New owner panic (Picky eater won't switch food)

RenegadeQuinn

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Hey guys!

I've only just gotten my jungle, she's almost four months now. She was started on weaner mice and we've been trying to switch her over to fuzzy rats due to her size and the nutritional content.

We picked her up just after a feed so she had a week to settle in before we introduced food. She went from a bin to a 4 foot tank (don't crucify me please let me explain) but it was her choice. When we got her we placed her small bin in the new enclosure and kept the lid on her bin. Her heating has always been consistent. She had some leaves, a water dish and a hide. At night as an experiment (day three of her being home) we took the lid off the bin to see if she was interested in a bigger space (breeder said she ate better/was happier when moved to an oversized tub). She adored it, she was out in the open, exploring, but slowly. She wasn't frantic, no signs of stress.

We did this for the first few days and then removed her bin. While her current enclosure is large for a baby it is chock full of stuff. She's got five formal (size-appropriate) hides but plenty more that she's found/created (hiding between hides and the wall, using her plants as a hide, ect). She's also got two large ferns, plants hung up in the walls, and a few leafy plants draped around as well as a grass patch. Heated with a CHE ambient temp around 28-30C. Her cool end is 24-26C.

With this setup she ate her first week. She was right out in the open, living it up on her fern under her CHE, and when we offered her a frozen thawed mouse she struck at it and constricted (which she never did for her breeder). We left her alone and she chowed down within half an hour.

The problem came next week when we decided to try switching her over to rats. We offered a rat and she didn't like it so we went to move her into her old bin to leave her in a smaller space with the rat. She absolutely flipped out, most freaked I've ever seen her. She was so frantic we couldn't even get the lid on so we just let her run back into her big enclosure and hide. I'm not sure why she flipped out so much. She has been handled before (a bit by the breeder and twice by us in the week after she ate - 15mins each time and with a rest day in-between) and managed it without any noted additional stress. Same night time behaviour, slow exploration broken up by long periods of relaxation. Comfortable and fully relaxed while fully exposed.

When we went to move her into her old tub to eat we wanted to be careful to not over handle her. We really didn't want to overwhelm her or stress her out. We picked her up on her snake hook (which she's used to) and gently set her down into her old bin with the exact same setup it had when she was in it before. As soon as she touched down she shot forward really frantically moving around, I removed the snake hook and tried to accomodate the run with my hands (hand under hand so she had somewhere to go and her body was supported) but she was absolutely not having it, she peed and musked and refused her old tub. Only tried to settle her for maybe 5-10 seconds max before realising it wasn't worth her stress and she could just skip a feed this week.

Since then she's been acting funny. We've left her alone because the experience was obviously incredibly stressful and scary for her but we're worried because she's stopped coming out at night to explore and enjoy her enclosure. We saw her once when we needed to move her to tidy/re-humidify her enclosure (had to move her hides and she scooted around to avoid my hands while I tidied - moved slowly and went from one side to the other so she could easily avoid me - we've done this before and she didn't mind)). Once we were done (poop gone, substrate damp) she was obviously really stressed. She was moving really quickly around her closure and climbing the walls like she was looking to get out, which she has never done before. After a few minutes she calmed down and hid again and we haven't seen her since. She doesn't seem sick, normal tongue flicks, no mouth gaping, no excess spit, I had a look while I was cleaning the cage (didn't pick her up, just kept an eye on her as she was moving around)

We've got to try and feed her again tomorrow but I'm worried about doing something wrong again and scaring her. I'm also a bit extra worried because I'm still not sure exactly why she freaked out last time.

We normally feed her at night once she's come out into the open on her own terms so she feels secure in her hides but I'm worried about trying to feed her if she won't come out, especially because she felt so vulnerable last time, I don't want to remove the hide she's using and expose her.

I want to try another rat tomorrow and if she really doesn't want it I'll give her two mice next week so she's got some food in her and then I'll try scenting a rat.

I want to try and scent but I'm not too sure what to use to appeal to carpets. I'm thinking of thawing in an egg or in tuna water to see if she'll like it. If I can't get her to take a scented frozen thawed rat I'll try quail. I know it's a bit more expensive but my understanding is that they're as nutritionally robust if not more so than rats which is all I really care about.

Obviously we're not handling her anymore since she's so stressed. I also know that it's not the end of the world if she skips a few feeds, I'm only worried because she's a baby still and needs good, consistent nutrition to grow properly.

