Do you have a baby ball python, but you’re worried about feeding it the wrong thing?
Are you concerned about the safety and health of your small python’s diet?
It’s important to make sure you always feed our ball python’s the right thing, but owners need to make sure the baby ball python gets what it needs.
This is why you need to know what to feed a baby ball python.
Baby ball pythons still eat only protein-based animals just like adult ball pythons do. The main thing to watch for is the prey is of the correct size. Pinky mice or fuzzy rats (babies of these forms) and large crickets are the typical diets for baby ball pythons.
Check out the rest of the post for more details on what and how to feed a baby ball python.
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What To Feed Baby Ball Python
This section deals with a little more detail on what to feed a baby ball python. You can also check out our feeding chart on how often to feed them.
There are a few options and other elements to consider.
The size of the food is the most important concern with baby ball pythons.
They can’t handle large food as well as adults can.
It’s much more likely for a baby to choke and regurgitate than it is an adult.
The size rule applies to baby and adult ball pythons alike, but for babies, this is a hard and fast rule with little wiggle room.
The prey should be no larger than the snake’s body at mid-length.
With baby ball pythons, this limits the types of food available to give them.
The next sections go over the most common choices for food.
The most common choice for baby ball python food is pinky mice.
Despite the unique name, this isn’t a special breed of a mouse at all.
Pinky mice (also written as a pinkie) are baby mice whose fur hasn’t fully grown in.
As a result, these mice have a pink look to them and are very small.
This is where the name pinky mice come from.
Though rats are usually better for ball pythons, at the small-sized baby pythons, it won’t matter which you use.
Another reason pinky mice are more typical is how they’re more readily available.
Most snakes will eat mice throughout their lives, and most snakes will eat pinky mice as babies themselves.
This high demand has resulted in high supply as well.
Pinky mice are the correct size, affordable, and easily available.
Fuzzies are baby rats or juvenile mice.
Rats are considered the better staple food for the health of ball pythons.
They’re one of the ball python’s natural prey.
But at the baby size, ball pythons aren’t as picky, and fuzzies aren’t as easily available as pinky mice.
If you do pursue fuzzies, make sure the size is correct for the size your ball python currently is.
For baby ball pythons, large crickets are also an option.
You will need to sprinkle a dietary supplement or gut load the crickets beforehand to make sure they provide the necessary nutrients for the snake.
As the snake ages, it will quickly grow out of the crickets, but as young ones, they work just fine.
How To Feed Ball Python
Feeding ball pythons is surprisingly simple.
In most cases, all you need to do is put the prey in the cage and watch it go to town.
Young ball pythons may struggle more to find the food.
Make sure you place it near the ball python’s head, so it senses the food is nearby.
Live prey is always better and will be easier to feed to the snake.
When live prey moves, it attracts the attention of the python and activates its hunting instincts.
Live prey also has a powerful scent.
For frozen prey, make sure it’s naturally thawed out before feeding.
This will help with the smell (and the safety of the python).
You may wish to brain the prey or tap the snake with the food lightly to get its attention.
Young ball pythons only need to eat once every 5-7days.
This may not seem like enough, but it’s exactly right for them.
As they get larger, you’ll find they eat less often and turn their nose up at the food.
This is normal.
Adult ball pythons only eat every 10-14 days.
The python will bite and wrap itself around the food, then proceed to swallow the prey whole.
Over the next 48 hours, it will work on digesting the food, and you’ll see the lump in its body.
During this time, don’t handle the ball python.
Handling a ball python while it’s digesting may make it vomit up its food.
This is hard on the snake’s body and prevents nutrient absorption.
How Long Can A Baby Ball Python Go Without Eating?
While adult ball pythons may go 3-4 months without eating and up to 6 months (though they shouldn’t), the baby ball python has no reason to go anywhere near this long.
Every 5-7 days, you need to offer the ball python food.
There are only two main reasons a baby ball python won’t eat.
The python is ill.
This is the first thought many owners have when something odd with their pet happens.
Often, it’s not about illness, but the next reason.
However, if you see some companion signs of illness with a lack of appetite, don’t be afraid to get your pet checked out.
Here are common signs of illness:
- Visible injuries or “kinks” in their bodies
- Raspy breathing
- Pus and discharge in the mouth or eyes
- Changes in droppings
- Lethargy (lack of movement in the extreme)
- Mouth breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Cloudy eyes
- Stargazing (stiff body with head stuck up)
The ball python is about to shed.
Ball pythons and most reptiles are the same in this way. If they’re about to shed their skin, they won’t eat.
Younger reptiles shed more often because they’re growing more often.
Baby ball pythons may shed up to once per week or more if they’re hitting a growth spurt.
If your plan to feed them falls one of these days, they just won’t eat.
Look for signs of shedding, which include whitening skin, glassed over eyes, and cranky behavior.
Don’t help along in the shedding process.
Let it happen naturally.
Once it’s over, then offer food to the ball python again. It usually eats quickly after a shed.
What To Do If Your Baby Ball Python Won’t Eat
There are times outside of the reasons above your ball python will be reluctant to eat.
Here are a couple of tricks to use to get them to eat.
Brain the food – Sometimes frozen and thawed prey won’t be small strong enough to activate a snake’s instinct to eat.
This happens on occasion with live prey too.
One almost fool-proof tactic is to make a small cut in the prey’s skull and press on the prey’s body until blood and other materials come out.
This puts more scent in the air and helps the snake recognize the prey as food.
Tease the python – One other tactic includes what’s called “teasing” the snake.
This tactic is especially helpful with baby ball pythons, who sometimes have difficulty finding the food they smell.
With teasing, you take the prey and tap their heads and noses gently.
You may want to move the food around in front of the snake as if it were alive.
When you see the python notice the prey, move your hand away quickly but not so jerky it locks its attention onto your hand.
Let the smell build – Ball pythons hunt in large part by smell, so it’s important to make the prey smell as powerfully as it can.
For frozen and thawed foods, this is tougher.
One trick used by many is to take a small plastic container and poke holes in the top.
Place the thawed food in the container and place the container in the python tank.
Let it sit there for a while.
As the prey warms up, the smell will increase in the small container.
By having small holes in the container, the smell is amplified in the air and attracts the snake’s attention better.
When the ball python begins to inspect the container, you know it’s interested.
It’s at this time you should carefully remove the lid and let the snake go to town.
Now you know about what to feed baby ball pythons.
Pinky mice, fuzzy rats, and large rickets are your go-to foods.
Just make sure, as with all prey for ball pythons, the prey is no larger than the size of the snake’s body at mid-length.
Feed them once every 5-7 days, and your young ball python will develop just fine.