The Shedding Process

Discussion in 'Australian Snakes' started by Nero Egernia, May 22, 2017.

  1. Nero Egernia

    Nero Egernia Subscriber Subscriber

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    Introduction

    Not so long ago on a reasonable sunny autumn day I took my carpet pythons out for some sunshine, a bit of supervised exercise, and an attempt to “train” them to do their business outside. One adult snake is a neutral grey in colour, with a paper white belly. But on this particular day he was looking a little different. “Huh, you’re looking a little brown today,” I mutter to myself as I get a good look at him in the sun. “If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were coming up to a shed again . . .”

    It turns out he was coming up to a shed. At first I thought this was odd as he had just shed only a month ago. Perhaps I was feeding him too much. Or perhaps he was going through a growth spurt after his lengthy stint with DpAW. I also noticed that one of my other snakes, this one a hatchling, was looking a little dull and brown as well. So both snakes were coming up to a shed.

    Since I like to take photos and because of the influx of new keepers posting, not knowing or having little knowledge on this inevitable and fascinating behaviour in snakes, I thought it would be worth documenting and detailing some of the common indicators of a snake in the shedding cycle. This post only covers carpet pythons, however. South-west Carpet Pythons to be specific. Signs of a snake undergoing the shed cycle may be slightly different in different species. But many behaviours and physical signs are universal in all snakes, such as the blue or cloudy eyes for example. I hope this post will prove useful and informative to many reptile keepers.

    The Shedding Cycle

    All animals shed their skin as they grow. Humans, for example, continually shed their skin as tiny flakes. Most lizards shed their skin in parts over a couple of days or weeks, but not all. Some may even eat their skins. Snakes do not eat their skins and, if under appropriate conditions, shed their skin in one piece. This process is known as ecdysis. It may last for 1-2 weeks, depending on the animal.

    • During this time it is not uncommon for the snake to remain in their hide until the cycle is complete.

    • Most snakes will also stop eating.

    • It is not recommended to feed the snake, even if it will accept food.

    • If you were expecting your snake to defecate at this time, then it is highly likely that it will not do so until after the cycle is complete.

    • Snakes generally become more defensive than is typical throughout the cycle. For this reason, it is recommended not to handle the snake. They feel vulnerable, particularly during the stage in which their eyes have become cloudy.

    • At this time rough handling may damage the old or new skin.

    Stage One: Dark, Dull Skin with a Pink Belly
    Day: 1-3


    At this stage the snake will look slightly duller and darker than usual. Their bellies may take on a pink tone. Some new keepers may mistake this as a burn or scale rot. Don’t worry, chances are it’s not. Belly patterning may become pale or opaque. Sometimes the eyes will become dull. This stage varies from snake to snake and sometimes the signs may not be obvious. With my two grey snakes they became a slight dull brown in colour.

    shedbeginningheadaps.jpg
    Here Grey is looking a little dull and brown. Note that the eyes are a little dull as well.

    shedbellypink1aps.jpg
    Note the pink belly and the opaque effect of the belly patterning.

    shedbellypink2aps.jpg
    This picture clearly shows the pink tinge of the belly. Normally the belly is as white as the post in the background.

    shedhatchlingtopaps.jpg
    Pixie going a dull brown colour. Pixie's shed cycle happily coincided with an upgrade in tub size.

    shedhatchlingbellyaps.jpg
    Note that the pattern on the belly has gone opaque, and yet there is no pink tone for Pixie. However, the prevalent blue tone on Pixie's belly is not as obvious anymore.

    Stage Two: Cloudy, Opaque, Milky, or Blue eyes
    Day: 3-8


    This stage is perhaps the most recognisable. The eyes become cloudy or blue, and the snake’s skin in general has become extremely dull. The new skin has formed beneath the old skin. A milky fluid is secreted between the skins to separate them, making the old skin easier to remove. New keepers may mistake the cloudy eyes as a sign that their snake is going or has gone blind. While their vision has become impaired, it is only temporary. Because of this, the snake is feeling at its most vulnerable and may strike defensively. It’s recommended not to handle at this time and to leave the snake alone.

    shedmilkyeye.jpg
    Perhaps one of the most well known signs of a snake in shed; the blue/cloudy eyes.

    shedmilkyeyes1.jpg
    Another example under different lighting.

    shedhatchlingmilkyeyeaps.jpg
    Note the blue, dull tinge to Pixie's eyes. Not quite as obvious in comparison with Grey.

