If you’ve ever come across a clutch of snake eggs, you may have wondered – when do snake eggs hatch? The incubation time for snake eggs can vary greatly depending on the species. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore all the factors that impact snake egg development and give you insight into what to expect.

If you’re short on time, here’s the key takeaway: most snake eggs hatch after anywhere from 30-90 days, but incubation periods range from 28 days for small pythons up to over 8 months for certain rat snakes.

Egg hatching time depends on the climate, egg size, and biology of each individual snake species.

Snake Egg Basics: Morphology and Nesting

Egg Appearance and Structures

Snake eggs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors depending on the species. The eggs have a leathery, flexible shell that allows gas exchange but protects the developing embryo. Under the shell, there are membranes that hold albumen (egg white) which provides hydration, and a yolk sac that nourishes the growing baby snake.

Some key structures of snake eggs include:

  • Shell – Made of leather-like materials interwoven with fibers. Allows for gas exchange.
  • Outer membrane – Lies just under the shell and surrounds the egg contents.
  • Inner membrane – Surrounds the yolk and embryo.
  • Albumen – The egg white that provides hydration.
  • Yolk – Main source of nutrients for the embryo.
  • Embryo – Immature snake that will continue developing and growing.

The eggs of different snake species can vary greatly in size based on the size of the adults. For example, the eggs of a large Burmese python may be up to 5 inches long while the tiny eggs of a ringneck snake may be only an inch.

The texture and flexibility of the shell can also differ between species.

Where Do Snakes Lay Their Eggs?

Snakes do not build complex nests for their eggs like birds do. However, they do select nesting sites that protect the eggs and allow proper incubation:

  • Burrows – Some snakes lay eggs in underground burrows and tunnels. Garter snakes are a great example.
  • Rotting logs – The damp, warm environment within rotting logs is ideal for some species like rat snakes.
  • Leaf litter – Leaf litter provides insulation while allowing gas exchange for species like king snakes and pine snakes.
  • Compost piles – The heat generated by decomposition makes compost heaps an attractive nesting spot for certain snakes.
  • Termite mounds – The warmth and humidity within termite mounds can perfectly incubate snake eggs.

Aquatic snakes like cottonmouths and water snakes stick to wetland areas and lay their eggs near water or vegetation above the waterline. Arboreal species may nest in tree hollows or hanging vegetation.

Sometimes, a nesting site may be communal with multiple female snakes laying eggs together! The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is known to nest communally in gopher tortoise burrows in Florida.

What Influences Snake Egg Incubation Length?

Snake Species and Biology

The length of time it takes for snake eggs to hatch can vary dramatically depending on the species. Pythons and boas, for example, may incubate their eggs for anywhere from 60-120 days. Smaller snake species like gartersnakes and wormsnakes may only need 30-60 days.

There are even some tropical species that hatch their eggs in as little as 30-45 days!

A snake’s biology plays a key role as well. Larger snake species with higher energy requirements tend to have longer incubation periods. The nutrients in the yolk need to sustain growth and development for longer. Smaller species can hatch more quickly since less growth is required.

Egg Size

Larger snake eggs require more time to incubate than smaller eggs from the same species. The increased yolk supplies more nutrients but takes longer for the embryo to absorb and fully develop. Smaller eggs from large females or stunted eggs may hatch more quickly.

Incubation Temperature

Temperature is one of the most important factors influencing incubation length. Warmer temperatures accelerate embryonic development, allowing the eggs to hatch faster. Colder temperatures slow development down and extend the incubation period.

The ideal incubation temperature can decrease hatch times by weeks or even months compared to suboptimal temperatures!

For example, corn snake eggs may hatch in 55 days at 82°F but take 85 days at 75°F. Proper temperatures are vital for normal, healthy development.


While temperature has the greatest effect, humidity also impacts how quickly snake eggs will hatch. Maintaining a humidity level between 50-60% is ideal for most species. Low humidity can delay hatching and potentially desiccate the eggs.

High humidity speeds development but also raises the risk of fungal or bacterial growth.

Disturbances and Predation

Frequent disturbances, improper egg handling, or predation attempts can all delay hatching. These stressors may cause the parent snake to temporarily stop incubating the clutch. Interrupted development leads to longer overall incubation.

Minimizing disturbances, proper egg care, and protection from predators enables the shortest hatch times.

Incubation Periods for Common Pet Snake Species

Ball Python Eggs

Ball python eggs typically take 55-60 days to hatch. The incubation temperature greatly impacts how quickly the eggs develop. Cooler temperatures of 78-82°F will result in longer incubation around 60 days, while warmer 88-92°F temperatures can decrease this to just 50-55 days.

Female ball pythons will often curl their bodies around their clutch of 4-8 eggs to regulate temperature and humidity (Reptile Guide).

