What Snake Is Right For You?
Snakes are just like any other pet. Some are better for certain types of people. For example, if you like snakes, but you are still nervous around them, a nice relaxed ball python would be great for you. If you’re a high energy person, a crazy little corn snake would be a perfect fit. In this post we’ll discuss temperaments of various snakes, big and small, to help you decide what to buy.
Ball Pythons range from three to five feet in length in adulthood. They are mellow, willing to be handled, and tend to move at a relaxed pace. They are an ideal snake for someone that wants a snake that isn’t going to get too big but still has that ‘wow, that snake is pretty badass’ look to it.
Corn Snakes/Rat Snakes
Corn snakes and Rat Snakes are, in my opinion, perpetually on some snake version of speed. They are small, quick, and they like to move around. They are great for someone that wants a small, high energy snake. They get to be anywhere from two to four feet in length but they are smaller in circumference than a ball python. Just like ball pythons, they are usually pretty docile and willing to be handled.
Colombian Red Tail Boa
Red Tail Boas are considered a ‘large’ snake, growing up to six or seven feet (I’ve even heard of some getting close to nine feet long) and much bigger around than ball pythons. That being said, they are still a great animal if one can handle that much snake at once.
Please Note: The snakes following this are snakes that I do not have personal experience with, so please forgive any mistakes.
Burmese Pythons can grow to a massive length of 16 to 23 feet, and Reticulated Pythons grow to around 10-20 feet long. Both are considered ‘giant snakes’, and are recommended for experienced keepers only. It is also suggested that for ANY snake longer than six feet, that two people are present when handling them. These are both docile snakes, but it is said that Reticulated Pythons get very food-oriented, so it is suggested to use a snake hook when retrieving them from their enclosure.
Just the name is intimidating, but they are named after the color of their scales, not a habit of drawing the blood of their keepers. They can grow up to about six feet in length, and are very thick, heavy-bodied snakes. While they can be nippy, especially as hatchlings, they grow into docile, easily handled snakes for the right owner.
Keep in mind that each individual is different. A corn snake might be a great beginner snake for one person, while another may go against the grain and immediately (with the proper research and preparation hopefully), jump into owning a Burmese Python.
Finally, the size of the snake determines the size of the prey. You’re going to be cleaning up a lot more after a Burmese Python than you are a corn snake (although my ball python tries to pretend he’s a Burmie once in awhile, yuck!). It’s all part of owning a snake.
Snake Myths And Misconceptions Part Two
It’s time for another round of snake myths and misconceptions!
1. Multiple snakes can be kept in the same habitat
Snakes are solitary creatures and don’t do well being caged with others. I believe big chain pet stores (which shall remain nameless) are partially at fault for this. When people go to the pet store and look at the reptiles, they commonly see enclosures with 5-6 or more young ball pythons in them. Frequently, one will see several of the snakes piled atop one another in one part of the cage.
Let me be very clear on something. These snakes are not cuddling! Snakes do not cuddle. As states before, they are solitary creatures. In reality, what you are seeing is each snake trying to ‘dominate’ the others into relinquishing the best spot in the habitat. This stresses the snakes out, which is very unhealthy for them. Snakes should each be kept in a separate, secure and well-maintained enclosure. Proper habitats have been discussed here.
2. Snakes like to be held and handled.
Most snakes simply tolerate being handled. Unlike dogs and cats, they are not sweet, cuddly creatures. One can never ‘tame’ a snake. However, you can teach your snake to be docile and calm when handled. Ball pythons are usually much more willing to adapt to being handled than a blood python, for example, but this doesn’t mean they enjoy being handled and held for hours at a time.
3. All snakes have fangs/are venomous
This is so obviously false, it almost pains me to write. Just like different mammals catch prey in different ways, so do snakes. Not all snakes are venomous, in fact, there are far more non-venomous snakes than there are venomous.
