Proper care of Gravid Boas!

Discussion in 'Boas' started by scooter1685, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. scooter1685 Embryo

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    I suppose I should start at the beginning. I've been keeping snakes for about 16 years, but I've only been keeping boas for about the past 4 and a half years. I have several books on the proper care and maintenance of boas, and I've read them all. However, nothing compares to hands-on experience, lol.

    Last year I bred my 3 year, 5 and 1/2 foot anerythristic columbian male (Ambrosius) to my 5 year 7 foot female columbian red-tail (Kalypso). It was my first breeding attempt EVER! I wasn't trying to achieve any rare or special morphs or anything (obviously), I just think it would be nifty to breed my snakes. Like a new area to expand my herpetocultural hobby into. I have a friend who owns a pet store that will be buying the babies from me, so I don't need to worry about finding homes for all of them. But I digress. The breeding went well. I stopped feeding and decreased their photoperiod starting in November. I lowered the temperature gradually, but only a little so that one end of the terrarium was 72 degrees and the other end was 80 for each snake. Early in December I put Ambrosius into Kalypso's terrarium. I witnesed copulation several times, so there certainly was breeding.
    In late April I separated them again and fed Ambrosius. I also offered food to Kalypso, but not as big as I would normally feed her. She ate ravenously. I continued to offer her food throughout her pregnancy period, and she never once refused food. I had never bred before, so I figured it was like a pregnant human woman; the more food the happier the creature. Later I discovered that this is a mistake, food intake should be restricted and carefully regulated for a gravid boa. I kept her very warm, with one end of her terrarium at about 103 and the other end around 95 degrees. Early in June as my wife and I were preparing for a camping trip, I woke up one morning to discover a peculiar odor in the living room. Kalypso had given birth!
    There were problems though. There were 8 babies and 13 slugs. 6 of the babies were dead. They had very large yolk sacks still attatched to their abdomens, and the yolk sacks had ruptured. The other 2 snakes were still inside the membrane, and were occasionally moving about. I was concerned since they were no longer inside the mother, and I carefully made a tiny incision into both membranes. I let the baby snakes make their own way out. I kept them damp by spraying just a bit of mist into the terrarium, as I had read it was a good idea. About 3 hours later they had also died. So my first breeding was a failure.
    Some breeders have told me that storm fronts can cause premature births, and there had been a storm for the previous 2 days. A couple of people have also told me I should have left them together for longer. I'm curious to see what tidbits of information you guys might have.

    This year I bred Ambrosius to Kalypso again. I left them together for 5 months and I witnessed copulation many, many times. I have high hopes that this time there will be fewer slugs and more offspring, but I would greatly appreciate any information you guys might have on the proper care of gravid female boas.

    Thanks!
  2. jeepnphreak Embryo

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    OK well I see a couple of glaring errors.

    1. Feeding her, giveing the female food in the last month to month 1/2 can cause premature birth.

    2 I would recheck you temperatures. A temp of 103 can cause abortions. You shold have a basking spot in the low 90s and never more that 95F.

    3. Leaving the pair together for 5 months. if after a few days there is no copulation that remove the male for a week or two, than retintrduce. leaving the male in for too much of a extended time can over stress the female and lead to an unsussfull breeding. after three to four copulations than completly remove the male and let the female destress, she should have a normal pregancy. Boa its not quite so simple but I have sussesful bred ball pyhtons after 1 copulation, with 100% birth rate. mating is biological very effective and really once will do the trick.

    4. you will need to have a 12 hr/12 hr light cycle.

    5 Iam not so sure about storm front causing premature births. I have seen that, right before a storm and as the bermometer drops the boas will go in to a mating frenzy.

