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FORCE_FEEDING_"TID_BIT"- by Robyn at Pro Exotics

This is an excerpt from our soon to debut new site, from the FAQ section. many thanks to Hoppy for the help.........robyn

"My buddy says I need to force feed my snake. How do I do that?".........below is what robyn had to say............

Very simply, you don’t. There are very, very few instances when it is ever productive to force feed a snake, and the negatives of the force feeding by far outweigh the positives. Getting an anorexic or stubborn reptile to feed is most often a matter of understanding the causes of the refusal. Experience with the subtleties of a type of animal (a snake, or a monitor, etc) makes most feeding problems fairly simple to solve, but they can be extremely challenging for a novice keeper. If you have tried EVERYTHING, and the animal still won’t eat, or has lost significant weight, see a vet, don’t force feed. But first try tackling the problem yourself, like this.....
Ask yourself some questions about why the animal is not eating (Boas don’t go on hunger strikes for political reasons). Could the problem be environmental? Is the snake feeling stress due to its caging and refusing to feed because of it? A snug fitting hide box makes a snake feel more secure and hidden from danger. Without this a young snake may not eat because it does not feel safe.
Is the cage too big? Many new herpers, in their zest to make the perfect snake habitat, will put their newborn Boa in a large cage or tank. The snake may just not find the food in such a vast home. A small, compact, well setup cage is often the key to getting started on the right foot. The giant atrium setup can come later J.
What type of substrate are you using and is it safe? Cedar chips are lethal to reptiles and other substrates may also be harmful, or less than ideal, adding to the overall stress of your animal.
Is the temperature too hot or too cold? A cold snake won’t eat. Many new herpers will keep their pets too warm because a pet store stressed to them to keep them “really hot”. New keepers may also have a poor grasp of the actual cage temperatures that they are running. Use a temp gun, or a quality digital thermometer and really understand what is happening in your cage. An 82-90 degree temp should be good for most (see individual care sheets for specifics). Understand the necessity and benefits of proper heat gradients.
Is the humidity ok? If you live in a desert type area it may be too dry. Clean water should always be present but spraying/misting may be needed several times per week.
That’s a basic look at environment now what about the food types?
Are you feeding it correct sized prey items? Something too big may intimidate the snake. Something too small may not stimulate a feeding response (baby Ball pythons are notorious for having eyes bigger than their stomachs). Typically, the prey item should be as big around (at it’s fattest point) as the largest part of the snake, the width of the midsection. Baby Ball pythons and baby Redtail boas don’t eat pinkies, they eat hoppers or small adult mice. Baby cornsnakes will have no trouble fitting their little heads around an appropriately sized pinkie mouse (they can do it, i promise!).
Is the snake refusing rats or mice? If it is refusing one try the other (baby Blood pythons often refuse mice, but take rat pups with gusto!). We have had snakes prefer either or as their first meal.
Are you feeding live or frozen? Some snakes may take to live over frozen/thawed. The body heat seems to trigger the feeding response. Others will take to thawed over live because the movement discourages them.
What time of day are you trying to feed the snake? Some snakes will feed better in the evenings while others will feed better in the mornings, try both.
Are you giving your snake enough time to feed? Over zealous herpers will check on their new pet every few minutes while feeding. Your snake will develop a strong feeding response over time, but at first they need privacy to feel secure. Also try to keep the prey item in over a 12-hour period without disturbing the snake (be careful with live prey and aggression). Novice keepers will remove the prey after just a few minutes in the cage thinking that if it did not happen immediately it won’t happen at all.
Now as far as how often to try and feed? Don’t do all these suggestions in a day’s time! Check the cage environment and try 1 method every 2-4 days until the snake eats. That’s not to say try it every day for 4 days straight! Try it once and if it does not work try again in a few days with another method. Offering all these different things to your snake at once will confuse it and may prolong the feeding process.
FORCE-FEEDING should be the last thing on your mind! Too many people are too quick to force a meal on a snake. After weeks of pulling out your hair, trying all things under the sun and thinking about just freezing the “damn thing”, one day you will walk in and find that the pinkie is gone. You’ll check the entire cage, under and around the water bowl, under the substrate/newspaper. You’ll even look around the outside of the cage as if by some miracle this small, blind, hairless animal climbed out of the cage to safety. Then it will hit you, oh my god it ate!!!
(many thanks and much credit to Jim “Hoppy” Hopkins at Hopkin’s Wholesale Herps, whose great post from the kingsnake.com Boa Forum was reproduced, nearly word for word, here : )


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