Many parts of snake ownership come as a surprise. New owners may not realize at first that a snake may be grumpy and refuse to eat while it is preparing to shed.
This leaves the question of how long you need to wait before offering a meal when your snake finally finishes shedding.
How soon after shedding can you feed a snake?
You can offer your snake a meal right after it finishes shedding. If your snake missed its normal feeding day, it is likely very hungry.
Shedding is the process where your snake will shed its whole skin. A healthy and hydrated snake will shed the entire skin in one go.
Part of this process is called being “in blue”. This refers to the time when the eyes become cloudy or blue in color.
During this time, snakes can’t see well so they may be defensive and can refuse meals. Many snakes refuse to move during the blue phase.
This may be uncomfortable for them, which can explain their behavior. Some snakes will refuse meals before you even realize they’re about to shed, while others may eat even when their eyes are completely clouded over.
It all depends on the snake. Some species do seem more likely to refuse, but there is no guarantee.
Many ball pythons are picky when shedding, but others will eat both during and immediately after a shed. Since this process can take 2 weeks, your snake may miss a meal.
There is nothing wrong with offering food at the normal time, feeding during a shed doesn’t hurt the snake. If you are concerned, you can always offer a smaller meal.
Shedding is normal. Young snakes may shed every few weeks but adults can go months between sheds depending on the species.
Snakes that have been injured or suffered from external parasites may shed more frequently. This is a normal part of healing for snakes.
They may be less willing to eat if they were sick or hurt during shed. You should offer a meal a few days after a shed from an injury.
This is to help build up the snake’s strength. Snakes that are breeding will also shed. Females typically shed before ovulating and will also shed right before laying eggs or giving birth depending on the species. Snakes that are reproducing should be offered smaller and more frequent meals since this takes a lot of energy and nutrients from the female.
Learning how your own snake reacts will help guide you to when you need to feed.
If you have a species that takes a long time between feeds like an adult ball python, you may need to just stick to your normal feeding schedule.
Many adult pythons will eat every 3 weeks or so, meaning it is very possible your snake will complete a shed between meals.
If you missed a meal, you should look to see how hungry your snake is. Some snakes will be ravenous after a shed and react to smelling food far more than they usually do.
Others may be a bit hungry or may be fine waiting for their normal meal time. Learn how to tell when your pet is hungry. You may notice your snake cruising around the enclosure.
This can be hunting behavior. You may also notice your snake is taking strikes at you when it normally wouldn’t. This is more common in snakes that hunt using heat and eat mammals.
A hungry snake can mistake your fingers for a mouse and think it is food time when you are just changing out the water dish. If you notice your snake is very hungry, offer it a meal.
You can offer a meal the same day it sheds. You may need to wait if you use frozen prey since most of the fast thawing methods can cook the rodent and make it unsuitable for your snake. Snakes need whole, raw prey. Use safe thawing methods and don’t rush it. It can be stressful to see your pet hungry and upset. However, your snake will be more upset if you need to take it to the vet because its food made it sick.
If your snake isn’t interested in food after a shed, that is also fine. The length of a time a snake can fast safely varies between species.
Some can go months while others may only fast a few weeks outside of brumation. So long as your snake has a good body condition and isn’t losing a lot of weight, it will be fine.
Most species of snakes are ambush hunters, so they go long periods between meals. The only time you need to worry is if your snake was already skinny or ill before the shed.
In this case, you need to try getting your snake to eat sooner. Some may appreciate a few days to a week. If your snake is so young it eats every week, be sure to offer a meal as soon as you can.
For babies, you should offer food even if they are in blue. The only time you wouldn’t is for hatchlings or babies that are experiencing their first shed.
Many baby snakes will refuse to eat until their first shed. This is because they may still have yolk or other nutrients left over from their egg.
You can feed a snake right after a shed if it is hungry. All snakes have their own preferences on meals, so you will learn over time.
If you tend to be forgetful, keeping a notebook to track feeding can help. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.