Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

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VICtort
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Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by VICtort » March 27th, 2015, 9:59 pm

A discussion about moss as an egg laying medium is on another thread. I was curious what folks prefer for various egg laying snakes. That is for egg laying boxes, not to be confused with incubation medium, which likely varies.

For Indigos (Drymarchon couperi), I offer them a choice, but over the years, they consistently choose potting soil/sand mix. Other choices refused are coconut coire, and sphagnum moss. I mix in some vermiculite and perlite and coarse sand, perhaps 1/3 sand, with the potting soil. Take care to use potting soil without any fertilizer added if you decide to try it. I also find they choose the drier of boxes offered, just enough moisture to clump in a loosely consolidated ball, the media mix is pretty friable. I usually expose the mix to oven heat or intense sunlight or freezing before using, to kill any mites, insects, inhibit spores, etc.

What do you use successfully and why? What species? Do you give them choices?

Thanks, Vic

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by simus343 » March 27th, 2015, 10:06 pm

While I am just getting into using an actual lay-box, I find it curious that snakes prefer different substrate types for laying.

I have worked with two species (not for breeding) that have deposited eggs on far less than optimal mediums. A pine snake deposited duds (she had no male) on ground walnut and a red rat deposited 7 good eggs on aspen shavings. The red rat's eggs were found fast, and all 7 hatched.

Perhaps the reason the Indigos choose one type over the other is the consistency of the substrate? One is more/less aerated than the other(s)? Do you offer different boxes with different substrates in your breeding cages, or do you just notice differences in how quickly they pick up on the area available for them to lay eggs?

The type they have chosen could be that it more closely resembles the substrate that the species would naturally use. Indigos are more typically associated with uplands than sphagnum/peat bogs (while they may still be encountered in such areas). Also I would imagine they prefer the drier, less moist, substrate because they may instinctively realize that there is a higher risk for mold or some sort of rot to form on the eggs?

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by VICtort » March 27th, 2015, 10:39 pm

simus343 wrote:While I am just getting into using an actual lay-box, I find it curious that snakes prefer different substrate types for laying.

I have worked with two species (not for breeding) that have deposited eggs on far less than optimal mediums. A pine snake deposited duds (she had no male) on ground walnut and a red rat deposited 7 good eggs on aspen shavings. The red rat's eggs were found fast, and all 7 hatched.

Perhaps the reason the Indigos choose one type over the other is the consistency of the substrate? One is more/less aerated than the other(s)? Do you offer different boxes with different substrates in your breeding cages, or do you just notice differences in how quickly they pick up on the area available for them to lay eggs?

The type they have chosen could be that it more closely resembles the substrate that the species would naturally use. Indigos are more typically associated with uplands than sphagnum/peat bogs (while they may still be encountered in such areas). Also I would imagine they prefer the drier, less moist, substrate because they may instinctively realize that there is a higher risk for mold or some sort of rot to form on the eggs?

I offer multiple boxes with differing media/moisture levels in each. After several years, I find they consistently choose the potting soil mix, and often the drier of the two offered. I believe it is critical to make a gravid female comfortable with her choices, it may be an emergency if she does not have an appropriate place. It may lead to Veterinary emergency, such as dystocia (egg binding), wasted eggs in water bowls, etc. Eggs retained beyond maximum viability, etc. I think the sooner they lay after the "pre-egg laying" shed, the better. Failing to offer suitable egg laying sites borders on neglect, giving a suitable site prevents a lot of bad consequences with minimal effort on the keepers part, a great investment.

Consistency of substrate may be an issue in choice, but one would think coconut would be more "aerated" than mineral mix...yet they choose the mineral potting soil mix. Hard to say about a snakes choice. Back in the 70's when we collectively knew so little, I incubated indigo eggs with 100% hatch rate on sopping wet sphagnum moss. Some mold was present, but they were apparently viable, vigorous eggs. Go figure...

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 27th, 2015, 11:38 pm

Vic I feel the same about the way to treat a Lady. I also like to leave them in even in non breeding individuals, as a humidity station, nice for shedding or just to provide some respite from the uniformity of the general sub.

Vic I like ground peat, sometimes a cloud of less moist sphagnum on top as cover. In my egg boxes when I know the babies are coming, depending on taxa I put something in the egg boxes for them to hide under or purchase on. Even little pieces of torn paper bag potato chip size for geckos, or a mass of twigs or silk plants for arboreal specialists like chameleons get out of the verm. Shards of light cork for lizards.

Moss is great stuff. Its a staple and herps of all kinds seem to gravitate towards its earth familiar scent and security providing characteristics.

