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Captive breeding and a novel egg incubation technique of the Childrens Python (Liasis childreni)

By Brian Barnett, 16 Suspension Street, Ardeer, Victoria, 3022, Australia

(Originally Published with 4 b/w illustrations in Herpetofauna 11 (2), 28 February 1980, pp. 15-18)

My Childrens Pythons are not housed individually but kept together throughout the year in one community cage. As L. childreni have a good record of breeding under these conditions I have never worried about the separation of sexes prior to planned matings.

On the 15th June 1979 two of the pythons were observed mating. They were not disturbed and were connected for a minimum of 50 minutes. This female failed to produce eggs. No other matings were observed (the cage is equipped with hide-boxes). Regular checks were made of the females and in mid September one was found to be gravid.

On the 10th October 1979 she deposited 4 eggs. Three eggs measured 5cm x 2.2cm and the fourth 5.5cm x 2.1cm.

The four eggs were placed in a plastic container and in the incubator. Vermiculite was used as the hatching median and it covered the eggs by approx. 1cm. The vermiculite was then given a liberal spray of water. During the period of incubation, the eggs were kept between 29.5 and 32.0 degrees Celsius. The eggs were inspected each day and the vermiculite given a fine spray of water when thought necessary. In the early stages of incubation this was almost daily but became less frequent later ( the container was sealed).

I had my E.D.A. (Estimated date of arrival) worked out as the 1st December and on inspection of the eggs on the 9th November, I was surprised to see one of the eggs split open almost from end to end. This was only 31 days into incubation and just over half of the estimated time for incubation. On close inspection it was found that the egg had burst open and that the embryo was not sufficiently developed and certainly not ready to emerge. The egg had burst from excessive internal pressure due to the absorption of too much moisture . The egg was removed from the medium and given a closer inspection. Watching the 'little pink snake' laying there in his now wrecked egg made the mind search for a solution rather than throw it out and put it down to experience. The thought of a humidicrib came to my mind and anything was worth a try. The snake was still in the shell, which was wide open. If I applied the right conditions maybe it could work?

The humidicrib was set up from a clear top plastic bread container without any ventilation. 2cm of vermiculite was placed in the container and given a heavy spray of water, more than would normally be given to incubating eggs. The clear plastic top was used in order to be able to observe the egg without opening the container. Suspension of the egg was considered necessary and the next step was to cut the bottom out of a 500gm margarine container from which the egg could be suspended. Removing the bottom of the container would allow water vapour to circulate more freely and evenly once it was placed on the vermiculite. The egg was then suspended by threading cotton through the split edges in four places so as to give a large observation window. The four threads ware then stitched and tied to the top edge of the container (Fig. I). The egg was suspended so that it did not touch the vermiculite and was approximately 1 cm above it. While the egg was being stitched and tied, some of the clear albumen spilled over the side and was lost.

No extra moisture was given to the vermiculite during this humidicrib experiment and the only time that the lid of the container was removed was when photographs were being taken. Clear observations could be made at any time. To obtain a better view for both observation and photography, the embyo was probed and moved with a sterilized seeker.

Finally on the 1st December, the young male crawled over the side of his egg and came into the world several hours in front of the others in the good eggs. He came out after spending 23 days in a very open environment and was in excellent condition.

When one is a keeper, breeding is the ultimate aim, and when unforeseen situations such as this occur new add interesting challenges present themselves. It is particularly rewarding to succeed when a failure is fully expected. Two of the young were born on the 1st December and the other two on the 2nd December. (53 days and 54 days).

Specimen number:

Length (cm)

Weight (after birth/hatching)

Specimen 1


7.1 gm (humidicrib spec.)

Specimen 2


6.4 gm

Specimen 3


8.0 gm

Specimen 4


7.3 gm

All of the young shed their first skins on the 11th December, 11 and 12 days after their birth. They are feeding on small skinks, Lampropholis guichenoti.

The technique described allowed the study of the embryo’s development from about mid term to birth. I plan further experiments to determine whether development can also be observed and recorded when similar eggs are artificially split or cut at earlier stages. With the use of aseptic or sterile techniques it may be possible to observe the entire development of the embryos of other reptile species that lay parchment shelled eggs.

© Copyright Brian Barnett.

For perhaps the best ever paper written on incubating snake eggs - again by Brian Barnett - Click here.

Download the egg incubation paper as an MS Word document (better for printing) by clicking here.

Download the pdf version of the egg incubation paper as it appeared in the journal (about 1838 k) by clicking here.

Download Brian Barnett's paper on breeding Scrub Pythons by clicking here.

Download Brian Barnett's paper on Breeding Gould's Monitors by clicking here.

Download Brian Barnett's paper on breeding Coastal Taipans by clicking here.

Download the pdf version of Brian Barnett's and Graeme Gow's paper on breeding Barkly Adders as it appeared in the journal Monitor (about 1.13 mb) by clicking here.

Visit Brian Barnett's Website at:

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