Feeding Your Snake Frozen Mice and Rats
Why Your Snake Deserves F/T rodents
There's usually a big debate over frozen or live rodents. Personally, I prefer frozen, but I have a picky snake, which I'll explain later. First off, snakes aren't the only reptile who will munch on a mouse every now and then. Monitors, tegus, bearded dragons, and even gecko species will eat various sizes and ages of mice and rats. Except for the thrill of watching your reptile hunt, kill, and eat a live rodent, in general, frozen's better for your pet...
Reason number one: Rodents bite... If your snake does not initially grab the rodent in the right spot, it can turn around and latch on, while it's being suffocated by the snake. And, once your snake has fully killed the rodent, and begins to find the head for proper swallowing, the bite is usually noticeable. The bigger the snake, the bigger the rodent, and the bigger the bite.
One of my friend's boyfriend had a Burmese python. He feed it live jumbo rats. And one day, Natas was bitten by a jumbo rat, who broke a few of her ribs. My friend's boyfriend was rather perturbed thinking his baby was hurt, and immediately, acting on instinct, killed the rat.
Reason number two: Frozen rodents can be kept in the freezer, versus having to buy live rodents every week or two. It is more convenient to feed F/T rodents because you can purchase more at a time, and not have to worry about having to take care of them. But, you never want to keep large numbers of frozen feeders in your freezer if you only need a few because the longer they're frozen, the less nutritional value they have for you reptile.
Many petstores carry packs of three frozen pinkies, fuzzies, mice, etc., which can be the ideal situation for someone with one baby kingsnake, or one juvenile monitor. A person with several snakes would use the entire package if not more at one feeding time, which is why there are several online stores for people who can purchase 50 or more frozen feeders.
Reason number three: Many people believe that by freezing the rodents, the parasites are killed. Now, some parasites will die from freezing them, but on the other hand, some parasite eggs will continue to survive. The best way to avoid feeding your reptile a parasitic rodent, is to make sure you're getting your F/T's from a clean environment, with disease-free animals.
If you are able to purchase a few females and one male, you could breed you own feeders, and find humane ways to kill the feeders before throwing them in the freezer yourself. This would ensure that what you're feeding your reptile(s) is (1) disease free and (2) healthy prior to freezing.
Thawing F/T Rodents
When feeding frozen rodents, fully thaw them out, but do NOT microwave them as it will just blow it up, which I've done. I have placed a pinkie mouse in a small cup of water in the microwave and the guts popped out a tiny hole, but luckily the hole was clogged by the end of the 10 seconds, so it was still usable. To thaw out a frozen feeder, place it in hot water until it's fully thawed.
If your reptile will not eat the F/T rodent, try placing it in his hide, so that he feels more secure when eating it. You can put towels around the tank, again making him feel secure enough to eat the frozen. If all else fails, try dipping it in tuna juice and drying it; this way it has an extra odor, and by drying it with a hair drier, the rodent will be extra heated for the reptile.
If you're adamant about your reptile eating frozen, then you can force feed him for a while to get him used to it, and eventually he will do it on his own. Before you try force feeding, though, I would let him go without food and the option to have food for at least a week or two, before trying again. When you do try to give him a thawed rodent, give him the chance to take it on his own before trying to force feed.
An alternative to feeding F/T mice and rats, is to feed freshly killed rodents. You can purchase the live feeder and flick it at the base of the head or by holding the base of the tail (so the skin doesn't come off), thump the rodent on a hard surface to kill it. By feeding a freshly killed rodent, it will still be twitching, and warm versus a still, thawed rodent. The twitching movement of the rodent will further attract the snake to it. Also, because it's freshly killed it cannot harm your reptile in anyway. Many people, myself included, cannot do this.
If you're a lucky person who is able to get your reptile to eat a frozen rodent, more power to you! When it comes to my bearded dragon's received a snack, I guess I can be considered one of those people, but when it comes to my ball python... Forget it...
For the first two weeks that I had my ball python, he went without food, as he refused to eat the pinkie mice I had bought him. We tried everything except putting him and the thawed pinkie in a pillowcase (which is another technique to getting a snake to eat F/T). The tuna juice wouldn't work, the hide, or towels. After two weeks, I became worried that my small 12" snake would starve. I bought the smallest live mouse at the petstore, and after an hour, he snatched it. From then on it was live all the way. He has boycotted rats before, and I had to degrade him to mice, but he's back on rats. I'm so worried he'll be bitten again (the first pic is him after being bitten), but worse. I sit and watch him until he fully kills and begins eating the rodent (rat or mice).
If I could, I would definitely switch to frozen feeders, but I've tried since those first two weeks, and he refuses to take any of it.
I would like to add that since this article was written, my ball python has started taking thawed frozen feeder rats. This pleases me greatly, as it is much cheaper than buying live rats every week. Also, I no longer have to watch him kill the live ones. As rats are one of my favorite animals and pets.