Live rodents or frozen feeders?
To freeze or not to freeze? This has been the ultimate question for generations, when it comes to what food is better for your reptile. Some people prefer to give their reptile live rodents, so they can hunt their prey, giving it a more ‘natural’ diet. Others, again, prefer frozen food, as it is more convenient. In this article, we provide you with pros and cons of both live and frozen feeders, as well as what we at Ratking.ch can offer you as food options for your snake or lizard.
Please note: It is illegal, in Switzerland, to feed live rodents to your pet.
Pros of live rodents
1 - Live prey has more nutritional value than frozen. When rodents are frozen, the freezing process causes nutrient loss. Food also tends to lose more of its nutrition the longer it is stored. Live or fresh-killed food is purely the freshest food source available. Afterall, snakes have been eating live rodents in the wild for centuries.
2 – Some wild snakes that are new to captivity are used to eating live prey, therefore convincing them to change their diet pattern by dangling a dead rat in front of its face will take some patience. Starving the snake in the hopes that he will take what he is given is not a good plan, plus it is cruelty towards the animal. In this case we would suggest you stick with live food in the beginning and slowly introduce him to the alternative of frozen feeders. You might get lucky once they have babies and you start the hatchlings on frozen from day one.
3 – Overnight pinky. It is possible for you to leave a pinky or a fuzzy in the enclosure overnight if you have a shy feeder or a night feeder. No major injuries will happen here. Unfortunately, it isn’t wise to leave frozen feeders in the enclosure overnight.
Cons of live rodents
1 – We think the biggest con for feeding live food is the injuries that can occur, which of course can then lead to infections. It is typical for any animal that is being hunted, to try and defend itself. Rodents do the same thing, and they do so by biting as if their lives depend on it, which it does. If your reptile has an unsuccessful hunt or isn’t hungry when you want to feed it, the rodent will have ample time to dig its teeth into your animal. Rodent teeth are sharp enough to bite through scales. Some of these bites are not only painful but can even be life-threatening.
2 – Pests and parasites. Nobody likes to have their food with a sprinkle of parasites. These parasites can cause diseases in snakes and other reptiles. Not only that, but they can even cause humans to get sick (zoonotic parasites). These parasites can be transmitted through bites, droppings, fleas or mites, only to name a few.
Rodents can carry the following parasites:
Salmonella, Hantavirus, Leptospirosis, Rat-bite fever and the Plague
3 – Consider the storage. Feeder mice should be fed immediately. It is advisable to keep them separated. It gets a bit expensive as you now not only have to feed your pet, but also your pet’s food. Keeping in mind that some snakes only eat once a week and getting live food supply isn’t always easy. Some suppliers can run out of their supply and it can take weeks before you are able to place another order. If you do not cage them, you might not have them, is the easiest to explain it. This is simply just not convenient as it takes up too much space.
4 – Live food is more expensive than frozen feeders. Purely the cost of buying them is more expensive than frozen feeders. Now you also have to feed them and take care of them until it is feeding time for your snake. Have you calculated how often you would have to drive to your local supplier to buy more mice? It all adds up, especially if you must make several trips to your supplier.
If your choice of food for your reptile is live food, please remember not to leave the mouse or rat in the enclosure with your snake unattended. The rodent might start chewing on the snake purely out of boredom if your snake does not go in for the kill immediately.
Pros of frozen feeders
1 – Even in the wild, a snake will not pass over a dead animal if they are hungry. Therefore, pre-killed food doesn’t bother them much. You are not doing them any injustice by offering them an ‘easy meal’.
2 – Convenience is the main selling point. You can buy your monthly supply or just larger quantities to fill your freezer. Frozen feeders can be kept for up to 6 months. If I may add something here: I would recommend that you do not keep the frozen feeders for 6 months in your freezer. You do not know how long they were stored in your supplier’s freezer and in some cases, your suppliers’ supplier’s freezer. Make your limit 3 months of personal storage, if possible. Overall, with frozen feeders, you save time, money and space.
3 – No supervision required. Unlike live food, pre-killed cannot attack your pet. Safe to say, you can make yourself a cup of coffee while your snake takes its time to tend to its meal. Don’t take too long with that coffee though, frozen feeders should not be left too long in the enclosure without being eaten.