I call it The Environmental Valium. Lol

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 28th, 2015, 12:35 am

Vic i have never bred indigos, and probably never will have the opportunity, but I will remember the info concerning sandy soil over sphagnum; thanks Vic (:

Edited, reason : phone keyboard

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by pete » March 28th, 2015, 10:01 am

I always used sphagnum that I collected. The snakes seemed to like burrowing in the nest box. I always found the eggs under the moss or in the center. I never gave choices for a nesting site, but never had problems with egg retention. I liked sphagnum because it doesn't mold and is naturally sterile.
The only species I worked with were lampropeltis ,opheodrys and pantherophis.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by VICtort » March 28th, 2015, 6:20 pm

Kelly, Pete, others interested,

Kelly, placing something in the egg box can indeed be good idea. FR, the highly experienced and innovative breeder did some experimenting with that, and you both, separately made me think of it. He would sometimes put a pane of glass on the media of a deeply filled lay box, and he reported King snakes in particular, would burrow down, create a rounded void, lay their eggs rapidly and they could be seen coiled and seemingly content under the pane of glass. They seemed to use the glass as part of the nesting behavior, to use his terms, the glass was a "tool" for them to use. If FR should read this, please do set me straight if I misquoted or I am inaccurate. I often think of his ideas and realize I learned a lot of husbandry tricks from him.

Like many others, I have used spahgnum moss to good affect, but the indigos seemingly prefer mineral soil in my limited experience. Sphagnum moss does have some great qualities and I sometimes make a "blanket" of it over the mineral soil media, especially if I am expecting eggs and I know it may be several hours until I tend to them.

Anyone know a good source for it? I sometimes see it in specialty shops, the cost is very high. I bought some, said to be from New Zealand, and the "fronds' or green material seemed to readily fall away from the "stem". I wonder if the good old school Canadian moss is harder to find now? Kelly, when you say "ground" moss, do you refer to that stuff sold in garden supplies, is tightly compacted in plastic bags, and is brown, not green. Like gardeners use to break up clay soil and add acidity and organic matter?

Vic

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 29th, 2015, 7:48 am

Hi Vic, the pane of glass is a cool illustration of creating a window into snake behavior. That's really interesting.

The peat is Canadian Ground Peat and it comes in a bale. The green moss most often referred to as sphagnum used to come in a bale too, that was wired together and separated in nice sizable flakes, like the way hay does. I haven't been able to get that anymore. Just smaller cubes of it from various sources.

Pete made a comment about collecting his own sphagnum. I think Simus also collects a lot of his own media. They are so lucky I would love to do that. I have daydreamed of doing that.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by simus343 » March 29th, 2015, 12:38 pm

I collect my sand and soil for standard substrate. I can't collect sphagnum in Florida. According to a FWC page I read a few years ago, harvest of Sphagnum in Florida is illegal.

Not to mention, before I knew this I picked up some sphagnum growing in my backyard once, and found that many little baby amphiumas (was super cool to see) had been using it as shelter from fish and other predators. Since that experience, I have always been extremely careful about disturbing wild sphagnum, because salamanders have got to be my favorite type of amphibian, especially the aquatic species.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by pete » March 29th, 2015, 5:14 pm

I live near several defunct cranberry bogs and sphagnum grows profusely in the ditches. I'm careful not to disturb other plants.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 29th, 2015, 5:34 pm

I wish I did. I struggle with the quandary of commercially harvested media. I know it sounds crazy but I mull over media possibilities in my mind all the time. I also have experienced questions about quality control. Many floral and botanical media and IE decorative items like woods and vines are treated with resins and in the past formaldehyde to prevent infestation on the media in storage, and agricultural hazard of invasive insects. Many of these items are the same sold in the pet industry.

I search the lables for data to see if its been treated with anything other than heat and find nothing. For years I have worked with same grassroots rock and wood guys that can tell me about the media they supply's origin and handling and only a couple are still in business.

On a more pro active positive note I ponder the possibilities of what can be done with the bamboo plant.

But for some things I have yet to find a media with more lush positives than Sphagnum, and its similar mosses. I have used it in so many ways for so many reasons. It has benefits psychologically in certain applications for the fey and stressed.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by simus343 » March 29th, 2015, 6:17 pm

I know people have used bamboo for arboreal snakes, small arboreal lizards, and arboreal frogs all successfully. They have usually used younger shoots though as cross-bar limbs. For large logs, I would imagine a much larger, pricier, piece of bamboo would be needed. On the other hand, if you know anywhere that bamboo grows near you (people introduce it all over here in the Southeast US) then you might be able to harvest a piece of two from there, assuming you wouldn't get in trouble for doing so.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 29th, 2015, 6:56 pm

Hi Simus - yes I love bamboo, very great with moisture, and there was a cherry time when I had black bamboo, which I really liked using when I bred phelsuma. Peacock, golddust and klemmeri, they popped on that beautiful stuff.

