Have you ever wondered how often ball pythons shed their skin?
Whether you’re a new ball python pet owner or a seasoned snake keeper, it’s essential to know how often ball pythons shed to better care for your snake during its shedding process.
Today, we’ll be answering the question, “How often does a ball python shed?” plus sharing a few tips and tricks on how to care for your snake when it’s shedding.
Adult ball pythons will shed their skin every 4-6 weeks, and young ball pythons will shed every 3-4 weeks. Infection or trauma will cause a ball python to shed more frequently, and if the python is unhealthy and not growing, it will only shed 2-3 times per year.
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Why Do Ball Pythons Shed
Ball pythons shed their skin so they can grow.
Essentially, the old, outer skin is removed to make way for the newer, larger skin underneath.
This is why juvenile ball pythons shed much more frequently than older ball pythons.
How Often Does a Ball Python Shed
Ball pythons typically shed every 4 to 6 weeks.
However, as mentioned earlier, juvenile ball pythons are at the peak of their growth rate, so they generally shed their skin much faster than older ball pythons.
For example, young ball pythons may shed as often as every 30 days, whereas adult ball pythons may only shed every 45 to 60 days.
Ball pythons usually reach maturity at around 3 to 5 years of age, at which point both their growth rate and shedding frequency slows.
How to Know When A Ball Python Is Going to Shed
When ball pythons shed, they require a specific environment, may grow agitated and stressed, and need additional care (more on these things later), so it’s important to know the signs and be able to recognize when your ball python is about to shed to better take care of it during the shedding process.
Three main signs are indicating your ball python is going to shed.
Keep in mind; these signs are not overly obvious or noticeable, so you’ll need to be attentive and observant to see them.
- Your ball python’s belly will start to turn pink.
- Its skin will look much duller and more muted than normal.
- Its eyes will take on a milky and opaque appearance.
This is called the blue phase or “being in blue” because its eyes look milky and blueish.
Interestingly, during this blue phase, ball pythons are virtually blind (no wonder they get a little grumpy and reclusive!).
Once its eyes clear up, expect your ball python to shed within the next 36 to 72 hours.
Again these indicators are not striking or pronounced, so make sure you’re carefully observing your snake, so you know when it’s about to shed.
Is Shedding Painful For a Ball Python
Contrary to what some people may think, shedding isn’t typically painful for a ball python.
As they shed, a layer of lubricating moisture forms between the old and new skin, ensuring the process is relatively pain-free.
Shedding is awkward and irritating for your snake, and it will often get more sensitive and even aggressive during this time.
Because of this, you should avoid handling your ball python during the shedding process.
How to Care for Your Ball Python When It’s Shedding
Shedding is a stressful and taxing time for your ball python, but it also needs specific care and the right environment to navigate the shedding process successfully.
Check out more details on how to tell if a ball python is stressed and how to help it out.
Here are a few tips on how to care for your ball python when it’s shedding.
To shed properly, snakes require high humidity levels, so one of the most important things to do for your snake while it is shedding is to maintain its enclosure’s humidity levels.
Ideally, aim for a cage humidity of between 50 and 70 percent humidity.
One of the easiest ways to regulate cage humidity is to use a hygrometer (or humidity gauge) like this REPTI ZOO hygrometer from Amazon.
If your snake’s enclosure measures less than 50 percent humidity, add a large water dish to its cage, use a humidity holding substrate like orchid bark substrate, or cover the top of its enclosure to keep more humidity inside.
Learn more about how to keep humidity up in a ball python tank by reading our dedicated guide.
Create a Shedding Box
Another way to support your snake during the shedding process is to create a moist shedding box.
Poke holes in a box (like a shoebox), place damp paper towels inside the box, and leave it in your snake’s enclosure.
This gives your ball python a damp, humidity-filled place to shed in.
Mist Your Snake
Another way to help your snake shed is to mist it before it starts shedding.
Fill a clean spray bottle with lukewarm water and spray it a few times near your snake.