Corn Snake Eggs

Corn snakes have an incubation period lasting 50-65 days on average. Temperatures between 82-88°F are ideal. Higher variability in temperature may increase chances of birth defects. The eggs are resilient to some temperature drops at night.

As helpful critters, female corn snakes will guard their nests of up to two dozen eggs tirelessly.

Milk Snake Eggs

The incubation duration for milk snake eggs ranges from 45-60 days. Warmer incubation temperatures of 86-88°F produce faster hatch times closer to 45 days, while cooler 80-82°F temperatures result in 60 day periods. The average clutch contains 6-15 eggs that the female will defend devotedly.

Kingsnake Eggs

Common kingsnake species like California kingsnakes and Mexican black kingsnakes have incubation lasting 55-75 days. Warm 85-90°F temperatures are optimal for steady development. Kingsnakes lay slightly smaller clutches than milk snakes and corn snakes, with 3-12 eggs on average (Everything Reptiles).

Other Popular Pet Snakes

Many other docile pet snakes like boas, woma pythons, and rat snakes have incubation ranges fairly similar to the above species. For example, common boas at 82-88°F hatch between 60-65 days. Rat snakes incubate for 55-80 days depending on temperatures.

With some variability, these 3 patterns emerge across the board:

  • Warmer 88-92°F = Shorter period around 50 days
  • Moderate 82-86°F = Average period around 60 days
  • Cooler 78-82°F = Longer period around 70+ days

Signs Your Snake Eggs Are Ready to Hatch

Pipping and Hatchling Vocalizations

One of the most obvious signs that snake eggs are getting ready to hatch is pipping – when the baby snake pokes a hole in the egg with its egg tooth. You may see small cracks or holes in the egg surface.

Newly hatched snakes may start making squeaking or hissing sounds from inside the egg as well, especially species like corn snakes and king snakes.

Cracks in the Egg Surface

As the incubation period nears the end after 30-60 days typically, the egg surface may dent or collapse slightly as the baby snakes grow inside. More cracks and holes will likely appear as the snakes pip the surface and start moving around prior to emerging fully.

The cracks may start out quite small but widen over hours to days leading up to hatching.

Movement Within the Egg

If you candle the eggs periodically with a flashlight during incubation, you should start seeing increased activity and movement in the final 1-2 weeks pre-hatching. The developing snakes will shift positions frequently and you may even see them flicking their tongues against the inside of the eggshell.

Such noticeable motion means hatching is imminent within days.

Egg Coloration Changes

Another indication hatching is nearing, especially for python eggs based on ReptiFiles, is subtle changes in egg coloration. The eggs may darken or develop yellowish tinges as the snake embryos grow. You may also notice prominent veins on the eggs surface as blood flow increases to support the baby snakes right before hatching.

Helping Snake Eggs Hatch

Incubator Setup Tips

Setting up an incubator properly is key to helping snake eggs hatch successfully. Here are some tips:

  • Use an incubator designed specifically for reptile eggs. Do not use a chicken egg incubator as the temperature and humidity settings will be different.
  • Maintain a temperature between 78-88°F depending on the snake species. Fluctuations in temperature can impact embryo development.
  • Keep the humidity between 80-90%. Low humidity can cause the egg to dehydrate and high humidity can lead to bacterial or fungal growth.
  • Place water reservoirs in the incubator and monitor them to ensure proper humidity levels.
  • Do not turn or rotate the eggs during incubation as you would for bird eggs. Snake embryos attach to the egg shell.

Following these basic setup guidelines will give your snake eggs the best chance at a successful hatch!

Assisting Struggling Hatchlings

Sometimes snake hatchlings can struggle to fully emerge from their eggs. If this happens, there are a few things you can try to assist them:

  • Resist the urge to help too soon. Allow the hatchling 12-24 hours to progress on its own first. Most will hatch successfully without intervention.
  • If no progress after 24 hours, you can carefully help remove retained egg caps or membranes using soft tipped tweezers and gently rubbing with a cotton swab soaked in warm water. Work slowly and be extremely gentle.
  • Once the hatchling is free of the egg, place it in a separate enclosure in case it has sustained any injuries that could invite attacks from clutchmates.
  • Monitor assisted hatchlings closely. They may be weaker, deformed or have trouble feeding initially and need supportive care.

While helping struggling hatchlings can save lives, avoid assisting too soon or forcing hatchlings out as this can cause harm. Patience paired with gentle assistance when truly needed can go a long way!


We’ve covered all the key factors that determine snake egg incubation lengths. While specific hatch times vary greatly across different species, most eggs hatch within 1-3 months. Pay close attention as eggs near their due date and be prepared to help struggling hatchlings emerge if needed.

With good incubation conditions, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the rewarding experience of seeing your clutch of snake eggs hatch!

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