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Force-feeding / assist-feeding

The following pictures are made by Martin Habecker and illustrate the process of assist-feeding of a juvenile Psammophis mossambicus. They were published first in the Faceboook group Rear Fanged and "Oddball" Colubrids on April 13, 2015.

Psammophis mossambicus hatchling in all its tiny glory
 

 

Tools from a basic dissection kit ($8)
 

 


Brown Anole tail, more or less all together. A mouse-tail could also be used.
 

 


Loosely restrain the little fella with three fingers
 

 

Starting from the front of the mouth at a 45 degree angle, lightly peel down lower jaw until they open their mouths on their own. This may take a few attempts. Next move the tool to the rear of the jaw so that the front is still slightly open.
 

 

Insert tail pieces into the front of the mouth and slowly remove the tool out of the side of the mouth. Be careful with rear-fanged species like this guy, try not to scrape the tool on the rear teeth. This may cause them to gape again and you will have to start the whole process over.
 

 

Loosen restraining hold completely and try to remain as still as possible. They can opt to gape the mouth open and drop the food item at which point start at the beginning and try again.
 

 

And down it goes...
 

 

Almost there... So usually I try this method after scenting and tease feeding has failed and I only try it 3-4 times in a single day to keep the stress level down. If unsuccessful try again every two days.
 

 

Comments

Myke Clarkson
Martin. The three I held back are all taking small anoles no assist needed. Might try that.

Myke Clarkson
I'd caution on substrate though. They have a tendency to get it in their mouths at this small size and as much as I hate paper towel this is one hatchling I tend to keep on paper towel until they are past the dirt can kill them stage.

Martin Habecker
Unfortunately I do not have access to small anoles, only adults. They have eaten twice since you sent them and aren't too keen on pinky parts either. It is not a big deal though until they get a little bigger. The one in the pic just shed and is doing pretty well.

Myke Clarkson
They can also take mouse tails, just coat them in egg white so they go down easier. I was feeding them twice a week... because they tend to digest rapidly at this little size.

Martin Habecker
Will give it a shot with the egg white. Tried various pinky sections including tail and they were having no part of it.

Myke Clarkson
Tails are easy because they are cylinder shaped and don't break apart. Also, Let me link you to the forceps I prefer for force feeding. One try and you'll see why.

Myke Clarkson
Anti-static Curved Tip Tweezers Forceps Pliers Repair Hand Tool Set

http://www.amazon.com/Anti.../dp/B00CQI59TQ/ref=sr_1_2...
These are so much easier to maneuver feed into a snakes mouth than traditional straight tweezers.

Martin Habecker
Sounds excellent, thanks Myke. You could link it here and give a brief description for those interested in feeding methods.

Myke Clarkson
I should take some pics next time. I have been force feeding hatchlings of a lot of species for 10+ years... a lot of these little colubrids don't have readily available food for the first 3-6 months. My Boiga ceylonensis are still on FF. The bent tip was a game changer for me, can now complete a FF in half the time. Just be careful as many are sharp tipped (easily filed down if need be). Much smaller surface area at the tip making them easier to work with on little snakes.

Ton Steehouder
I prefer straight tweezers when some are reluctant to swallow the tails by themselves.

Martin Habecker
Yep, I have had to do it for many years as well, even with many NA colubrids. When I was breeding cornsnakes 10+yrs ago I had to initially assist feed many hatchling corns until they got the hang of it on their own. When I kept venomous about 15yrs ago I had to force feed some medium sized (3ft)Crotalids which were uncooperative and was a completely different experience and one I am glad I no longer have to do.

Evan Morris
I have only assist/force fed with rodents but I found it far easier to do it all by hand, using the prey itself to work open the jaws, rather than use any tools. Is there some reason you guys are opposed to that?

Martin Habecker
I have never had any issues with straight tweezers, but have also never tried any others. I will get some and see how it goes. Honestly sometimes it is easier to use fingers with tail bits as they are fairly stiff anyway, but pinky parts can be tricky sometimes.

Evan Morris
Ah, maybe it's a size issue, I haven't done many super tiny meals.

Myke Clarkson
Ton Steehouder I should post a pic of how I use mine. I use the bent ones to push the tail in, sort of inching and pausing. Then one it's swallowed if they seem like they are going to want to vommit I massage it down.

Martin Habecker
Some snakes are more difficult than others, what you are talking about is more or less what I consider tease feeding. Tease feeding is great if they will cooperate and open up, but some guys will simply choose to keep their mouth quite snuggly shut. At this point forcing the mouth open is the only option other than usuing a pinky pump, which I have fortunately never had to do and am not very fond of personally.

Myke Clarkson
Egg white cup in upper right. I first show the snake the food item, and see if applying gentle pressure if it will open it's mouth voluntarily, Usually they do.

Egg white cup in upper right. I first show the snake the food item, and see if applying gentle pressure if it will open it's mouth voluntarily, Usually they do.
 

 

I then use the precision angle forceps to inch the tail in.
Handy for bigger herps!

Myke Clarkson
Handy for bigger herps! (see picture above)

Martin Habecker
I have a very similar set, and yes if dealing with larger herps who can be difficult feeders having a set of speculum around is worth its weight in gold!

Nikkole Kimmel
I have one yearling corn that will only eat by himself if you remove his water for 3 days prior to feeding wet pinkies. ??? At least he eats on his own now.

Ton Steehouder
I recognize a lot, reading this. I use fingers alone, fingers with tweezers, all tricks you use too. Biggest problem with small buggers is the initial opening of the mouth. Some refuse to cooperate. A long nail ('guitar player nail') comes in handy. Point is, we get used to our methods and fingers and their restrictions and possibilities. Personally, I think feeding young Psammophis is a lot easier than for instance Psammophylax or some Malpolon.

Myke Clarkson
I am missing half of one thumb-- so I suppose most my methods revolve around doing it mostly with one hand.