Rosy Boas Care
The rosy boa is known as the gentle gem of North America and for good reason. This snake is hardy, docile and attractive making it a great pet snake for beginners. The rosy boa is native to the Southwestern United States, Baja California and Sonora in Mexico.
Alongside the rubber boa, the rosy boa is the only other boa native to the United States. At the present time, the rosy boa isn’t threatened in the wild. These snakes prefer arid regions and desert landscapes.
Are rosy boas a good beginner snake?
Yes, the rosy boa makes a great pet for beginners and advanced hobbyists alike. Rosy boas are easy to breed and adults grow to a manageable size. They’re kept in smaller enclosures compared to other boas.
This snake rarely surpasses three feet in length. Extremely docile, the rosy boas even temperament makes it a perfect starter snake for newbies.
They’re extremely attractive and known for their three horizontal stripes down the body. Color and stripes vary according to the locality. The rosy boa is mainly nocturnal in the wild, but this behavior often dissipates among captive-bred specimens.
Rosy Boa Facts
In the wild, the rosy boa feeds on rodents, birds, and lizards. In captivity, offer mice or small rats as their staple diet. The rosy boa readily carrion feeds. During the first month of acquisition, the rosy boa is shy. This passes after an average of thirty days. Don’t handle excessively during the time of acclimation.
Also, always avoid overfeeding. While their metabolism is moderate compared to other boas, feed this snake an appropriately sized meal every seven to ten days. Overfeeding, or power feeding results in obesity shortening the snake’s life.
While some keepers feed adults every three weeks, I feed my adults every ten days. If obesity occurs, cut back on feeding frequency, or offer smaller prey items.
Rosy Boa in this video
When acquiring a new or baby rosy boa, give it a month to acclimate before excessive handling. Make sure the snake is feeding. While these boas are shy at first, they adjust well to their new home and eagerly feed once settled in.
Keep individual specimens housed separately except when breeding. The rosy boa rarely bites and I have yet to be bitten.
Nevertheless, handle it gently and with respect as you would any snake. Remember, a snake bites for one of two reasons. Either it’s stressed, or striking out in a food response. Get to know your snake and have an understanding of its language and behavior. This comes with time and experience.
Besides being extremely docile and friendly, the rosy boa makes a good display animal as well. Their setup could be as simple as a tub with paper towel bedding and a water bowl to a fully decorated glass enclosure. Just make sure it has a hide box to escape when stressed or after eating a meal. Another point to keep in mind with fancily decorated display enclosures is that they’re more work to clean and keep up.
What the snake prefers between these two choices
You’ll be surprised. While you might think a rosy boa is happier with rocks, a few limbs, and plants, in actuality, they’re just as happy in a plastic tube with paper towels and a bowl of water. As long as they feel secure, they’re happy.
Snakes don’t care for aesthetics. One must think as a snake thinks. On the other hand, as a display enclosure, such ornaments and decorations make for a wonderful and enjoyable view most people appreciate.
While babies roughly up to a year are kept in various smaller enclosures, keep adults in enclosures at about 2.5‘L x 18″W in size.
Heating and humidity
Keep the ambient temperature at about 80°F and with a warm spot to aid digestion. Nighttime temperatures can drop up to ten degrees. Keep humidity levels under 50%.
Cleaning snake enclosures
Keep your snake’s enclosure clean for both its health and to prevent unpleasant odors from forming. Snakes have no hair, therefore, produce no dander. If a snake enclosure smells, it’s due to bacteria buildup and needs proper cleaning.
The way and frequency of cleaning depend on the enclosure, the snake, the substrate, and most obviously, the smell. Spot cleaning is okay as long as all the bacteria is scrapped up in the process. If you still smell an odor, you didn’t get it all. While spot cleaning works in some situations, clean the entire enclosure when necessary.
A more thorough cleaning is required when unfortunate events such as regurgitation occur. Simply scrub down hard on soiled areas and decide by your own sense of smell if you eliminated all odor-causing bacteria. It’s not hard to keep a snake enclosure from smelling but you have to stay on top of it. I highly recommend getting a quality air purifier for a snake’s room.
Availability and popularity
Rosy boas are growing in both popularity and availability. They’re still not quite as popular or as readily available as the sand boa though. That’s probably because sand boas breed easier. The rosy boa requires more of a temperature drop while sand boas breed with little to no drop in temperature.
Starting a rosy boa breeding project is a good investment because they’re selling. Still, they’re not as common as sand boas at reptile conventions yet. From a business standpoint, I would choose to breed rosy boas over sand boas since the market is now oversaturated with sand boas. Sand boas have yet to come down in price despite their increasing numbers meaning there’s still a healthy call for them. I would imagine it tightening up at some point but I’ve seen no indication of this during the past few years.
Pricing on these snakes is usually reasonable. On average, a rosy boa costs around $150 while morphs and certain localities boost prices due to their coloring and rarity.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘rare’, but less common than the rosy boa pictured in this article. It seems other localities are becoming more readily available with each passing day.
Adult rosy boas average out to about three feet, staying rather small their entire lives. Especially considering they’re part of the boa family. They never will require much room and you don’t have to worry about buying a huge enclosure somewhere down the line. You could keep an entire colony in a medium-sized five to ten stackable rack system. Now there’s an idea.
Handling a rosy boa is as simple as holding any snake gets. They don’t squirm around much and are completely reluctant to bite. They seem content holding onto your hand and fingers making themselves comfortable and secure. They’re considered a fairly intelligent and receptive snake often recognizing their keeper.
