Before you start thinking about breeding any animal give a little thought to the future. I breed Dumeril boas because I am absolutely 100% passionate about the species as a whole, and I have a good understanding of the care needed and how to find good homes for the resulting offspring.
You will be assisting to bring new life into this world so please be responsible!
For obvious reasons, there will be a need for an adult female and male boa, and they will need to be housed in two separate enclosures. Do you have space for these?
Once the litter is born you will need to make sure the female is fed well to recover from the huge amount of energy lost producing the new litter of neonate boas.
You then will have anything from 5-15 newborn boas to care for. They will need to be housed separately. Time will need to be spent on getting them feeding properly and ready for potential new homes.
Make sure there is a plan in place before you start breeding.
The long and short of breeding
Breeding Dumeril’s boas IS NOT difficult. If the correct environment is provided, along with a little attention to detail, your Boas will do the rest for you.
There are a few key pointers to breeding Dumeril Boas including size and age of potential breeder boas, correct enclosure, temperature, light and feeding cycles.
In order for your female to gain back weight from the birth of a new litter and ensure she is healthy and in good condition I recommend breeding only once every two years.
Breeding size and age
On a regulated diet your female Dumeril boa will be ready to breed at 5 years of age with a length of over 1.5 meters (5 feet).
A male will easily breed from 3 years at around 0.9 meters (3 feet). Overweight males tend to make lazy breeders. Smaller lighter males are by far more willing to mate and much better for good breeding results.
Multiple males are not needed to successfully breed Dumeril’s boas. I have never needed to introduce more than one male and also never wish to as there is no way of being sure which animal fathered the litter.
Dumeril boas are very easy to sex. The females lack or have very small spurs with rounded tips. The males always have large easy to see spurs with a sharp pointed tip.
I have never come across an example of this not being the case.
I always probe my Dumerils to make sure, and on every occasion the spur size and shape rule has always rung true.
An adult female boa between 1.5-2 meters (5-7 feet) will need an enclosure of around (L,D,H) 1.2 x 0.6 x 0.4 meters (4 x 2 x 1.3 feet). Males do not usually grow as large as females and so can be housed in an enclosure slightly smaller. There will need to be a temperature gradient, good ventilation, substrate, hides and a large bowl of fresh water available at all times.
Throughout the ‘hot’ months of March to September I keep the boas in separate enclosures. The ambient temperatures are between 22-26 °C (72-79 °F), with a hot spot of around 28-30 °C (82-85 °F). During this time I feed my breeding females once every 10-14 days and my males once every 16 to 20 days.
As November approaches I drop the ambient temperature to 19-22 °C (66-72 °F) and the hot spot to 24-26 °C (75-79 °F). During this cooling period the night time hot spot temperature is also lowered to around 22-23 °C (72-74 °F) for 6-8 hours.
Along with the drop in temperature, the natural shortening of the days ensure a reduced light cycle for the boas. I leave artificial light off during this period and feel this helps to trigger the breeding process.
At this point with the lowered temperatures I cease to feed both female and males and do not start to feed again until February when I will increase the temperatures for the ‘hot’ months.
Introducing the male
Two weeks into November I will introduce a single male into the females enclosure. In some instances, the male will show interest right away and before the day is out mating is observed. In other instances, there is little to no interest.
Either way after two weeks I will take the male out for a few days and then reintroduce for two weeks and repeat all the way through to February.
When mating occurs, it can last for a few hours and multiple times throughout the period the snakes are together.
I find ovulation in some Dumeril boas subtle and can easily be missed. There seems to be a slight swelling observed around December to January and a slight tightening to the body. From this point it is around 8-9 months until birth.
In February, I remove the male boa and leave the female alone as much as possible. I then start to raise the temperatures gradually and will start to offer food to both the male and female boas.
Around April the female starts to show signs of being gravid with swelling in the mid to final third of the body. This has been obvious during every breeding so far. Because of this and my inexperience many years ago when I first bred Dumerils, I thought the female was going to give birth every month from April onwards. She will also appear noticeably darker during this period and will remain so until after the litter is born. The Boa will also tend to coil up towards the hot end of the enclosure and movement is not witnessed much during this period.
Adult gravid female. Note the tight coils and huge midsection to the body.
This swelling continues to grow and towards July starts to be more pronounced over the final third of the snake’s body. This is a sure sign she is preparing to give birth. During the final few weeks leading to birth, I reduce the size of prey to around the thickness of the boas neck section just behind the head. The shed cycle in female Dumerils is quite sporadic throughout different breedings and also different females. What I have noted more often than not is the female usually sheds from 7 to 15 days prior to giving birth.
My female boas will give birth between late August to early November. In the final 10 days leading up to birth the female becomes extremely restless. She will coast around the enclosure and will start to lay and rest in a noticeably different way to the previous months. Birthing almost always occurs during the hours of darkness. From the births I have witnessed so far it seems to start off slowly and once 1-2 neonates are born the process speeds up lasting anywhere from 30 mins to an hour in total.
New born Dumeril boas are born at between 50 and 100 grams in weight, and a length of between 0.2-0.3 meters (0.65-1 feet). The amount of baby boas born varies greatly depending on female size and age. I have had litter sizes from 5 to 15 and heard of other litters being as large as 20. In General the older and larger the female the larger the litter size.
I set up each boa into separate drawer systems around (L,D,H) 0.3 x 0.15 x 0.1 meters (1 x 0.5 x 0.3 feet). A deep layer of substrate is provided and a large water bowl down the cool end of the drawer. Ambient temperature is set 22-26 °C (72-79 °F), with a hot spot of around 28-30 °C (82-85 °F).
I have found at temperatures higher than this the boas become very aggressive. They are more likely to strike in a defensive way and less likely to settle into a feeding pattern.
I offer the newborn boas food at around 7-10 days from birth. The first prey item I offer is a live pinkie rat. The majority will take these first time. I then offer defrosted pinkie rat pups 7-10 days after this and if they take will only offer defrost rats going forward. If not I will revert back to live and repeat the process.
Some do not feed and take a little longer to get going. My advice on this is just to be patient. I have had boas go up to 3 months without feeding and then suddenly start and from then on feed fine.
Other options are to offer quail chicks which seem also to be a great starter to get the boas feeding.
Force feeding should 100% be a last resort. This has the potential to damage your boas.
Take notes on feeding and once around six defrost feeds are taken with ease, your new Boas will be ready to go to new homes, or as happens more often than not become your ‘holdbacks’ for future breedings.
Be careful – once you start breeding you may end up with a collection by far bigger than you ever imagined. Dumeril boas are highly addictive!
There has never been huge popularity for these boas as much as with some other snakes. We are now starting to see a few breeders concentrating on specific lines of Dumeril Boas as well as proven Genetic traits. I hope with this focus there will be new keepers and breeders concentrating on this stunning and fantastic species of snake and increasing the popularity for generations to come.