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Ball python diet: What do Ball pythons eat?

For some people, a ball python diet is what often turns them off of owning one in the first place. Although it’s not pretty, ball pythons (as well as most other snakes) eat rats and mice in captivity.

There are many reasons that rats and mice are the go-to choice for ball python diets, and today we’re going to discuss a few options that you have as a ball python owner. 

Ball python diet: what exactly do they eat?

Ball pythons are predators. In the wild, they’ll hunt and eat just about anything that they think they can swallow. Due to their detaching jaw, they can eat a decent variety of small animals.

In captivity, rodents are the easiest to breed, which means they are the easiest to mass produce for the many ball python owners around the world. As far as the rodents themselves are concerned, there are a few different varieties to choose from.

For example, when you walk into a chain pet store, they will most likely have what would be considered a normal rat or mouse. Whether they’re frozen or alive depends on your snake’s preference.

If you go to a locally owned pet shop, you might come across something called an African Soft Fur (ASF). There really isn’t a difference between an ASF and a normal rodent. Some ball pythons are picky and prefer one over the other, but they have roughly the same nutritional value.

How often do I feed my ball python?

Depending on the size of the snake and the size of their last meal, every ball python should be eating every 5-10 days. Some of the larger snakes eat large meals, which means it takes longer to digest. You want to make sure that the snake properly digests their food and has a few resting days before feeding again.

How big of a rat should my ball python eat?

As stated just above, ball pythons have a jaw that detaches. This is a very useful feature for ball python diets, as it allows them to be less-picky when in the wild. If they come across an easy meal, they can most likely swallow it as long as it’s not too big.

But, since we’re not talking about wild snakes, how big of a rat can you feed your ball python? According to most experts, the size of the rat should be no bigger than the widest part of the snake’s body. 

Frozen vs live rodents

When it comes to satisfying hungry ball python diets, there aren’t many options. Basically, you have 2 options: live rats or frozen rats.

Again, as far as nutritional value goes, there really isn’t much of a difference. The only difference here would be what your snake prefers. Some snakes are attracted to the movement and scent of a live rodent, and some snakes couldn’t care less.

Keeping frozen rats vs live ones is much easier. As long as you’re okay with frozen, dead rats populating your freezer, you can keep enough food for your snake for months at a time, all without having to worry about feeding them.

Keeping live rodents for ball python diets is a little more complicated, as you need more room, food, and of course, you have to deal with the potential smell.

How to breed rats for snakes

Seeing as rats breed easily, it might be a good idea to try and breed your own. There are many techniques, but the overall idea remains the same no matter which way you go about it. So with that in mind, let’s start with the setup.

Rats have very powerful bites, which means that they can easily chew through a lot of materials. Whatever you choose to put them in, make sure it’s tough. Many people opt for a simple glass terrarium, but heavy-duty plastic bins are also a good option.

Just like any other animal, you have to give them food and water. There are a lot of companies out there that sell rat food, just make sure it’s high quality. Whatever your rats eat, your snake will soon ingest, too.

A water bottle mounted to the side will suffice, just make sure that it’s always full and clean. Since they are heavy chewers, it might be a good idea to invest in a glass bottle instead of a cheap plastic one. 

Rat breeding cycle

The rat breeding cycle is very rapid. Depending on your ball python diet and how many ball pythons you have, you can essentially have a constant supply of rodents with just a few adults.

Most rat breeders keep multiple females in with just one male. This is to reduce fighting for mates and keep the overall aggression of the breeding group to a minimum. A ratio of 4:1 is a good number to have, so long as they have plenty of room.

A female rat can easily have a litter of pups every 4-5 weeks. Each litter can consist of roughly 12 pups, and each one of those pups is sexually mature after only a few weeks of living. As you can already see, your rat population can quickly grow. As long as it’s warm enough where you’re keeping the rats, they will continue to breed throughout the year.

Oftentimes, the rats that the snakes do not eat are sold off to other ball python keepers. For many rat breeders, this is a good passive income and a way to fuel their reptile collections.


Ball python diet consists almost primarily of rats, mice, and other rodents. For a snake in captivity, these are the easiest sources of food, as they are easy to get and fairly cheap.

For your average ball python keeper, it may not be worth it to breed your own rats. But as your collection grows, your need for more feeders will, too. At that point, breeding your own feeder rodents might be worth it. Both to cut down on costs and potentially bring in some extra income to offset other costs.

All-in-all, ball python diets are easy to keep up with. Due to the fact that they don’t eat every day, ball pythons are some of the cheapest pet reptiles to own and maintain. 

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