Snakes like ball pythons and boas are constrictors. This means they bite to catch their prey, and constrict to kill it. They have teeth, but no fangs. Cobras, vipers and other venomous snakes have fangs that are attached to venom sacs. They inject venom into their prey until it is dead or incapacitated, then consume it.
4. Snakes carry bacteria that can make me sick!
This is a gray area. While reptiles do carry the salmonella bacteria, proper handling of your pet will ensure that you do not get sick. In fact, the amount of salmonella transferred by handling a snake is rarely enough to make someone sick.
However, just because this is often the case doesn’t mean that you should forsake proper procedures when handling your snakes. Always wash your hands before and after holding your snake, for your safety and theirs.
This ends Snake Myths and Misconceptions Part Two! I hope you enjoyed it. Watch for our next post!
A Guide To Ball Python Morphs
Before I begin, please note that I am not a genetics expert. I know very little about genetics in general, even less about snake genetics. This post is meant to be more of a Halloween treat rather than an educational one. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to ask questions if you have them. Please note that all images are used with permission!
First, I’ll introduce one of my favorite ball python morphs of all time. The piebald (or pied) ball python! These are extremely popular (and moderately priced) snakes.
Piebald Ball Python
This is an example of what many call a ‘low-white’ pied. The snake is mostly patterned, but has a few spots missing the pattern.
This is an example of a ‘high white’ pied, or a pied missing most of its pattern.
Axanthic Ball Python
This is another of the morphs that I really enjoy, the axanthic.
Albino Ball Python
I’m personally not a huge albino fan, but they are still very pretty snakes. I’m just not a fan of the color yellow, I suppose.
Clown Ball Python
The clown morph is another stunning example of ball python genetics at work.
Spider Ball Python
The spider morph is one of my absolute favorites. It is, in my opinion, absolutely incredible.
Pinstripe Ball Python
For our final (for now) morph, I present to you the Pinstripe Ball Python! These are popular and very pretty, and can come in a variety of shades.
That’s all for now, folks. I hope you enjoyed this little presentation! If there is enough interest, I will do another post like this in the near future!
Before I go, I would like to give a shout-out to NERD (New England Reptile Distributors) for allowing me to use their amazing photographs! Without them, this post would not have been possible :).
Update about Upcoming Posts! What would you like to see?
Hopefully in the next 72 hours, I will be publishing a post on some of the more popular ball python morphs (color combinations), which should be pretty cool, as well as some more tips for new ball python owners. I’m also going to do a feature on beginner snakes (not just ball pythons!) and what might be best for you!
What would you, the readers, like to see? Let me know!
Tips for New Ball Python Owners Part One - Enclosures and Heating
Snakes are becoming increasingly popular, and Ball Pythons seem to be close to the top of the list in regards to popularity for new snake owners. This is understandable, they are pretty easy to care for once you have a good idea of what you are doing. With that in mind, here are a few things new snake owners, or prospective snake owners, might find useful.
Ball pythons are a great beginner snake. Without proper knowledge however, they can be complicated. This post will address a few of the major issues people seem to have with ball python ownership and hopefully answer a few questions.
Enclosures for ball pythons run from glass aquariums to plastic tubs and custom built reptile cages. I have personally tried aquariums and plastic tubs, and I find tubs to be far superior to aquariums in almost every way. Glass tanks are great if you want your snake on display, but it is generally much more difficult to maintain proper humidity levels. I found that when I have a snake in an aquarium, I have to mist with a spray bottle at least every day to maintain humidity levels.
A plastic tub isn’t great for putting your snake on display, but ball pythons don’t do much but sleep all day anyway. I have Gene in a plastic Sterilite tub with the top and front covered by a cloth, because they like it dark and cramped. I’ve discovered that his tub stays very humid just by keeping his water bowl full.
I can’t speak for custom made enclosures, or those designed specifically with snakes in mind, but I’m sure that when they are designed, it is done with these issues in mind.
