Convincing Your Problem Feeders to Eat Pinky Mice
Snakes are pretty easy to keep, but there can be challenges. Feeding time can stress you and your snake equally, especially if you're dealing with a very young snake that isn't well established. Sometimes baby snakes just need a little boost...or trickery..to get them started. But first, let's look at your husbandry practices. Be sure to check:
-Temperature and humidity. Are they at appropriate levels? Do you have a proper temp gradient?
-Housing. Is the snake's enclosure too large or two small? Sometimes small snakes become stressed if their enclosures are too large.
-Hide spots. Does your snake have one or more places to hide?
-Outside stressors. Are you handling the snake too much? Has the snake recently been moved? Is there loud music or excessive action outside the snake's enclosure? Try covering the cage with a towel or dark construction paper. Be sure not to block air flow.
-Photoperiod. Are you giving the snake proper periods of light and dark?
-Winter. Sometimes snakes simply refuse to eat in the fall and winter months. Brumation may be in order.
Once you've checked out your husbandry practices and made sure all is within the appropriate parameters, it's time to look at ways to persuade your picky reptile to eat. One of the main reasons that a snake may refuse to take pinky mice has to do with instinct. In the wild, snakes don't usually run across conveniently placed pre-killed baby mice. Lizards, frogs and other snakes are often the first things eaten by many hatchlings. Some snakes will devour just about anything that moves, but many will only eat what they are hardwired to eat in the wild. That's where the persuasion and trickery come in.
Offer something a little easier to swallow. Try these alternate foods to kick start your snake's feeding response and to keep the calories flowing:
-first off, try live mice.
-offer the type of prey your snake would eat in the wild (ei., lizards, non-lab mice)
-switch from mice to pinky rats or vice versa
-live prey followed by frozen/thawed
-rodent tails for very small snakes
Scenting and De-scenting. First, use unscented bar soap to wash the scent from a frozen/thawed pinky. If that doesn't work, try scenting a pinky mouse with:
-lizard, fish, snake, fish, frog or other known prey
-pinky blood (this works very well for some of my hondos)
-pinky brain juice
-pinky rats (there's a difference in smell, and some snakes prefer rats)
-chicken broth/tuna water
-the skin of some other food item (even shed skin) wrapped around a pinky
Other Trickery. Sometimes you have to get really sneaky with your serpents. Try these tricks:
-put the snake and food in a paper bag or other small, opaque container and leave over night in a dark, quiet area
-put prey just outside of the snake's hide box
-wiggle prey with hemostats to simulate live prey
-bait and switch (Get the snake going with one type of food, then get it to strike a pinky instead. This takes some practice.)
-change substrate type (I've found that some snakes eat better with aspen than newspaper and vice versa)
-try feeding at different times of day, such as late at night.
-try feeding with lights off
You'll often need to combine two or more of these techniques. Watch your snake's body language to see what draws its interest. Once you get a snake to feed regularly, it's usually easy to switch over to the desired food type.
Know any other tricks? Please share!