We feed almost exclusively live mice and rats to our ball pythons. We do this for several reasons including: 1) ball pythons start easier on live meals, 2) when feeding a lot of snakes tease feeding can be very time consuming, 3) if we have left over feeders, we can just put them back in the tubs to grow a bit more.
Many people would prefer to keep meals in the freezer, and thaw them as needed to feed to their snakes. Some of the reasons are so they don’t have to keep a rodent habitat or don’t have to visit a store every feeding to buy one or just a few feeders.
We often get asked how to switch a ball python over from live food to frozen/thawed food.
Most importantly never feed frozen meals, because the cold can hurt your ball python.
If you Google getting a trouble ball python to eat you may come up with lots of information, some of it’s great, and some is bunk. The strangest myths I’ve heard are to dip them in chicken broth or to “brain” them. Don’t do either of these. A ball python won’t know what a chicken or rat brains smell like, so these won’t be helpful, and will just frustrate both you and your snake.
Next it’s important to NOT over try things. The more time they spend refusing food, the more used to the refusal process they will get. Be patient. If you are worried they are losing weight, back up a step.
Ball pythons don’t like change. Don’t change too much at once. Did you just bring them home and put them in a new habitat? If so, and it won’t eat, it’s likely too much change at once. Make sure the habitat is warm, but not over 90-92 degrees Fahrenheit . Make sure they don’t have too much room to run or not feel secure. A small habitat is good, especially if changing up their diet.
Baby steps are important. If they currently eat live, feed live a little while in the new habitat. One change is enough for a while. If you see your snake has a powerful feeding response, maybe go straight to frozen thawed next time. If not, maybe fresh killed when your ready for the next meal. Once they will eat that a few times in a row, try frozen thawed.
When feeding dead prey, it’s very likely you’ll need to tease feed, at the end of some tongs or hemostats. The dead prey should ideally be warmer than the habitat (human body temp is 98-99 degrees) because the snake will “see” the warmer mouse or rat wiggling about on the tongs. Once they do take and wrap around the mouse or rat, I like to grab a rat leg or tail with the hemostats, and give it another good wiggle or two, so the snakes things it’s resisting. This will usually make the snake tightening it’s grip, and help with the feeding response.
Don’t just drop in a dead rodent and expect your snake to deal with it, and don’t be frustrated if they don’t take the new type of food right away.
Ball pythons can be picky eaters, and some may never like dead prey.
We’d like to hear what’s worked for you, and what hasn’t, in the comments.