This is probably the most common question I get asked by both newbies and experienced keepers. My reply is the three things you need to get right are temperature, temperature and temperature! Get this right and 99% of the time there will be no problem – with health, with feeding, with anything.
Make sure you are taking the temperature of the snake. Often keepers have the temperature probe located incorrectly so say 50mm above the snake is the right temp but the actual snake is too cold. If you watch your snake it will indicate if all is well. If it is always chasing the heat your cage is too cold! If its always at the cold end your cage is too hot. When checking temperatures do it at the coldest and hottest time in the day, normally before sunrise and about midday. If the temperature is wrong, you don’t want your snake to eat, because if it’s too cold it won’t digest the food properly and it can just rot in the snakes’ gut. Check out my other articles for more info on snake temperature gradient.
Apart from the temperature of the snake, the other important aspect is the temperature of the food item being offered. Most snakes will feed better if the food is warm- about 35°C. I thaw my feed in hot tap water straight from the tap which should be about 50°C. If the water is too hot the food item guts are likely to expload. Once the thawed food is soft it can be offerred to the snake, a bit of extra water is no problem and makes it easier to swallow particularly if the fur is long like on frozen rabbits.
Sometimes the failure to feed can be caused by just general stress. With a new snake it has come from a different location. Our snakes live in dedicated snake rooms with other snakes and are visited maybe an hour a day. When you take your new snake to the average home, it has new noises, smells, and disturbances to get used to. The main one from newbies is too much handling, so give your new snake time to settle in. Limit handling to say 5 minutes in the hour.
If you have a difficult feeder, feed variety can get them going. In the wild, most snakes eat other reptiles or birds, so scenting a rodent with lizard scent or bird scent can turn the snake on. This is done by putting a rodent in the same container as a lizard or by putting the snake in the old lizard container without the lizard and the scent may trigger hunting mode. To scent with bird, the easiest is to pluck a few feathers and stick them on the wet rodent.Rodent Farm has reliable supplies of frozen chickens and frozen quail so you can chose to just feed birds if that is what your snake prefers. I have found frozen pinkie rabbitsparticularly useful in encouraging stubborn Carpets to feed.
Finally, don’t worry if you snake doesn’t feed often. In the wild they are oportunistic feeders and so its feast or famine. Ten feeds a year will probably keep a snake going although growth is directly related to feed consumption and temperature, so to maximise growth, weekly feeding and access to optimum temperatures is required.