I mean there is already a "breeding 101" right? So; over the last few weeks I have been asked questions in regard to how I prepare for breeding season with my carpets and what are my steps in having a successful clutch and more importantly; babies actually hatching in the spring. I figured I would write a quick blog on how I personally prepare for breeding season and the steps that I take. Again, this is what I do and may not be what someone else does so PLEASE adjust accordingly and know your environment AND snakes. Everyone’s collections are a bit different but different enough where slight adjustments can be made for success. Putting into to very simple terms its a pair together after adjusting temps and let the magic happen. There are steps in between and variables which I will try to. go over.
One of the first questions or concerns that I will address is the fact that there is so many things on social media and the internet that does not correlate with each other in regard to breeding. For one I would search out if you can some of the old if you can call it that; books on snakes or breeding in general. In addition, reach out to those that have been successful in breeding snakes for a while not just by accident. There are; whether we like to admit it or not so many “experts” online it is quite scary at the information that I do see posted. “Back in the day” I feel as though there was limited literature out so everyone at least had the same base to start from and adjusted accordingly based on their own collection.
That being said I will start with this, make sure that you actually have a male and a female. I have raised up “pairs” of animals just to find out that they were the same gender. It has been disappointing and at times an expensive oversight. Great so you have to opposite genders; next would be to ensure that they are old enough and have good size (the female). I never weigh my snakes so I do not use that has a gauge for breeding. I look at the age of the snake; 4 years for a female, at least 2 years for the male and overall body condition (good muscle tone etc). There have been some variances to this and some animals that have bred younger but I look towards the longevity of the animal rather than a quick successful clutch. Breeding a pair especially for a female to early (not old enough) can result in a small, infertile and or completely crashed clutch in addition to the toll it takes on the females well-being. So, my rule of thumb is at least 2 years for a male and at least 4 years for a female. My females are roughly 4.5 to 5.5 feet (few longer) and have a good muscle tone to them. Stuffing a female full of food to try and get to “breeding size” is not advisable as they will not be able to burn excess calories and will be overweight which can result in a unsuccessful pairing or a crashed clutch in addition to possible shorter life span of the animal. Same with the males. Males absolutely do not need to be big at all in fact I much prefer males on the thin side as they have proven to be better breeders for me.
Prior to the start of breeding season, I make sure that allow the pairs to defecate any food before I start to reduce and adjust temperatures. Breeding season for me starts around mid-November maybe a tad earlier depending on the weather. Once I feel that they are “empty” I start to reduce my NTL’s (night time low) by 2-3 degrees every week and drop my overall DTH (day time high) by 2-3 degrees and keep it there. I use a 12/12 hour schedule for temps. On that note this is written specifically for “normal” carpets (jungles, coastals etc). Diamonds are completely different and should NOT follow this same schedule; that is a different blog all together. Bredli may fall a bit into the Diamond category so exclude them as well for this.
Anyways for me; my desired NTL is 70 degrees. Once I reach that NTL I will keep that steady for roughly 3 weeks. At the end of that period I will start to increase the temps (NTL’s) by 2-3 degrees every week until I reach my DTH’s. Midway through that period I make short introductions of the pairings adjusting duration until they are together 100% of the time by the time the temps are back to normal. I will also offer the female food (when separated) during this time. I don’t even bother offering the males food as for me they typically do not eat and I do not pull food from one cage and try with another animal. I will typically see locks (copulations) throughout this time and I will pull the male in and out to give them both a break and try and offer the female food. Once I either see, a female go into a shed, or the pairing remain completely separated for an extended time I remove the male. Within those weeks its hopeful to see copulations, ovulation, and the pre-lay shed. There have been times when I have missed the first two and still ended up with a viable and successful clutch so do not be alarmed if you do not see either of the first two. If gravid your female will in most cases show signs. She may refuse food and stay under the heat source; you will notice more swelling as it gets closer to the 3-week mark after the prelay shed and you may also witness your female laying upside down which is normal.
Typically for my females they lay their clutches on the dot at 21 days. I then place the eggs in my incubator at 87-88 degrees and wait the 50-60 days (55 average) until the first sign of a baby pipping. Variables come into play in collections so doing things like setting up your incubator and letting it run with a test box inside weeks prior to an anticipated clutch will prove to be valuable and help avoid unexpected issues.
Again, I would suggest in addition reaching out to successful breeders read actual books that have been printed. Not that there isn’t a wealth of information on the internet but as I mentioned the internet especially social media can also be a bad thing. I used to read and re-read The Reproductive Husbandry of Pythons and Boas by Gerald Marzec and Richard A. Ross like it was going out of style. Something about learning how it was done then and how a lot of things were very standardized in my opinion helped me not to be swayed by anything that would proof to be pointless or worse unfounded. I also spoke to a lot of breeder friends that were breeding the same stuff I was trying to which help me become pretty good at it most years lol. Breeding snakes to be honest is relatively simple you just have to adhere to the few basics that should be standard and make those small adjust for your collection and set-ups. For example, I recently purchased a new incubator and I had to adjust my temp settings in order to achieve the desired temps inside the egg boxes. Stuff like that should be paid close attention to.
Hope that helps a bit. Feel free to write a comment or shoot me a message if you. Feel I need to elaborate on something specific. Thanks for taking the time to read this.