Question: How Can I Get My Snake to Take Pre-Killed Prey?
Answer: Occasionally, owners encounter feeding problems with their pet snakes (probably most common with ball pythons, but it can happen with any snake). The most common feeding problem is that a captive snake doesn't want to strike and eat pre-killed (frozen or fresh) food items. Feeding pre-killed prey is recommended for the safety of the snake, but sometimes snakes are reluctant to take pre-killed prey, especially if the snake is wild caught or is being offered a prey item it has never eaten before. There are several ways you can try to entice a reluctant snake to take pre-killed prey:
- Make sure the prey is warmed - thaw frozen prey in the fridge or in cold water, but then place it in warm water just before feeding. Never use the microwave or burns may result due to eneven heating.
- Use feeding forceps - this is a good idea anyway, to keep a snake from associating your hand with food. The forceps allow you to wiggle the prey item slightly, which often elicits a strike from the snake.
- Dip the prey in chicken broth - the scent of chicken broth appeals to some snakes.
- Rub a new prey item with another favororite food - for example, if your snake likes chicks but won't take mice, rub a chick on a pre-killed mouse. The familiar scent of a favorite food may trick the snake into taking the new item.
- Try a different color - if you tried a white mouse without success, try a multi-colored mouse since some snakes seem to balk at albino mice.
- Pithing or braining - puncture or slightly crack the skull of a prekilled prey item. Although it seems a little gross, the scent of brain matter is particularly effective at stimulating the feeding response.
- If your snake is reluctant to take mice, try gerbils. Although this can get expensive, some snakes that don't take pre-killed mice happily take pre-killed gerbils. You can also try hamsters or other kinds of rodents as prey, provided you stick to appropriately sized items.
- Give the snake some privacy - feed at night, and cover the tank so the snake is left totally alone with its food. Also provide a dark hide box for your snake, as some prefer to eat in a secluded spot.
- Try a different size - maybe your snake would prefer its prey slightly smaller or larger than what you are offering.