The Stork has Landed!
Captive reproduction of the Reticulated Python has progressed significantly in the past decade. At one time this large snake was rarely reproduced for several reasons, large size of the adults, low price and common availability of imports and potentially aggressive behavior were all reasons many individuals were commonly breeding other species of pythons. Declining wild populations as well as a rapidly growing interest and knowledge of captive reproduction techniques have led to an explosion of both professional and novice breeding of this python species.
Color morphs (color patterns that do not normally occur in the wild) are another reason for the explosion of captive breeding of the Reticulated Python. Albino, Tiger Stripped, and other unusual patterns are now readily available as an alternative to the normal pattern of this python.
Age is a more accurate factor in determining the sexual maturity of this species than is size, an aggressively fed Reticulated Python can easily reach 10-14 feet in less time than the animal will actually be sexually mature. In fact an aggressively fed hatchling can reach 10 feet in the first year of life. This rapid rate of growth is abnormal and may have negative health consequences for the python. Males can be mature as young as three years of age while the female will generally not be ready to mate until her fourth year. Attempts to bred the animals prior to maturity will often result in the female producing either no eggs or infertile eggs.
Males should not be housed together after they reach maturity. The male Reticulated python is known for aggressive behavior that may result in injury or death to one or both males. Fighting can, and often does occur in adult males of this species.
As a rule there are generally no preferences shown as to whether or not the male is introduced to the female or vice versa. In many instances the adults are often housed together year round, there is evidence that does point to the female being more receptive to breeding using a period of separation (six to eight weeks is a good average) and slight cooling of the animals at night.
In general mating of the reticulated python occurs from early September through early December. Eggs are typically laid from mid-December through mid-March. The Reticulated python can be allowed to incubate her own eggs or the eggs can be removed to a proper incubator to ensure optimum temperature and humidity.
On average the reticulated python eggs require 95-100 days to hatch, this is slightly longer than average for most python species.
Eggs should be maintained at 88-91 degrees Fahrenheit with a near 100% humidity. This is a higher average temperature than most other python species should be incubated at. Our experience indicates that maintaining the eggs on the very high end of the scale will result in near 100% hatch rate and can shorten the incubation by several days. Caution should be used as this species does not tolerate much fluctuation above or below the incubation range.
The hatchlings are generally aggressive feeders. Caution should be exercised not to overfeed this species, unnaturally overfed animals can, and often do develop medical problems.
One of the most commonly kept and bred of all snakes in captivity is the Boa Constrictor. For the purpose of the information contained in this article we are going to be addressing Boas in general. There are many recognized species and sub species of the Boa Constrictor, almost all have roughly the same breeding and gestation habits. If you are attempting to reproduce a specific subspecies some additional research may be required as insular species etc. do have slightly different requirements.
In an effort to boost the retail value of offspring many pet shops, professional and amateur breeders, have overused the term "Red-tail" Boa to include virtually all species and subspecies of Constrictor constrictor. The common, or Columbian Boa is the animal that is most often reproduced. The common availability of these animals in the pet trade as imports as well as with professional breeders who are disposing of offspring that did not meet unique pattern or color requirements has led to the Colombian Boa being the most common of all Boas that are reproduced. For the purpose of this article we will be using specific data obtained from the successful reproduction of several clutches of Colombian boas.
As is the case with all mating attempts, a healthy well fed male and female snake are critical to a successful mating attempt. Age is another consideration as a Boa Constrictor can be grown to a sizable length without the required years of maturity to ensure the animal is sexually mature. Over, or underfed, female Boa Constrictors will both have great difficulty in successfully mating, and reproducing viable offspring. Risking the health of a female in an attempt to bred her before she is ready is not suggested.
All Boa Constrictors are live bearers. In general there is no need to have multiple males with this species but it is often a good idea to utilize several males in a breeding attempt until you are 100% sure the male you have is fertile and has reproduced in prior attempts. Obvious exceptions to this rule would include using a specific male who has a desired gene pattern for the reproduction of a specific trait such as albinism etc. On some occasions an otherwise healthy male Boa Constrictor will show no interest in reproduction. Males are generally not known to be aggressive to each other in Boa Constrictors and can often be housed together for extended periods of time.
The introduction of the male to the females enclosure is recommended. A cooling period of six to eight weeks prior to mating attempts will increase the chances of a successful mating. There have been multiple successful matings however where no cooling period was utilized. There is currently an ongoing debate over whether or not the cooling period actually hurts the chances of a successful mating, we have had success using both methods.
Boa Constrictor matings generally occurs from mid November through late January, but this species is known to have successfully copulated in virtually all months of the year. The gestation period for the Boa is not only difficult to gauge (long periods of copulation may last weeks) but also little understood with respect to the temperature/female weight/age of the female/??. Some females have given birth in as little as 16 weeks while others have gone as long as 40 weeks. On average it is widely accepted that 24 weeks is a normal gestation period for a healthy female boa.
Temperature during gestation is critical, the range should be between 82-88 degrees. High temperatures will produce both birth defects and deformed babies, low temperatures will yield the same results. Humidity should be maintained at 65-85 percent.
The newborn Boas will have a post-natal shed at about 10 days of age. The babies will begin to feed on small mice (fuzzies and hoppers) immediately after shedding. Baby boas are generally outstanding feeders compared to some of the more difficult species to start feeding.
The babies should be maintained separately if possible to ensure each young animal is receiving adequate food. By housing your baby snakes separately you have an increased chance of noting issues with both feeding as well as regurgitation, fecal concerns etc. The babies should be fed every 4-7 days. Optimal temperature and humidity requirements are the same as for gravid females.