Feeding

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What do Dumeril’s boas eat?

Dumeril’s boas can be fed the following prey items:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Chicks
  • Quail
  • Guinea pigs
  • Young rabbits

Just like other animals, snakes thrive when they get to eat a variety of different things. This delivers a wide range of nutrition and helps guard against conditions like vitamin deficiency and obesity.

How much should you feed your Dumeril’s boa?

As for what size of prey/how much food your Dumeril’s boa needs, this should be based on the snake’s size. Prey that is too small will leave them hungry, but prey that is too large can be refused, regurgitated (vomited), or simply make him/her very uncomfortable. When in doubt, do not offer prey items that are larger than the widest part of your boa’s body. Here’s a general guideline for prey weight based on the boa’s size, but keep in mind that there may be exceptions:

  • Babies (less than 22″ long): 20-30g
  • Juveniles (2-3′ long): 30-40g
  • Juveniles (3-4′ long): 40-70g
  • Subadults and small adults (4-6′ long): 70-130g
  • Large adults (7’+ long): 130-250g

How often should you feed your Dumeril’s boa?

  • Hatchlings and juveniles (no longer than 3′): Every 7-10 days
  • Subadults (longer than 3′): Every 14-20 days
  • Adults (no longer growing): Every 21-28 days

Dumeril’s boas are known for having particularly slow metabolisms, so although feeding every 4 weeks may seem cruel, it works perfectly for Dumeril’s. In fact, boas become obese very easily. If you notice that your snake seems to be getting fat on this system, try offering smaller prey or feeding less often.

Beware of obesity! Obesity is an alarmingly common problem among pet snakes, and the reptile community is just barely becoming aware of it. As with most pets, this happens unintentionally, often being mistaken for healthy growth and/or weight gain. A chunky appearance is sometimes praised by those who think that it makes the snake look “cuter.” Obesity in snakes — or any animal, for that matter — is not cute; it is a form of cruel neglect that robs the animal of health, mobility, and shortens its lifespan. For symptoms and treatment suggestions, visit this page.

Avoid handling your snake for 48 hours after feeding in order to prevent regurgitation (vomiting).

  • PRO TIP: Buy frozen prey in bulk to get the best deals on shipping. Layne Laboratories offers fresh, humanely-killed, and well-fed prey for a good price. Reptile expos are also a good place to buy frozen prey for extra low prices.

Do Dumeril’s boas need vitamin supplements?

Although as obligate carnivores Dumeril’s boas *should* get all of the nutrition they need from the animals they eat, the nutrition provided by feeder rodents is often inferior to the nutrition provided by the prey that they would consume in the wild. Some studies suggest that commercially-bred feeder rodents are deficient in crucial nutrients like vitamin D, which in turn negatively affects the health of the snakes that eat them.

There is a certain risk of developing nutrient deficiency over time even when you buy your prey items from the best breeders. So it helps to lightly dust prey items occasionally with calcium or vitamin supplement to help fill in the gaps in your boa’s diet:

  • If you use UVB — calcium without D3 at every feeding
  • If you don’t use UVB — calcium with D3 at every feeding
  • Juvenile (still growing) Dumeril’s boas should get multivitamin mixed 50/50 with calcium powder every other feeding.
  • Adult Dumeril’s boas should get multivitamin mixed 50/50 with calcium powder every 4th feeding.

Here are the best supplements we’ve found that you can use for your boa:

How do you feed a Dumeril’s boa?

If you are using frozen-thawed prey, thaw it out in the fridge the night before feeding day. This allows it to thaw slowly in a cold environment, which discourages bacterial growth, same as how you’re supposed to thaw frozen meat. Then about 15-30 minutes before feeding, stick the prey in a BPA-free plastic bag like a Ziploc and submerge in warm, almost hot, water. The body temperature of a mouse is similar to a human’s, so you’ll want the prey to be about 98-100°F before offering it to your snake. You can check the temperature with your temp gun.

Always offer the prey item to your snake with a good set of tongs—long and grippy. In my experience, Dumeril’s boas are enthusiastic feeders. They also have good aim, but don’t give your snake the option of accidentally tagging you instead. It’s like biting into a fake apple at a stranger’s house: both parties end up irritated.

Outside of my experience, some Dumeril’s have been known to be shy feeders. If this is the case, you may need to leave the room before your snake feels comfortable eating (this is good practice with snakes in general, in my opinion). But if your snake doesn’t eat for some reason, you can leave a frozen/thawed rodent in the snake’s enclosure overnight. If s/he is hungry, s/he will get to it. If not, dispose of the rodent first thing in the morning and try again next week.

Do not offer live prey. A live rodent’s teeth and claws can seriously harm your snake. If you leave the rodent unsupervised with an uninterested snake, the rodent may actually chew on and/or kill it. If live is the only way your snake will eat, only offer the prey when you can stick around to keep an eye on things. Meanwhile, try converting him/her to frozen thawed.

