handling-ball-python (1)

Ball Python Handling 101 – How To Pick Up & Hold Ball Pythons

Every ball python owner needs to understand proper handling techniques to ensure the safety and comfort of both you and your slithery companion.

I remember the first time I held my ball python, Slinky. I was both excited and nervous, unsure of how he would react to my touch. With time, patience, and the right guidance, I learned how to confidently interact with Slinky, creating a strong bond between us.

My goal is to share my knowledge and passion for ball python care, helping you develop a similar connection with your pet. By following the guidelines and advice presented in this article, you’ll be well on your way to confidently handling your ball python and fostering a lasting, trusting relationship.

Understanding Ball Python Behavior

Before we dive into the intricacies of handling your ball python, it’s essential to understand their behavior to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your slithery friend.

Ball Python Temperament

1: Typically calm and docile: Ball pythons are generally gentle creatures that are less likely to become aggressive compared to other snake species.

2: Individual personalities: While they’re usually easy-going, keep in mind that each snake has its own personality, and some may be more nervous or defensive than others.

3: Building trust: Regular, gentle handling can help build trust between you and your ball python, leading to a stronger bond and more enjoyable interactions.

Ball Python Body Language

1: Curled up: When a ball python feels threatened, it may curl into a tight ball with its head hidden, hence the name “ball python.”

2: Hissing and striking: If your snake hisses or strikes, it may be feeling scared or defensive. Give it some space and try handling it again later.

3: Relaxed and curious: A calm and comfortable ball python will explore its surroundings, flick its tongue to smell the air, and move smoothly.

Benefits of Regular Handling

1: Taming: Handling your ball python regularly helps them become more accustomed to human interaction, reducing stress and nervousness.

2: Health checks: Regular handling allows you to monitor your snake’s health more closely, identifying any potential issues early on.

3: Bonding: Building trust through handling strengthens the bond between you and your pet, leading to a more fulfilling experience for both parties.

When to Avoid Handling

1: Post-feeding: Give your ball python at least 48 hours after feeding before handling to avoid causing regurgitation or stress.

2: Shedding: When your snake is preparing to shed, its skin may become dull, and its eyes may turn blueish. It’s best to avoid handling during this time as they may feel vulnerable and irritable.

3: Signs of stress: If your ball python exhibits signs of stress, such as excessive hissing, striking, or hiding its head, give it some space and try again later.

Preparing to Handle Your Ball Python

Before you even think about picking up your scaly friend, it’s important to be well-prepared. Proper preparation will not only ensure your ball python’s safety and comfort but also make the handling experience more enjoyable for both you and your snake.

1. Wash Your Hands

As a fellow ball python enthusiast, I can’t stress enough the importance of washing your hands before and after handling your snake. Not only does it help protect your reptile from harmful bacteria or contaminants, but it also safeguards you from any potential germs your snake may carry.

I always use a gentle, fragrance-free soap to avoid introducing any strong scents that may stress my snake.

Ball pythons use heat sensing and smell to locate prey. Your pet may mistake your (warm) hands for food if they smell like rats, animals, or anything remotely appetizing.

Even if you are bitten, it is not a major issue. Ball python bites cause very little harm and appear much worse than they are.

2. Create a Calm Environment

Ball pythons are sensitive to their surroundings, and a calm and quiet environment is essential for a positive handling experience. Make sure to minimize loud noises and sudden movements, as these can startle your snake and make them more defensive.

In my personal reptile room, I like to keep the lighting dim and limit unnecessary foot traffic to keep my ball pythons as stress-free as possible.

3. Avoid Handling During Shedding or After Feeding

Timing is everything when it comes to handling your ball python. It’s important to avoid handling them during shedding or immediately after feeding.

I’ve found that my ball pythons are more irritable and prone to stress when they’re in shed, which can lead to a less enjoyable handling experience for both of us.

Similarly, handling your snake soon after a meal can cause regurgitation or other digestive issues, which are not only uncomfortable for your snake but also messy for you.

Step-by-Step Guide to Picking Up a Ball Python


1. Approach the Ball Python Calmly and Confidently

When handling a ball python, make sure to approach it with a calm and confident demeanor. In my experience, snakes are sensitive to our emotions, and they can sense if you’re nervous.

