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Old 05-16-20, 09:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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5 Month Food Strike

Hello, I haven't been around in a while but I'm dealing with a 5 month food strike and I'm not sure how to get my snake eating again.

Nagini, my BP, was last feeding regularly and enthusiastically until late last November/early December. But then suddenly she just stopped. Her temps and humidity did not change and they're all still in appropriate ranges: Warm spot 90ish with a UTC (on thermostat), ambient ranging from 74 on the cooler side to about 80is. Humidity 60-70%.

She's right around 950 grams and, when she was feeding, she was taking a small medium rat anywhere from 70-89 grams every 3 weeks.

But for all of 2020 so far, nothing. I've tried white rats, black rats, natural colored rats and she's just not interested. The Zombie Rat Puppet Show seems to just scare her so I've tried drop feeding instead and she won't touch them either. She's never been a drop feeder before so I'm not surprised she won't do it now.

Since she started her food strike I've been offering her food once a month. Would it make a difference if I stretched that out even longer?

The rats I'm currently feeding are from a frozen batch I purchased in March 2019. Could the length of time they've been in the freezer be a factor? I've placed a new order for her usual small meds.

Would smaller rats be a better choice to get her eating again? I'm not sure what she needs after so long a fast. My order includes some smaller rats as well as her small meds.


I know BPs are notoriously picky and that longer food strikes happen, but I'm getting tired of wasting rats.
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Old 05-17-20, 09:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

I would go smaller. My adult males are both in the 1500-1600 gram range and get a small every 10-14 days or so.
They both eat reliably year round.


Granted your female will likely outgrow smalls, anything bigger will likely lead to food strikes. Larger meals generally lead to food strikes more than smaller meals.

I'd stick to smalls until she hits about 1500 grams.
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Old 05-17-20, 05:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

I agree, sometimes feeding a smaller prey item can entice a snake to eat.

I don't know what your enclosure is like but you might try giving it a deep clean. There is anecdotal evidence that suggests that ball pythons will go off feed when they can smell their fecal matter or urates in their enclosure.
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Old 05-18-20, 04:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

I'm confused about going smaller. The 70-89 g small mediums she'd been eating before the food strike are smaller than her girth (they were leaving no visible bulge at all) and are less than 10% of her body weight. She does not appear to be overweight - just the normal girthiness of a BP.

By either of those metrics they are already too small to be appropriate sized feeders for her. How do I know she's getting enough to eat without those metrics? Obviously a 50 gram small rat would be more than the nothing she's been eating for the past 5 months.

Are those guidelines meaningless then? Are they power feeding guidelines? Are there different guidelines for BPs because they are such naturally girthy snakes?
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Old 05-18-20, 09:06 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

The feeding guidelines are correct. A ball python should eat a single prey item roughly 10% of its weight every 10-14 days. Male ball pythons, for whatever reason, don't seem to require as much food as females; I alternate between offering my male ball python small rats, smaller medium rats, and medium rats.

However, your python isn't eating. So the guidelines go out the window just a little bit.

The reason you attempt to feed a smaller prey item is because the prey is less threatening to the snake. It is less threatening because a smaller rat will put up less of a fight (even though you're probably feeding pre-killed) and less threatening because the meal won't greatly interfere with the snake's ability to respond to fight/flight situations. Hopefully after one or two smaller meals your snake will get back to eating appropriately sized meals.

A couple personal anecdotes, I had a king snake that would eat rats a couple weeks during the summer but was otherwise afraid of them. The snake would take mice the rest of the year.

I bred my carpet pythons a couple years ago. Post lay, my female didn't want to take a rat; she acted afraid of it. This is quite odd as carpet pythons are eat first, ask questions later kind of snakes. I offered her a mouse and that one tiny meal put food in her belly and put her on track to feel comfortable feeding on rats again. (Note, don't offer a ball python a mouse, they can get 'addicted' to them and refuse to eat rats. Since ball pythons won't take multiple prey, a mouse only diet isn't feasible.)

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-18-20, 10:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

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Originally Posted by chairman View Post
It is less threatening because a smaller rat will put up less of a fight (even though you're probably feeding pre-killed)...
Yes, she's on frozen/thawed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chairman View Post
(Note, don't offer a ball python a mouse, they can get 'addicted' to them and refuse to eat rats. Since ball pythons won't take multiple prey, a mouse only diet isn't feasible.)
I thought about going back to mice but I do not want to have to transition her back to rats again. FWIW, I did get her to take multiple mice on a few occasions back before I transitioned her.

I've got an order in to Layne for half a dozen smalls and more small mediums. I'll wait a few weeks and try her on the smallest of the smalls and see if she takes that.
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Old 05-19-20, 09:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

You could try her with a freshly killed rat sometimes that kick starts them feeding again, could be worth a try
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Old 05-19-20, 10:18 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

The guidelines are correct, but they're exactly that.... guidelines. It's not set in stone or one size fits all. Sometimes we need stray a bit to make things work for individual animals.

Through my experience and research and conversations with reputable keepers and breeders I've learned that smaller prey items generally lead to fewer food strikes. Smaller meals are easier to digest and less "extra weight" if a snake needs to escape a predator. So they'll often refuse a larger meal, presumably hoping a smaller meal wanders by.

This is what works for me, and many others in the hobby. My animals maintain a healthy body structure and very rarely refuse a meal, year round.
I essentially let them "tell" me when they're ready to eat. If I see hunting behavior (head poking out of hide at night) on consecutive nights I offer on night 3. This works well for me and my animals. I basically have ZERO wasted prey, no stress and healthy snakes.

I honestly think people over complicate things with BPs. They're really not difficult to keep, but they have this reputation for being difficult, finicky eaters. So much of it is common sense. Learn from the guidelines, but learn more from your animal.

One thing that's often overlooked is that many of the feeding charts are designed for hatchling, juvenile and sub-adult BPs. Many are also designed for breeders and others are outdated and obsolete.
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Old 05-27-20, 10:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

Ahhh, refresh my memory please...there's no danger if a snake eats their prey backwards right? I finally got Nagini to take a small (42g) f/t rat and she's swallowing it butt first...
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Old 05-28-20, 08:32 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: 5 Month Food Strike

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Originally Posted by phenyx View Post
Ahhh, refresh my memory please...there's no danger if a snake eats their prey backwards right? I finally got Nagini to take a small (42g) f/t rat and she's swallowing it butt first...
No danger. I actually know of a few snakes who will only eat their prey backwards.
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