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How To Pick Up, Handle, And Hold Ball Pythons

Have you recently purchased a pet ball python but don’t know how to pick it up?

Or maybe you’ve had one for a while but still aren’t sure how to properly handle it?

It would be best if you learned how to pick up a ball python to enjoy your pet snake better and ensure your snake stays happy and healthy in captivity.

So if you’re ready to learn an easy, step-by-step process for holding a ball python, plus get a few extra tips on when and why you need to hold your snake, let’s get started!

To pick up your ball python, approach it calmly, reaching into the enclosure from the side (not from above). Then, pick it up gently but firmly by its middle section (never its neck or tail), and support it securely with your forearm and hand. 

how to pick up a ball python

Why It’s Important to Handle Your Ball Python

It’s essential to learn how to hold a ball python not just because it’s fun to handle your snake but (much more importantly) because ball pythons need to be handled regularly for socialization.

Regular handling accustoms the snake to human contact, helps keep it docile, and lets it know the enclosure opens for more than just feeding time. 

Keep in mind, however, over-handling a ball python can stress it out and lead to a multitude of health issues, even for extremely friendly, docile snakes.

So limit your handling session to 4-5 times a week.

If you’re in the process of taming an aggressive ball python, it may be necessary to handle it a few more times a week, but still, keep handling it in moderation. 

When to Not Pick Up a Ball Python

While it’s crucial to handle your pet ball python regularly, there are times when your snake shouldn’t be picked up.

However, since it can’t open its mouth and communicate this to you, it’s up to you to know the signs so you don’t make the mistake of picking it up when it shouldn’t be handled.

Handling your ball python at the wrong times or too often can cause stress-related health issues, so be aware of your snake’s needs to best care for it.

Right After Feeding

Ball pythons need to relax somewhere safe and secluded after eating their food.

Why? One of the ball python’s predator-avoidance tactics is to vomit its food if it feels threatened.

This allows it to move faster to escape a predator. 

So if you pick up your ball python after it’s eaten and before it’s had time to digest its food properly, you may be causing discomfort and anxiety, forcing your snake to regurgitate and vomit up its meal.

When a ball python regurgitates its meal, the inside of its throat is temporarily damaged, so if this happens, wait at least two weeks before trying to handle it again.

The best way to avoid this problem is to leave your snake alone for a minimum of 48 hours (ideally, wait 72 hours) after its feeding.

After this time, it’s safe to handle your ball python. 


When a ball python is in the process of shedding, it often gets defensive and agitated because it feels vulnerable.

During this time, even the friendliest and most docile ball pythons can take on a different personality, so it’s essential to leave your snake alone and not attempt to handle it during its shedding time. 


You never want to pick up your ball python when it’s under stress.

Ball pythons can often grow defensive when they feel stressed or can even develop stress-related health issues, so it’s best to leave your ball python alone (no handling!) and let it calm down and relax when it’s stressed out.  

Signs your ball python may be stressed include not eating, being overly active throughout the day, and hiding its head when handled. 

If your snake is refusing to eat, read our post on 9 reasons why your ball python won’t eat and see if one of the reasons might involve your pet.

When First Bringing it Home

When you first bring your pet ball python home, you’ll want to let it recover from the stress of transportation and adequately adapt to its new home and enclosure before attempting to handle it.

If you go too fast, your ball python may feel threatened and even try to defend itself from you, so don’t rush things.

Give your snake time to adjust, let it acclimate to you and its surroundings, and when you finally go to handle it, the process will be much easier. 

How to Pick Up a Ball Python

Ball pythons are one of the most popular snakes in the pet industry today.

One of the main reasons is their small to medium-sized bodies, and docile natures make them easy to handle, even for beginners.

The technique you’ll want to use for picking up your ball python is the mid-body hold.

This technique, used to pick up many different types of snakes, allows your ball python to feel secure and supported while you’re holding it. 

You’ll pick up the snake by its middle, supporting it with your hand and forearm.

If your ball python is large, you may need to use both hands.

Remember, you are your snake’s perch when holding it, so make sure it feels secure and supported. 

Never pick up your ball python by its tail or neck.

Not only can this hurt the snake, but it will also be wary of human handling in the future if you pick it up this way.  

How to Hold a Ball Python for the First Time 

Now we’re going to break down each step of the handling process, so if you’re new to handling your snake, don’t worry!

After this, you’ll know exactly how to hold your ball python from the prep work in step 1 to the last step when you place it back in its enclosure.

Wash Hands

The first thing you’ll want to do before picking up your snake is washing your hands.

Why is this important?

Ball pythons have very keen senses of smell.

They can pick up a prey’s scent from the faintest sources, like cologne and perfume’s chemical compounds.

So even if there are only trace amounts of a feeder’s scent on your hands, your ball python may detect it.

This can trigger a feeding response in the snake, so make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before attempting to handle it. 

Let It Scent You 

The next step is to let your ball python scent you.

Essentially this means letting it get acquainted with your scent so it begins to recognize you and won’t feel threatened when you pick it up.

This process may take a week or so if you’ve just brought your ball python home. 

Start by resting your hand in its tank for 2-3 minutes twice daily.

This gives the snake time to scent you and lets it know you are not a threat. 

Approach Slowly and Stay In Sight

When it’s finally time to pick up your ball python, make sure to approach the enclosure slowly and always stay within the snake’s line of sight (no sneaking up on it!).

If your ball python can see you approaching and can follow your calm movements, it will feel much more at ease when you pick it up.

Always make sure the snake knows you’re there before opening the enclosure. 

Pick It Up

Now it’s time to pick up your ball python.

First, reach into the enclosure from the side (never the top) and gently and calmly pick up the snake using the mid-body hold.

This process should be firm but smooth.

Grab its middle section and support its body with your forearm and hand. 

If your snake is agitated or unaccustomed to handling, it may help to use a snake hook like this one when first picking up your snake. 

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Let It Settle

If your snake is new to being handled or has recently come to your home, expect it to be curious when you first hold it.

Let it move and adjust while supporting it with two hands on the lower half of its body. 

More than likely, your ball python will wrap its tail around your forearm or wrist, but don’t be alarmed!

This is not an aggressive move.

Your ball python ensures it doesn’t fall and secures itself to its new handling perch.

If your ball python moves around a lot at first when you’re holding it, don’t try to stop or restrain it.

Instead, move gently with the snake until it calms down.

Never let it dangle from your arm while it’s exploring, but instead, keep it supported and secure at all times.

Usually, after a few minutes of being held, it will settle down and stay calm. 

Place It Back in Its Enclosure

When you’re ready to place the snake back in its enclosure, lower your arm down into its tank or cage, and let it slither away or put it gently on the substrate floor.


Whether you’ve just brought a pet ball python home or are still learning how to properly handle your long-time pet snake, we hope this step-by-step guide on how to pick up a ball python was helpful.

Remember never to over-handle your ball python (aim for 4-5 times a week), always avoid picking it up after feeding, and regularly gauge its mood to determine if your ball python is ready to be handled.

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