Rehousing the Bandits

The cost of adopting two snakes.

Clyde (left) and Bonnie (right), exploring during their vet visit. © Ian Llywelyn Brown

My boyfriend and I did something impulsive last night. Upon walking into the local Petco to get my bearded dragon some supplemental worms to eat, we saw that two ball pythons that had been on aggressive sale for a while were now up for adoption. Now, Petco is not great at keeping their animals in the best conditions. These two snakes were crammed together in a tiny enclosure, shoving into each other to both try to hide under the same tiny half-log and competing for heat.

My boyfriend is very passionate about snakes, and how they should be kept happy and healthy. This was not a happy and healthy pair of snakes.

The next thing I know, he’s talking to an employee about how adoption works, and we’re going to be adding two new snakes to our household, fostering them until we can make sure they’re healthy and adopt them out. We have experience with snakes due to my boyfriend’s first snake, a sweet ball python named Rigatoni. We know what to do.

Minor problem: we had no enclosures ready to put them in.

Enclosures aren’t necessarily expensive propositions, at least for the structure itself. My boyfriend already had a pair of large plastic tubs, which are great enclosures for shy, hide-happy ball pythons, and serve as decent insulation to boot. But we suddenly needed new temperature-maintaining gear. And hides. And substrate. And so on.

Here’s what we ended up spending over the course of eight hours to get Bonnie and Clyde’s new homes ready while they waited patiently in their take-home boxes. Generally speaking, we needed two of everything.

Sterilite 106 quart tubs: free

To enclose a snake, you need an enclosure! The boyfriend already had these on hand, and wants you all to know he wouldn’t have gone forward with the adoption without them. You can go bigger, but this size will keep most smaller snakes like ball pythons happy.

Ceramic heat emitters: $69.98

To keep the snakes warm; probably the most important purchase to make.

Bulb hoods: $31.98

To mount the CHEs in, direct their heat, and keep them protected and on the enclosure.

Metal mesh and heat-resistant foil tape: free

We had leftovers from building Rigatoni’s enclosure. Needed so the ceramic heat emitters have something to rest on.

Hides: two free, ~$4 for a pack of paper bowls, $20 for a second pair of hides

Ball pythons like to hide when they can, and providing them with a place to do so on both the hot and cool sides of their enclosures is important so they can thermoregulate. We had a spare pair of medium hides that are too big for our current snake. (Rigatoni just ignores them and crams himself into a mini hide, or hangs out on top of a wall in his enclosure.) Unfortunately, that still left us two short. So we bought some paper bowls to act as temporary hides for the second snake, and ordered proper, permanent hides on Amazon.

Luggage straps: $8.99

If a snake wants to escape, just the clips on a lid won’t keep them enclosed. They can actually puff themselves up and act like little hydraulic jacks, bending back the plastic of the lid so they can squirm through. These luggage straps act as reinforcement so they don’t have enough leverage to do that. We’re using belts and backpacking straps right now, while we wait for proper luggage straps to arrive in the mail.

Fake plants: $39.98

For more concealment, and the simulation of a more natural, enriching environment.

Climbing sticks: free

Ball pythons, especially the males, like to climb due to their natural hunting patterns. We had a couple spares that Rigatoni wasn’t currently using, so in they went.

Water bowls: $7.98

Pretty self-explanatory.

Paper towels: two rolls for ~$3

Used as a starter substrate while we check the new snakes for mites, a sadly common infestation. Also helpful for easy cleanup when one of them poops or knocks over his water dish twice in one night, Clyde.

Thermometers: $26.78

A good basic thermometer with two probe points that lets us make sure Bonnie and Clyde are getting the right temperature differential between both sides of their cage, and manage their humidity.

Thermostats: $59.98

So we don’t have the manage the power going to the heaters through dimmer switches and check the temperature by hand every couple of hours.

Total: $272.67, for an average of $136.34 per snake

We haven’t even bought food for them yet, because we need to learn when they ate last and what they’ve been eating so we can be sure they’ll take what we offer. Luckily for us, ball pythons eat at most once a week, so we have a little time. There will also be vet visits in the future, so we can be sure they have a clean bill of health before we (hopefully) adopt them out to another home.

In the end, this cost quite a bit. It would have been significantly cheaper (think half price) to get Bonnie and Clyde set up if we’d had time to order things online. In the end it’s worth it, though. We got them out of a bad situation as fast as possible. Now, instead of fighting each other for space, these two snakes get to live healthier, happier lives. Clyde’s already managed to lose some of his stuck shed, and Bonnie’s been happily curled up in a hide since she arrived home. It’s looking good for these two, and while it might have cost a pretty penny, we’re happy to help.

P.S. Seriously, though, does anyone in the Seattle area want a snake?

Ian Llywelyn Brown lives in Seattle, where he enjoys the trees, rain, and the 6.89 seconds of sunshine the city gets every year. When not helping rehome reptiles he writes science fiction, fantasy, and blog posts which can be seen on

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