Sorry for the ridiculously long post, I just wanted to make sure to offer as much information as I can so that someone smarter than me might be able to pick up on what's going on. Basically I'm just wondering if anyone has any idea why she flipped out last time and any advice on how to transfer picky eaters over to frozen thawed rats.
 

CF Constrictor

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Hi R Q
Firstly i would chuck the CHE and get a small heat mat around 7 watts would be fine for your setup and place it under the hot end of the tank. You should run it through a good quality thermostat and aim for a high of around 34 , 35c during the hottest part of the day. Secondly live plants in a python enclosure is asking for trouble in my opinion , too much humidity can lead to health problems and vets are expensive. I use plastic plants , they look just as good and will make no difference to your python. Good luck.
 

RenegadeQuinn

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Hey! Thanks for replying! We did try a heat mat. We’ve got the reptile one mat that’s made for that size tank but it couldn’t provide enough heat without having to take some risks with her. We couldn’t fasten the probe or mat reliably in the tank which meant that we couldn’t ensure she wouldn’t overheat. We’ve got a thermostat but too much could go wrong with the probe if we placed it inside. Our solution was to fasten it under the tank and wedge the probe between the glass and the mat. It means that the substrate gets a bit warmer which is good for the parts of the tank in the warm end that the CHE can’t reach (i.e. the inside of hides and under her plants). We’ve got both of them (CHE and mat) hooked up to their own thermostats and we check the temps daily (without disrupting grumpy pants) to make sure they’re accurate.

You make an excellent point about the plants, I should have clarified in the post that all the plants are artificial. Again, we kinda raided reptile one hahah. We monitor humidity pretty closely to make sure that she’s not at risk but we’re lucky that jungles have a good window as tropical snakes.
 

Ramsayi

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She was started on weaner mice and we've been trying to switch her over to fuzzy rats due to her size and the nutritional content.
First off there should be zero rush trying to switch from mice to rats. Best to get her into a steady feeding routine then try to switch.
When the time comes to switch over you can try offering the usual mouse but have a rat ready at the same time. Just as the back legs of the mouse is starting to disappear hand feed the rat directly behind the mouse. This method works the vast majority of the time.

Another option is to cease feeding for a few weeks then try a rat again but only after a steady feeding routine has been established.

BTW as far as being skittish you will find that that is typical hatchy jungle behaviour, most tend to be very nervous/flighty/snappy.

Re scenting there should be no need to over complicate at all.
 

RenegadeQuinn

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First off there should be zero rush trying to switch from mice to rats. Best to get her into a steady feeding routine then try to switch.
When the time comes to switch over you can try offering the usual mouse but have a rat ready at the same time. Just as the back legs of the mouse is starting to disappear hand feed the rat directly behind the mouse. This method works the vast majority of the time.

Another option is to cease feeding for a few weeks then try a rat again but only after a steady feeding routine has been established.
That’s a great suggestion! I think you’re right that I may have rushed it a bit, which feels bad to say since I just want to do a good job taking care of her. Her breeder suggested giving two mice using this method since she’s getting a bit big just for one, I reckon if I do this with mice for a while and then switch out the second mouse it’s got a better chance. Thank you for your help and for the great advice!
 

Bluetongue1

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Totally agree with what Ramsayi has to say. Too many changes too quickly. Learn to be patient for the sake of the snake. The only thing I would add is that if you are likely to have any difficulty with placing the rat in the snake’s mouth as it swallows the last of the mouse, then you can use the ‘daisy chain’ technique. This simply requires that you sow the head of the rat to the rear end of the mouse with a small loop or two of cotton thread. That way you do not have to interfere in the feeding process in any way. After about three meals like this the snake should associate the taste of rat as food and take it on its own. BTW, scenting is more about getting animals to eat in the first place, rather than switching them from one food item to another.

You are wondering why your snake freaked out? Put yourself in its position. It’s been released from a small, fairly barren box into a large stimulating environment, which, from what you say, it found much to its liking. This new enclosure has quickly become its new home range/ territory. Then you come along and try and stuff it back in the little box in plain sight of its established territory. No wonder it had a “Not happy Jan!” reaction. Snakes do have memory and do learn. It possibly now associates you grabbing it with it trying to be forced into a situation it did not want to be in. Hence it has reverted to the snappy, defensive nature commonly exhibited by this species in the first year plus. With patience and perseverance you can change this association, but trying to push it will be counter-productive.

