Ball Pythons

Do Ball Pythons Burrow? – Hiding, Scared Or Sick

Wild ball pythons do not commonly burrow as they have no need too. However captive or pet ball pythons have been known to burrow through their substrate. Snakes usually do this to mimic their behaviours in the wild. However this is something that only captive ball pythons are seen to do. 

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When ball pythons burrow in their substrate, it doesn’t always mean there is something wrong. It comes down to each individual snakes personality. Some may not do it at all, whilst some may just do it for fun. This is why you need to get to know your pet snake. You need to be aware if they are doing it for fun, (which then you can incorporate some burrow into the vivarium) or doing it for another reason, ie, being too stressed.

Ball pythons spend their days hidden from the light in burrows. Instead of digging their own burrows however, they will simply occupy one that has already been dug out from another animal. Being native to Africa, ball pythons burrows will usually be dug out by small animals, rodents or tortoises. Sometimes you will even find ball pythons hidden beneath rock piles, as this provides all the shelter in needs and is well ventilated with fresh air.

Why Might They Burrow?

Ball pythons will most likely burrow when they are stressed or ill. This may be a number it factors which you will need to check and potentially adjust. However some time it may just be for fun. So keeping a close eye on your ball python is needed if you see this kind of behaviour.

Potential Stress or Illness factors could include;

Lighting

Firstly, you’ll need to check that your ball pythons vivarium isn’t too bright. What I mean by this is, that there is no direct light shining into the vivarium. Table lamps and low level, bright TV screens, direct sun coming through the window for long periods. Ball pythons are mainly nocturnal, they become active and dusk and dawn, and hunt at night. Because of this, their eyes have evolved to be highly sensitive to light.

Temperature

The second factor you will need to check is the temperature of the vivarium. You need to remember that a ball pythons vivarium should have a warm end, and a cool end. Make sure the temperature in the cool end is no higher than 24-26 degrees Celsius. When the cool end is too hot, your pet python has no choice but to find cooler surrounding by burrowing under its substrate.

Humidity

The last factor you will need to check is the humidity inside the vivarium. Sometimes it gets a little too humid inside the vivarium, so a snake will burrow in its substrate to find somewhere drier. Be sure to check the ventilation, as it could be working ineffectively. Humidity levels should range around 50%, and will need to increase to 65% – 70% through the shedding stage.

Just for fun

Sometimes ball pythons will burrow purely just for fun. Usually a pet ball python will naturally use its hide as a means of shelter, as opposed to digging one themselves. That said, it is common for a ball python to burrow in its substrate. The reason they don’t in the wild is because the ground is far too hard for them. Being a soft substrate in their vivarium gives them the opportunity to burrow and explore. 

Females are seen to be more territorial compare to the male species. It’s believed this be purely because of their maternal nature. Females may burrow naturally as they are more conscience of their surrounds and potential nesting places. 

Lack of hides

Ball pythons will always want to hide. They are a very docile specie of snake, so they will always look for somewhere to relax. In the wild ball pythons usually hide during the day for stay out of harms way. 

A ball pythons vivarium should include at least 1 plastic or wooden hide, (Maybe even one of each) with a singular entry/exit hole. Only having one means to enter an exit will make your ball python feel secure and comfortable. If your snake can not access a hide, it my begin to feel vulnerable and stressed. Although your snake has no predatory threat when being kept as a snake, the same rules apply to being in the wild. Their natural instincts will stay the same whether being in the wild or captive. 

As a ball python grows, its hide will also need to increase in size. This may also be another cause to why it is burrowing. Simply the hide is now too small to accommodate its growth rate.

Whatever the reason, just be careful your heat mat isn’t too high. Unfortunately snakes will burrow and can sometimes burn themselves on the meat mat, if it’s not checked regularly for over heating. Burns can become infected quite quickly and cause a big risk to a ball pythons health and well being.

Do Ball Pythons Burrow In Forrest Floor Bedding?

