Shedding is a natural process in healthy pythons.
How often ball pythons detach depends on the snake’s individual metabolism and the speed at which it is growing. Young ball pythons shed approximately every three to four weeks and adult ball pythons every four to six weeks. Sometimes other events, such as infection or trauma, can cause ball pythons to shed more often. If a snake isn’t growing or isn’t feeding well, it can shed as rarely as two to three times a year.
Shedding is a natural process in a healthy ball python. Snake skin does not grow with the body as in other animals. Instead, snakes and other reptiles go through a process called ecdysis, where the old skin is shed as the animal grows to reveal new, fresh skin underneath.
The most common reason for ball pythons to drop is in response to rapid growth. A newborn python will have its first shedding about a week after birth. As each fall lasts seven to 14 days and the snake can detach up to every three weeks, a young ball python appears to be continuously detaching. As a young python reaches adulthood, its shedding may gradually decrease. On average, an adult can still eliminate every 45 to 60 days.
Other reasons that ball pythons detach include in response to trauma, dirt conditions, or injuries. Excessive handling can cause stress and lead to more frequent spills. On the contrary, a snake that does not feed well may not let go as often as a healthier snake because it may stop growing.
The ball python snake must always shed its entire skin, starting with the head. This process can be compared to a sock slipped from the arm to the elbow and removed so that the sock is inside out once removed. The first signs of an impending downfall are cloudy blue eyes, dull skin coloration, and a pinkish tinge to the belly. In five to six days, the eyes will clear and the snake will look for a rough surface to rub itself. The entire elimination process will take about a week or two.
Spill problems can develop in response to humidity levels below 50 percent. Optimal humidity levels for the shedding period are 60 to 70 percent. The presence of mites or bacterial infection can also interfere with the elimination process. Providing a covered bowl with a lid and hole allows the snake to soak and can help speed up the elimination process.
During the fall, ball pythons can be nervous or aggressive and should be disturbed as little as possible. Ball pythons cannot see very well when the show area is falling and can feel vulnerable. They should not be fed or handled until elimination is complete.