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Topic: Feeding help

Hi, I just got my first ever ball python. I've been looking into getting one for a number of years and the oportunity presented itself yesterday from one of my local pet shop that hasn't been able to find her a home. That aside she is doing great and I'm looking to do her first feeding Sunday or Monday. My whole question here is that when I asked what they've been feeding her, they said she's been on live mice which I know from all of my research over the last few years that these guys are pretty picky eaters, but I used to work at an emergency veterinary hospital and can't tell you how many snake I saw that came in with wounds from owners giving them live food and I would rather like to try and keep her as healthy as possible but at the same time not turn her off of food since they said that she is a good eater. I've been looking and have not been able to find any literature or videos online that go into detail on how to switch a snake from live to pre kill or (what I would prefer to feed) frozen thawed. Any help or suggestions on this matter would be greatly appreciated if there is a proper way to make the switch.

Thanks in a advance.

2 (edited by caro 2017-10-06 10:12 am)

Re: Feeding help

Welcome!  I've kept a number of snakes, including ball pythons.  I agree, you want to keep her eating what she is already
used to, but there are ways to change her eating habits for better safety.  How big (or how old) is this snake?

Baby mice are called pinkies (newborn & hairless) or fuzzies (short fuzzy hair but EYES CLOSED).  Either of these are SAFE to feed
live as an "appetizer" since they do not fight back.  For a ball python of ANY age, pinky mice are too small, so you want fuzzies only.

As mice grow larger, they become "hoppers" (spring-loaded, eyes open & WILL bite) and so on.  Never feed mice (or rats) live if their
eyes are open, for the sake of your snake (& as you already know).  And just in case someone offers you a hamster fuzzy, you should
know that they WILL bite effectively (& even growl) in self defense long before their eyes open...I've raised hamsters for many years.

When your snake is due to be fed* you want to first offer a live fuzzy mouse, and once she takes that, she may stay pumped up
enough to grab a dead mouse if it's offered from feeding tongs (keep your hands out of the way!) and jiggled slightly.  Remember
that snakes like to pursue their prey, or ambush it, not the other way around...so try to make the rodent appear to be just passing
by the snake without directly approaching its face, for best results. 

*Since you just got this snake, I'd advise waiting until NEXT weekend before offering food.  Allowing a snake TIME to settle in to new
surroundings (this is stressful for them, not to mention confusing!) BEFORE offering food will usually get better results.  Your snake
will NOT starve during this time...and ALSO, you should not handle the snake at all during this time.  Really...ball pythons can be
fussy eaters so you need to get this right...having one refuse food for 6 months or a year+ is no fun!  (my usual suggestion for best
results is actually not to handle a snake at all until it has fed at least twice easily & at normal intervals, and also, allow a couple days
after a snake eats for them to digest, otherwise they may not keep it down)

Back to feeding that live fuzzy: once your snake pounces on a live fuzzy (which she recognizes as familiar food) she may easily take
a fresh-killed dead (adult) mouse offered immediately using tongs (slight jiggle) or even a frozen-thawed (& slightly warmed) mouse. 
But if not, the way you "teach" her to accept the dead mice is to very gently & slowly use the tongs to put the mouse's head right into
her open jaws as she is swallowing the fuzzy but before she closes her mouth...it's not easy, but with a little patience, this will work.
Given a few feedings with a live fuzzy "appetizer" first, she may get to the point where she no longer needs that fuzzy, & will just
accept (grab) the dead prey offered.  No way to predict the time it takes...snakes have their own personalities.

OK?  Any questions?  Be patient...ball pythons are usually very docile snakes that make a good pet, once you get the feeding right.
I'm so glad you understand the risks of feeding live.  Since this snake has been a good feeder, she might even take a fresh-killed adult
mouse without a live fuzzy if you entice her correctly (feed at night, use tongs to make the mouse look alive but clueless, & minimize
your presence).  Another thing you can try is to use the SCENT of a live mouse on that of a frozen-thawed one, to help convince her to
take it.  (for example, the pet store you got her from could give you some "well-used" mouse cage litter to roll the dead prey in before
offering it....just brush off the litter before offering it;  remember that frozen-thawed rodents pick up moisture even if not thawed in
water, and they lose some of their enticing odor compared to fresh prey.)  Patience...