How to Breed Rats for Snake Food

By Louise Lawson

Snakes have made the transition from pest to popular pet in recent years. A large variety of species can be successfully kept as pets and are often purchased as a first pet due to their relatively docile nature and ease of care. Most wild snakes eat small animals such as mice and snakes and replicating a natural diet is important for optimal health. Breeding rats for snake food is a simple and cost effective means of keeping your snake full and healthy.

Set up your rat housing. Large storage tubs work very well for breeding rats, as they are large enough to house both adults and young rats without overcrowding. You need one tub to house females, one tub to house your males and another tub for each pregnant female to raise her litter in.

Line the bottom of each tub with an inch of clean bedding. Commercially available rodent bedding is a good choice, although you can use shredded newspaper you already have on hand and use that as a low-cost alternative. Place one water bottle and food bowl in each tub, refilling with fresh food and water daily.

Place your male and female together in your breeding tub and allow them to mate before moving the male back to his own tub. The male will approach the female and if she is receptive, she will turn her rear end towards the male and allow him to mount her. Your rats will mate repeatedly in a short time, so leave them together for at least 24 hours to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Watch your female closely for signs of pregnancy. Gestation in rats lasts for 21 to 28 days and your female can give birth to as many as 20 babies. She will begin to build a nest as labor approaches, and babies will be born in rapid succession. Observe the mother and babies quietly without disturbing them to avoid upsetting the female.

Remove the babies from the female when they are the right size to feed your snake. Small snakes such as corn snakes will eat babies that are a day or two old while larger snakes such as boas can eat fully mature rats.

Separate your rats by gender when they reach four weeks of age if your snakes are big enough to eat adult rats. Pick up a rat and look at the base of the tail to determine gender. Most males at this age will have noticeable testicles while females will have two rows of nipples along the underside of the belly.