3. Feeding Schedule & Food Size

The following information should be used as a guideline, rather than a “set in stone” schedule. This information assumes that your neo, yearling, sub-adult or adult is established: that it is eating and shedding regularly, is set up in an appropriate cage, and that it has no health issues. It is important to learn to read your animals and determine what they need.

Since every snake has its own metabolic rate, each should be treated as an individual. A GTP’s common hunting position is head down, often accompanied by caudal luring, and many will assume this position nightly. In addition, many chondros would likely eat every time they were offered food. Remember that chondros are opportunistic hunters and in their natural habitat they aren’t successful every time they hunt. In captivity, most would eat far more than they should because thousands of years of evolution has taught them to eat at any opportunity; in the wild, meals might come days, weeks, or months apart.

Some keepers set feeding schedules, such as one meal every 15 days. Others use a combination of schedules and defecation frequency. For example, an animal might be fed every 15 days, but if it hasn’t defecated between meals, the next feeding would be postponed. Feeding/defecation records help monitor the size and amount of food being consumed. Just remember that you’ll have to adjust your schedule and food size periodically based on factors such as age of your animal, whether it is male or female, time of year, etc. Take the time to know your chondro and observe what it is telling you.       

Some keepers let the snake tell them when they are ready to eat. This is easiest with more sedentary animals that sit in the same place for days after eating. Waiting until they are actively hunting at night, such as moving to lower branches or crawling around on the cage floor, is a good way of evaluating hunger. This method will help maintain a correct size to weight ratio, and the increased activity will help keep them defecating regularly and will encourage exercise.

Another thing to consider with feeding frequency and meal size is its affect on hydration. Since a larger meal requires more time and energy to digest, a snake would likely spend more time basking. Prolonged elevated body temps encourage water loss, and a larger meal requires more water to digest. These factors are more likely to increase kidney stress and add to dehydration.

Many keepers go by the general rule that a meal should be big enough to make a small but noticeable lump once consumed. Others choose to feed more frequently, but smaller food items. Below is a size chart used by many breeders of rodents that may help you determine the size you need.


Feeder Mice Sizes

Size

Weight (g)

Length (in)

Age (days)

Fur

Weaned

Day Old Mice

1.0-2.0

.75-1

1

No

No

Med/Lg Pinky Mice

2-4

1+

2-5

No

No

Small Fuzzy Mice

4-5

1.25-1.50

6-9

Little

No

Large Fuzzy Mice

5.1-7.5

1.50+

10-14

Little

No

Hopper Mice

7.6-9.9

2.25+

15-18

Yes

Almost

Small Mice

10-14

2.75+

18-24

Yes

Yes

Adult Mice

15-19

3+

25-35

Yes

Yes

Large Mice

20-29

3.5+

35-45

Yes

Yes

Jumbo Mice

30-50

4.25+

120+

Yes

Yes

 

 Feeder Rats Sizes

Size

Weight (g)

Length (in)

Age (days)

  Fur

Weaned

Pinky Rats

5-9

2+

1-5

  No

No

Fuzzy Rats

14-19

2.5+

6-10

  Little

No

Pup Rats

20-29

3+

11-15

  Yes

No

Weaned Rats

30-40

3.5+

16-19

  Yes

Yes

Small Rats

40-65

4.5+

20-26

  Yes

Yes

Small/Med Rats

70-95

5+

27-30

  Yes

Yes

Medium Rats

100-130

5.5+

31-35

  Yes

Yes

 

Neonates

A neonate can be considered a chondro that weighs approximately 7- 80 grams. Since neos have faster metabolic rates and defecate with greater frequency, they are typically fed once every 4- 6 days until about 5- 8 months old. Neonates will defecate anywhere between 2- 6 days following a meal.

Smaller hatchlings under 10 grams should be given day old pinks (1- 2 grams) for the first 3- 4 feedings. As neonates grow they can be progressively moved up to medium pinks (2- 3 grams), large pinks (3- 4 grams), and crawlers/fuzzy pinks. When to move up to a larger prey item is based largely on intuition and experience, but again, aim for a meal that leaves a barely noticeable lump.

From Neonate to Yearling

By the time a chondro reaches 80-100 grams you may choose to move to weekly feedings. At this size your snake will likely be eating small fuzzy mice (4- 5 grams). As when feeding pinkies, as your chondro grows you can move to progressively larger fuzzies. This might correspond to medium fuzzies (5- 6 grams) at 6 months of age, and large fuzzies (6- 7 grams) at 9 months. By 12 months old your animal should be taking hopper mice (7-10 grams) up to small weanling mice (10-14 grams).

Sub-Adults

While definitions vary, a sub-adult can be considered an animal from 200-500 grams. This depends on several factors including sex, feeding frequency, and underlying genetics. Sub-adults are typically fed on a 10- 15 day schedule.

Adults

As chondros enter adulthood you should take a more conservative feeding approach. Remember chondros are good at getting fat!  Things that need to be considered are your snake’s sex, metabolic rate, frequency of defecation, and the size and type of food being given. Remember that the cage temp is going to affect the snakes metabolism and hydration. Temps on the high side tend to increase the metabolism and the need for water. Temps on the lower end of the temp rage tend to slow down the metabolism and decrease the need for water.

The concept of the ideal weight for an adult chondro is slowly changing. As more members share their experiences and observations on the detrimental effects of obesity, we are adjusting our husbandry accordingly. A GTP is an arboreal snake and should be lean to be able to move around easily. Also, they tend to be more active when fed sparingly, and considering their restrictive environments in captivity, anything that promotes exercise is a good idea. It is also suggested that skinnier animals live longer and make better breeders.

Some adults can be problematic eaters. For example, moving an adult across country or just to a new enclosure within the same room can trigger a change in feeding. Some may only prefer live or fresh killed, and will refuse frozen/thawed. Some may only eat rats, or only mice. Adult males might not eat for 4 months or more, especially during breeding season. If this happens you must be patient, and you may have to adjust your feeding technique or food item.

A word of caution about feeding adults: Sometimes a snake might strike and wrap the mouse and the feeding tongs. If this happens, it is best to leave the snake alone and monitor it while it eats. It is highly unlikely that it will try to consume the forceps.

Adult Females

Adult females typically weigh from 750 to 1,100 grams. Smaller examples could weigh as little as 600 grams, whereas larger specimens can reach 1,800 grams or more. Adult females are usually fed once every 2- 4 weeks depending on the size of the rodent. Some breeders feed females more frequently in the months prior to breeding, as well as following egg deposition. But caution should be taken to not engorge your females with food prior to laying eggs. This is because excess fecal matter can block the movement of eggs during oviposition.

Adult Males

Adult males typically weigh from 300 grams to 850 grams. Again, slightly lighter or heavier animals make up a small percent. Adult males can be considerably smaller than adult females, and some will breed and produce offspring at around 300 grams. Adult males are normally fed an adult or large mouse bi-monthly, depending on the snake. Some sexually mature males often go off feed (fast) during the breeding season and are not likely to become obese, but they should still be monitored. Males can fast for 4-9 months, or not at all, but surprisingly they lose little weight during this time.

Cross contamination

Uneaten food items should not be offered to other animals. Even if an uneaten food item only contacts the cage or perch, it has the potential to spread disease-producing bacteria. That being said, a lot of keepers keep one or two “garbage disposal” snakes. Snakes like Corn snakes, King snakes or Rat snakes are used to dispose of unwanted food items when there is a minimal risk of contamination.


Last Edited By: Matt Morris and David Newman Oct 24 15 2:10 PM. Edited 1 time.