But what I am thinking about are the leaves, and how they could be used whole, shredded, ground etc, for substrate media.

I haven't got the chance to try it yet but I want to.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 29th, 2015, 7:15 pm

The black bamboo is skinny and a deep dark mauve color. If anyone has any, or also if anyone has Big Diameter regular bamboo that's never been treated with anything please PM me. I trust anyone here to observe those perimeters of untreated more than I would a garden store or other commercial source nowadays.

A couple years ago I was really happy to have found some sandblasted solid vine/branches, sturdy and swirly in a garden dept. But it was treated. I could tell by tasting it. My rock guy had same ones and no bitter, slightly numbing to the taste buds flavor.

same with silk (?) plants and whatever they cheaply color coat the leaves with. If it has a taste - I don't use it.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Jimi » March 30th, 2015, 11:22 am

"Bamboo people" are as passionate, focused, and friendly as any group of biological enthusiasts I have met. When I was in Florida I did quite a bit of research (and buying, and horticulture...) for some privacy screening needs. Bamboo is awesome!

Kelly, the Bay Area has a lot of planted bamboos. And many specialty nurseries. The various climates there allow growing a huge diversity of what's commercially available.

The individual stalks are called culms. Long-lived rootstocks throw up a crop of culms every year. The culms typically only live 3-4 years. New patches of large-diameter species begin by throwing up skinny little culms, which come out of the ground as fat as they'll ever be. Every year the new culms get a little bigger, until the rootstock is big enough to throw full-size culms. A mature rootstock is a miracle of production - zillions of culms are produced every year.

Standard bamboo-patch maintenance involves cutting out the dead culms to provide room for the new ones. (You can easily spot a poorly-maintained bamboo patch by all the standing dead, straw-colored culms mixed in with live, green/purple/blue/black ones.) For the owner, it can get to be a "disposal situation", especially if you've got a stand of some tall, fat timber bamboo (e.g. Bambusa oldhamii). Point is, if you spot a patch of bamboo, or can meet a nursery owner with a patch at work or at home (many people have a collection of species and cultivars...), it would be super easy to get "a mile or two" of culms. You might need to cut your own but they'll have the saw. Just bring gloves - you can cut the crap out of your hand really easily, on split culms.

Once you recognize what bamboo looks like from the air (it is totally distinct), you could easily "shop" Google Earth for a nearby patch of big bamboo.

Finally, bamboo is really pretty healthy stuff - it's not common at all to spray the culms or leaves with anything (and what a hassle that would be!). It is a heavy feeder though, so people tend to fertilize it. But that won't affect the "woody" tissues in a way that's unhealthy to herp pets.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 30th, 2015, 1:10 pm

Woe Jimi, Thank You. For every word

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 31st, 2015, 1:12 pm

I am getting more interested the Bamboo plant, following the input you have provided. I would like to update you on what becomes of this, I really appreciate what you posted Jimi, you have helped and inspired me.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Jimi » March 31st, 2015, 2:19 pm

Cool, happy to share. Bamboo really is awesome. It's funny how much some people hate it - the temperate runners give it a bad name, they can be, err, "rowdy", especially in the upper south. Rowdy like kudzu...

On that note, a principal bamboo distinction is temperate vs tropical. Another is runner vs clumper. Once you sort that out, you're on your way to "how tall, what color, weeping or erect?"

Temperate bamboos on the whole don't do so well (and some, very poorly indeed) where they don't get a pronounced winter dormancy. In Saint Augustine, where I lived in FL, my hardy tropicals did very well but my temperates just sulked along, there were too many winter warm spells waking them up. I'm thinking the Bay Area, with quite similar winter tendencies to NE Florida, will have mostly hardy tropicals and tender temperates - stuff that can take temps down to maybe 20-25F. There are several species with 4" diameter culms that would do well there, and many that would hit 2.5", if it's culms you're after.

Any little bamboo clump (e.g., even just a single mature B. multiplex) should yield all the leaf-mulch you could want. They shed (and grow...) leaves constantly. Not sure about your application - bamboo leaf size varies quite a bit by species, some are huge, >12", others pretty tiny, <<1". The stuff is pretty rot-resistant, I could see it making a nice burrowing substrate or soil covering, kind of like shredded aspen but without getting into teeth/gums. Big skinks or anguids would love it.