Heating is pretty straightforward. The best type of heat you can provide for your ball python is either a piece of Flexwatt heat tape or an under-tank-heating pad (UTH), eitehr of which needs to be controlled by a thermostat. This provides belly heat, which aids in digestion. Some people use ‘back heat’ which is usually a strip of Flexwatt heating tape secured to the back of the tub. This is popular in some rack systems.
Under no circumstances should you ever use a heat rock for a snake! Heat rocks are prone to malfunction and can get extremely hot, to the point of burning your snake’s belly. Snakes aren’t like other animals, they won’t move if they get too hot. They tend to just sit and tolerate it. This can seriously harm or even kill your snake.
Some people advocate the use of heat lamps as a sole source of heat for a snake. Again, snakes utilize belly heat to aid in digestion, so while heat lamps are good for secondary heat (especially for snakes that like to climb, such as boas), they aren’t necessarily suitable for a sole heat source.
A thermostat or rheostat is absolutely required to maintain proper temperatures. As stated above with heat rocks, snakes will not move if they get too hot. Having proper heat control ensures that your snake’s enclosure is at the proper temperature to maintain a healthy environment and ideal digestion.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Tips for New Ball Python Owners Part Two - Feeding and Handling!
What Is So Great About Snakes?
I get asked frequently why I like snakes. The answer isn’t a simple one. First of all, snakes are fascinating creatures. I love the way they move, they way they eat. I’m fascinated by the fact that, no matter how much I love snakes, I know deep down in the primitive parts of my brain, caveman-me is screaming “BAD! RUN!”, because that fear of snakes, of reptiles, of the unknown and the mysterious, has been deeply ingrained in our minds since biblical days.
That feeling of countless scales moving seamlessly under my fingertips as my snake moves through my hands, across my arms, is incredible. It is hard to describe to someone that has never experienced it, let alone someone that is terrified by these amazing creatures.
As disturbing as it may seem to some, I love watching snakes eat. The precision strike and coil of a hungry constrictor is a spectacle I never fail to enjoy. Of course, I am always careful to ensure that the feeding is done safely when delivering live prey into the slavering jaws of my serpent.
For me, the fascination with snakes has always been there. I’ve always been interested in television shows, magazine articles, and the like about them. It wasn’t until several years ago when a neighbor brought out a pair of (I think) boas for us to see that I really became interested. At the time, my girlfriend answered my plea with a resounding “NO!” when I inquired about getting a snake.
Bummer. Fast forward a few years, and something has me really aching for a snake. After some pleading, some discussion and some convincing (well done on my part, by the way!), I convinced the other half to let me get a ball python.
Enter Gene. He wasn’t more than ten inches long, if not smaller. I don’t remember exactly, but he was a tiny, maybe six month old snake. I picked him up from a lady on Craigslist who had named him ‘Rocky’. I didn’t like that name, not for a snake. I still don’t. The name “Gene” was coined by my future mother in law, as a tribute to Gene Simmons, because it looked like his tongue was almost as long as his body!
Snakes are relatively simple creatures. Their brains don’t work like those of a dog or cat. They are more primitive, more ‘fight or flight’. What this means is snakes don’t expect, or even desire, attention. They don’t want to cuddle, and they don’t want to hang out with other snakes down at the snake park. They want to be left alone to eat, sleep, and shed. Most come to tolerate being handled by humans, and Gene is an especially docile case. He has only tried to bite me once, when he mistook me for food because we had a rat sitting in the room with him prior to opening his cage.
Snakes are great pets for me. I like not having to worry about taking Gene for a walk, brushing him, or any other bonding activity I do with my dog or cat. The most he requires is a meal every week (or a bigger meal every two weeks), occasional handling to ensure he remains docile and doesn’t eat me, and regular cage maintenance.
I love snakes. I have been curious about them for a long time, and I’m still learning things I didn’t know before. Just today, I learned a trick for taking an aggressive snake out of its cage. Hopefully it is something I don’t have to deal with anytime soon, but when I do, the knowledge is there.
