Ball pythons are generally very docile, but they can still bite. Most of the time, it is because you failed to judge the situation right.
Don’t worry, we’ve been bit several times in the 10 years or so of keeping ball pythons and they always seem to know that they too made a mistake. Therefore, wounds are always superficial and after a day or two you won’t even notice to have ever been bit.
Getting bit by a ball python also doesn’t hurt. Here are a few tips to reduce your chances of getting bit and to properly handle your ball python
#1 Don’t handle ball pythons after feeding
Ball pythons should be fed every week and they shouldn’t be handled right after being fed.
The best thing to do is to wait at least two days before handling them again. If you don’t follow this advice, you have the chance to find your ball python regurgitating its entire meal because of the stress.
Not what you want to happen!
#2 Ball pythons can be aggressive at their new owners place
If you’ve just bought a ball python it is best not to handle your ball python.
There are generally known for their docile behavior, but they can also bite. We have been keeping ball pythons for over 10 years and were bitten by adult balls only twice. Both times it was during the first week when we had them in our possession. This wasn’t a coincidence.
Stress can cause ball pythons to bite and they don’t like new environments. A new environment means new smells and this means stress. Stress can result in bitey behavior.
The best thing to do is leaving your ball python alone if you’ve just acquired him. At least for a few days. After he has settled you can start to handle him.
#3 Don’t handle ball pythons right before feeding
Another time when ball pythons can show aggressive behavior is during feeding. It is also better not to handle them the day you had planned to feed them. If you do, they are more likely to refuse food that day.
Ball pythons also have an increased feeding response, depending on the time of the year.
For example, females have an increased feeding response during follicular development. During this period, females often jump out of their tubs if they can smell rats in the rooms. At this time of the year, you should be careful when opening their tubs.
#4 Baby ball pythons can be bitey!
If it’s the first time you’re breeding ball pythons, you’ll notice that babies are very docile when they have just come out of their eggs.
After a week or so they will go into shed. Once shed, everything changes. They become absolute demons! They will strike at everything that moves and your fingers are no exception! This is exactly how you want them so that they don’t become problem feeders.
They will usually calm down after feeding two or three times, but it may take a little longer for more aggressive babies, sometimes even months.
We have noticed that aggressiveness is genetic. We have one female that gives us babies that are always a lot of fun to hatch. Then they shed and we regret even breeding her! Just kidding, we still love them, but they are much more aggressive compared to most other babies. We notice this every year.
Our advice? If you’re hatching babies don’t handle them before they have fed at least a few times. They will feed better, you won’t end up wounded and you’ll sleep better because they’re feeding well.
#5 Approaching your ball python the right way is key to not get bit
If you want to pick up your ball you should follow some rules to avoid getting struck at.
First, and most obvious, don’t try to pick him up from the bitey end. If possible remove its entire hide or pull out the entire tub. This will give you an overview of his position and space to pick him up from behind.
Don’t hesitate when trying to pick him up. After a few attempts you’ll just piss him off more and you’ll be more likely to get bit.
Watch your ball python. Ball pythons that will respond aggressive usually show several signs. First, they will slightly lift their head and body up. They will try to make themselves larger by lifting their body up and have an elevated breathing rate. Sometimes they will hiss, but not always. The most important sign of aggression is that their body will have the shape of an “s”.
Finally, if you approach your snake it is best not to approach them from above.
The number one natural enemy of snakes are birds (besides humans of course) and snakes have learned to fear them. If you swing your hand fast for a few times above their head you’ll notice that they will become very nervous.
It is a response encoded in the brain of a snake to protect themselves against birds.
Don't handle your ball python everyday. They usually prefer not to be handled too much and like to be left alone. Reduce handling your ball python to a minimum and don't handle your ball python during shed. If you're wondering how often you should handle it just make sure you're not handling him every day, but a few times a week is ok.