This was my favorite FL vendor. Super-nice owner, a fascinating facility (bamboo palapa and furniture, free beer on tap, music...wow, nice!), with a pretty informative website too.
http://www.tropicalbamboo.com/

I know of some vendors in Sonoma and Marin (my wife's natal area; there's a great one in Sebastopol), I reckon south and east Bay also have some.

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by gbin » April 1st, 2015, 5:48 am

On the dark side of the discussion about bamboo...

Some bamboos can be terribly invasive exotics, very hard to get rid of even on a small scale (such as in one's backyard) and virtually impossible to eradicate on a larger scale. Just something to keep in mind.

Gerry

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 1st, 2015, 10:49 am

Good to know Ger, I loved the term 'Rowdy' Jimi used to describe the temperate runners.

This brings me to another potential of what would be a rather narrow and vertically developed field perhaps, but a worthwhile one and that is the exploration of using biological invasives to expand food item and media choices in herpetoculture.

I realize today that the term Herpetoculture has come to mean mostly hobby/entrepreneur propagation of popular taxa, but I think there are fascinating reefs of the actual keeping endeavor, that hold so much promise. Vic started this thread with that very spirit, one of innovation, details and comparison.

To explore these and include conscious choices in our hobby is exciting and healthy ethically, even if it doesn't make much of a dent, its a tiny genre in relative to other impacts, but its good direction to move toward

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by gbin » April 1st, 2015, 11:15 am

Kelly Mc wrote:Good to know Ger, I loved the term 'Rowdy' Jimi used to describe the temperate runners.
He did touch upon the subject in a humorous way, I agree. ;) I just wanted to be sure people understood that some bamboos can cause serious ecological disruption, too. It's not merely a matter of the neighbors getting upset about your bamboo running into their yards under the fence line.
Kelly Mc wrote:This brings me to another potential of what would be a rather narrow and vertically developed field perhaps, but a worthwhile one and that is the exploration of using biological invasives to expand food item and media choices in herpetoculture.
I think there's a lot of potential for harvesting (and hopefully thereby at least setting back) all kinds of invasive exotics for all kinds of purposes. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be nearly enough commercial interest in developing that potential. For example, I tried hard while I was living in TX to obtain for my landscaping mulch that was made from eucalyptus or melaleuca, which are serious invasive exotics in the Deep South. (They work much as does mulch made from our native cypress, and of course cypress is being overharvested in some areas for this very purpose.) But though I found a company in FL producing such mulch, they told me they didn't distribute their product as far as TX and didn't know if/when they would ever be doing so. Anyway, having gotten that gripe off my chest ;) , I'll say I'm all for such enterprises - so long as they don't make whatever invasive exotic situation worse in order to have more to harvest, that is... :?

Have anything specific in mind so far as herpetoculture goes, Kelly? I used to feed some of my scarlet kingsnakes an awful lot of exotic brown anoles when I lived in FL, and I felt good about removing the anoles from the environment there (even though I knew I wasn't making any meaningful impact on their population), but that kind of idea is awfully specific to location.

Gerry

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 1st, 2015, 1:40 pm

Well, I have thought about bullfrogs and bf tads. But part of the whole concept, which is eclectic as is, would be the management/collection, dispatch and proper storage and handling of the frogs for food, which would only be available frozen.

Part of the vision of these things always includes going hi road in method, not piles of frogs frozen alive or stored alive in variable circumstances. Not because of my own opinion but as part of a demeanor represented as a genre, in the sea of youtube/facebook exhibiting of questionable herp feeding practices.

Because of casual podium of social media today, and critical public focus, bans, etc, to cultivate the antithesis might make sense.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 1st, 2015, 1:55 pm

As far as I know Pithing a frog is broadly recognized as acceptable by the powers that be.

That's important. No kill is lovely but its within established perimeters that officially distance our practices from reproach.

But this topic was explored in another thread.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Scott Waters » April 4th, 2015, 9:48 am

I used to go with vermiculite and all of the other commonly used substrates. Then I switched, making it simple, and have had zero problems for the last 6 or 7 years. Paper towels.

Go ahead, flame me. Works magnificently for me. :)

Scott

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 4th, 2015, 12:46 pm

Are you kidding? Its not the name or canonized familiarity of a media but how it behaves and what it provides!

I had to stop using moss with my gallotia because their dashy ways insured pieces get in their dishes, and most of their food is sticky. So I put unblched coffee filters in their dens and they are using them same as leave litter. I spray them a little at shed times and to replicate dawn/nightfall moisture.

