View Full Version : tips for problem feeder neonates!

tips for problem feeder neonates!

08-06-2002, 06:03 AM
If anyone has anything to contrtibute to this, by all means do!

I had a little previous experience with problem feeders. One had eaten 2 or 3 meals, then just decided to stop eating. I had to use a pinkie-pump to force-feed him for a couple months. After reading similar accounts, I consider myself VERY lucky that he's eaten 3 f/t meals all on his own now! Apparently some people, once resorting to force-feeding, have to keep it up for months and months. In my case it seems I got lucky.

So when I saw an ad for eight neonates that were problem feeders I bit the bullet. Mind you, this wasn't too long ago, and so this story is still unfolding, but 2 very specific things seem to have worked very well for me.

1 - The brown bag trick (in tandem with "lizard-maker")

Some of the neonates were more than 3 weeks old when I got them, and most or all had never eaten. I've had exceellent luck in the past feeding herps the day I get them - I don't know what it is, but they just seem to relax and settle right in for me - so I decided not to waste any time and I pulled out my first double-punch for these guys. Required equipment: brown paper lunch bag(s), clip(s), pinkie(s), and lizard maker. Toss one slightly warm thawed pinkie into a lunch bag after diping it's nose in lizard maker. Add problem feeder. Clip bag closed, and set in a warm and quiet place.

Within 2 hours 4 of the 8 had eaten. The other 4 refused this offering for more than 6 hours and were placed into their small (~1 pint) apartments.

I will probably be giving these 4 their second meal tomorrow. Hopefully it will go as well as, or better than the first feeding. I have no reason to suspect otherwise yet.

2 - the live food trick

The remaining 4 were offered brained f/t pinkies (again, in brown bags, with lizard maker added too) a few days later and all 4 disdained this offering, as well as chopped anole. I was afraid I'd need to warm up the olde pinkie pump, or get some meat baby food and try a slightly less traumatic plastic syringe. Although I've learned a bit about force-feeding in the past I don't look forward to having to resort to it.

As luck would have it, my "negligent mother" mouse gave birth to 4 pinkies last night. There were probably more, and frankly I don't want to know what she did with them. The timing gave me an idea though - maybe some live food would get their feeding instinct to kick in.

Did it ever. One of them was swallowing his pinkie before I'd given each their own. Within 30 minutes each of the 4 had a nice big bulge in his tummy! By no means is this proof that my turmoils are over, but if you've ever force-fed you'll completely understand why I'm so happy about this :)

3 - more advice

Advice I got from an other breeder: don't offer food more than once every 4-5 days. Offer too often, and you can probably build up a negative Pavlovian responce or something?

4 - yearlings

Oddly, a couple of my yearlings are somewhat picky eaters. I'm finding that a little wiggle at the end of some feeding tongs is usually all they are looking for, however. They might like the thrill or the excersize involved in capturing and constrricting their food? I hope they grow out of it :)


08-06-2002, 09:49 AM
That paper bag trick sounds really good, I'll have to use that one if I get any problem feeders next year.

If I've got fussy eaters I usually offer live pinkies, which normally works. If not, and they don't eat for some time, then I resort to force feeding. After they've had several live meals I make the switch: I warm up the pinkies in warm water and brain them. Then I hold then with long tongs and wiggle them in front of the snake.

This usually works but sometimes I'll be force feeding for several weeks before the snake takes food on its own.

08-06-2002, 10:15 AM
well you've given me some hope...my amel stripe is desperately trying to starve herself to death. She always sniffs the pinkie like she's really interested, but never eats it. I've tried absolutely everything except live food (it is hard to come by around where I live). I will try a live pinkie this weekend, hopefully that is all she is looking for.

Jimmy C.
08-06-2002, 11:42 AM
Hey Homebreeder,
Thats great advice I have tried all of the above. The only thing is I have never heard of Lizard maker. What is this and where does one find it?
The only thing that I would add is braining a live pinky. I once had a problem feeder and none of the above tricks worked. So as a last option (the snake had not eaten for about 8 weeks) I tried braining a live pinky. I guess the smell of fresh blood caused something to click because it went for the pinky before I had a chance to cover the container. I had to do this for about 4-5 more feedings because it kept refusing f/t.
Now its doing very well gobbling down f/t fuzzies.
Thanks for sharing,I hope that I never have to go through that again or that I have to force feed.
Jimmy C.

