How To Tell If A Ball Python Is Pregnant

Are you curious if your female ball python is pregnant?

Do you want to know a little more about breeding ball pythons?

After a ball python mates, many owners wonder if the pregnancy has been taken and what the signs are.

We researched for you and developed this guide to show you how to tell if a ball python is pregnant.

The easiest way to tell is through an X-ray, but there are some other signs you may wish to look for. The thickening of the mid-body, greater contrast in color, and changes in behavior all add to a strong indication of pregnancy. 

Look ahead for more answers to questions surrounding ball python pregnancy.

how to tell if a ball python is pregnant

How Do I Know If My Ball Python Is Ovulating?

Before doing anything pregnancy or breeding related, you need to know what ovulation looks like for ball pythons.

Fortunately, this is a lot more clear than even pregnancy clues are.

As pythons ovulate, they release all the eggs stored in an ovary at one time.

This is enough to cause a sizable lump in her body.

As they release the eggs, the snake moves them to the oviduct where the male will fertilize the eggs.

As the eggs move down, the female’s body will look like she swallowed a football for about a day.

This is alarming for many new owners but is nothing to worry about.

Even if you aren’t breeding ball pythons, this is good to know.

Females ovulate without males present, so you’ll see this regularly throughout the female’s sexual life.

Female ball pythons don’t reach sexual maturity by a specific age but rather when they reach a large enough size.

This size varies somewhat, but it takes females usually at least three years to reach the correct size for sexual maturity.

Males, by comparison, reach it faster.

Ovulation is the key indicator the female ball python is ready to breed.

Learn more about how big a ball python gets.

How To Tell If A Ball Python Is Pregnant

There are several methods for telling if the female ball python is pregnant.

These signs are best used in combination with one another.

Take It To The Vet

The first and most conclusive test is to take your ball python to the vet.

The vet will be able to use specific imaging equipment to see if the female is carrying eggs, and even the eggs are viable or fertilized.

This isn’t needed unless you’re concerned the ball python may be ill or if the python is egg bound.

Egg bound pythons are those whose eggs haven’t been vented or laid.

The eggs have developed too much and are now too large to exit the female’s body naturally.

Wait too long to fix this, and the python will likely die.

See the later section on how long ball pythons are pregnant.

Did The Snake Ovulate?

Owners will see some of the following signs and get excited their snake is pregnant only to be disappointed or concerned when nothing comes of it.

The common mistake, in this case, is the owner let the male lock on the female when she hadn’t even ovulated.

Without ovulation, there are no ova in the oviducts waiting to be fertilized.

See the above section for how to tell if your snake is ovulating.

Thickening Of The Body

After ovulation and mating, be on the lookout for the overall thickening of the ball python’s body.

There won’t be a single large lump as with ovulation, although you may seem some areas thicker than others.

When the ball python’s body gets overall thicker, this is your first sign she may be pregnant.

The eggs are developing and getting larger.

The female python is gathering and storing fat in preparation for growing the eggs and the venting or laying process.

Contrast In Color

Another sign you may see is a starker contrast in the python’s colors.

The exact color depends on the individual python, and its colors or color morphs.

In general, you’ll notice the darker colors such as brown will get deeper and darker.

The lighter colors, such as the golds will become lighter and perhaps change their shade slightly.

For ball pythons with color mutations, the colors may change more dramatically.

For example, it’s not uncommon for any greens to move towards blue-green mixtures.

Color change by itself isn’t a sure-fire sign of pregnancy, but it does help you make the call when combined with these other signs.

Pacing

The process of developing eggs is tough on the female ball python’s body, and it messes with her temperature regulation (just like with humans too!).

Ball pythons regulate their temperature by finding different spots in a tank to go and laying in different positions.

For this reason, you’ll notice a pregnant ball python moving around the tank a lot, finding different places to go.

It looks like pacing to us, but it’s just her way of getting comfortable.

Make sure the temperature settings are within the correct ranges and just let her go.

Remember, hide boxes are essential for ball pythons.

Lack Of Appetite

Another sign of pregnancy is a lack of appetite.

Female ball pythons don’t want to eat much as they’re bodies are already filled with their clutches.

However, a lack of appetite may be a sign of many things with pythons, including shedding.

Don’t take a lack of eating alone as the sign, but when you see these others plus a lack of appetite, it’s getting more sure all the time.

Inverted Basking

Perhaps the most alarming sign of pregnancy is called inverted basking or inversion.

This is when the snake rests on its back with its belly up.

This is not normal behavior the rest of the time by any means.

But when the snake is pregnant, you’ll see it more often.

She’ll do this either wrapped around her water dish or in the basking spot.