Forrest floor bedding is considered one of the best substrates for ball pythons as it’s the closest substrate to its natural environment. It’s popular with ball python owners as it makes their vivariums look completely natural. The resemblance to a ball pythons natural habitat looks amazing, and also aids it the ball pythons wellbeing. 

A great product for forrest floor bedding for ball pythons is Zoo Med Forrest Floor Bedding. It is made from completely natural cypress mulch, which gives your vivarium a natural look of forrest floor. It retains moisture very well, which is ideal for keeping your humidity levels at a constant. Another really good factor about this substrate is that it is highly resistant to mould, meaning you will not need to replace it as quickly as other substrates. 

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Pros
  • All natural cypress mulch, which is safe for snakes
  • Creates a natural look for forrest floor
  • Comfortable
  • Absorbs moisture 
  • Retains humidity
  • Won’t mould easily
Cons
  • Will dry out over long periods 
  • Texture can sometime be a little rough for burrowing

Here are some crucial aspects to look out for when choosing a ball pythons substrate;

Natural and Non-toxic

Look for a substrate or bedding which is made from all natural and non-toxic materials. A common mistake new snake owners make is not doing their research on suitable substrates. You really don’t want to be putting a toxic substrate into your snakes vivarium as this will irritate your ball pythons skin and can cause serious damage to its health and wellbeing. 

Soft Textured

The underside on a snake is considerably softer than the upper side. Keep in mind that your snake will be on its belly for pretty much the whole day, unless it’s climbing on branches. So stay away from sharp edged wood chipping as this can cause some discomfort.

Absorbant Material

One of the reasons it’s crucial to have the correct absorbent substrate is for liquid waste and odours. Having a substrate that can soak up liquid waste will highly improve the living conditions of your ball python.

Maintains Humidity Levels

As we know, ball pythons require a warm and humid environment to live in. Choosing a substrate which can hold water, keeping humidity levels constant within the vivarium.

Other Substrates Which Can Be Considered?

Newspaper

From a cost perspective and easiness to clean, newspaper is sometimes a favourite for ball python owners. It’s cheap, it does the job fairly well and is easy to replace. These points are all great, (if you are someone who is constantly in a rush, to which you probably shouldn’t be owning a pet which needs this much care and attention) but this substrate isn’t very attractive. Nor is it very suitable for a ball pythons needs. It won’t hold humidity levels and it doesn’t aid in its shedding process in any way shape or form. The ink from newspaper can also be irritant to ball pythons skin.

Aspen Shavings

A lot of ball python keepers like this Aspen shaving substrate. Aspen shaving make the vivarium look more aesthetically pleasing, specially compared to newspaper. You can buy this substrate from most pet stores, and in all specialist reptile stores. 

Just be careful not to confuse Aspen shavings with Cedar or Pine shavings. These specific shavings contain harmful toxins which will highly irritate your ball pythons skin. This can cause abnormal shedding problems, and can cause infections throughout the process.

Aspen shavings do seem to dry out pretty quickly and don’t hold moisture for as long. But if you are cleaning the vivarium often enough, and can afford the change of substrate every time, then its definitely a great choice.

Coconut Shreds

Coconut shredding are considered safe to all types of snakes. For this reason it has become one of snake owners favourites, specially with breeders. This substrate makes for great nesting for a pregnant ball python. Coconut substrate keeps humidity high and absorbs loads of moisture which again is perfect for a nesting material.

Coconut shredding do not mould, and they are the best substrates for absorbing bad odours. Everything you should be looking for in a substrate.

Most Recommended For Ball Pythons

Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here

Heat Lamp and Guard – Click Here

Reliable Thermometer – Click Here

Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here

Climbing Branches – Click Here

Hydrometer – Click Here

Other pages you might like…

Do Ball Pythons Have Teeth?

When Do Ball Pythons Shed?

Are Ball Pythons Arboreal?

Do Ball Pythons Burrow?

Can Ball Pythons Hear?

Are Ball Pythons Nocturnal?

Do Ball Pythons Bite?

Do Ball Pythons Like To Climb?

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