    Gravid Female Care----

    If your female is gravid she will bask on the hot side most of the time. Be careful not to feed the female too large of a meal, keep the meal size to a minimum. I don't feed them at all during the last month gravid, to keep them from giving birth prematurely. Be sure she has plenty of clean water, and her temps are correct (don't trust 1 thermometer). I give my females some crumpled news paper or other item to hide under to reduce stress. Try to keep her cage as clean as possible with out disturbing her. I only clean one side of the enclosure at a time, which ever side she is not on. Don't handle your female while she's gravid, she won't like it and may just let you know with a bite! A normaly passive boa will bit when handled. Give her as much privacy as possible, and get ready for those babies. I like to use a 40-55 gallon tank with 1 good inch of bead-a-beast, it clean off well and is susposably digestable. Toss the babies in there with a shallow but large tub of water. they will bath and clean them selves off.
  3. scooter1685 Embryo

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    I usually keep my snakes with a cool side of around 78 and a warm side at around 87-90. However, the man from whom I purchased my DH snows swore that a basking area between 100 and 105 was essential for proper birth. That is the reason I had the terrarium so warm. Great feedback though, this is exactly why I posted this; the advice I had gotten before didn't work out so well, as you can see lol.

    Ambrosius showed interest immediately when I introduced them. He began cruising around the terrarium with his head lifted off the ground and his tongue flickering like mad! It was hilarious. The courting activities began immediately, with him riding around on her back and irritating her to no end by rubbing his spurs on her tail. However, the first time I witnessed actual copulation was around 2 and a half to 3 weeks after I put them together. After that point I witnessed copulation several times per day for 8 weeks or so. Then the rate slowed down, but they were still copulating approximately once every two or three days that I witnessed. I finally separated them when I had not witnessed any copulation in about a week.

    The 12/12 hr photoperiod is one of the most debated subjects in herpetoculture though. I personally choose a very different route. I like to keep the environment for my reptiles as naturalistic as possible, so I use a nifty little timer/rheostat combination powerstrip that I purchased online in conjunction with the online farmers almanac. Once per week (usually on Sunday) I check the new sunrise/sunset times and I set my timer and rheostat by that. That way my snakes are getting their full spectrum UVA/UVB light (which may or may not be necessary but makes for a prettier display) and they have the same gradual increases in light and warmth that the rest of the local world has, lol. That also makes brumation easier because the daylight hours are naturally shorter during the winter and by proxy the amount of time they are exposed to the warmer temperatures as well.

    I'm usually very very careful about the environment my snakes live in, but as I said I simply recieved some very bad advice. I had assumed this person would know what they were talking about since they had obviously had successful breedings and birthings in the past, else I would not have been buying babies from him. However, following his advice had some most unpleasant consequences. Hence the reason I'm seeking advice from experienced boa herpers in here.
    :) :p :D :) :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
  4. scooter1685 Embryo

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    I found a very logical sounding source of information regarding breeding and the care of pregnant snakes. I'll post it here. Please tell me if you all think this is a good method of care for gravid boas.

    The page is Here

    The text has been copied and pasted below, sans photographs.

  5. jeepnphreak Embryo

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    that is perfect.

    2-3 week for copulation is a bit long for me. I am a nervious breeder, and boas are know for eating there mates, so I do not like to keep them togerther too long. I useally will give three to four days and then try again in a week if I see nothing going on.
    if the female is not too willing to let the male mate, and the male has an overaly big cage/tank. put the female in to the male tank. getting her out of her territory will cause her to be a bit more receptive to the male.
    For boas given the size difference between the sexes, male are useally put in with the female because the female's tank is just so much larger.
    But I have had the two boas copulate with in a two hours after putting the female in to the male's tank.

    Ideally the temperature under every day normal care is fine, the female will seek out the proper temps that she will need. 103F is just way too hot and will basicaly cook the babies in side her, if she can not cool down enough. on a side note....
    I have evan seen the female coil up and start to twitch her muscles if the temperatures are too cool (heat lamp died on me durning night), she can raise her body temp up a degree or so form that. So keeping the tank a degree cooler would have been better that too hot, but proper temps are alway best.

