If you own a ball python, then you may be curious as to some of the foods you can feed them. But what about chicken, specifically? Whether you want to offer some variety or are wondering whether there are any benefits in offering this type of meat, this is what reptile experts suggest.
So, can ball pythons eat chicken? Ball pythons can eat chicken, provided that it is raw. However, it should be offered infrequently and the majority of a ball pythons diet should be whole rodents. Rodents, like mice and rats, provide all the nutrition that a ball python needs to thrive.
Feeding chicken exclusively will not enable a Ball Python to completely meet their nutritional needs.
Secondly, these snakes have a natural desire to consume prey whole; including the bones.
This is why rodents are a much better meat source for your pet snake. In fact, you do not need to offer much variety beyond this.
And here is why.
The diet of a wild ball python is vastly different from its captive counterparts. Wild ball pythons have an instinct about what to eat at any given time.
Their natural environment is the deciding factor regarding food sources; food sources include rats, mice, small mammals, small snakes, birds, and even the occasional fish.
It’s all about what is available as opposed to what is preferable. It’s about survival.
For captive ball pythons, we have the ability to provide them with optimal food, routinely, as and when they need to eat.
For this reason, they should primarily eat rodents.
Variety is not required in their diet, nor do they have a preference for much else.
Do Ball Pythons Eat Chicken?
Ball pythons would not normally eat chicken, as it is not part of their natural diet. Even in the wild, rats would be the largest animal a ball python is likely to eat. That being said, a Ball Python would likely eat chicken if offered or available.
Chicken is not the healthiest for your snake either – especially if it has been cooked, processed, or altered in any way.
In fact, seasoned chicken could be entirely problematic.
By doing so, you may find that your ball python attempts to eat what is offered and what is available.
Alternatively, you must be prepared for the scenario that the chicken is left and your snake has no interest in it. This is more likely to occur.
Raw chicken will spoil quickly, and will soon start to degrade and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you do offer chicken and notice it is being left, you will need to remove it from the enclosure quickly.
Also be aware that with raw chicken, you run this risk of salmonella.
So, be very careful in how you prepare it, and be sure to wash your hands routinely before, during, and after any servings.
When doing this, remember, your snake will not be getting the bones, hair, organs, and water that they typically need from their food source.
Chicken fillets are therefore unbalanced, and will not be as optimal for digestion and their other bodily processes.
But what about offering the chicken bones too? Is this not the solution? Unfortunately not. Chicken bones can easily splinter and can harm your snake.
So, if you are going to offer chicken to your snake, make sure to remove any bones beforehand.
Ultimately, feeding small pieces of raw chicken every so often to your ball python is not going to harm your snake, but it should never replace rodents as their staple.
In fact, there is nothing inherently wrong with only offering rodents – so long as they are appropriately sized for the age/size of your snake.
Small chicks, on the other hand, are perfectly safe to feed to your snake. Some ball python owners do like to offer these.
Although, it can be hard to source them, and you may even find that morally, this is a little much.
Do Ball Pythons Eat Meat?
Ball Pythons are one of the thousands of snake breeds to have a strictly carnivorous diet.
As mentioned previously, ball pythons in the wild subsist on rodents, birds, and some other small mammals and food sources depending on what prey is abundantly available in a given area.
Captive ball pythons need to eat whole rodents for the most part; other meat sources like beef, pork, or even fish are not preferable.
Usually, they are not recommended.
So we now know that ball pythons do best on a diet exclusively of rodents. But how much do they need exactly?
The following table outlines a good feeding schedule per the age of a ball python.
|Ball Python Age||Food||Feeding Frequency|
|< 4 Months||Mouse Hopper||5-7 Days|
|4-12 Months||Small Adult Mouse or Rat Fuzzy||5-7 Days|
|1-2 Years||Large Adult Mouse or Rat Hopper||Every 7 Days|
|2-4 Years||Small Rats||7-10 Days|
|4 Years +||Small/Medium Rat||7-14 Days|
As you can see above, younger ball pythons typically eat more often, but they have smaller meals at a time.
Of course, this is a rough guide.
The rodent offered should always be similar in size to your snake’s widest point (mainly their head). This is a safe rule of thumb used by many snake owners with great success.
You can feed tiny chicks or ducklings to ball pythons if you want to experiment with feeding different types of prey to your snake.
However, this is not necessary and does not come with any inherent benefits other than being another potential food that you could source if needs be.
How To Feed Your Ball Python
Ball pythons are strict carnivores; they do not need vegetables or fruit in any form.
While it’s perfectly fine to offer them small pieces of raw meats and fish, they should never replace mice and rats as the core of the diet.
Ball pythons need appropriately sized and commercially bred rodents. This includes mice and rats, and multimammate mice, hamsters, and gerbils.
Hatchlings need “hopper” mice before moving on to small adult mice as they grow, which doesn’t take long.
Understanding what food is suitable for a ball python is only half the battle, as these snakes are notoriously difficult to feed.
If your snake was hatched in captivity, it should be easier to feed rather than one that was caught in the wild as they are often unhealthy and stressed.
Understanding how to feed your ball python is just as important as understanding what to feed your ball python.
Let’s look at how to feed your ball python effectively:
Optimize Their Feeding Environment
Firstly, you need to make sure that your snake is healthy and that its enclosure is well set up.
These snakes often refuse food if they are sick or stressed (most often when they are not comfortable in suitable habitat).
Escape attempts, hissing, biting, over-alertness and striking are just some signs to look out for.
If you have any suspicious take them to a vet for an assessment. Your ball python should be mostly relaxed and keen to sleep when content.
Source Appropriately Sized Rodents
Feed appropriately sized rodents to your snake.
You must ensure to feed frozen-thawed rodents warmed at room temperature.
Large adult mice or small rats are the right sizes for your adult snake, but hatchlings need smaller rodents such as the hopper mouse.
Present Food With Tongs
Gently open the enclosure and present the rodent to your ball python using long feeding tongs (these are ideal from Amazon).
Feeding rodents to your snake in this way helps to avoid startling or stressing your snake during feeding.
Don’t handle your snake for a few hours before feeding them to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Make sure that the room where you keep your snake is free of noises and excitable children or other pets. Make sure the lights are dim.
Release The Rodent
Release the rodent as soon as your snake strikes it.
Once your snake strikes the prey and constricts it, you can release your grip and slowly back away from the enclosure, being careful not to stress your snake.
Make sure you leave your snake alone while they eat and do not disturb them throughout the feeding.
You can feed raw pieces of chicken to your ball python on occasion, but it should never replace rodents as the core food of the diet.
Also, never offer seasoned or cooked chicken, nor offer the bones as these can all present potential issues.
Equally, you must be prepared for the likelihood that your snake has no preference or desire for chicken.
Never force them to eat it, be swift in taking it away if left, and be confident in the fact that suitably-sized whole rodents provide all that your snake needs to thrive.
From there, it is important to ensure that your ball python is healthy and that its habitat is suitable.
This helps your snake to feel happier about any feeding experience.
Knowing how to feed your snake is just as important as what to feed them, as this snake breed tends to be a fussy eater.
External factors such as the kind of environment that live in, noise, and other distractions can quickly put them off their appetite.
You want to ensure you approach your ball python in as gentle a manner as possible.
Ball pythons are strict carnivores, so you must not give them any fruit or vegetables.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.