It’s alarming when you see this, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal.

When this happens, the female ball python is turning the eggs closer to the heat source.

This extra heat helps the eggs develop more efficiently and faster.

This behavior is usually followed by pacing or hiding to cool the rest of the snake’s body down after the inverted basking.

Check out the best heat lamps for ball pythons.

Put all of these signs together, and it’s safe to say your pet is pregnant.

How Long Are Ball Pythons Pregnant?

There are two main stages of a female ball python’s pregnancy.

After a successful pairing, she will show all the signs we discussed before.

About 2-3 weeks after the pairing, the female python will enter her pre-lay shed.

This is due to her increase in size from growing the developing eggs.

Almost like clockwork, the female ball python will lay her eggs 30 days after the pre-lay shed.

Sometimes it takes a little longer or a little less, but don’t panic.

If, after 35 days after the pre-lay shed, the ball python still hasn’t laid her eggs, you need to take her to the vet.

Even if she’s fine, a checkup would be good as you don’t want her to become egg bound.

Keep in mind; female ball pythons can retain the sperm from the males for a long period if conditions aren’t favorable in the wild.

In captivity, this isn’t usually a problem, but you do keep this in mind.

You may find no signs of pregnancy right after mating but then see it later on.

When you see all these signs, your snake is likely pregnant.

Watch for the pre-lay shed and begin counting 30 days after this shed.

How Long Does It Take For A Ball Python Egg To Hatch?

After laying her eggs, the female ball python will wrap herself around them to protect them.

In captivity, if you’re breeding pythons, you’ll want to move the eggs to an incubator (we like this one).

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The python may hiss at you when you go to unwrap her from around the eggs, but you likely won’t get bit if you move confidently.

Ball pythons rarely bite, and even if she does, they aren’t venomous and won’t do more than maybe draw a small amount of blood.

After removing the snake, move the eggs carefully to the incubator.

Take care not to turn them over, or there’s a chance the snake inside may die.

If you notice some eggs being smaller and having a colored tint to them, these are unfertilized eggs.

It’s OK just to throw these away.

It’s normal to have a couple of these mixed in with the fertilized ones, which are larger and more white.

On average, the ball python will lay six eggs in a clutch.

Once laid, it takes 55-60 days for the eggs to hatch.

You’ll know the eggs are close to hatching when they start to sag inwards. 

Ball pythons are born with an egg tooth, which helps them crack the shell and escape.

This tooth soon falls out and is replaced with normal teeth.

There is some discussion in the ball python breeder world whether you should cut the eggs near birth to help the newborn snake get out.

The idea is some ball pythons won’t be able to get out of the egg before they drown in the fluid inside the egg.

The danger with this is cutting the eggs too early.

If the snakes inside aren’t ready to hatch yet, you’re potentially damaging their development by exposing them too early.

In many experienced breeders’ opinion, cutting isn’t needed at all as the risk of death is low.

Those who do cut, suggest waiting until 2 of the snakes have pipped or broken the shell.

This is a sign the snakes are ready to come out, so cutting at this point won’t hurt the development of the baby pythons.

All in all, you’re looking at 21 days from pairing to shed, 30 days to laying, and 60 days to hatching for a total of 111 days potentially until birth.

When Do Ball Pythons Pair?

Ball pythons can pair anytime during the year.

Due to the mild nature of their African climates, there isn’t a big hot or cold season to regulate their breeding.

Because of this, it’s possible to pair the pythons any time they’re sexually mature.

Most breeders tend to do this earlier in the year for no other reason than it’s easier to track, and if the eggs are hatched by mid-year or early November, they may be sold as pets around the holidays.

When it comes time to pair the pythons, place the male into the female’s enclosure.

Keep an eye on whether the males lock themselves around the female.

This is what happens when they mate.

The locking may be done quickly or take up to 24 hours.

If the male doesn’t lock on the female at all, wait until 2-3 days after his next feeding and go again.

Most breeders look to have a female lock 2-3 times quickly before setting the females aside to watch for 2-3 months.

Remember, female ball pythons can hold on to the sperm for a while.

After 2-3 months, you’ll know if the female is pregnant or if the mating didn’t take place, and you’re free to attempt it again.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed learning how to tell if a ball python is pregnant.

Other than an X-ray or ultrasound by a vet, you look for a thickening body, stronger contrasting colors, and changes in behaviors as a sign of pregnancy.

This is, of course, after the python is sexually mature at 3+ years and has ovulated.

2-3 weeks after pairing, the pregnant python will shed, and then 30 days after this, she’ll lay her eggs.

55-60 days after laying, the eggs will hatch into baby ball pythons.

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