What about you, good readers? Why do you love or hate snakes? Let me know!
Breeder Q&A Part 3 - Brian Barczyk, BHB Reptiles
The third installment of the Breeder Q&A series is here, this time with Brian from BHB Reptiles! You may also know him from Snakebytes TV on Youtube, great series for anyone to watch, by the way.
Ever since I could remember I have been passionate about animals, and reptiles always peaked my interest the most. I didn’t go into working with reptiles thinking it was going to be a life long thing, but it just worked out that way.
2. What is your favorite snake species? Why?
I always tell people there is just no way for me to pick one species or one type of snake. I love them all and I get so much pleasure out of working with a wide variety of animals. If I had to choose one, I’d be in big trouble.
3. What species do you breed? Which one do you focus on if you have more
than one species?
We work with about 30,000 snakes, so there are a ton of species in that group. I really don’t focus on any of them anymore then the other, but cornsnakes and Ball Pythons are probably the two animals I’m known for the most.
4. Why did you start breeding snakes?
I never intending on making this my career, I was young and thought I could make a few bucks to help pay my way through college. By time I was in my second year of school, I was making more money then I could at the career I was hoping to get into. I thought, this is what I really want to do and if I can make a career out of it, why not go for it. 24 years later and we’re still going.
5. How many snakes of breeding age do you own?
Like I said in a previous answer, we work with over 30,000 snakes. That number goes up and down depending on what time of the year it is. We probably peak at about 45,000 snakes when babies are full force, but we have a LOT of adults!
6. What is your favorite part of the breeding process? What part do you
like the least?
I enjoy the whole process, copulation to hatching. Each part bring a different level of excitement and I love it all. My least favorite part is selling snakes. I like dealing with people, but I wish I didn’t have to make money of the animals I love so much. It’s a means to an end and I very important psrt of my business, but the business side is by far my least favorite.
7. What is the most difficult part of the breeding process?
Every part is difficult when doing it on the level we do. It’s about staying focused and dealing with the problem that always come with working with live animals. People think it’s easy, and it’s far from it. We’re not rocket scientist, but animals are always demanding and will always throw you for a loop. You have to love it more then anything else to be successful long term.
8. What species of snake do you breed? Have you bred others? If so, which
is the most difficult?
Again, we breed a ton of species and each one has their own set of challenges. As long as you’re dedicated and have a little luck you can almost breed anything. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s easy, because that’s not always the case.
9. What is your biggest regret in regards to your breeding venture?
Whether you are running a snake breeding facility like us or selling magazines you will always make mistakes. I have made too many to wrote about, but I don’t believe you ever should regret anything in business. You learn from your mistakes and do your best to not make them again and again. I think any good business person has failed many times. The ones that survive are the ones that learn from them and use that to make their busines stronger!
10. What is your greatest accomplishment in breeding?
I think it’s just being around for 24 years. It’s not easy to do anything for that long, but dealing with the ups and downs of the reptile market, live animals and all the other things you have to deal with on a daily basis is tough and to still be here after so many years is what I’m the most proud of.
11. What are your primary goals for your breeding project? Short-term and
My goals for any project are always the same. Enjoy working with the animals and do my best to produce some of the best quality offspring that I can. If I produce great animals they will sell well and my clients will be very happy and I can keep doing what I love, which is to work with animals for a living.
12. Are there any misconceptions regarding snake breeding you’d like to
Not to anyone that love snakes, but certainly we are contantly dispelling the fears of non-reptile people. It’s another passion of mine, to change peoples minds about these often hated animals. I see so much beauty in snakes and I want everyone to experience what I understand about these amazing creatures.
13. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the reptile breeding
With out a doubt it’s legislation. We can slowly change peoples perception of snakes, but if the laws get harder and harder for us to work with these animals it could destroy the hobby. I’m optmistic that we’ll be okay, but it’s a completely scary thing to think that people that know nothing about reptiles are making laws that could outlaw what I do.
