The Burmese python is a large snake, known for their docile nature. They are great snakes for first time owners and veteran reptile keepers alike. They originate from the forests Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.
A Burmese python can reach 13 feet in length once it is fully grown, and can live for 15 or more years if cared for properly. When fully grown, it is important to understand that the python can easily weigh over 200 pounds at 10 feet long. As the Burmese python is growing in popularity, so are the number of morphs and color combinations available like albino and granite.
Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes you can own, but it is also known to be the most docile and friendly of the python family, right next to the ball python. As long as your treat this species with respect and understanding, you will not have a problem with their temperament. If your snake is over 10-12 feet in length, do not remove it from the cage by yourself simply because of their sheer size and weight. It is best to always have another person around when you are handling your python.
Never grab or even get near a Burmese python without it watching you because it will think of food before it realizes it is your hand in their mouth, and your arm they are wrapping around. When you open the cage for feeding, tap them on the nose with a snake stick so they understand that it is feeding time. Never become lax with your attention because Burmese pythons have a limited ability to reason.
The diet of a Burmese python will consist of large rodents. When young, they can eat small mice and rats, but as adults they should be eating fully grown rabbits and chickens. A meal should produce a noticeable lump in the python, but it should not be awkward in width. When the python is in between stages of feed, they can be offered multiple items of the smaller prey.
In order for your snake to understand there is food in its enclosure, it must be moving, it must be warmer than the immediate surroundings and it is best if the prey item smells like food. Pre-killed food is best for your snake because it is easier, safer and keeping live chickens and rabbits around to be eaten will can be difficult.
Hatchlings will do fine in a 10 gallon cage their first couple weeks or months of life. Once your Burmese python reaches adulthood, it will need a floor space of 30 square feet. Enclosures of this size are very expensive to buy, and most are built by the owner. Whether you plan on building or buying an enclosure, it is important that there is an easily accessible, large, secure door to access the cage. The most common problem with cages is not the size, but the security. If a 12 foot snake escaped from its cage, you would have a major problem. The front of the cage should be made of plexi-glass so your snake is clearly visible. Make sure the enclosure has plenty of room for your Burmese python to move around in. Ventilation is an important thing to consider when considering your caging options.
A simple substrate like paper towels or newspaper works best because of the size of the enclosure. If you want a more natural substrate, wood shavings should be used, but they will smell and replacing so much is an unnecessary pain.
Two hides should be found in opposite side of the cage. These hide boxes do not need to be fancy, but they need to be a snug, comfortable fit for your snake meaning you will go through quiet a few in the first years. Also make sure that the hides are dark so the python has somewhere to go if it feels stressed or vulnerable.
A basking spot of 85F should be provided because reptiles require outside heat to function. The rest of the cage can be room temperature. Make sure the ambient temperature does not rise too high or your snake will be stressed and can die from heat exhaustion. It is better for the temperature to be a little low than too high. To heat the enclosure it is best to use a heat bulb. Put a thermostat in the cage at the basking spot and on the other side of the enclosure so temperature can be checked at anytime. No additional UVB bulbs are required for this species of snake.
The enclosure needs to be at 60% humidity for a period of time each day, but it is important that you let the cage dry out to prevent mold and bacteria growth. Too much humidity can also cause lung problems in the snake. Mist the enclosure once a day because they do originally come from rainforest-like habitats.
Provide a large water bowl as well. Keep the water bowl clean so your snake can stay hydrated.
Replace substrate when soiled, or about once every week or two. Spot clean daily, and keep the water bowl clean.
It may take up to 3 years for Burmese pythons to become mature. Once you have a mature female and male, put them in the same enclosure and lower the basking temperature to room temperature. Once you know that the snakes have mated, or after about a week they should be separated to prevent injury.
After nearly a month, a female Burmese python can lay from 25-40 eggs. Provide a lay box for the eggs so they do not break. They lay box should be big enough for the entire female to fit inside and should be filled with dirt or vermiculite.
Once the eggs have been laid, you can let the female incubate them, and return the basking spot to normal with the lay box under the bulb. Another option is to artificially incubate them at 88F for two months. Be sure to keep the lay box moist so the eggs donít dry out. During this entire process it is normal for the female to reduce its eating habits.
Hatchling care is very similar to adult care, except everything is reduced in size. Hatchlings can start out in a 10 gallon enclosure eating small mice, but they will grow at astounding rates.
As juveniles, Burmese pythons will need to eat once every 5 days, and when they are young they will grow exponentially, along with their prey size. Once they hit about 10 feet Burmese pythons should be eating full sized rabbits and chickens. When they are young it is fine to feed multiple items in a feeding. Another thing to keep in mind is that the more you feed your snake, the faster it will grow, but do not starve it just to get a smaller snake.
Burmese pythons are large, constricting snakes that are a joy to own as long as you are careful and respectful of them. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
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Georgia Stampley - November 25, 2011
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