December 16, 2008
Boa Breeding Basics
It’s boa breeding season (Oct – Feb) so I thought I would post a basic boa breeding reference guide. There are a few different variations on breeding boas, but I like the boaphile way (or what I see as the boaphile way). The main differences between the boaphile way, and the others is whether or not to cool your boas and the practice of “cycling” or using “the window of opportunity”. First I’d like to give the credit to Jeff Ronne the Boaphile for years of work and observation. Then I recommend you go read his guide instead of the short, singularly perceived version I’m about to lay down. DISCLAIMER: I have very little experience breeding boas. Jeff Ronne has been doing it since I was in diapers. If you don’t read his full article, buy and watch one of his movies, or read his portion of the care guide over on redtailboas.com, you will miss some very important info. This blog post is just a short version for reference.
I figure if I’m going to think this through all the way I may as well document it for my own good. I think you will find a lot of value in it too, so you may want to bookmark this page.
Here we go:
1. Make sure your boas are of age and in prime health. Females should be over 2 years old and males at least 18 months old. Age isn’t always full-proof and the boas should be appropriate size.
2. Enclosure temps should be 82 ambient temp and a hot spot about 90 degrees. Jeff says he never adjusts the temps for a “cooling period”. There are a few things that tell a boa it’s breeding time (at least this is my guess). Most snake rooms cool a bit in the winter naturally. Pressures change as storms roll through as well as a change in humidity. Days get shorter, and as long as you have a window, the boas will get the drift. NOTE: Temps too high or low may be one of the biggest reasons for breeding failures.
3. Stop feeding females at the end of September. Females will eat again after ovulation, after all breeding attempts are over, or between cycling (coming up).
4. Stop feeding males about mid-August. Males feed again after female ovulation or after all breeding attempts are over.
5. Introduce the male into the females enclosure one week after the females last meal.
6. Leave the male in for 2-3 days. If the female is receptive then you should see courting. The male will zig-zag over the female and squeeze her in intervals. You may also see the male spurring the female.
7. If you don’t see courting or interest during this time, take the male out and give the female a small meal. Wait three weeks and try it all over again.
8. Courtship will last aprox 3 to 8 weeks. If successful, you may see a mid-body thickening in the female. This is referred to as the “pre-ovulation swell”. This is the follicles growing and should not be confused with an ovulation. Taking the male out at this point may leave you with slugs, or the female may reabsorb the follicles. This swelling can be seen 3 months prior to ovulation, but usually happens 2-3 weeks prior. TIP: Jeremy Stone recommends misting the pair liberally two to three times a day with warm water to emulate natural breeding conditions.
9. During courtship males may take 2-3 days to rest in between courting. Don’t pull your male out early thinking he is done. When in doubt, don’t pull him out! (can’t remember who said that, but I like it.)
10. The male may loose interest in the female about a week before ovulation. He may also continue breeding after an ovulation, so again. Don’t pull him out if your not sure. Don’t worry, she won’t eat him.
11. Ovulation may be big, like a football stuck in the boa, or it could be more subtle. More subtle ovulation may be due to a small litter, and/or the ovaries ovulating separately. I don’t pretend to know, but it’s possible for you to miss a visual ovulation and still end-up with a nice litter. Read Jeff’s guide for info about the “Slow Motion Ovulation“, it’s fascinating.
12. After final ovulation, raise the cage to about 84 degrees ambient temp.
13. Gravid boas should have a post ovulation shed (or POS) about 16-20 days after ovulation. Your due date should be about 105 days after this shed, give or take 5 days.
14. After the POS start feeding the female every two weeks on a small to large rat (depending on the size of the boa). DO NOT feed at all in the last 4 weeks of gestation. This can cause premature birth.
15. Don’t panic if your female shed’s during gestation. They don’t always, but it does happen.
16. The female will appear largest about two months into gestation.
17. A female carrying a good viable litter will usually loose weight in the front half of her body.
18. Do not handle the female in the last six weeks of gestation, unless absolutely necessary.
19. One or two days before birth the female should have a “pre-birth waxy stool”.
20. The female may be seen cruising around the enclosure looking for a place to give birth 1-7 days before parturition.
21. Birth or parturition, can take from 10 minutes, to as long as 6 hours.
22. The female will defend her young even if she looks tired, so be careful.
23. After birth the female should be put into a clean enclosure and given a half sized meal about a day later. If the female will not eat, there may be a problem and you may want to get her to a vet.
If you want to know the proper way to take care of brand new baby boas, and learn about successful ways to treat solidified yolk syndrome, check out the full care guide.
If you are going to breed boas, you might consider buying a few specimins from Jeff. They are unbelievable boas and he is great to work with. He also has some killer cages (Boaphile Plastics) that have seen thousands of successful babies born in them. I use them and they save me a lot of time and worry.
Good luck with your boa breeding projects! If I missed anything or you have a successful litter to announce, please comment on this post.