14. What is a typical day like for you during breeding season?
Breeding season is 12 months a year for a collection like ours. I work from the time I get up until late at night. The routine changes depending on where we’re at in the breeding cycle, but it’s a on the go life style with no time for rest. I love doing what I do and I never look at it as “work”, but this life is not for everyone. I can say that with confidence.
15. Do you feed your snakes live or pre-killed prey?
We prefer frozen and 90% of my collection feeds on frozen, but I am not against live feeding for animals that refuse fresh dead or thawed. I want my snakes to feed, so I will feed live responsibly to get them to feed.
16. Do you breed mice or rats as well as snakes? If not, where do you get
your food supply?
We buy all our food. We have a handful of different sources to suplly the demand that we require.
17. What is a typical day like for you? What does your job consist of? Do you do the dirty work of cleaning cages, feeding, etc or do you prefer to keep your hands clean?
I do all things here. I clean cages, I switch animals around for breeding, I pull and care for eggs, I feed snakes, I wash tubs, I answer the phone, I care for rodents and so on… There is not a job in the shop that I am not involved in on some level.
18. Do you have any advice for would-be breeders?
Just to do it for the love of the animal and never chase the money. And enjoy every moment you can when working with animals..
Thank you for a great Q&A, Brian! You can check Brian out on Twitter as well as follow him on Facebook at:
Thanks for reading!
Feeding live prey
Many snake owners know that sometimes, getting a snake to eat frozen/thawed (hereafter known as f/t) can be a time-consuming effort, and is sometimes just plain impossible. Many people outside the hobby don’t realize this. Maybe they just don’t care. I don’t know their motives for acting the way they do, but I am fed up with it.
There are three types of people that complain about feeding snakes live prey. They are:
- People that have genuine concern for the welfare of the prey item and are simply expressing their displeasure at potential suffering of a living creature
- People that dislike snakes and other ‘creepy crawly’ creatures and seek to make the lives of their owners miserable
- People that don’t understand the above mentioned fact, that sometimes it is difficult to get a snake to eat f/t.
1 and 3 I can handle, provided that these types of people eventually understand the situation many snake owners find themselves in. Sometimes it makes more sense to feed and breed live prey than it does to spend an outrageous (for some) amount of money on a limited supply of frozen prey items.
People of type 2 just piss me off, and if they refuse to see reason, the most I can do is mentally scream at them in frustration and walk away from the discussion, because it will only serve to anger me more.
I understand why people get upset when the subject is brought up, but I also feel that I deserve some understanding as well. John Doe down the street has this annoying little football-type dog that yaps and yaps, and I enjoy imagining drop-kicking it into the next county. However, Mr. Doe loves his dog dearly. Yappy is a member of his family, and he would be devastated were anything to happen to him, or if he were unable to provide proper care.
Everyone, that is how I feel about my scaly friends. You may not like or understand them, and you may be confused at how I can be so attached to them. Rest assured, though, that I love them as much as I love my dog or my cat. They do have to eat, you know. If I could feed them all f/t I would. It isn’t very expensive (right now it is, for me), and it’s a lot safer than feeding live (a pre-killed freshly thawed mouse isn’t going to bite my snake, unless it’s a zombie), but sometimes it isn’t an option.
If that is the case, like it is now, I will do my very best to make sure that the mice are comfortable and happy for as long as they live, however long or short that may be. Do not judge me for keeping snakes, because I don’t judge the fact that you think having a dozen yipping and nipping pocket dogs is adorable.
It’s simple, folks. Snakes need to eat too. If you don’t like that, okay. You are welcome to your opinion. However, next time you come to my door with pitchforks, think about the last time you went out to eat. Think about the last juicy T-bone you grilled. Do you honestly think the animals slaughtered so we can eat are treated better than the mice I feed my snake? I doubt it.
Thanks for reading, click “Ask me anything” if you have questions!