The pros and cons of choosing a female ball python rather than a male normally center on size, habitat requirements, and the possibility of breeding. Females are normally larger and may also have more pronounced and defined patterns. This can make them more immediately attractive, but it also usually requires a bit of added work, too. In general, females require larger habitats with more places to hide and seclude themselves; they also typically eat more. Depending on the snake and how it was brought up, it may require live prey, which can be a concern for keepers. People who are interested in breeding the pythons often choose females because of their ability to lay eggs. Fertile females will usually produce between three and 11 eggs each breeding cycle, and there can be two or three of these cycles each year. Perhaps because of this, though, the females are often credited with being more aggressive than the males. Both are widely considered docile, but, particularly once eggs have been laid, the females do tend to be more sensitive and more likely to bite or lash out. Making the best choice usually requires a balancing of several factors, plus a bit of research on the species as a whole.
Understanding the Snake Generally
The ball python is a breed of snake recognized for its striking coloring and patterns. It is native to many parts of central Africa, but is a common pet around the world thanks to its generally small size — at least when compared to other snakes of similar coloring and origin — and non-venomous, non-aggressive nature. Ball pythons usually grow to be between four and six feet (1.22 to 1.83 meters) in length. It’s often the case that the female will be slightly longer and wider than the male at maturity, but neither is considered a very large snake.
When threatened, these snakes typically roll into a ball or coil their bodies to protect themselves, and this is where they get their name. In most cases, they only attack if the aggressor provokes them consistently. The female ball python is not usually more or less aggressive than a male would be, unless she is protecting her eggs. Overall, agressiveness usually varies from snake to snake rather than being determined by gender.
Coloring and Size Considerations
Many snake owners view the bolder, more striking patterns of the female as one of the biggest pros. Like most domestic snakes, ball pythons are usually kept to bring their owners pleasure. While the personality of the snake is often the most important part of a good snake-owner bond, this can be difficult if not impossible to discern at purchase. When given a choice, buyers often choose the female for aesthetic reasons.
This is not to say that the males are dull; their patterning is usually about the same, but tends to be less pronounced and isn’t always as vibrant. Males also tend to be smaller. This can be either a pro or a con depending on the circumstance. In general these snakes are already on the smaller end of the spectrum of African breeds sold domestically; sometimes people want them because they are more compact, in which case a male may be best. Someone wanting to showcase a larger, more powerful-looking snake may be better served with a female.
With size comes habitat considerations. Ball pythons, whether male or female, tend to be very private creatures that need a lot of “alone time” in hiding. Experts usually recommend providing a tank or terrarium for the snakes to live in, and females commonly need a bit more space than males. Particularly if owners are hoping for eggs, tunnels and burrows are really important, and most of the time owners will need multiple options to make sure the snake stays comfortable and doesn’t get stressed.
The female snake’s aggressiveness is usually a con, but in most cases this temperament hits its peak during breeding. Females tend to be very protective of their nests and eggs, and are usually more sensitive to handling and touching when eggs are on the way, too. Owners who are able to anticipate this often find that it’s very workable.
Importance of Source
Most of the more generalized pros and cons relate to the ball python generally, irrespective of gender. They tend to be finicky eaters, particularly when captured from the wild, and they typically require live prey rather than pre-frozen or killed food. Some owners try to get around this by purchasing a baby python bred in captivity and starting it on pre-frozen mice right away to ensure it will eat them.
Snakes captured from the wild may also be subject to more health concerns, particularly where parasites and stress are concerned. In general, snakes of any variety should only be purchased from reputable breeders who have a track record for healthy animals and humane breeding practices.