    Stage Three: Clearing Up
    Day: 7-10


    The eyes and skin now begin to clear up. It may look as though your snake is not going to shed after all, save that the skin might still be a little dull. Although carpet pythons are known to be relatively dark compared to their original colour. At this stage new keepers may begin to wonder if the shed has already happened and that the snake has perhaps eaten the skin. They have not. The snake will soon be ready to shed the old skin.

    shedclearupeyesaps.jpg
    Grey's eyes have cleared up but his skin still looks darker than usual.

    shedclearupbelly1aps.jpg
    Note the belly patterning has cleared up. Also, the belly is now as white as the post in the right side of the background.

    shedhatchlingclearaps.jpg
    Pixie's eyes have cleared up, but the skin still looks fairly dark.

    Stage Four: Shedding of the Old Skin
    Day: 9-14


    This is the final stage where the snake commences the “sloughing” of its old skin. The process can be quick, lasting from 30 minutes to an hour. It may be a while before the keeper witnesses the act. It’s a fascinating event. The snake begins by rubbing its nose or chin on any rough surface it can find to create a break in the old skin. This can include anything from the interior of the enclosure, to furnishings such as rocks or branches, even using its own body to slowly peel back its skin, inside out, and ending at the tail tip. If conditions are appropriate the skin should come off in one piece. Sometimes, however, the skin may tear if the snake passes over it or if it becomes snagged on rough surfaces. If you find the skin in two pieces, and there’s no retained shed on the snake, there’s nothing to worry about.

    theshedgreyprocessaps.jpg
    Grey beginning to shed. It starts at the tip of the nose.

    shetheprocessgreyaps.jpg
    The old skin is peeling back like a long sock off a leg. Note the colour difference between the old and new skins.

    shedtheprocessaps.jpg
    Pixie beginning to shed. Once again, it starts at the nose. Note that both the eye caps have come off with the old skin. It's very important to make sure that they come off.

    shedtheprocess1aps.jpg
    Note the colour difference between the old and new skins.

    The Shed Cycle is Complete

    Your snake is now looking particularly bright and colourful. Now would be a good time to take photos. But first there are a few things to look out for. You need to make sure that the snake has shed properly. Pay close attention to the eyes, vent and tail tip of the snake. It’s very important that there’s no retained shed in these areas. Are there any signs of dysecdysis (abnormal or incomplete shedding of the skin)? There are a few methods that can help with this, however, I'm not going to delve into it here as this post is about the shedding process, and not dysecdysis.

    I was originally going to post a few more pictures but it seems that I have reached my limit. If anyone feels that I have left something out, or if I've provided incorrect information please mention it below.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
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  2. MANNING

    MANNING MANNING Subscriber

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    I would suggest this be made a sticky. Easy to read and informative, thanks
     
  3. MzJen

    MzJen Not so new Member

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    Excellent photos.....:):)
     
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  4. pinefamily

    pinefamily Subscriber Subscriber

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    I think you've covered it, Oshkii.
    Great post.
     
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  5. pythoninfinite

    pythoninfinite Subscriber Subscriber

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    The best & most comprehensive summary I've ever seen:)! Perfectly illustrated as well. A great resource!

    Jamie
     
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  6. MANNING

    MANNING MANNING Subscriber

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    As always!!
    +1 Helps to learn faster when you can associate a daunting chapter of text with a couple cool photos
     
  7. Harry89

    Harry89 Not so new Member

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    Thank you very much for this, my little dude had his first shed with me last week, and having never seen it before, I was rather confused during the final waiting period as to what was going on. This would have been awesome two weeks ago, but has certainly given me a much better insight into the whole process, many thanks.
     
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  8. Nero Egernia

    Nero Egernia Subscriber Subscriber

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    Thanks everyone. I'm glad you find it helpful and easy to understand.
     
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  9. Snapped

    Snapped Subscriber Subscriber

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    Great pics and a good resource for newbies as well, can this be made a pinned subject?
     
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  10. Pauls_Pythons

    Pauls_Pythons Subscriber Subscriber Power Seller

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    Good work
     
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  11. caz2y5

    caz2y5 New Member

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    Thank you so much for this. I'm still waiting for my baby to shed and this really helped.
     
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  12. Mazakeen

    Mazakeen New Member

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    That was very informative, I have a young female Woma who seems to shed more than any other snake I have known.Beautiful photos.
     
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  13. MrSquigglesPencil

    MrSquigglesPencil New Member

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    Thankyou. Very informative, just the info I was looking for.
     
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  14. Sleazy.P.Martini

    Sleazy.P.Martini Well-Known Member

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    Just thought I'd ad..."...snakes do not eat their skin."
    I confirmed about a minute ago that they do on occasion eat their shed.
     
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  15. Nero Egernia

    Nero Egernia Subscriber Subscriber

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    Did the snake eat the whole skin or a piece of it?
     
  16. Sleazy.P.Martini

    Sleazy.P.Martini Well-Known Member

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    He ate the majority of his entire shed. I've noticed before that they have gone missing, but this time I was able to catch him in the act and got a few videos
     
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  17. mkrma

    mkrma Not so new Member

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    Thank you very much for this one!
     
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