Question: I want to breed my Rosy Boas in about a year’s time when they will be big enough. I have heard that you breed them the same way as you would a Milk Snake. I am a bit concerned as my other Boas do not breed that way. Please advise – John Vermulin
Answer: Hi John. I understand your concern, and the first time it came for me to cycle my Rosy Boas I also was a bit confused as to what to do, as seems almost wrong brumating Boas! Let’s take a look at breeding these North American Boas and the cycling process, which needs to take place in order to successfully breed them.
Fortunately, Rosy Boas are easy to breed; a few reptile keepers say they are one of the easiest snakes to breed largely due to the fact that you don’t have to incubate any eggs since Boas are ovoviviparous, meaning that they bear live young. Although they still hatch from an egg, the eggs are retained inside the mother’s body as a membrane instead of a shell, until the young snakes are ready to emerge! First off, you will need to make sure that your Rosy Boas are old enough which is around two years for females and one year for males.
As you mentioned, someone suggested to you that you breed them the same way you would your Milk Snakes and that is true. Their cycling is done the same way we would our Corn Snakes, Milk Snakes and King Snakes as Rosy Boas also come from North America. They are, in fact, one of only two species of Boa that lives in North America, the other species being the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) and that is why they are so different from other Boa species originating from warmer climates like South America, Africa and India.
To start things off your Rosy Boas have to be cooled. On the first of June we turn off heating and reduce lighting. We maintain these conditions for two months, with temperatures being maintained at around 10 – 13°C for the whole of June and July. During this time no food is offered, they are just provided with clean drinking water. Remember that egg follicles are developing and spermatogenesis is occurring in the males as well. It’s important to maintain good hygienic conditions during this time so that all goes smoothly or infertile eggs will surely be the result.
After this two-month brumation period the heat is turned back on and heating and lighting in the room is returned to normal. It used to be thought that the heat had to gradually be brought back to normal temperatures but now it has been seen that it is as simple as turning it back on. Make sure your warm spot is round 29°C -31°C. After about a week you can feed your snakes and then after that your feeding routine can be returned to normal. We find it best to feed small meals at first, gradually increasing to full-sized meals by the end of August. After about a month they will then shed, which is during September. Normally males shed first and around a month later the female will shed. After this shed females can be introduced to the males and mating will begin! Leave the female in with the male for a day or two then you can take her out. After about a week you can introduce the female again. You may repeat this process for a few months.
A few months after first mating your female will begin to look fat and heavy. This heavy body weight makes motion difficult for them, and disturbances should be held to a minimum. Once we see the snake is obviously gravid, we cease introducing the male to her. A second (or sometimes it’s the third) shed of the year can be an indicator that the female is near to giving birth. Often, she will become restless, as if searching for a place to have her babies. This is usually around January, February or March.
Baby Rosies are born inside a thin membranous sack, and strong healthy babies will have no trouble piercing and escaping from the sack. In fact, most of the babies you will find will have already done so and quickly hidden underneath decorations or cage bedding. Babies which fail to emerge are usually premature, deformed or very weak. While it can pay to mess with these specimens to see if they’ll get going, we usually just euthanize them to keep our lines strong and free of potential defects.
Usually the female will shed again within a week or two of giving birth and this is the real beginning of what I call ‘the fattening’. Following this shed, until ready to enter brumation, female Rosy Boas will consume an astonishing amount of food.
I hope this answer gives you a basic idea of the cycling and breeding of the beautiful Rosy Boas. I hope to see many more of these babies around at reptile shows and pet shops in the future! Good luck!
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