I’ve found that remaining relaxed and composed helps put the ball python at ease, creating a more positive interaction.

2. Proper Technique for Scooping Up the Snake

When picking up your ball python, gently slide one hand under the middle of its body while supporting its weight. I’ve discovered that this technique minimizes stress on the snake and ensures that it feels secure.

In my experience, this method has consistently been effective in safely lifting my ball python without causing any discomfort.

3. Avoid Sudden Movements and Excessive Squeezing

It’s essential to avoid making any sudden movements or squeezing your ball python too tightly when handling it. I’ve learned that snakes can become startled and defensive if they feel threatened, which could lead to unwanted bites.

I once accidentally startled my ball python by moving too quickly, and it taught me to be more aware of my movements to ensure my snake feels comfortable and secure.

4. Hold the Snake Loosely While Allowing it to Explore

When holding your ball python, keep your grip loose enough to let it explore and move freely within your hands. This approach has helped me build trust with my snake and maintain a healthy relationship.

By allowing your ball python to roam, you’re creating an environment where it feels safe and comfortable, which is vital for a positive handling experience.

Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Handling Sessions


1. Keeping Handling Sessions Short And Stress-Free

As a ball python keeper, I’ve found that it’s best to keep handling sessions short and sweet, usually lasting around 10 to 15 minutes. This is enough time for you and your snake to bond and interact without causing unnecessary stress to your pet.

Remember, ball pythons are sensitive creatures, and overwhelming them with long handling sessions can lead to stress and defensive behavior. Always pay close attention to your snake’s body language and end the session if they show signs of discomfort or agitation.

2. Encouraging Natural Exploration And Movement

To encourage your ball python’s natural curiosity, allow them to explore your hands and arms at their own pace. Gently support their body without restricting their movement, and let them glide through your fingers and climb over your hands.

It’s essential to let your ball python move at their own pace to ensure they feel safe and comfortable during handling. Forcing them to move faster or in a direction they don’t want to go can cause stress and lead to defensive behavior.

3. Monitoring The Snake’s Body Language And Behavior

Pay close attention to your ball python’s body language to gauge their comfort level during handling. Signs of a relaxed snake include gentle, smooth movements and a loosely coiled body. On the other hand, a tightly coiled body, rapid breathing, or hissing may indicate stress or discomfort.

If your ball python shows signs of stress or agitation during handling, it’s best to calmly and gently place them back into their enclosure and give them some space. It’s crucial to respect their boundaries and give them time to acclimate to handling.

4. Practicing Patience And Understanding

Building trust with your ball python takes time and patience. Gradually increase the frequency and duration of handling sessions as your snake becomes more comfortable with you. Always handle them with care, and soon enough, you’ll have a strong bond with your scaly friend.

When I first started handling my ball python, I learned that patience is key. Over time, as I handled them gently and consistently, they became more trusting and comfortable in my hands.

It’s a rewarding experience to watch your ball python grow more confident and curious during handling sessions, knowing that your patience and understanding have played a significant role in their progress.

Common Handling Mistakes to Avoid


Unfortunately, there are some common mistakes that many new owners make when handling their ball pythons. In this section, I’ll share my insights on these common mistakes, the potential consequences, and provide guidance on how to avoid them for a safe and positive handling experience.

1. Picking Up Your Ball Python Improperly

One of the most common mistakes is not supporting your ball python’s body fully when picking them up. This can cause your snake to feel insecure, which can lead to stress or even defensive behavior. To avoid this, always ensure that you are supporting their body with both hands, gently lifting them up from the middle and the tail.

2. Handling Your Snake During Shedding

Ball pythons can become more sensitive and irritable during the shedding process. To minimize stress, it’s best to avoid handling your snake while they’re in the shedding stage. Wait until they have completely shed their skin before resuming regular handling sessions.

3. Overhandling

While it’s essential to handle your ball python regularly to build trust, excessive handling can cause stress and may even lead to health issues. As a general rule, limit handling sessions to no more than 15-20 minutes per day, allowing your snake ample time to rest and acclimate to its environment.

4. Ignoring Your Snake’s Body Language

Pay attention to your ball python’s body language during handling sessions. If they start to tense up, hiss, or display other signs of discomfort or agitation, it may be best to give them some space and try again later.

