Western hognoses care

Captive breeding Western hognose

For many reptile owners, bth hobbyist and breeders, captive breeding is a rewarding part of their snake keeping. After growing a snake from neonate to sexual maturity, successfully breeding and hatchling its offspring is a thrill to many snake keepers.

The first step in breeding any reptile is to ensure you have a sexual pair.

Sexing
Sexing adult Western hognoses snakes is not difficult as they are sexually dimorphic. That is the females are much bigger then males of the same age. Males also have longer tails tan females, as measured from the cloaca to tail tip. Still sexing neonates can sometimes be confusing and even experienced keepers do occasionally make mistakes in determinig the sex of a snake.

If in doubt there are two standard methodsof determining the sex of a snake Western hognoses. These are cloacal probing and cloacal popping. Also bear in mind, no single method and no breeder is 100% accurate all the time when sexing neonates. Mistakes can and do occur. The best advice is if you need to sex a young Western hognoses, (for example, if you are going to sell it and you need to know the sex), then do so. However, if it's not absolutely necessary, rather leave it until it has grown up a bit and then it should be more obvious.

Sexual maturity
Males can sexual maturity in a Little as 6 to 8 months and 50 plus grams of weight, although they do much better in their second year as breeders Western hognoses.

Females need to have sufficient bodyweight or they won't reproduce. They should be at least 24 months old and around 250-300 grams before breeding. Although they can be bred slightly smaller, low rates of fertility are most likely to occur. In the wild, gravid females have been found weighing between 100 and 150 grams. After laying they were in the 70 to 90 grams range. In captivity this would certainly not be recommended by any responsable breeder.

The key to breeding femalesof Western hognoses is that they need to be healthy and have sufficient body weight to take them through brreding, egg development and laying. One of the problems that can occur with underweight females is egg-binding where the female can't lay the eggs. If the eggs are not removed this condition can be fatal. Most hogs will stop feeding for two to three months during brumation, prior to breeding season, so they will lose some weight. Some maye ven stop feeding while breeding, however the majority simply carry on feeding as normal.


Mating
In the wild, Western hognoses typically breed between June to August (they can breed in the spring or autumn/fall). When females enter estrus and are receptive to mate and they give off a pheromone chemical scent. Mature males that pick up this scent will follow the trail until they locate the female and attempt to copulate with her.

In captivity, it doesn’t really matter if you introduce the male into the female’s cage or viceversa. I prefer top ut the male into the female’s cage as I always feel it is more natural. Most sexually mature hognoses, if they have been brumated, will start to court and mate when introduced to a hognose of the opposite sex.

When first introduced, one or both snakes will often start to move with jerky movements. They will follow each other around with this almost comical move, stop, move stop motion. This is normal pre-copulation behavior. Courtship involves the male flicking his tongue along the female’s body and rubbing his chin on her back. If the female is ready to breed she will often raise and wiggle her tail. The male will follow the female around the cage until she is ready to breed. Once the female responds, the male will twist his tail under the female’s tail and attempt to mate with her. Mating ca be over very quickly or can last for several hours.
When breeding hognoses, the three day rule Works well: Three days in the cage together, three days apart and repeat. When they are apart, a small meal can be offered.

Most females will eat as normal. Many times younger males will refuse to feed.
If the breeding was successful, ovulation will take place as son as 2 to 3 weeks after copulation or as long as 6 to 8 weeks. If a male is still in the cage with a female after she has ovulated, some males will continue to try and breed, although in most cases they won’t succeed and should be removed.


Egg laying & incubation
Western hognoses are oviparous. A pre-lay shed is an indicator that eggs are on the way. This normally takes place a week or two ore ven three weeks before the eggs are laid. This mostly Works out that females will lay eggs anywhere from around 40 to 60 days after breeding.


Incubation
When you observe females starting to cruise in their egg laying boxes, it's time to ensure your incubator and incubation tubs are ready. I always put incubation tubs into the incubator ahead of time to ensure they are at the correct temperatures. So when females lay their eggs, I have a pre-warmed box ready to put the eggs into. The eggs hatch in about 60-62 days.


Hatching
Western hognoses, like all other snakes, have an egg tooth which they use to cut through the soft leathery egg shell. Neonates will make several cuts before pushing their head out of the egg. They will often sit there with their heads sticking out of the egg while they absorb the last of the egg yolk. It's not necessary to help them as they will emerge from their eggs when they are ready. Once they start to hatch, all eggs should hatch within 3 to 4 days of each other. The hatching time difference is normally due to slightly higher or lower temperatures in the incubating box.

Hatchlings will shed shortly after being born. Some will shed within hours of being out of their egg and often you will find shed skin in the incubation container. Once they are out of the egg, you can move them into their own tub.

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