    The only time I have ever heard of temperautres of over 100 F is with a few types if desert lizzards. I do not deal much with lizzards so I am not 100% about that
  6. jeepnphreak Embryo

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    The Brumation is somthing that many many breeder argure about.
    I have had sccess with letting the temps drop by 5-7 degreese. Useally in the fall time as the house naturally cools with the out side natural day light fading I keep the summer setting on the lamps. Than after about one month, I bump the heat up in the tank back up to normal and the boas are ready to go.
  7. scooter1685 Embryo

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    Hm... Interesting. I've never actually heard of a boa eating their mate. For my breeders, they always share a terrarium until they are about 2 years of age, at which time I separate them for reintroduction during the breeding cycle at about 4 years of age. I've never had any troubles in keeping my snakes together. Nor have I run across any references of anyone experiencing cannibalistic behavior in boas; with the exception of rare circumstances in which the mother/father might eat a few of the young. If any of my females were to eat their mates, both snakes would die. The males are simply too large to be safely ingested, although not as large as the females.

    I'll have to do a bit more looking about on that. I've never heard of it having happened.
  8. jeepnphreak Embryo

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    From what I have read it has happened with the true redtails, boa constrictor constrictor, where the males are 6.5 feet long and the female is 10+ feet. I have never had a problem my self, just something I have read about.
    I do not have any BCCs just the smaller BCIs, (Boa constrictor imperator), all may male are in the 6.5 foot range and the females are 7-8 feet much cloaser in size.
  9. bruno Moderator

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    Wow,
    That's a lot of interesting reading, most of which I didn't know about.
    I have 2 BCI's, male is 8.5ft and 17 years old, female is 9ft and 9 years old.
    What I say now is totally against all the above care.
    They have lived together permanently, this is their 5th yr.
    The previous 4yrs they have produced between 40 and 48 live young, every year, with very few slugs or still born, no more than 6 max. on each occassion. most were less 4-5.
    I never brumate or cool them down and their feeding habits barely change, even when gravid, she may stop eating a month before birth but I have known her eat, shed then 10 days later give birth.
    She has ovulated this year and he's been "busy" so hoping for a good result.
    Will be interesting to hear your comments on this.
  10. scooter1685 Embryo

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    I've heard of similar scenarios to the one you described. I'll admit that I've been thinking about it, lol, but it's probably not something I'll do.... Hm... I don't know perhaps it's something I might try once I can get a terrarium large enough. The biggest one I have now is Kalypso's. It's about 7 feet long, 30 inches tall, and 24 inches wide. I love a good display so it's got live plants (ferns and an umbrella plant), a mister that just sprays for 7 minutes each morning, a little waterfall in one corner, and a few lights. I've been trying to find a good design for a terrarium I can build that will be large enough to house a breeding pair of snakes, but not so heavy that I can't lift it myself. I've found a few things, but nothing for less than about 900 bucks. That's a little more than I'm willing to spend on a single terrarium.
    Kalypso's is large enough, but I don't like the way it was built. It wasn't built for snakes, it was built for large lizards (Rhino Iguanas if I'm not mistaken). I had to make a few adjustments after I bought it, and although the display I've set up inside is beautiful, the terrarium isn't.
  11. bruno Moderator

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    1,677
    Here's a of pic of my setup.
    It's basically home made but I bought it second hand.
    A corner unit 5ft high and 3ft down each side of wall. There is no lighting as such, just natural room light, it's heated from the top by a 250w ceramic on a thermostat.
    The door is 4ft x 3ft
    The temps range from 88-93 at very top on branches and 70ish at floor level.
    They are very active moving up/down thermoregulating.
    The pic isn't fantastic but will give you an idea how things are setup.
    YES, they were cleaned out after I took the pics ...lol

    The one at top is Ben and the other coming down is Saturn.
    [IMG]
  12. jeepnphreak Embryo

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    An 8.5 foot male thats huge. my males are all in the 6.5-7 foot range. My females are 8-9 feet.
    I like you setup very nice.
  13. scooter1685 Embryo

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    I just got a new digital camera, lol. I'm not the most computer savvy individual, but once I figure out how to use my new camera I'll have to get some pictures of my setup and my babies.

