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How often should I feed my snake?

How often should I feed my snake?

While this little question can be quite confusing these are the methods that I practice:

  • If your snake is between 0-9 months old feed an appropriately sized* item every 5 days.
  • If your snake is between 9-12 months feed an appropriately sized* item every 6 days.
  • If your snake is between 1-3 years feed it an appropriately sized* item every 10 days
  • If your snake is over 3 years feed it an appropriately sized* item every 14 days.

* Appropriate sized item is a prey item that has a girth 1.5 times the girth of your snake. For example, if your snake girth is the size of a US dime, you should be feeding it a prey item that has a girth the size of a US nickel. If your snakes girth is the size of a US nickel, you should be feeding it prey that has a girth the size of a US quarter.

Girth is defined as: The distance around something; the circumference. The way we define girth is the distance around the thickest/widest part of the body.

There are exceptions to the above stated guidelines. These include:

  1. Slowing growth (feed less often)
  2. Speeding growth (feed more often or multiple items at each feeding this is commonly referred to as power feeding)
  3. In preparation for breeding (this is usually achieved by feeding more often)

 

It is fairly common for a snake to "skip" a meal. As long as the snake is not losing weight this is not a problem. Reasons for this include:

  1. Not hungry. Yes this does periodically happen.
  2. Breeding season. During breeding season snakes have other things on their mind and tend to "fast".
  3. Hibernation. Some snakes hibernate during the colder months. Rubber boas and garter snakes are 2 that come to mind.
  4. Temps in the enclosure are too low. This is usually indicated by the snake being in a tight "ball". This is a method snakes use to conserve energy and heat.
  5. Snake is imprinted on a certain prey. This tends to happen most with wild caught ball or "royal" pythons. They can imprint on a specific prey item and wont accept anything else.
  6. Switching from live to F/T (frozen/thawed) prey. If the snake is accustomed to live prey they sometimes need they prey item to "dance" to get their attention. Their is also the possibility that they F/T item is not fully thawed or is below room temperature.


These are in no particular order and by no means all the reasons that a snake may "skip" a meal.

 

Predators eat live prey in the wild ... why should we switch?

While this is usually true captivity is not natural. In open spaces the prey will normally take flight, however in a confined space they have nowhere to run so they will fight back. If the predator makes a "bad grab," such as on its back, the prey animal may start attacking the snake or reptile to make it let go.

Its cool to watch the snake/reptile grab the live animal and eat it.

If you want a rush try holding a thawed prey item in front of that animal in a pair of hemostats or tongs. The snake/reptile will rip the prey out of your holding utensil. It never fails to give me an adrenaline rush.

Can disease and/or parasites be passed on to reptiles?

It is generally accepted that diseases and parasites of rodents are specific to their host and cannot be passed on to your reptile. However, it is always stressed to provide the best quality prey animal to your snake.

Can I re-freeze a prey item that wasn't eaten?

You can refreeze a fully thawed prey item, if you do so within a short period of time. If the thawed item has been left overnight and uneaten, it is best to throw it away as it will have already started to decompose. Some refrozen prey items (especially pinkies) will be more likely to "pop" . Separate and mark all refrozen prey items for next week's feeding. If they are unused again, dispose of them as repeated freezing will degrade the quality of your snake's food.

My thawed prey is wet, can I still feed it to my snake?

Give it a try. Some snakes will not care if the prey is wet or not, some even seem to prefer it that way. If your snake will not take it wet or you are concerned about substrate sticking excessively to the wet prey item, just use your blow dryer on it or place it under a heat lamp for a few moments.

 

Predators eat live prey in the wild ... why should we switch?

While this is usually true captivity is not natural. In open spaces the prey will normally take flight, however in a confined space they have nowhere to run so they will fight back. If the predator makes a "bad grab," such as on its back, the prey animal may start attacking the snake or reptile to make it let go.

Its cool to watch the snake/reptile grab the live animal and eat it.

If you want a rush try holding a thawed prey item in front of that animal in a pair of hemostats or tongs. The snake/reptile will rip the prey out of your holding utensil. It never fails to give me an adrenaline rush.

Can disease and/or parasites be passed on to reptiles?

It is generally accepted that diseases and parasites of rodents are specific to their host and cannot be passed on to your reptile. However, it is always stressed to provide the best quality prey animal to your snake.

Can I re-freeze a prey item that wasn't eaten?

You can refreeze a fully thawed prey item, if you do so within a short period of time. If the thawed item has been left overnight and uneaten, it is best to throw it away as it will have already started to decompose. Some refrozen prey items (especially pinkies) will be more likely to "pop" . Separate and mark all refrozen prey items for next week's feeding. If they are unused again, dispose of them as repeated freezing will degrade the quality of your snake's food.

My thawed prey is wet, can I still feed it to my snake?

Give it a try. Some snakes will not care if the prey is wet or not, some even seem to prefer it that way. If your snake will not take it wet or you are concerned about substrate sticking excessively to the wet prey item, just use your blow dryer on it or place it under a heat lamp for a few moments.