I’m not so sure that these snakes dislike handling. They seem to actually enjoy being out of their enclosure for a while. They’re an extremely gentle snake so be gentle with them.
It seems these snakes shed perfectly at rather low humidity levels. I’ve yet to have a single retained shed with one of these snakes. The skin always comes off in one perfect piece. Just be certain to always keep a bowl of clean water in the enclosure. They seem to stay well hydrated. Use a heavy water bowl if your boa manages to tip it over on occasion.
Sexing rosy boas
For adults, the easiest way to sex a boa is by eye. Females generally get larger and heavier than males. Males are noticeably leaner, especially in the area around the tail. While both genders exhibit spurs near their vent, males have larger spurs than females.
For younger boas, chose from one of three methods which include popping, probing, or feeling for ‘speed bumps‘. All these methods take some experience. Popping and feeling the bumps are the two most popular means of sexing young boas. Probing is technically the most accurate, but can also injure the snake if done incorrectly.
Probing (be very gentle)
Lube an appropriately sized sexing probe, then gently stick the probe into one side of the vent towards the tail. Contrary to what you’d expect, the probe goes deeper in the case of a male. This is due to the inverted hemipenes which the male has two of, on each side of the vent.
When probing is complete, gently pull the probe back out of the snake. You can buy a probe set online, or at snake shows. Remember to use some lube and be extremely careful. It’s best for someone to show you how to do this in person for the first time.
Feeling for the ‘speed bump’ and popping
While applying light pressure, slide your fingertip from the vent towards the tip of the tail. With a male, you’ll feel two small bumps which are absent in the female. This is the safest way to sex a boa besides relying on sexual dimorphism.
With the popping method, always take proper care to prevent injury. Once you get the hang of it, popping is safe and easy. Because of possible injury to the snake, find someone experienced to show you how to do this in person.
Rosy boa breeding
The rosy boa is easy to breed in captivity. They give birth to live young which makes production even easier. These snakes need a brief cooling period to stimulate breeding.
Wait until the female is at least three to four years old before breeding. Males at two years of age are ready to breed. Make sure any snake put through brumation is in good health and has a good body weight. If not, wait until next year.
Stop feeding snakes two weeks before they go down for hibernation. Allow them to pass all food completely from their system. Then, over a period of two weeks, gradually lower the temperatures to a low of 50 to 55°F.
Wine coolers or refrigerators are often used for cooling. Set and confirm the temperature with a thermometer placed in the hibernaculum. Make sure the snake has water during brumation and open the door of the cooler for air exchange once a day.
Once brumation is complete, slowly raise the temperature to normal over a two-week period. Start to feed your snakes once they’ve completely warmed up. After both snakes have fed and a few more weeks have passed, introduce the female to the enclosure of the male. Allow breeding to occur. Keep them together at twelve-hour intervals a day.
Repeat this for the next few months to ensure breeding is successful. A gravid female noticeably increases in size. Don’t disturb her during this time and make sure she has a warm spot. Expect anywhere from two to eight live young because, as mentioned earlier, they don’t lay eggs. Wait until the babies completely absorb their yolk sac before feeding.
Sand boas as pets (the only Old World boa covered in this article)
The sand boa has increased in popularity and bred in captivity extensively. They originate from Africa, Asia and even parts of Europe. Since 15 subspecies of sand boa exist, their colors and patterns vary greatly. Morphs are also readily available but fetch higher prices.
The sand boa breeds readily in captivity and gives birth to live young. They’re easily sexed by the size of the female who is larger than the male. While their numbers continue to increase in the pet trade, their price is still a little high. Especially when it comes to morphs and specimens displaying rare patterns. These snakes need to burrow so use a quality substrate for them to easily hide under. Without the ability to burrow, they might stress and stop feeding.
Rubber boas as pets
The rubber boa is the only other boa species found naturally in the United States. While these snakes are sometimes available for sale, they’re not nearly as common as the rosy, or sand boa. This particular boa is found in the western United States and as far north as British Columbia, Canada. While somewhat shy, these snakes are full of both grace and charm.
There are only two subspecies of rubber boa. These include the southern and northern rubber boa. The northern rubber boa is sometimes called the coastal rubber boa. These snakes stay fairly small averaging out to 2 1/2 feet in length as adults. The rubber boa gets its common name from their skin which often appears loose, wrinkled and consisting of small, smooth scales.
Rosy boa or…
Time for a little fun. Here are my personal choices between keeping these three snake species as pets.
- Rosy boa or sand boa: Rosy boa
- Rosy boa or ball python: Rosy boa
- Rosy boa or hognose: Tie
The rosy boa makes a great pet snake for those new to the hobby. They’re extremely docile, handle easily, and stay small compared to other boa species. After they become comfortable with their new surroundings, they’ll feed eagerly. Sometimes, a little too eagerly so watch for obesity with your rosy boa.
Handle this snake gently. While I wouldn’t go as far as calling them delicate, their skin texture is very soft and they have a very small head compared to the girth of their body. Give them their space for the first month after adding a new rosy boa to your collection. The priority, as with all snakes kept as pets, is to get them comfortable and feeding. Once they’re feeding regularly and have acclimated to their new surroundings, gentle handling is highly recommended.
Have experience with the rosy boa not covered in this article? We’d love to hear from you! Please add your comments in the section below and tell us what you know.