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Python Feeding Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Burmese Pythons' started by AjaMichelle, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    Can you guys share with me how you feed your pythons, especially those of you with large constrictors?

    I'm assuming feeding a large python is a little different than feeding a small one anyway...

    Monty is my first and only snake so I'm unsure whether the things he does are actually abnormal, or if I'm just perceiving them to be abnormal.

    For example, I fed him yesterday night. He has an strong feeding response (might be an understatement) so I feed him in his enclosure. I prepared two guinea pigs for a total of 3.5lbs. I throw the first one in, he goes right for it and grabs it before it hits the ground. It takes him a few minutes to eat it. Then I put the second in, when I open the door he strikes the door frame, cannot find the pig, is obsessed with smelling the door and ceiling and his water bowl. Finally after an hour, I see him doing what I can only describe as nibbling. He's like nibbling on the pig's head... but no striking or anything... he still hasn't eaten it. He's been hanging out with it, like with his head inches away, or laying on it.

    By the way, I don't feed live, I feed F/T.

    I'm going to try using my snake hook to wiggle the pig around.

    It seems like he does something different every time I feed him and I've only had success getting him to eat all of his food when I feed him over a period of days.

    Also, is the 10% rule for meals like 10% of his current body weight or 10% of his healthy body weight? and is it per meal, or per month?

    So he weighs 39lbs and is 15' long and I feed him 3 to 5lbs about every 10 to 20 days. I feed him as often as I can based on his behavior... so I don't feed him when he's shedding or when he's preparing to shed, and I don't feed him again until his bloat recedes. The rest of the time is pretty much fair game.

    I'll typically feed and then he'll poop; I'll feed, and then he'll poop and shed. So he's probably getting about 6lbs of food a month.

    This really seems like it's not enough food if I'm supposed to be feeding 10% of his healthy body weight a month.

    -No uvb, a fluorescent light to light up the enclosure
    -Radiant heat panel for heat - temp gradient of ~100*F to 80*F (surface temp readings) and when I check him, my infared temp gun consistently says he's about 90*F
    -humidity ranges from 70% to 85% ---it's always higher (80-85%) for a few days after I change his water but is 70-75% the rest of the time, and this reading is coming from a hygrometer set on the "cool" side of the tank
    -his enclosure is 7'Lx3'Dx2'T on the inside and he spends most of his time near the heat panel but not all of it
    -he can submerge completely in his bowl and I change his water pretty regularly - it's never slimy when I change it unless he gets in after eating

    -I take him out about once a week for 1 to 2 hours of handling and to let him stretch

    -he's fed the biggest guinea pigs I've ever seen lol ...really though I think they're XXXXL and he's also fed XL and XXXXL rats
    we've worked up over a period of months to this size because when I got him he hadn't eaten in like 8 months and I didn't want to do too much too soon. I'm ordering rabbits next time.


  2. hennisntacanibal

    hennisntacanibal Elite Member

    I've never heard the 10% rule but I assume it's for current weight. Overgrazing does bad things. The rule I go by is the width rule, and it might be that he is full after just one.
  3. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    If I went by the width rule then one pig should be sufficient per meal, and I could see how he could be full.
  4. David McConley

    David McConley Elite Member

    I feed mine by girth. I feed ALL my snakes that way. They can handle 1.5 times the body width at the widest point. I have never heard of the 10% rule either. I feed my large constrictors once a month to once every 5 weeks. Simply because they have a tendency to become obese. That is what I do for a normal Burm...of course, when I first got my big guy in my picture/avatar, he was 12 feet and weighed 25 pounds. I got.him object a regimen of med-large rabbits every 2 weeks(only one rabbit though). Now that he is up to size, I have scaled back to every five weeks or so. This is also very close to their natural eating schedule in the wild as they only eat 8 - 10 meals a year from what I have read. My guy is now a sleek 85 pounds and very calm when I reach in to grab him and take him out. I feed them in their enclosures and he seems happy enough. This is how I do it, but others may have a different way and you just have to decide what words best for you. I have found that the tend to do better with just one prey item instead of two, so appropriate sized rabbits would definitely be the way to go, mine have never had guinea pigs so I have no idea how that works.
  5. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member


    Thanks so much for your response! Your feeding regimen sounds like it's what I should be doing. Monty was 25lbs and 15' when I got him and he's steadily put on weight over the last 8 months. He's now over 40lbs but I want him to be at least 70lbs. Ive been trying to feed him as much as possible and it's not working so I think I'm going to provide only one feeder at each meal and just stick to feeding him about every two weeks.

    I'm tired of wasting food and it's such a pain trying to get the uneaten feeders out of his tank because he acts crazy and strikes at everything that moves. He was so easy for the first 6 months. I don't know what changed. Now he hates his snake hook, is cage aggressive, goes nuts when I feed him, and is just generally disagreeable... Until I take him out of his cage. Then he's like a big sweet puppy and I can do whatever I want to him.

    It's super weird! But I'm not giving up. He's never had consistency and seems resistant to what consistency I am trying to provide. Hopeful he'll become more agreeable as time goes on.

