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Old 06-27-16, 04:34 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I've been wondering what breeders do when you get a hatchling--or acquire an adult--that just has an unusually rotten temperament (some species are just mean... that's not what I'm referring to though). It tries to bite your face off at every opportunity. It's the one you dread handling.

I would assume if it's an adult that you bought sight unseen you wouldn't breed it lest it pass on the bad temperament, right? Would you try to return it to the seller, particularly if you dropped a lot of money on it?

If it's a hatchling, do you wait to see if it simmers down before you sell it? Cull it? Sell it cheap, with a disclaimer that it's being discounted because it's a jerk (that would be my inclination)?

I'm interested because I intend to breed for docility as well as health and aesthetics. When I bought my breeders I asked for the mellowest ones in the bunch, all other factors being equal. The idea is to produce animals that are enjoyable for people to work with.... IMO that serves both people and snakes well. But sometimes you just get a bad apple.
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Old 06-27-16, 05:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I've had a BCI that was pure evil... Not many snakes are purely aggressive as most are actually defensive if anything, but this one hated everything. Even with tap training and 3yrs of handling he just got worse, to the point that he'd bite himself if he saw his tail move....

Personally I wouldn't breed from him myself but he was perfect in every other way. I find the nasty ones make great feeders and tbh it keeps you on your toes.

Most breeders that I know of would mention that an adult was bitey but I wouldn't expect to be told if a neonate or juvi was aggressive... I would assume these get sold along with the rest, and I dont see a reason to drop the price on a snake for what is basically doing what a snake does.
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Old 06-27-16, 07:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

With hatchlings or younger snakes...take the bites and try to get them as used to handling as possible so that they become tolerant. With adults, get good with a hook or get some bite proof gloves and work with it whenever you can. I would absolutely never cull a healthy hatchling that was defensive...I would consider that extremely immoral and if someone is doing that then they shouldn't be producing animals, period. I would not be returning an adult to the seller either if I got one hard to work with, because they can't "guarantee" termperment...people can do really stupid things and a calm animal in someone else's hands can have a bad experience and revert back to defensiveness. As far as selling goes...if you have one that is defensive or hard to work with, label it as such and be mindful of who is buying it i.e. don't sell it to a child. I also wouldn't hold onto a hatchling until it became calm or used to handling.

If you are looking for your breeding stock to be calm, all you can do is ask and do your best. Usually calm adults will produce babies that have the potential to be calm, but it won't be 100% of the time.
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Old 06-27-16, 08:17 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I totally agree with everything that was being said by Andy and Snake_eyes. They are just doing what their instinct makes them do. From our 8 hatchlings, one is striking at everything, yet, I don't plan on giving him for free or antyhing, I will just mention that this one is easily scared and describe his behavior, so the buyer will decide if they want snake like this or not.

As for "from angry parents you'll get angry babies"... I can't really agree with it, both parents of my russians are calm, never ever hissed once, yet like I said one of their babies is really crazy It all depends on individuals, I guess that there is a lot of breeders that from crazy parents got super calm babies too.
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Old 06-27-16, 11:08 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

Good food for thought. I've not received a mean snake yet and won't be breeding for a while, but I was sure that this must come up. Some of my own babies are defensive and will take shots at me when frightened. I consider that normal. What I meant was something that goes beyond simple defensive behavior and that is not easily remedied by consistent handling, i.e. an outright aggressive animal.

I don't have what it takes cull an animal that isn't dying or horribly deformed. It doesn't sit right with my conscience, but some people are a lot harder than me. I'm glad that established breeders also feel that way and that it isn't considered the norm.

I agree that choosing mellow breeding stock helps you hedge your bets, but it's no guarantee. You can get one like Sylphie's little madman even from the best-tempered parents and you can also get good babies out of nasty parents, but it would seem to me that temperament is at least partly hereditary.

So it seems that the best course of action is to handle the little critter as much as possible, disclose its temperament (but no discount) and be careful who gets it. I mentioned the discount because I saw a yearling corn snake offered on a breeder's website a while back which had 25% knocked off his price because he was "exceptionally grumpy and bit me 4 times while attempting to photograph him." This might be because corn snakes are expected to be very docile though.
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Old 06-27-16, 11:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

Exactly like you said, it's best to try getting them used to handling as much as you can, and if this don't work, then be honest with buyers about the attitude. A lot of people don't mind if the snake is more nervous (for example breeders that don't need their snakes to be pets, for them the snake don't need to like human contact). And surely from two calm parents you'll get more calm babies than from two nervous, or that's what I believe in... but every rule has it exceptions so be ready for some baby bites while breeding, even if your snakes are the calmest in the world
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Old 06-27-16, 12:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

