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Old 05-08-2012, 01:20 PM   #1
Care of the Breeding Female

I'm going to describe the chain of events for a normal female, and how I manage their care. I feed a female that I am going to breed about every 7-10 days, depending if I want her to gain weight, or if she is at an acceptable pre-breeding weight. I weigh the female at every feeding so I have a good idea about how much weight she is gaining or losing. (It is also a good idea to exercise your female from now until she goes blue before laying. You just need to do 10-15 minutes of gentle exercise daily to make a difference in how toned she is for egg laying).

I begin pairing the snakes after the female's first shed of the new year. I have found that some males will mate even while in deep blue so I record the male's shed events, but don't alter the breeding schedule around them. I put the potential pair together every Sunday night, until the female agrees to mate. The pair are introduced in a bare 66 quart Sterilite bin. I leave them together for 30 minutes, but if they haven't locked within the first 10-15 minutes, they most likely aren't going to on that evening.

To enhance the breeding atmosphere, I save the female's shed and keep it in the breeding bin. Before placing the couple in the bin, I lightly mist it with warm water. Snakes seem to breed more readily if it is raining, so I will break the every Sunday night schedule if there is a nice thunderstorm.

As soon as she starts breeding, I will be feeding an adult mouse in the 22-26 gram range about every 5-7 days, again depending on how fast I want her to gain, and to coincide with her breeding schedule. I pair the snakes every three days, so the female generally eats every six days. I feed after mating, allowing the female to rest in the breeding bin for a couple hours, if possible, before feeding her. I feed the male on the same schedule as the female, only every 12 days.

When the pairing is done, after five successful matings, or the pair quits, I feed every 5 days until the female goes blue for her pre-lay shed. After the matings are complete, I also remove the female's large water bowl and replace it with a very small one, and provide a lay box. The female often takes up residence in the lay box immediately. Once the female is blue, I do not feed again until the clutch is laid.

When the clutch is laid, I feed that evening or the next day, a smaller meal like a couple hoppers, and then return the female to a 5 day schedule on adult mice. The female will go blue almost immediately, and I will continue to feed while she is blue, for this time only. (I normally avoid feeding snakes while in blue). Once the female sheds, I again watch her weight and keep her at a 5-7 day schedule as she regains her weight. I have heard, but have not really experimented with, that the heavier you feed the female during the post-lay period, the more likely she is to double clutch. So you _may_ be able to use feeding amounts to either promote or discourage double-clutching, depending on what you want.

If the female is going to double clutch, she will generally lay the second clutch at about the time the first clutch pips. When she goes blue, I switch out the water bowl again and provide a lay box again.

After the second clutch is laid, I feed every 5-7 days, and then gradually move from 7 to 10 to 14 days, and keep the female on a 14 day schedule through the winter. You definitely don't want a fat female going into breeding season; lean and muscular is better than fat and flabby.