My frogs use the filters too in their log because it works cleanly and easy to take out and replace. I'm having an ant situation also and the ants find the moist warm sphagnum as attractive as the herps do.

I flick my bic to you, for the paper towel hatching media. Way more healthy sense than some other products with dubious quality control.

Edited.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by simus343 » April 4th, 2015, 8:41 pm

Scott Waters wrote:I used to go with vermiculite and all of the other commonly used substrates. Then I switched, making it simple, and have had zero problems for the last 6 or 7 years. Paper towels.

Go ahead, flame me. Works magnificently for me. :)

Scott

I'm curious what species the eggs were from and the thickness of the eggs. Did you wet the towels at first and them spray them gently every day to keep them a little damp, or did you keep them bone-dry? Currently I am working on trying to get some H. platirhinos to breed. Their eggs are extremely soft and leathery, more so than most other Colubrid snakes. As a result I would imagine that they would desiccate more easily if kept without some degree of humidity.

If paper towel can be kept at an appropriate humidity level for standard incubation, I would imagine it to be very effective and watching for mold growing on eggs. Also it would help avoid mis-identifying yolk as a ruptured belly haha. With the red rats hatched at work last summer, one had some yolk still on it covered in vermiculite, that was from the incubation tub, but we couldn't wash the vermiculite off (I don't know why to be honest) to determine that it was just yolk and not an organ hanging out as some people thought haha. A few days later it was gone and the snake had no wound though so it worked out for the optimists :thumb:! Using a cleaner medium would have saved a few days of headache there haha.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by VICtort » April 4th, 2015, 9:02 pm

Scott Waters wrote:I used to go with vermiculite and all of the other commonly used substrates. Then I switched, making it simple, and have had zero problems for the last 6 or 7 years. Paper towels.

Go ahead, flame me. Works magnificently for me. :)

Scott
Scott, I am all for it, simpler is usually better in my book. However, I like vermiculite as in addition to its proven success, it allows the eggs to "nest", and they don't roll around etc. when moved. This is a non-issue for eggs that stick together of course.

How do you use the paper towels? Are they wrinkled up, balled up, shredded? Do you change them during the incubation or do they last through the entire incubation? How do you determine adequate moisture level of the towels, towel: water ratio? A well known indigo breeder used to use cloth towels and old fashioned diapers I am told.

Media is important, but as we have discussed, not near as important as healthy, vigorous, fertile eggs which are quite resistant to our blunderings, ideas, adaptions, etc.

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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Jimi » April 6th, 2015, 8:56 am

My very first clutch of snake eggs got incubated on/in a balled-up cloth towel. Sonoran gopher, WC gravid (I didn't know it). Great success rate (something like 16 of 18?) - great eggs. I must have been about 13 years old. Very exciting, ha ha.

cheers,
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Re: Snake nest boxes, what media do you use?

Post by Scott Waters » April 6th, 2015, 1:32 pm

I put some lightly moistened (meaning misted, but not soaked) into a container. The container is holed like with a couple of 1/8 inch holes for venting. I should note that I generally use about as small a container as can be used. Not sure that matters, but worth noting. I've found that the eggs would easily maintain a nice level of humidity under these conditions. That's it. Nothing real complex. In terms of what species have I done this with......many colubrids, as well as pythons.

I've even used NO paper towels with tremendous success! This was by "accident" a handful of years ago, working with Mussurana. I had placed a clutch of eggs into a plastic container, and then into the incubator while I was cleaning up the cage with the female. I was also feeding her, etc. Well, to be honest I simply forgot that I had placed the eggs into the incubator. Yeah, I know. Lame! After a few days (I don't open incubators every day) I did my normal checking on all of the eggs. I had a few dozen clutches of various colubrids eggs cooking. Mussurana have shown me to do best when kept around 77F to 79F, like most kings and milks. Anyway, I then noticed the Mussurana eggs! Ugh! Felt quite stupid. To my surprise, thinking they would be dried out by now, I opened the container to see a really nice level of humidity and perfect looking eggs. At this point I was basically just curious if NO substrate of any kind would matter. So I rolled the dice on this clutch. I had produced hundreds of Mussurana at this point, so I felt like sacrificing this clutch (if need be) would be a worthy experiment. They hatched two months later, 100% success. No mold ever formed on or around them, and I NEVER misted. They maintained a nice level of humidity on their own. I opened the container once a week, as I do most of my eggs. Since then I have stopped using any substrate for my Mussurana.....with continued success. :)

I am all for whatever works, and make no claims to paper towels or lack thereof. Do what works for you, that's all that matters!

Peace.

Scott

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