    David, how long did it take your guy to reach his healthy 85lbs?
  6. David McConley

    David McConley Elite Member

    It took Ramses about 1 year of steady eating before he got to a really healthy feeling weight. Keep in mind he was a little shorter than your guy. A weight gain of 15 pounds is very good. I think once you switch over to rabbits the gain will be remarkable.
  7. hennisntacanibal

    hennisntacanibal Elite Member

    Aja I have a snake that is the same way behaviorally as your Monty. I suspect for my situation it's because I don't handle him enough, but if you come up with a solution for Monty let me know.
  8. David McConley

    David McConley Elite Member

    I just re-read your post about his sounds to me Monty is just starting to behave normally. Really, what Burmese python doesn't have a right to be a bit odd after being halfstarved for the first part of his life? Ramses is a very unique snake- he has every right ti be cage defensive and thoroughly mis-trusting of humans, but honestly, he is so laid back ( unless it is feeding time- then he is MEAN)! I seriously LOVE his attitude and love how he is able to be around children during educational shows.
  9. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    I wonder how long it'll take Monty to reach a healthy weight...

    I think so too! Guinea pigs were suggested by someone who breeds and maintains lots of large constrictors. Also they were on sale :) but I know rabbits are the best and I only have about 6 pigs left so he'll be eating rabbits soon.

    I will definitely let you know!
  10. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    Well Monty had two owners before me and I do believe he's been underweight his entire life. I was also told that he was kept at about 75*F during winter months. His last owner handled him regularly and also used him as an educational tool when teaching and told me he had a strong feeding response but was 100% laid back and docile the rest of the time. Never acted aggressively toward a single person or other animal, was not excitable, and had never bitten anyone in his entire life.

    After speaking with my friend who is currently teaching me how to handle him, I've found that while the aforementioned information may be true, it was probably not due to Monty being some kind of amazingly gentle giant who's totally trustworthy ;) but instead because he spent most of his time undermetabolized and chilly.

    My friend feels confident in saying that Monty was likely underweight BEFORE he spent 8 months in the 35 gallon Sterilite container, that it’s unlikely he went from a healthy weight to 25lbs in such a short period of time, especially since owner #2 was taking him out, exercising him, and letting him swim in the tub. I know that owner #2 really loved him and is still a friend of mine and had him in a large enclosure (6’Lx6’Tx3’D w/platforms and a soaking bowl) but then a situation occurred that he was unprepared for and Monty ended up in the box.

    So I get Monty, I have him in a walk- in closet that's great with respect to his basking spot, ambient temps, and relative humidity. He got lots of exercise and was shedding well and I interacted with him every day and had handling sessions several times a week. I would also open the door and let him out to exercise and explore the room. As a result, he developed great muscle definition as he gained weight. :) Each time I would interact with him, I would warm up the hook and lightly touch him with it to let him know I wasn’t feeding him, it was handling time, effectively turning him “off” so to speak. At some point he began completely detesting the snake hook on some occasions and acted strangely when I would touch him with it, sometimes striking at the hook. But he never did so consistently, so on the days that he did, I would leave him alone and not handle him. I was assuming that just like every other animal, there are times they want to be left alone.

    Then I really saw his feeding response change a few months into our relationship. When I would feed him, he would get really amped and became attracted to movement. He would grab the feeders before they hit the floor and ate everything I fed him. I would wait for his bloat to recede and then resume interactions as usual. I was happy to see him eating so well!
    Then, during one feeding he was too close to the door and became confused, could smell the food, and came out of the closet, and latched onto my boyfriend’s shoe. What a surprise! Oops! Feeding mistake!

    In the first few months, if he didn’t eat one of the feeders, I could just slide it out of his closet with the snake hook with no problems. He wouldn’t react. Then, the next day I would go in and he wouldn’t be in feeding mode. Now, if he doesn’t eat his food, it’s a challenge trying to get it out of his enclosure because he’s stimulated by movement, heat, and the smell.
    I’ve been gently patting him for several months to condition an “off switch” but this is difficult to do safely in his enclosure so my friend is teaching me to use the hook to control his head while I pull him out and put him in his transport box. By the way, he’s not obliging at all any time I use the hook. He’s not acting aggressively, he’s just being a big pushy burm. Like I’ll push him head away from my and he just shoves right back.

    After he’s in the box for a few minutes he’s totally fine. At that point I take him out and handle him and let him stretch.
    It’s just a bummer because before he bit me I could go into his closet, give him a minute to realize I’m there, then pick him up and put him in his box. I never needed the hook. But now when I open his enclosure, he’s all frisky and just wants out. This is completely different behavior and now I have to use the hook for my own safety. I wish more than anything that I could just open his enclosure and reach in and pat him like I could before. I’m hoping that with consistency, we can get back to that point and I can trust his behavior more.

    Before he seemed ambivalent and agreeable, now he’s totally pumped about everything and really REALLY excitable. I guess that’s what happens when your temps are good, you’ve got lots of room to stretch, and you’re fed regularly. I have a really stoked, excitable pit bull who loves people more than anything in the world. She’s a little overbearing and a hugger- like she jumps all over everyone who lets her do so. That’s pretty much how Monty acts when I open the door, like “hey hey hey hey hey hey hey what’re you doing? Are we hanging out? I want to come out!!!” and it’s a tad overwhelming lol :)

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