Ball or royal pythons (Python regius) are very popular pet snakes. The common name ball python comes from a distinctive defensive behavior of the species.
A ball python that feels it is in danger will ball up and hide its vulnerable head under the coils of its body. If your snake frequently balls up, you may be wondering why it is curled up. We will go over a few common reasons.
A ball python is curled-up because it is stressed or afraid. Ball pythons will hide if they feel like they are in danger from predators. Predators can be other pets in your home like dogs or even you.
Everything you need to know about caring for Ball Pythons in captivity:
Read our Ball Python Care Sheet (Complete Setup & Guide)
1. Your Ball Python is New
If you have recently brought your snake home, it will be more defensive. Since it isn’t sure it is safe yet, it will ball up more frequently.
New smells like other animals and the humans in the home may stress it out. Snakes have a very good sense of smell, so they can tell things are different even if they can’t see much.
Your snake should calm down over time. Leave it only and try not to watch it too often. Your snake will notice you observing it and feel threatened.
2. Your Snake is Young
Young ball pythons are much more defensive than adults. A young snake is vulnerable to predators. They will typically be more willing to strike to drive you off or ball up if they feel they can’t escape.
Your snake should calm down as it ages.
Keep handling sessions gentle, positive, and short to allow your snake to learn it will be safe. It may take a year or more since the shift to a more curious personality comes with age.
3. Not Enough Hides
Ball pythons like to feel secure during the day when they sleep. If there aren’t enough hides or if they are the wrong size, your snake will feel exposed and may ball up.
Add more hides and make sure they can fit the whole snake inside. You should also make sure that the snake doesn’t have so much space in the hide that they feel exposed.
You can add cover like greenery to the enclosure to help your snake feel more secure. Try adding bonus hides like cardboard tubes to the enclosure as well.
Just make sure it is at least 1.5 times the width of your snake or it may get stuck. Using cardboard helps make sure you can free your snake if it gets stuck.
4. Enclosure is Too Small
Your snake may be balled up because it doesn’t have enough room to stretch out. Ball pythons are much more active than you would think during the evening hours.
They love to explore and will check out every inch of the enclosure. If it is too small, your snake will ball up and stay still. The most you may see is attempts to escape. This involves the snake trying to force open the cage.
If this is all you see your snake doing, you need to consider a larger enclosure. If you worry about your snake feeling too exposed, just remember to add hides and cover.
5. Other Enclosure Issues
If you have a glass enclosure, make sure all but one side is covered up. This helps a stressed snake feel secure. Make sure the enclosure can’t be accessed by predators.
This includes other pets like dogs or cats and any other people in the house. If someone keeps bothering the snake, it will stay afraid. Make sure the snake has proper temperature and humidity as well.
Make sure any lights are on for no more than 12 hours at a time. Ball pythons are active at night, so they won’t feel safe if there is too much light.
You will also want to try to avoid making sudden movements around the enclosure. If your snake sees quick or jerky movements, it may assume it is about to be attacked.
Handling can be stressful for snakes if you aren’t careful. With a new snake, you should avoid handling it until it is eating properly.
When you do handle your snake, move slowly and make sure your snake can see you coming. Pick it up from underneath and don’t try to restrain your snake.
If your ball python feels restrained, it will assume a predator has it. Keep your hands flat and gently redirect your snake if it is moving in a bad direction.
Try to keep any handling sessions short. Your snake may get stressed if it is out for too long. Make sure you and your snake are the only things in the room.
Other people or pets can stress out the snake since it will feel like it needs to watch everything. Don’t handle too frequently. Your snake will stress out if it is constantly being bothered. You should also never handle a snake in shed or that has eaten in the past few days.
Ball pythons will curl up if they feel threatened.
If you see your snake hiding its head under its body, you need to take steps to reduce stress for your pet. Too much stress can harm your snake in the long run.
If you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave them below. If you have tips to help reduce stress in snakes, be sure to leave a comment.