Some snakes may not allow you to mist it directly, however, so you may need to mist its cage instead.
This will still increase humidity levels and support your snake’s shedding process.
Add a Basin of Water
As your snake begins to shed, you may want to place a basin of water inside its enclosure to soak.
When it bathes in the water, its skin will start to come off more easily.
Make sure to pick a basin large enough to hold your ball python’s entire body, filling it with just enough water to get wet completely, but not so much water it’s entirely emerged.
Another way to help is to bathe your ball python; our how-to here helps you figure out how to do this safely.
Include Coarse Objects
One of the ways snakes shed their skin in the wild is by rubbing against coarse objects like stones, tree branches, and other rough materials.
Recreate this natural process by adding bits of tree bark, a few branches, pine cones, and other outdoor materials to its enclosure.
Another way to support your ball python while it sheds is not to handle it.
As we mentioned before, shedding is an awkward and even stressful time for a snake.
So if you attempt to pick up and handle your snake during shedding, it may be extra sensitive or even aggressive.
The best thing is to leave it alone and let it shed in peace.
Provide Plenty of Water
Bally pythons often drink large amounts of water after shedding, so pay close attention to your snake’s water levels throughout the shedding process, so you’re ready to refill when necessary.
After it sheds, you’ll probably need to refill its water dish much more often than you normally do.
Clean the Cage
Once your ball python sheds its skin, you’ll notice piles of excess skin in its enclosure.
It’s important to remove these excess piles of skin after your snake finishes shedding, so its enclosure is clean and fresh.
Snakes will often defecate after shedding, so use gloves to clean out all fecal matter and excess skin.
How Long Does It Take a Ball Python to Shed
Typically, the entire shedding process takes less than 14 days.
First, your ball python will go through a pre-shed stage for 1-2 weeks.
During this time, you’ll notice its skin will become dull and darker, its belly will turn pink, and finally, its eyes will get milky and opaque (this is the “blue phase.”
Once its eyes clear up, it should shed its skin within the next 72 hours.
How to Help Your Ball Python Shed
While ball pythons typically shed their skin just fine on their own, they sometimes encounter problems and may need additional help.
A few problem areas to look out for are the tips of their tails and around their eye caps.
If your ball python sheds incompletely (meaning most of the skin has shed, but some remains), you’ll need to help it out.
Why? If your ball python doesn’t fully shed its skin around certain areas like its eyes, it can impair its vision and cause stress and health problems, so it’s crucial to make sure all the skin sheds.
Here are some things to try if your ball python needs help shedding.
Please keep in mind; you should never try to peel off your snake’s excess skin yourself, especially the skin around its eyes or mouth.
If your ball python sheds incompletely, start by soaking it in shallow water.
One way to soak your snake in water is to place it in a large pillowcase and tie a knot at the top, so it stays in the case.
Then place your snake (still in the pillowcase) inside a large dish tub filled with 1″ inch of warm water.
Leave the pillowcase and snake immersed in the shallow water for about 20 minutes once a day.
As the snake crawls around in the wet bag, the leftover skin will start to flake off.
Use Paper Towels
Another way to help your ball python shed its skin is to dampen several layers of paper towels and place your snake between the layers.
Allow it to crawl and squirm between the towels for several minutes.
The friction of the motion combined with the damp towels, should help loosen and remove the incomplete shed.
See a Vet
If you’ve tried at-home remedies to help your snake shed its skin, but after one to two weeks, it still has excess skin hanging on, it’s time to take it to the vet.
A veterinarian can help remove the excess skin, but they will also examine your snake to make sure no other health issues are going on to cause the shedding problem.
If you’ve been wondering how often a ball python sheds, we hope this article answered your question.
Ball pythons typically shed every 4 to 6 weeks, but again, younger ball pythons will shed more frequently than older ones.
Keep an eye out for signs indicating your ball python is about to shed, and if it sheds incompletely, try a few at-home remedies to help it along.
If your ball python still can’t shed all its old skin, you may need to take it to the vet to make sure your snake doesn’t have any other health problems.