Email question from a reader: - “It seems to be a debate as to when to breed ball pythons. I have read and in speaking with other breeders, females should wait 3 winters before breeding. There seems to be discrepancies and conflicting information out there. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks”
My view on breeding young females is different than the “conventional wisdom”. The fact is that males will breed females in the wild regardless of their size, weight, age, etc. There is no harm in this, its doesn’t hurt the female at all. Her body knows if if the timing is right and whether she can healthfully produce eggs. Thousands of years of self preservation instinct is way more reliable than your or my opinion on the topic.
When hobbyists argue how young you can breed a female, they lack the knowledge that a female will likely bred nearly every year of their life in the wild. Pythons are not like mammals where an egg is released / fertilized (internally involuntary). A BP female’s body has to actively develop follicles for up to months prior to ovulation. The body can reverse this process at any time prior to ovulation with no harm. If a female begins to absorb her follicles, there is nothing that I as a breeder can do to change that.
In my experience, of the few females who become egg bound, almost none of them are first time breeders. In my experience egg binding is more likely to happen in a proven breeder. The one time I had a first time breeder become egg bound she happened to be about 5 years old and 3000 grams.
When I breed a 1200g female starting in November, I know that if she wants to produce she will kick in good feeding and will be 1800g by the time she lays. If her instinct to produce doesn’t kick in, then nothing will happen and no harm will done.
Another perspective is that I really don’t want to breed a female that is not likely to produce, either from lack of weight, age or size. (Because it would be using a male on a low percentage chance of the female producing.) However a well timed breeding can sometimes keep a female on feed and avoid her going into a long fast. The point of this would not be eggs, just give the female a bit of motivation.
In short – Ball Pythons typically don’t produce eggs against their own will and best interest, so relax and let nature do what it does best!