How to Feed a Boa Constrictor

Learn how to feed a boa constrictor in this Howcast video about pet snakes.


How do we feed our boa constrictor, and what do we feed our boa constrictor? From the time they are born to the time that they're old senior citizens, boa constrictors are carnivorous. Because these guys are carnivorous and because we need to be able to find a common food source, the best thing to do is we all will feed them mice. A well-fed mouse is fully nutritional for these guys. They eat the whole mouse. When they're smaller, you can feed what's called Pinkies, which is a newborn mouse. The way you figure out how much you should feed, or what you should feed, is dependent on the size of the snake. You should never feed anything larger than the largest diameter of the snake. That's a good rule.

How do we feed them? Most of the time, these guys will take care of it on their own, but when you get your new snake, you have to remember that he's nervous. Let him enjoy his terrarium and get comfortable with his environment for several days before you try to feed him. Be very conscious of where you feed him, because if you have sand or a substrate, woodchips, which you really should never use, anything that can stick to the bait; when he eats it, he'll also eat that substrate and it can cause obstructions, and that is very, very serious.

Sometimes, if the substrate in your terrarium is such that it sticks, you can do one of several things: You can either put the bait in a small cup and bury it down to the level of the terrarium, and the snake will come and get it. Or move the snake out of the terrarium and feed it in another spot. Sometimes, especially as they get larger, that's a good thing. Because a snake learns when it's going to eat, and sometimes its energy level can get up. When you're reaching into the terrarium, it's thinking it's time to eat and there's a greater chance that you may get nipped.

How do we feed them? Snakes like this; they really hunt more from smell, touch, and heat sensation than they do vision. Their tongues, as they come out, will actually take little particles, and when it comes back into the mouth, will contact what's called the vomeronasal apparatus or Jacobson's organ. That helps them get a sensation of, or olfactoin of, what's out there. Then they have these small little pores called pit glands around their lips. What they do is they actually sense infrared heat. It's a thermal regulatory thing to where they actually can see heat. It's almost like the Predator in the movies, where he saw the little red thing. That's exactly what they're doing; they're picking up the heat and they'll strike at it.

You never want to hold your mouse. Sometimes it needs to move a little bit. What you do is get longer tongs. For your smaller snakes, about 10 to 12 inches is fine. For your bigger ones; about 16 inches. You'll put the mouse in the tongs, present it headfirst to this guy. Sometimes wiggling it is good. Sometimes when you present it to them, they'll know immediately what to do and they'll eat. Sometimes you'll get a snake that is used to eating one thing, and here you are trying to feed another. It's a good idea, say if this guy was used to eating anything else, a bird, or something of that nature, what you do is actually rub the scent of the bait that they're used to eating onto the mouse, and then present it to them. Through that little tongue and the Jacobson's organ, they will sense the scent of their older bait and they'll take the mouse. That's how you feed your boa constrictor.

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