Switching Your Snake to Frozen/Thawed Prey
There are many benefits to feeding your snake frozen/thawed prey (f/t). It is safer in the way the prey will not bite or scratch your snake, but also more convenient because you don’t have to watch them carefully while feeding, if your snake is picky and decides not to eat that day, you can toss it instead of having to take the live r.at/mouse back to the store or finding a new home for it, plus you can keep 50 rats in your freezer without needing to run back and forth to your prey breeder every single week.
This isn’t, of course, to condemn live feeding, there are many reasons an individual may choose to feed live. For example, some ball pythons and other species never learn to take frozen thawed prey and therefore require live. Other snakes have notably better prey drive on live. It all comes down to- feed your animal what it will readily eat. There are many snakes that eat fabulously on f/t, and won’t take live, and some that don’t eat f/t and will ONLY take live. Do what is best for your animal.
When switching to f/t, the first, and most important consideration is husbandry. As noted in other resources, ball pythons are sensitive to incorrect husbandry. Double check your temps, humidity, and set up before attempting this. If you snake is already on a strike, you will want to determine the reason before trying to switch your snake to f/t prey.
Secondly, patience is extremely important. Be consistent with your feeding schedule and do your best to not give in and feed live. Do track your snakes’ weights. If they lose more than 10% of their body weight, they need to be fed live until they are back up to weight. To prevent getting this far, offer live prey every 4-5 feedings. It is helpful to only offer prey once a week, including for hatchlings. It makes them just a little hungrier and therefore more likely to eat.
The first step is to thaw the prey. As per USDA regulations, the best way to thaw meats are by putting them in a refrigerator or by defrosting them through the cold water method. You can learn more about both through the USDA website.
The most commonly reported successful method of getting a snake to take f/t the first time is by dunking the rat in very hot (100+ degree) water and doing the famous “zombie dance” where you wiggle the rat in front of the snake. You may also have more success wiggling the rat from the nape of the neck, instead of tail. Not only will it make the prey seem smaller, and therefore more temping, but it will also allow you to mimic a rat’s movement.
If you find the zombie dance is not interesting the snake, but causing it to react fearfully, or if you are feeding a particularly shy ball python, you may want to consider placing the heated rat in a hide and leaving it overnight.
The following is a list of suggestions other keepers and breeders have made to switch a snake to f/t prey:
· Transition the snake from live, to prekilled, and then to frozen/thawed.
· Try room temperature prey.
· Scent the prey with dirty rat/mouse/ASF substrate.
· Heat prey under a heat lamp
· In the same room as the snakes, blow dry the prey item to heat it up further and to scent the room.
· Dip the prey into chicken broth.
· Dip the prey’s head in really hot water.
· Place prey into a ziplock bag, place the bag in really hot water.
· Cut a small slit in the prey to scent the enclosure.
· Brain the prey. Do this by taking a sharp needle and poking 2-3 holes in the prey’s skull.
· Try different species: mice, rats, or ASF (note: ball pythons sometimes fixate on prey, meaning they will only take one type of prey and refuse the rest)