Most of my babies have been pretty bitey but the tend to grow out of it as they gain size. As someone said the more feisty the better feeder, so it isn't always a negative trait. It is hard to predict how a babies attitude will progress so I would never recommend culling for this reason. There are many factors that contribute to an animals temperament like genetics but also environment and experience so breeding for it is much more complicated that morphs. I think taking this into consideration is by no means a bad idea but should be secondary to health and breeding goals.
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Old 06-27-16, 12:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I agree with Meso. And I honestly think that most breeders probably never even consider temperament when breeding. If you're dealing with a species that is usually very docile, I doubt that it ever comes up. An adult of that species that is unusually defensive AND happens to be a holdback you want to breed is probably going to be extremely rare. If it's a species that is known to be defensive, that just comes with the territory, and is often one of the traits that fans of those snakes like about them.
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Old 06-27-16, 02:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I am very new to snakes but, I do know that they are semi tame and if I get one that is hard work then I must remember I chose the snake and he did not chose me. More time with him and I am sure that he will calm down.

2 Royals, 1 Corn and 1 dwarf Boa. for now.
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Old 06-27-16, 05:58 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

Um...who ever said they are supposed to be tame? They have the brain the size of a pencil eraser. Every time you reach for it, it thinks you're gonna eat it. I'd be defensive too. Some are just flat out pi$$y. I think Ian said it very well. We deal with the grumpy snake.
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Old 06-27-16, 07:44 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I'd definitely keep a breeder that was defensive, I'd either work with it or try to handle it as little as possible to reduce my chances of getting bitten, but I wouldn't take it out of a breeding program just because it's defensive. Snakes temperaments seem to depend more on their level of interaction and the environment they're in than genetics like with domestic mammals.

I would discuss the temperament of the babies with buyers, but I wouldn't discount just because the snake bit me a few times, that's what babies do. lol
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Old 06-27-16, 08:25 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

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Originally Posted by MDT View Post
Um...who ever said they are supposed to be tame? They have the brain the size of a pencil eraser. Every time you reach for it, it thinks you're gonna eat it. I'd be defensive too. Some are just flat out pi$$y. I think Ian said it very well. We deal with the grumpy snake.
I don't think anyone expects a fawning puppy dog, but a snake (of a species known for being docile) that tries to eat your face every time you interact with it just isn't much fun for your customers to own.

Defensive behavior is one thing, and I expect it from a hatchling for exactly that reason... it's no Einstein and it thinks the world is about to end when you go to pick it up. It's unrealistic to expect otherwise. But some specimens are downright nasty and they don't always get better with handling. I could see a customer being understandably unhappy about buying a pet like that, particularly if it was not disclosed. None of the species I'm planning on breeding are known for bad temperaments so it's not something most customers are signing up for. If I was breeding coachwhips and somebody complained that they were mean I would have to try hard not to laugh.

I expect to get bitten. That's part of the deal. Right now I'm raising a bunch of young 'uns and my hand looks like I slapped Pinhead from Hellraiser. It's OK. I just prefer not to breed exceptionally aggressive specimens or foist them off on unsuspecting customers.
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Old 06-27-16, 08:51 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I get what you're saying, and to a point, agree w it....but... (There's always a but, right?)....I kinda look at it from the Caveat Emptor standpoint. If they don't know enough about reptiles to expect the occasional butt-hole demeanor animal based on what it is biologically, then they prob shouldn't own a snake. Then again, I'm also in the distinct minority in that my animals are pretty much display/hands off. Maybe I'm just becoming a grouchy old ba$tard? .
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Old 06-27-16, 09:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

I really don't care if snakes bite me or not, everything I keep is either harmless or rear fanged, not dangerous to humans. I'm more worried about a weak feeder than I am being bitten by a snake.
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Old 06-28-16, 08:15 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: What Do Breeders Do with Bad-Tempered Snakes?

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Originally Posted by SerpentineDream View Post
I don't think anyone expects a fawning puppy dog, but a snake (of a species known for being docile) that tries to eat your face every time you interact with it just isn't much fun for your customers to own.

Defensive behavior is one thing, and I expect it from a hatchling for exactly that reason... it's no Einstein and it thinks the world is about to end when you go to pick it up. It's unrealistic to expect otherwise. But some specimens are downright nasty and they don't always get better with handling. I could see a customer being understandably unhappy about buying a pet like that, particularly if it was not disclosed. None of the species I'm planning on breeding are known for bad temperaments so it's not something most customers are signing up for. If I was breeding coachwhips and somebody complained that they were mean I would have to try hard not to laugh.

I expect to get bitten. That's part of the deal. Right now I'm raising a bunch of young 'uns and my hand looks like I slapped Pinhead from Hellraiser. It's OK. I just prefer not to breed exceptionally aggressive specimens or foist them off on unsuspecting customers.
SD, it's not so much the frequent handling or the repeated handling when it comes down to taming aggressive or defensive individuals. The quality and timing of the handling is key. The animal needs to be dominated during handling sessions and this is accomplished fairly simply and should be for short durations in the beginning and progressed to slightly longer times as the animal shows progress.
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