08-06-2002, 11:52 AM
lizard maker is a bottle of "lizard scent" which you can use to scent your pinkies without having to sacrifice an anole. Check any of the retail/supplies places listed on kingsnake.com. I found it for about $7.50/bottle.

08-06-2002, 12:59 PM
I hate force feeding hatchlings, it can be dangerous. However sometimes it has to be a last resort. But, I have found a very effective trick that has a huge sucess rate with my super stubborn feeders. It is more work and kind of gross but it works if you are desparate.
Let me first note, like Homebreeder said, you should not attempt to feed a non-feeder more than every 4-5 days. Everytime you get a negative feeding response, it conditions the animal and further reinforces that it just doesn't want ANYTHING that you give it. I have had a baby who refused it's first three meals, but after me trying every few days, he eventually ate with no tricks at all.
I would also suggest trying all the other tricks first (offering a head, brained pink, LEAVING IN A DELI CUP OVERNIGHT WITH FOOD, offering live pinks and leaving overnight, dipping the pink in chicken broth, etc.) And yes, in almost all cases, even in hatchlings, you do have time to try all these, wait your four days inbetween, and if the snake is otherwise in good health, it will not starve. I have had hatchlings who only had two meals stop eating after they were shipped to me. It was five-six weeks before I got them eating again and I have this trick to thank. So here it goes....
If you are still keeping your hatchlings together, try to setup a shoebox plastic container with heat tape on one side (One for each stubborn feeder). If you already have them separated and in enclosures about the size of shoebox just try it in what they are already in. It is just important that it is the same size (about 6 x 12 inches) and not much smaller or larger. Make sure you provide hides. Make it a very seclusive hideaway. Put the snake in it's new home and let it settle down for three days. Cover the tank with a towel and do not bother it at all for the whole three days. At the end of the four days(right before bedtime)... and this is the really gross part...cut off the head of a live anole, place it in a shallow dish or deli cup. (freeze the rest of the anole body for later) Place the deli cup in the enclosure very quickly and quietly as possible (you don't want the snake to know you were there). It is also important to put the deli cup in the oppisite side of the cage from wherever the snake is. That way they won't find it until they are comfortable you are gone and they begin to explore. Cover the tank with the towel again and absolutely NO PEEKING until morning.
A lot of stubborn feeders are just terribly shy, and it's not that they don't want the food. They are just afraid of this huge human that is taking the lid of thier world and shoving something in their face. Honestly, if you had a giant take the roof off your house you obviously are not going to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. (Even after he is gone) The more you "check" on them, the more they know that they can't afford to have a fully belly with this giant constantly after them.
Once you get them to eat two anole heads, cut the torso on one of the frozen anoles and push out the contents and replace with a pink. So you pretty much have a pinky in an anole skin blanket. After they eat that just decrease the amount of anole skin you use with each feeding. After a couple a weeks you should just need a round slice of skin to put around the pinks neck. All of my stubborn feeders that I have used this on have switched to non scented pinks within two months.
So if you are in a bind, try it and let me know. It has worked very well for me, and would love to know how it works for anyone else.

Darin Chappell
08-06-2002, 04:29 PM
OK Curtis,

Did you HAVE to be SO successful with ALL EIGHT OF THEM so EARLY on?!?!?!?


Glad they all ate for you. I'd like to see some pictures as they get bigger, and also some pics of their babies in a couple of years!

Congrats -- Darin

08-06-2002, 07:23 PM
Ok I have to ask and sorry Rich, but I am having trouble with some kingsnake hatchlings. I have tried everything but lizard maker (cant find it) and leaving them over night with the food. It is like they are afraid of it. I first gave them the pinkies alive. And 2 of the 3 cuddled with the live pinkies. What do I do.