Husbandry And Propagation

Today, many different types of enclosures are used to maintain captive Cal King’s. To maintain humidity and a good thermo gradient, plastic containers are recommended. Unlike Rosy Boas, Cal Kings need humidity for good health. Plastic containers allow the keeper to maintain a desired humidity rate as they are able to create the amount of ventilation via drilling holes in the container. Coastal localities should maintain a higher humidity level than desert localities. To create a thermo gradient, I suggest Flexwatt heat tape under the back 1/3 of the enclosures. This is then thermostatically controlled. The cooler end of the enclosure contains the water bowl and is at ambient room temperature. The following temperatures should provide sufficient thermal gradient: (cool side 70o-80oF, warm side 90oF). Sub-terrain heating sources such as heating pads work great too. NEVER use heat rocks. I have seen animals with severe burns and even fatalities from heat rocks. Enclosure substrate is a matter of personal preference. I recommend aspen bedding, pine shavings, and Carefresh. All of these substrates are highly absorbent.  NEVER use cedar shavings. I use pine shavings, because it’s economical and easy for the Cal King’s to burrow in if they desire. I suggest a depth of two inches. Provide a hide box or use a substrate which permits burrowing. I suggest keeping a sturdy water bowl of fresh water in the enclosure at all times. As captives, Ca Kings almost exclusively feed on rodents. Frequency and size of their food is critical to their well being. I recommend using the following as a basic “rule of thumb”. Small food items fed more frequent are the best practice.

Neonates - 1 pinkie mouse or small fuzzy mouse every 3-4 days. Juvenile - (1 yr) 2 fuzzy mice or pinkie rats every 4-5 days Sub adult - (2-3 yrs) 2  large fuzzy mice, small hopper mice, or pinkie rats every 4-5 days. Adult - (3-6 yrs) 2 adult mice, or fuzzy rats once a week. Large Adult - (6-10 yrs) 3 large adult mice, or 2 pup rats once a week.

In my opinion, the most important attributes to successful captive breeding is only using animals 3 + years of age, with adequate weight, and observing a winter cooling period (i.e. hibernation). Animals not meeting these basic criteria should not be used as it may potentially manipulate the number of ova, and sperm produced. Preparing for hibernation is simple. Animals should discontinue feeding for 2 weeks prior to cooling, giving them enough time to defecate all fecal matter, as it will poison them from the inside out at low temperatures. Slowly cool them to a temperature of 50o-55o for 12 weeks. Hibernation is usually best initiated the first of November, ending the first of February. During hibernation, water should be present. After hibernation slowly return the animals to an ambient room temperature of 70o and slowly increase the temperature of your heat source to 90o over the course of a week. Begin feeding 3-5 days after completing the re-heating process, using a small size mouse, increasing the size and quantity over the next 2-3 weeks.

Breeding generally occurs 1-3 months after hibernation. Introduce the male to the female’s enclosure beginning in April. It is recommended that Kingsnakes not be left overnight or unattended for long periods of time during this process. Remove the male once copulation has taken place. The female will lay her eggs 30-50 days later (use a laying box for her to deposit them). She will be exhausted and after a day or 2 will need to be fed meals of smaller prey items on a more frequent basis to put weight back on her. The eggs can be incubated in most any sealed container provided that fresh air is allowed in regularly and frequently (3-5 days.) The most commonly used incubation medium is vermiculite that has been moistened so that if you squeeze it tightly between your fingers a drop of water is produced. At an incubation temp of 81to 85 degrees, the eggs will hatch in approximately 55 to 80 days. After hatching, the babies will feed off of the egg nutrients in their stomach and shed once before they are ready for their first meal.

Clutch of Fresno County eggs hatching (note the stripped aberrant animal mixed in)