inserts his hemipenes into the female cloaca.

This cloaca also excretes fluid and feces and is an opening in the posterior for digestive, reproductive and urinary tracts.

When male snakes aren’t mating, the hemipenis is inverted and rests in the cloaca.

Cold Blooded with Not a Trace of Affection

Reptiles are also a little bit different to mammals too with the maintaining of constant internal body temperature. A snake, for instance, doesn’t have fur for insulation, so they can’t stay warm on a cold day.

They move into the sun or shade to regulate their temperature, and when it becomes too cool for them they actually become inactive. It is this slow metabolism of theirs and their need for the heat that makes them cold-blooded creatures.

Animals known to be cold-blooded are still able to control their body temperatures. They do this through what is known as thermoregulation.

Reptiles such as snakes move to different areas of their environment or cage to warm up or cool down. Other thermoregulatory mechanisms include burrowing.

Cold-blooded reptiles such as snakes don’t have the ability to give affection or love. People may like to imagine that their snakes have feelings for their mates, but they don’t.

They are essentially cold-blooded, wild creatures that pair instinctively for a purpose and could care less whether their mating results in a pregnancy or not.

The Female Snake has Control of a Pregnancy

With snakes, courtship rituals and their reproduction habits can be totally different from mammals.  It’s not as cut and dry as it is with mammals because this sperm with some species can remain intact for quite a few years.

It means that the female is able to produce additional offspring without any further male contact.

In fact, there is a process known as parthenogenesis with the female reproducing asexually.

These female snakes have this control over whether they actually become pregnant after mating. Sometimes the conditions for mating aren’t good for ovulation and gestation.

They can store sperm for up to five years!

Females can store sperm for up to 5 years or so. They’ve got these pockets in the reproductive tract where they do this.

In other words, if the female snake has mated with many males, her clutch of young could well be a mixture of offspring from a host of different fathers.

To add more to the amazement of mating and ovulation, the female snake can also control which fathers’ sperm she uses to fertilize her eggs. It is this ability for delayed fertilization that sperm competition is more intense in reptiles.

Female snakes can mate with many males and then choose among the sperm each time they reproduce. Unknown to some of the male snakes, their sperm might never produce offspring as it is thought to be inferior.

It is actually beneficial for a female snake to mate with as many males as she can. It gives her a bigger sperm variety. Snakes with more mates have a better chance of offspring survival.

Is Your Snake Pregnant?


So how do you tell if your snake is pregnant? Experienced snake owners might recognize these signs of ovulation in females –

  • The bulging posterior halves of their bodies. You may even have witnessed mating and know what to expect. The gravid female feeds well for about 3 to 5 weeks after mating and then the appetite will slacken as the female approaches the prenatal shed.
  • There will be a change in temperament – she is agitated, defensive and nervous. She may even uncharacteristically strike out at you but she will go back to behaving normally once she has had her clutch.
  • Some novice snake owners may like to remove the uncertainty of whether the female snake is pregnant or not. They prefer just to take the snake to the snake breeder they bought the snake from or to ultrasound will give the vet the answer you need. These are x-rays of her reproductive organs.

Pregnancy and Birth – Maintains a Health Ecosystem

Once the young snakes break out their eggshells they’re pushed out into the world totally independent. Once they grow up, males and females start the life cycle all over again.

Courtship, mating and pregnancy so that new snakes can keep being born.  Therefore forming a key link in the food chain and helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

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