Do Snakes Nurse Their Young?

Mother snakes have been reported to leave their young right after having a clutch of snakes. This may not be very motherly, but do some stick around and nurse their young? As a curious snake lover, I did some research and the results are fascinating.

Do snakes nurse their young? Most species of snake do not mother their offspring, although many will coil around their eggs, keeping them warm and safe, until they hatch. Few species of snake conceive live young, but even they only remain long enough to see their young slither off to the wild. Most snakes are born perfectly capable of survival on their own.

How a snake treats its brood all depends on the species. While most snakes abandon their brood, new research has revealed rare cases where snakes, such as the African Rock python, have been known to stick around to perform extra maternal duties.

A Motherly Snake?

Recently in central Africa, scientists have made astonishing discoveries about the African rock python. Laying its eggs -typically anywhere from 20 to 90 at a time- in a warm, well-hidden location, this snake assiduously defends against all potential predators. But her duties don’t end there.

Unlike any other species of snake know, recent discoveries suggest that the African rock python will stay close to her young for as long as four months.

During that time, the African rock python will act as a shield, defending her babies from any dangerous predator that gets too close, and dissuade any bird of prey that may feel gutsy enough to swoop in. (Talk about satellite parenting.)

But this is definitely a unique case in nature. Your garden variety pet snake will more than likely parent a little different than what was just described.

Caring for a Snake Egg

If you own a pet snake, you probably own some species and morph of corn snake or gopher snake. If you’re a real reptile enthusiast, you may own a boa or a python. Either way, if your snake lays eggs don’t expect much help from your pet, it’s just not natural for them.

Remember, in the wild most snakes do not build nests. Rather, they find a suitable location -such as an abandoned termite nest, a well concealed grassy null, an alcove of rocks, etc.- and lay their eggs there.

In order to help care for your snake’s eggs, you will have to tend to the egg yourself. Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • First, make sure that your eggs are in a moist location. You will want to make sure that you have a thermometer with your eggs so you can closely monitor the temperature. Too hot and the eggs will dehydrate. Too cold and the fetus will be killed. Place your eggs in a room where you have control over the temperature.
  • You may be tempted over the process of incubation, to continually open your incubator to check on the eggs. Try not to do this too often. Checking the eggs too often can cause a change in temperature, which could damage your eggs. If you are an impatient person (I know I can be), then consider getting a clear container. That way, you can see and monitor your eggs without having to constantly change the temperature.
  • During the process of incubation do not change the orientation of the egg. Remember any contact you have could harm the development process. The oils in your skin can be harmful, so if you do need to touch your eggs, make sure you handle them with gloves. The part of the egg that was facing up when it was placed in the incubator should not be changed. 
  • Do not turn your snake egg! Building off the last point, most chick incubators have a pre-built rotation setting. Reptile eggs are not hard like chicken eggs. Their soft, leathery, exteriors are easily damaged so make sure they stay as motionless as possible.
  • Make sure your egg incubator is in a safe location. You will want to put it in a room that doesn’t experience any dramatic change in temperature. Remember, cold temperatures can be detrimental to the development of a snake egg. You will also want to make sure that it’s in a room that won’t experience any sudden moving or jarring which could damage the egg.
  • Keep the egg in a generally humid environment. Make sure that the fan on your incubator is turned off, as the constant air circulation could cause the egg to dry out. Most store-bought incubators have a water bath function to keep the egg moist, but you can still achieve similar results with a homemade incubator. Try placing a dish of water in the incubator. The water will evaporate and make it more humid.
  • Main good ventilation. This is crucial to the health of the eggs, especially as the egg nears full development. In order to allow fresh oxygen in your incubator, try opening the lid briefly every one to three days. This should allow for plenty of fresh air in, and excess heat out.

Snake Egg Health

Most snake eggs take anywhere from between 45 to 70 days to hatch. The incubation process will go faster if the eggs reside in temperatures nearing the warmer end of their safe hatchable temperatures. But, as always, this changes depending on the species of snake.

Snake eggs should appear firm and white. It is not uncommon for eggs to be laid stuck together. If this is the case, don’t touch them, but keep a close eye on them as this may lead to complications as the eggs begin to hatch.

There won’t be much change in the appearance of eggs as the snake develops inside, but there are some clear danger signs you need to be aware of. If the egg becomes blotchy and black, this is a sign of fetal death, and the egg should be removed. If the egg becomes chalky or flakey, this may indicate dehydration and you should closely monitor humidity and temperature.

Related Questions

What do baby snakes eat? Most baby pet snakes will eat either thawed pre-killed mice, insects, frogs, or other creatures depending on the species. It is important to research all you can on the species of snake that you own or will own.

When do snakes mate? Most snakes mate in the springtime and lay their eggs at the beginning of summer, but tropical varieties of snakes will mate all year long. Some snakes lay their eggs immediately, while others have live births. A few snakes will even carry their eggs inside their bodies until they are ready to hatch in an interesting combination of the first two forms.

Do other reptiles nurse their young? Other reptiles have similar child-rearing tendencies as snakes. Like snakes, there are a few lizards that will guard their eggs until they are hatched, but most reptiles abandon their eggs long before they ever hatch. It is more common for mammals to nurse their young than for reptiles to do so. 

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