    The terrariums I intend to build (once I figure out exactly what I'm doing, lol) will be stackable. 3 ft tall each should be just about right. I've recently begun breeding my own feeder rats as well. I hate rats very much, but it's only about 40 bucks a month to breed them myself as opposed to nearly 200 per month to buy frozen online, or 280 to buy live and kill them myself. I never feed live. I did with my first snake (a Cal. King named Jade) but she was bitten a few times and had some scars from it. All of my snakes after her have been on either frozen or fresh killed. Where breeding my own food saves me a minimum of 160 per month, I'll let them live in my garage, lol.
  14. bruno Moderator

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    1,677
    All my snakes are fed frozen/thawed as it is now illegal to feed live now here in the UK, except in exceptional circumstances.
    I used to breed my own rats, but found it was costing me more to keep them until they reached the size required, ie, jumbo (400-500+ grams), I also bred my own mice as well.
    Eventually I was spending more time feeding and cleaning them, than I was looking after the snakes. I fed them on rabbit mix and cereal, bought in bulk.
    I use the CO² method of despatch, I left them to stand a couple of hrs before freezing to allow the CO² to disperse.
    I gave up eventually as the overall size of rat decreased, even with introducing new stock.
    I reverted to buying frozen bulk, twice a year, costing me £400 ($600), total cost for a year, including all my reps, set me back £1000 ($1500), luckily the sale of the offspring helped to offset that considerably.

    Looking forward to seeing your setups etc once you figure out the camera, I found it best to open a Photobucket account (free), upload to there, then link into posts. Simply copy the IMG code and paste into your post.
  15. scooter1685 Embryo

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    Wow, illegal to feed live eh? That's pretty cool, I hadn't heard about that.

    I built my rat breeding rack myself. Including the watering system it cost about $110 for the whole system. I made a post on a local forum and got 12 females and 16 males for free. I set up the bins so that each breeder bin contains 3 female rats to one male rat, with 4 bins. The remaining males all went into a separate bin to be used as food. I usually end up with just a few more rats than I need for food every week. Those I allow to grow up to replace my current breeders as they age, or I freeze some of the pinkies in preparation for any babies I might have in the near future. With the rack that I've set up, caring for the rats is extremely simple. I got a 50 lb bag of rat food pellets for $14 at a local IFA store. I simply use a scoop to gather about 3 cups of the rat food, and I pour that out on top of each bin. Each of those 50 lb bags of rat food lasts me about 7 weeks. Every week I move each bin of rats to a new bin and simply dump out everything in their current bin. It takes about fifteen minutes to change all the bedding for all the rats. So I imagine that each month I spend about $37 (food and bedding) and about an hour and a half caring for the rats. It's very simple and efficient.
    As far as dispatching rats, I simply have 12 inch feeding forceps that i whack the rats with at the base of the spine, right below the skull. One quick whack and they're done so they feel no pain whatsoever. It takes a bit of practice to be able to get it in one hit though, but once you've got the hang of it it's very quick and completely painless to the rat.

    Anyhow, I'm late for an important meeting at the moment and my weekend is pretty booked. I'll see about getting those pictures up Tuesday.
  16. scooter1685 Embryo

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    Here's a picture. My big terrarium is actually having it's monthly cleaning... heh... so I don't have any pictures of it at the moment. This is one of my smaller terrariums. Tawny lives in this one, my striped albino.

    Terrarium3.jpg
  17. scooter1685 Embryo

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    The plants in there are actually in little plant pots. They're just buried under a bunch of substrate. Makes cleaning much easier. They're all real plants except for that little vine that runs across the bottom. That one's a fake plant. The water dish is behind the log. There's no waterfall in this one, I couldn't figure out how to put one in there without taking up too much room but still have it large enough to function as a water dish. She's not in the terrarium in the picture. I'll get some pictures of my snakes and send them off soon, lol.
  18. bruno Moderator

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    1,677
    What a fantastic looking terranium, the big one must look awesome with a waterfall.
    Cant wait to see the pics of that ;)

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