by Robyn at Pro Exotics
is an excerpt from our soon to debut new site,
from the FAQ section. many thanks to Hoppy for
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
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
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
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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