How to switch your snake from live to frozen:

(Credit to Pet-Snakes.com for the information)

    1. Skip a feeding to make sure your snake is hungry. (Don’t handle him/her in the meanwhile, as they’ll probably be cranky).
    2. Thaw the rodent by putting in a closed, BPA-free plastic bag and letting it warm up in a container full of hot water. Don’t microwave the rodent—it gets cooked and makes your kitchen smell terrible.
    3. Drain the water and remove the rodent from the bag. Place the container with the prey inside the room where the snake lives for 30-45 minutes. This makes the room smell like rodent, which gets the snake in the mood for food.
    4. Warm up the rodent again. You can do this with either a heat lamp (10-15 seconds), hair dryer, or a quick dunk in hot water. Dumeril’s boas hunt by smell, but this can help trick your snake into thinking the rodent is alive.
    5. Pick up the rodent with feeding tongs and dangle it in the snake’s enclosure. By this point your snake should come around to check things out, but it can take a few minutes for the snake to decide to eat. Stay patient and don’t let go.
    6. Once the snake approaches, give the rodent a little wiggle. This helps it seem more “alive.”
    7. Be patient. Give your snake time to think and decide the rodent is food.
    8. If the snake still won’t eat, dispose of the rodent and try again next week. Never re-freeze your snake’s food!

Should you feed your snake in its enclosure?

There’s a common misconception among snake owners that feeding a snake inside its home enclosure will make it “cage aggressive.” Modern understanding of snake psychology argues that our perception of “aggression” is incorrect; snakes that have learned to associate the opening of the enclosure with food (due to infrequent handling) will lunge for the first object they see, assuming that it is food — no harm toward the keeper’s hand intended.

So instead of being moved to feed, your Dumeril’s boa should be trained to tell the difference between feeding time and handling time. The most reliable method of so doing is to tap the snake gently with a paper towel roll or to stroke its body with a snake hook before handling. If the snake strikes, no harm done. If it doesn’t, it knows not to expect food. Scenting your hands with hand sanitizer can also help prevent confusion during handling time.

In conclusion, feed your snake inside its home. Unlike humans, snakes don’t particularly like “eating out.”

Can Dumeril’s boas eat raw chicken, steak, etc.?

No—unless you plan on feeding it the whole chicken, bones, tendons, organs, and all. Since snakes are obligate carnivores, they require whole prey in order to get the nutrition they need. A chicken breast or other cut of meat is just muscle tissue, and severely lacking in that abovementioned nutrition.

Can you train your snake to be vegetarian or vegan?

NO! As stated above, snakes are obligate carnivores. While tofu might be a tolerable meat substitute for humans, tofu and vegetables simply can not provide the nutrition a snake needs to live. If you want to have an “ethical” snake by forcing it to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, you are actually committing animal abuse via inflicting a slow, painful death, and should not own a snake.

Of course, if the idea of feeding things that still resemble animals to your snake makes you squirm, there are plenty of good snake keepers who feel similarly. Reptilinks is a company that sells high-quality “sausages” made of ground-up whole prey items, fortified to make them more nutritionally complete than prey by itself. They’re also packaged in a 100% digestible collagen membrane, so you don’t have to worry there. Even if feeding whole animals to your snake doesn’t bother you, keeping a few links in your freezer is a great way to add extra variety to your pet’s diet. Follow this link to see their huge selection of products.

Please Don’t Post Feeding Videos to Social Media

Do not post Dumeril’s boa feeding pictures or videos to the Internet — and don’t even share them with friends if they are not snake people. The reptile community has gotten into a bad habit of tolerating and even praising this media, which fuels the widespread fear of snakes and harms USARK’s fight to keep pet snakes legal. (read more about their campaign here). Be a responsible, mature snake owner: Don’t post feeding videos!

And don’t forget to like their social media pages and donate to the cause. 🙂

New England Reptile (an amazing reptile breeder with the best socialized, cutest water monitor babies you’ve ever seen) wrote an incredible Facebook post on the damage snake feeding videos can do. There’s some strong language, and it’s a little long, but every bit worth the read. I reposted it to ReptiFiles here.

A Quick Note About Water

Keep a large, heavy bowl of water in the enclosure at all times (large enough for the entire snake to soak in, if possible). Keep the water fresh and clean by changing it out daily. If it gets soiled before then, scrub with an animal-safe disinfectant like F10 or chlorhexidine before replacing.

Note: There is a common belief that distilled or even softened water is better for reptiles than tap water. This is false. While it is better to use these for misting because they don’t leave mineral residue, the lack of minerals creates osmotic imbalance within the snakes body after ingestion. As a result, the body has to give away its own minerals and electrolytes to restore balance. Over time, this can actually lead to dehydration, even when the snake is drinking regularly. Filtered and spring water are safe.

For more information, read Water Treatment Precautions: Hard vs Soft (Filtered) Water.


Keep reading:

  1. Introduction to Dumeril’s Boas
  2. The Dumeril’s Boa Shopping List
  3. Terrarium Size Guidelines
  4. Light, Heat & Humidity Requirements
  5. Substrate Options
  6. Decorating Your Snake’s Terrarium
  7. How to Feed Your Dumeril’s Boa (YOU ARE HERE)
  8. Handling Tips
  9. Common Diseases & Other Health Info
  10. Additional Resources