Breeding snakes is not a “generic business” where you put two snakes in a pen and come back in a few months. But I will do my best to describe the steps to breed snakes as simply as possible for you.
These days snake breeding in captivity is considered a viable business for the entrepreneurial spirited and reptile lover. You’ll know that I’m not a fan of thinking everyone should own reptiles, if you’re still considering purchasing your first snake – read this first to make sure you are ready to own a reptile.
Most likely if you are reading this article, you’ve made the leap, you’ve been raising your snakes for about 2 years now and have been waiting for this season! I’ve covered the basic guidelines here to help you enhance your chances of successful snake mating.
Setting the Mood
Snake reproduction or breeding interest of many snakes is based on temperatures, photoperiod and an “urge” prompted through this. Snakes typically are sexually active after a winter “season”. In order to replicate the change in season you will need to offer a cooler winter temperature and longer nights. As the months progress you will warm them back up and bring the snakes into spring. Generally daytime temperatures should range 77-84 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime temperatures of 69-73 should do. The length of time should mimic your days during the same season with at least 12 hours of dark. The cool temperatures should last 60-90 days (2-3 months). Make sure to do your research for your specific snake as North American snakes may need induced hibernation. Tropical snakes do not need to hibernate.
At the end of the winter period, increase your temperature slowly and resume normal climate and humidity. After you are back to normal Spring temperatures begin feeding frequently small meals. You may increase your meal sizes after you’ve established the snakes are reacclimatized to Spring. Continue to feed to ensure that snakes reach optimum weight before breeding. This is because the snakes often stop feeding during breeding season so making them eat now will pay off later.
Courting the Female
After feeing and shed (you don’t have to wait for shed cycle- but you should) put the female into the female’s cage. The shed is your signal to put the two together. Some say put the male in the female’s cage -its your call.
There are a few ways to stimulate courtship (but we don’t worry too hard about this). Some will recommend misting the snakes (lift the mister / to simulate rain). Others say putting another male into the mix will cause an uproar between the males and stimulate the male. This is a weary one as it can cause aggressive behavior that can hurt your pets more than help. If you take this route, be ready to separate a fight, and don’t leave them alone for this same reason.
After the pair locks, leave them for a short period, and then separate the pair as normal. You will want to continue this process every few days to make sure you do not exhaust your male.
Time for Eggs
When the female loses interest in the male, she is producing eggs. If in doubt, leave them together another cycle. Some snakes do birth live young while others lay eggs. Gestation runs various amounts based on the breed. The female will be looking for a place to lay her eggs, and will look for a safe place. Make sure to never let your water bowl be large enough for the female to coil in. Attempt to build a deposit site for her with a covered hole (think gallon milk jug size) or another hiding place. Filling this hiding place with a damp vermiculite or other substrate is very important. Once the egg clutch is laid, the snake will appear thin – ensure to feed small frequent meals to regain weight.
Incubators are something you can make or purchase. We wont be going into making your own incubator today but I trust you can find this information if its up your alley. Otherwise you can purchase one or even buy a chicken egg incubator a feed store. (If you take this route, make sure you can adjust the temperature!) Don’t forget you can also go all out and purchase reptile incubators as well that are built for these purposes.
Once the eggs are laid, remove the clutch to the incubator. Be careful to leave the eggs right side up, and do not turn them. Some will mark the tops of the egg to ensure they are not moved wrong. Maintain humidity based on your specimen from 80-90 percent. When separating the snake from her clutch, move the female to a sanitized new cage. This separation and sanitized cage will help the scent be removed and encourage the female to feed again and restore health. Feed small prey frequently in order to help the female come back up to weight.
Remember: Document every time you introduce the pair, your temperatures, your feed cycles and sheds. All notes are better than less notes!