5. Handling Your Snake After Feeding

Ball pythons need time to digest their meals, so it’s crucial not to handle them for at least 48 hours after feeding. Handling your snake too soon after a meal can cause regurgitation, which can lead to health issues and unnecessary stress.

6. Not Washing Your Hands

It’s essential to wash your hands both before and after handling your ball python. This will help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, ensuring both you and your snake stay healthy.

7. Startling Your Snake

Ball pythons can be easily startled, so always approach your snake from the side and avoid making sudden movements or loud noises during handling sessions. This will help keep your snake calm and relaxed, making for a more enjoyable experience for both of you.

By being aware of these common handling mistakes and taking steps to avoid them, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong bond with your ball python while ensuring their health and wellbeing.

How Often Should I Handle My Ball Python?


When it comes to handling your ball python it’s important to strike the right balance between socializing and ensuring they don’t become stressed from too much interaction.

Handling New Ball Pythons

When you bring a new ball python home, make sure to give them time to settle into their new environment. I recommend waiting at least one week before attempting to handle your snake. During this time, limit your interactions to essential tasks like feeding and cleaning.

Once your ball python has had a chance to acclimate, you can gradually begin handling them.

Handling Established Ball Pythons

For established ball pythons, a general guideline is to handle them once or twice a week for 10-15 minutes per session. This frequency allows your snake to become familiar with your presence while minimizing stress.

However, keep in mind that you must wait at least 48-72 hours after it has eaten to allow for proper digestion and to reduce the risk of regurgitation. So, in simple terms, the number of times you can safely handle it each week is determined by how many times you feed it.

Remember that each snake is unique, and some may tolerate more handling than others. Pay close attention to your ball python’s body language and adjust your handling routine accordingly.

How Often Should You Handle Young Ball Pythons

If you have a hatchling or juvenile ball python, you should probably limit handling sessions to once a week.

Keep in mind that they are very defensive at this age, so you must be persistent, patient, and gentle when holding them, but never overhandle them.

Factors Affecting Handling Frequency

  1. Younger snakes may be more skittish and require a more gradual approach to handling. As your ball python matures, they may become more comfortable with regular interaction.
  2. If your ball python is showing signs of illness or stress, it’s essential to limit handling until they have fully recovered. Consult with a reptile veterinarian for guidance in these situations.
  3. Just like people, ball pythons have unique personalities. Some may enjoy handling more than others. Respect your snake’s preferences and adjust your handling frequency to suit their comfort level.

What to Do if a Ball Python Bites You During Handling?

Ball pythons are unlikely to bite humans, but it is likely that they will attempt or even succeed in biting you at some point. Bites usually occur for one of two reasons: 1) the snake mistook you for food, or 2) the snake perceived you as a threat.

Because ball pythons are not particularly intelligent, expect to be bitten at some point and don’t be alarmed if you are.

Don’t yank the snake off of you; doing so risks ripping out its teeth, which can cause a nasty infection in your pet. Because the teeth of a ball python are facing backward, pulling the snake toward you (rather than away, as your instincts will tell you) should dislodge it. If that doesn’t work, try sprinkling cold water or Listerine on the python’s face.

Do Ball Pythons Like to Be Handled

While ball pythons are not typically emotional or “cuddly” creatures (they will never come running toward you to be picked up), they do tolerate handling quite well. Some may even enjoy getting out of their tank and getting some exercise while they handle them.

Just remember to be on the lookout for signs of ball python stress. If your ball python becomes stressed when you handle them, it could be because you handle it too frequently or at inconvenient times.

Handling ball pythons too much can cause them to bite you. Therefore, it’s important to know when to hold and when to leave them alone.

Can I Get Salmonella from Handling a Ball Python?

Salmonella infection from reptiles, contrary to popular belief, is extremely rare if proper hygiene and husbandry protocols are followed. If you keep your snake’s terrarium clean and thoroughly wash your hands after each handling session, you should never have a problem.


Building trust with your ball python is the key to successful handling. By using proper handling techniques and being attentive to your snake’s needs and signals, you can ensure the well-being of your ball python and foster a strong bond between you and your pet.

As you embark on your ball python handling journey, we encourage you to engage with our community by sharing your own experiences and asking any questions you may have in the comments section below. Together, we can learn from each other and continue to grow as responsible and caring ball python enthusiasts.

Filled under: Snakes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *