4. Carpet Python Diet and Watering
Remember when I was talking about the feeding response earlier? Let´s talk about how great that is when it comes to the daily routines in working with Carpet Pythons. I´ll let you know how we feed our baby Carpet Pythons here at StarPythons, how we feed the adults, how we water them and what we do if we have any problems with animals refusing to feed.
4.1 Feeding Baby Carpet Pythons
If you buy one of our hatchlings, you can be sure that it is feeding good on our routine. But what did we do until you got your new Carpet Python? When the neonates have shed for the first time we will offer them fuzzy mice. Thats what all Carpet Pythons start with. Since most of our customers want to feed their Carpet Pythons with frozen rodents later, we only use frozen rodents, too. So when you get one of our hatchlings you can also be sure that it will feed on frozen rodents! In preparation of the feeding we count how many prey items we need and just take them out of the freezer, put them in plastic bins and place them in one of our breeding rooms. If we want to feed Friday morning, we´ll take them out Thursday evening. On Friday morning they will be defrosted and ready. We use tweezers or a hemostat to simply grab the prey item carefully, open the plastic bin the snake is sitting in, and move the prey in front of the Carpet Python. Thats usually all it takes to get them going. If they don´t move you can touch the snake carefully with the prey right behind the neck. Please make sure that those Carpet Pythons with a wild feeding response do not bite into the tweezers or hemostat! We feed our neonate Carpet Pythons every 10-14 days and continue with fuzzy or later maybe small hopper mice until they have gained some weight. About three month later we will switch all babys Carpet Pythons to large pinky rats. I want to have all of them on rats as soon as possible, because thats what they will eat most of their lives. With this strategy we have very good results and less than 1% of our adults will refuse to feed rats later! But why is this so important? If you want to breed with your Carpet Python, you probably don´t want to wait too many years to do so. Since we breed Carpet Pythons for a living it would be a nightmare to have females on mice too long because a) as soon as even the biggest mice you can get are too small, the female will grow very slow and b) soon enough you´ll need to feed more than one mouse. That might be no problem if you have one Carpet Python, but we have between 1000 and 2000 here at StarPythons, depending on the time of the year! It would take days to feed them with a couple of mice each! As soon as we have them on pinky rats we will continue to feed them every 10 days. And thats probably the time when you get our Carpet Pythons! Continue to feed them on this routine with larger pinky rats and make sure to choose larger rats as they grow. The prey items should always look a bit too big for the Carpet Python, then it´s probably correct since they prefer to get bigger prey items. If you try to feed rodents that are too small, they might refuse to feed. Imagine a friend calls you and says "Hey buddy, lets have BBQ tonight, I have some great 3 oz t-bone steaks here" you wouldn´t move, right? Thats what they think! With 18 month the Carpet Pythons should feed on 100 gram rats.
4.2 Feeding Adult Carpet Pythons
As soon as they feed on 100 gram rats I´d nearly call them adults. Here at StarPythons we have three sizes of rats for our adults, 100 gram, 200 gram and 300+ gram. And since I´m German I do not accept 115 gram or 285 gram! It´s 100, 200, 300 plus. If you have just a few Carpet Pythons you´ll have the time to feed each snake individually, and you can decide to feed 146,7 gram this week. Here at StarPythons we have about 200 breeder carpets, so we need a system to work with. Our younger employees might not have the knowlage needed to decide if a snake is big enough for 146,7 gram or not. Every three month we will check the sizes of all our Carpet Pythons and determine the size of the prey items they get. So every snake will get a 100 gram rat every 14 days until we decide that he or she is big enough for 200 gram now. Some of them will be fine with 200 gram rats for their whole live, other will get bigger and continue to the 300+ gram group, that goes up to 600 gram rats. All 100 and 200 gram group animals will feed every 14 days, all 300 to 400 gram group animals every three weeks and all the monsters get a 500-600 gram rat every four weeks. The preparation is basically the same as for the babys. We take all those rats out of the freezer about 24 hours before we feed them and place them in plastic bins in the warmer rooms of our shop. As soon as the rats don´t feel cold anymore you are good to go. It might take some training to do it this way, since you should keep in mind that the rat will start to rot as soon as it is defrosted. On the other side you don´t want to feed it too early when the core of the rat is still frozen or very cold. The reason why we are using this method is our substrate. If you are using newspaper or other paper you can simply throw the rodents into warm water. That´s way quicker than waiting 24 hours. But since I don´t want to have the rodents breaded as soon as we put them into the cages and the snakes mouth full of substrate later, I prefer the more time intensive method. We grab the defrosted rats with a hemostat on the back and place it in front of the Carpet Python, moving it a bit around. Due to the very good feeding response nearly all Carpet Pythons will grab the rat as quick as they can.
4.3 Feeding Problems
No matter what you do, you´ll always have some Carpet Pythons that refuse to feed generally or refuse to feed on rats. Inapproriate husbandry conditions or stress, especialy after transportation, can make them stop feeding. So if you have a Carpet Python that suddenly does stop, please check the conditions carefully, especially the temperature! Make sure that all parameters are correct! If you find them to be ok and if the snake shows no sign of any disease, there is problably no "reason" why they stop but their nature. Pythons are known for fasting and it happens with Carpet Pythons, too. We have female Carpet Pythons that refused to feed for over 12 month without any logical reason! First of all: Don´t panic! If one of our Carpet Pythons here at StarPythons refuses to feed four times in a row, without any signs that something might be wrong, I stop offering prey! I never had the chance to ask them if I´m right, but to me it sounds logical that they don´t feel the need to feed when they "know" that there are rodents available every 14 days! By stopping the routine I try to show them that they better not rely on the schedule. We will leave these animals alone for at least four weeks! Then the Carpet Python will get another chance to eat. If he does, he´s back in the routine. If not I will wait another four weeks before I try again. In my opinion it´s a mistake when people start to panic and stress the Carpet Python by offering even more food more often! If you have Carpet Pythons that are feeding on mice but seem to hate rats you have two choices, a) you give in and continue to feed mice, even if it takes a dozen mice and hours of your time or b) you try to be the boss. Offer them a rat instead of a mouse. If they don´t eat, ignore them for another two weeks. At some point all Carpet Pythons will be hungry enough to eat the rat. We had one Jungle Zebra Carpet Python that was a nightmare, but even she started to accept rats after having fasted for several month due to the breeding season.
Here at StarPythons we use three different systems for watering of our Carpet Pythons. The neonates sitting in plastic bins with the dimensions 7,8 x 7,8 x 7,8 inches don´t have a water bowl or anything. As I already said they´d only move the substrate into the bowl making it useless. We use a manual spraying device that you´ll get at Home Depot for your garden, and simply spray fresh water on two of the four inner surfaces of the plastic bin daily. At least once daily! In the summer we usually spray in the morning and late afternoon. The next size of cages we use is 15 x 15 x 15 inches and equipped with plastic one-way water dishes. They´ll get fresh water daily. In case the water is very dirty due to feces for example, we will replace the water dish. All our cages for adult Carpet Pythons have a solid, heavy ceramic water bowl with fresh water, that we will check, clean and frenew daily.