How Do Snakes Give Birth?

Are you ready for your pet snake to give birth?

Have you researched whether your snake lays eggs or gives birth to live young?

If you love owning snakes, the next logical step is to breed them.

This is a fascinating pastime, but it does require some research. 

One of the central questions: 

How do snakes give birth?

Snakes have two primary ways of giving birth to their young. Most snakes, about 70% of all species, lay eggs, making them oviparous. The remainder gives birth to live young in two different ways. They are either viviparous or ovoviviparous.

how do snakes give birth

Oviparous Snakes

After fertilization, an oviparous snake will look for a safe, warm place to lay her eggs. 

Oviparous snakes often choose hollow logs, dips or shallow holes in sand or grass, or under decaying leaves and soil, which provide warmth through decomposition, for their clutch. 

Snake eggs are not as hard as bird eggs: they have leathery shells. 

Still, baby snakes who hatch from eggs have egg teeth to break through the shell, just like baby birds. 

While many mother snakes leave their eggs to fend for themselves, some species engage in brooding, staying with their clutches as they incubate and even after they hatch. 

Live Births

Even though most species of snakes lay eggs, there is a large number which gives birth to live young in two different ways. 

The reasons vary. 

Most snakes which give birth to live young have evolved better defensive capabilities than oviparous snakes, like venomous bites. 

Carrying their young inside of them gives the young a better chance at survival. 

It is also easier for the mother snake to defend herself, instead of defending herself and an incubating clutch. 

In other instances, the surrounding environment may make it impractical and dangerous to lay and incubate eggs.

Viviparous Snakes

Viviparous snakes nourish their babies inside them, much like mammals do, giving them food through a placenta and growing the young in a yolk sack. 

Viviparous babies usually emerge from the mother in a membrane, which they then cut through with their egg teeth. 

All snakes in the family Boidae are viviparous. 

This includes boa constrictors and anacondas. 

Since anacondas spend much of their time underwater, giving live birth is more practical for them than laying and incubating eggs. 

Anacondas give birth to up to forty young snakes at once. 

Scientists are still unsure why boa constrictors give live birth. 

Boa constrictors have an average of twenty-five young at once, with a range of ten to sixty-four neonates in one birth.

A group of nonvenomous colubrid snakes, commonly called water snakes, also give viviparous birth. 

This is mainly because they live in swampy, damp environments. 

Therefore, it is difficult for them to find dry, warm places to lay eggs. 

This makes live birth more practical. 

They usually give birth to around twenty baby snakes at once.

White-lipped snakes are also viviparous because of their environment. 

However, unlike water snakes, they live in drier, colder environments in Tasmania and Australia. 

It is easier for them to keep their young warm within their bodies, instead of outside in a clutch. 

These snakes usually have only two to eight young at a time.

Ovoviviparous Snakes

Most snakes which give birth to live young are believed to be ovoviviparous. 

Unlike viviparous snakes, ovoviviparous snakes carry eggs within them. 

Once it is time for birth, the live young break through the mother’s eggs and then are born as live young.

Since they do not usually visit the land, most species of sea snake are ovoviviparous. 

Snake eggs cannot incubate and develop underwater, which is why sea snakes have evolved to carry their clutches within them and give live birth. 

Sea snakes are also highly venomous, which means mother snakes can defend the young developing inside them. 

Usually, they give birth to two to nine live young. 

In some instances, there may be up to thirty young in one birth.

Rattlesnakes also give ovoviviparous birth. 

The mother’s venom means it is more advantageous from an evolutionary perspective to keep the young within her, rather than defending a separate clutch. 

About ten baby rattlers are born at a time.

Interestingly, garter snakes are also ovoviviparous. 

A mother garter snake gives birth to anywhere from three to eighty neonates at once. 

Garter snakes also have interesting mating patterns. 

Multiple male snakes will form a ball around a single female snake. 

The female snake stores sperm from these male snakes for up to five years before fertilizing her eggs with them.

Where Do Snakes Give Birth From?

Female snakes have a cloaca near their tail ends. 

These serve as multipurpose reproductive and waste excretion holes. 

When it is time for snakes to give birth or lay eggs, this is where the eggs or baby snakes will emerge.

You may have found, through research, the myth of snakes giving birth through their mouths. 

This is not the case. 

Snakes frequently eat the eggs of other animals. 

At times, they may have to regurgitate them to run away from a predator. 

They do not, however, lay eggs from their mouths. 

Snakes often engage in ophiophagy, eating smaller species of snakes. 

A mother snake who stays with her clutch after the young are born will eat unhatched eggs or stillborn young. 

These behaviors may have confused observers into thinking snakes give birth through their mouths.

Conclusion

We hope this article has clarified facts about how snakes give birth.

Snakes either lay eggs or give birth to live young. 

Most snakes lay eggs, finding safe, warm places for them to incubate and hatch. 

While some mothers stay with their clutches, most leave the young to fend for themselves. 

Other snakes, usually ones in hostile environments or with evolved defensive capabilities, carry their young within them as they grow and prepare to emerge. 

Snakes which give live birth either carry their full eggs within them or nourish their young via a placenta.