Just as an aside, I have read a few comments over the years about two smaller food items not being as good as one equivalent large food item. I personally think this is nonsense. Smaller prey is going to be quicker to digest and will produce a little more roughage, neither of which I see a problem with. The reasons why se tend to feed a single larger item is that snakes can cope with it no worries and its more convenient for keepers.
PS. I would be interested to ‘hear’ others thoughts on this subject.
 
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Herpetology

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Just as an aside, I have read a few comments over the years about two smaller food items not being as good as one equivalent large food item. I personally think this is nonsense. Smaller prey is going to be quicker to digest and will produce a little more roughage, neither of which I see a problem with. The reasons why se tend to feed a single larger item is that snakes can cope with it no worries and its more convenient for keepers.
PS. I would be interested to ‘hear’ others thoughts on this subject.
I’ve always thought smaller more frequent feeds will allow the snake to grow faster due to easier digestion.. atm im using 3 large adult mice (40g ea) per feed for my yearlings compared to a 100g weaner rat due to large amount of excess mice, and they’re growth is nutty!

but I think less frequent larger items is more natural and less likely to cause any problems?

 

RenegadeQuinn

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Totally agree with what Ramsayi has to say. Too many changes too quickly. Learn to be patient for the sake of the snake. The only thing I would add is that if you are likely to have any difficulty with placing the rat in the snake’s mouth as it swallows the last of the mouse, then you can use the ‘daisy chain’ technique. This simply requires that you sow the head of the rat to the rear end of the mouse with a small loop or two of cotton thread. That way you do not have to interfere in the feeding process in any way. After about three meals like this the snake should associate the taste of rat as food and take it on its own. BTW, scenting is more about getting animals to eat in the first place, rather than switching them from one food item to another.

You are wondering why your snake freaked out? Put yourself in its position. It’s been released from a small, fairly barren box into a large stimulating environment, which, from what you say, it found much to its liking. This new enclosure has quickly become its new home range/ territory. Then you come along and try and stuff it back in the little box in plain sight of its established territory. No wonder it had a “Not happy Jan!” reaction. Snakes do have memory and do learn. It possibly now associates you grabbing it with it trying to be forced into a situation it did not want to be in. Hence it has reverted to the snappy, defensive nature commonly exhibited by this species in the first year plus. With patience and perseverance you can change this association, but trying to push it will be counter-productive.

Just as an aside, I have read a few comments over the years about two smaller food items not being as good as one equivalent large food item. I personally think this is nonsense. Smaller prey is going to be quicker to digest and will produce a little more roughage, neither of which I see a problem with. The reasons why se tend to feed a single larger item is that snakes can cope with it no worries and its more convenient for keepers.
PS. I would be interested to ‘hear’ others thoughts on this subject.
Thank you so much! That's actually really helpful. I wouldn't say she reverted to being snappy, that means she ever stoped hahah. In all seriousness that makes a lot of sense and I think both you and Ramsay make a great point about my need for patience, especially with a little hatchy.

The good news is she ate last night! I just left the mouse in her enclosure (actually two, just in case she wanted it as she's big enough to handle it and hasn't eaten for a couple weeks) and she ate one overnight (which was how she ate for her breeder) and she left her shed in the exact same place! I guess I must not have noticed she was in blue, as I said I tried not to look too closely as I didn't want to freak her out. I'm hoping that plays a part in why she was so scared. Normally she's really really snappy, but she'd been crazy docile, she just ran instead of fighting us, which is why I was so worried. Hopefully I can update soon and say she's back to terrorising her plants at night! Thank you so much for your help, I'm really really grateful. I'll keep giving her space to show her that she's safe, and she's absolutely home for good.

Also good news, she seemed a lot more like herself this morning. We grabbed the shed and the extra mouse and she was striking at us, at the plants when they rustled, she stood her ground and faced us down which was nice to see after she'd been so meek for a week. Obviously we'll socialise her once she's eating well so she doesn't stay that grumpy but, for now it was nice to get our girl back.
 

Pythonguy1

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Just as an aside, I have read a few comments over the years about two smaller food items not being as good as one equivalent large food item. I personally think this is nonsense. Smaller prey is going to be quicker to digest and will produce a little more roughage, neither of which I see a problem with. The reasons why se tend to feed a single larger item is that snakes can cope with it no worries and its more convenient for keepers.
PS. I would be interested to ‘hear’ others thoughts on this subject.
I had a yearling BHP once that I fed 2 rats at a time instead of smashing it with one big feed, (although I have noticed that BHP's don't handle larger food items as well as other pythons) he grew like crazy. That being said though, I mostly feed my other snakes with larger food items. To be honest I've found that both techniques work and have their own advantages.
 

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