Cons of frozen feeders
1 – You need freezer space. Not all of us have enough freezer space to stack a ton of frozen reptile food. However, even just one bag at a time will last you a couple of feeds.
2 – Remembering to defrost. It is sometimes a bit of an irritation when you would like to go to bed and the feeder has not defrosted properly yet. You can leave the feeder overnight in the fridge to finish thawing, but then your snake must wait another day to eat. Do not leave frozen feeders defrosted for long periods. The ideal situation is to defrost and feed immediately.
3 – Loss of nutrients. As mentioned earlier when we discussed the pros of live rodents, the freezing process kills of some of the nutrients, the length that the frozen food spent in the freezer then increases these losses even further.
4 - Over thawing. Leaving the pre-killed food exposed to room temperature for a prolonged period can increase the growth of Salmonella. It is ideal to thaw quickly and fed to your reptile as soon as possible. To decrease risk of further diseases, remove uneaten food from the enclosure the moment you notice that your snake is full. Keep the preparation area, surfaces as well as the feeding tongs clean and disinfected.
Changing from live rodents to frozen feeders.
1 - Some captive bred snakes were only fed live food, once you get them, they might have to warm up to the idea of frozen food as their new cuisine if you plan on changing over to frozen. Patience is virtue, but again, no need to starve the animal. The main goal here is to keep trying. Touch the snake on the nose with the defrosted rodent, sometimes the smell is enough to get them hungry.
2 – The thrill of the hunt. Some snakes just have an unwritten rule about their food – if it isn’t moving, I am not eating. When choosing to introduce frozen food, you might have to use this opportunity and get creative with the food. Merely placing the food in the enclosure is not going to work, you must make them move. Dangle them, shake them, pretend they are running for their little lives.
Why use Ratking.ch as your frozen food supplier?
Once we received your order, we personally pack and ship your product with absolute care and diligence. We make sure that each order is shipped as soon as possible after the order is received, from Monday to Thursday each week, to ensure that your frozen food is not delayed over the weekend.
Our shipping options are designed to minimize transport times for frozen foods and that it arrives at your doorstep still frozen. The frozen products are packed in insulated polystyrene boxes, which you can return to Ratking.ch and get the rental fee of the box back. During summer periods we recommend that you also add an ice pack in your order, to ensure that the feeders arrive frozen.
It is advisable that someone is at the delivery address that you provided. It is important that the frozen food be transferred to a freezer immediately.
We are very proud to offer the highest quality of live food such as insects, frozen pet food especially for snakes, lizards, amphibians and birds of prey.
We feed our own personal collection of snakes, venomous and non-venomous, along with geckos, lizards and amphibians our products and can honestly say; ‘We feed our animals only the best’.
How do I feed my reptile frozen food?
Number one rule…never feed your reptile food that is still frozen. It is very important that you defrost the food properly before you feed it to your pet. Frozen food can cause illness in your reptile.
You can defrost the food by leaving it in the fridge overnight or at room temperature. Do not defrost frozen feeders in the microwave. Microwaving the food can lead to over-heating and the food burning the reptile. It is possible to cook parts of the rodent in the microwave, while defrosting, making it impossible for your snake to digest. You can defrost the food by placing it in a zip-lock bag and in warm (not boiling) water until defrosted. This is the preferred method for most breeders.
Once the frozen food has defrosted properly, there are a couple of ways you can give it to your snake. Firstly, for the not so shy or fussy eaters, you can merely take the food with a feeding tong as close to the animal as possible to let him know food has been served. They will either take it from you immediately or you can place it in front of them and they will collect it when ready.
For the shy and fussy eaters: you might have to rub the defrosted food on the snake’s nose. Do not cause too much of a scene in the enclosure, as this will cause the animal stress and cause them not to eat.
What size feeder should I feed my snake?
A general guideline to choosing your snakes food size, can be determined by taking the diameter of the thickest part of the snakes body, usually the middle of the snake, and offer it mice or rats that are roughly the same size or a little bigger than the size of the snake's middle.
With hatchlings, always start with frozen pinky rodents first. Usually, after hatchlings have taken frozen feeders, they will take it with pleasure when they are older.
You can increase the size of the feeder rodent as your snake grows. This means feeding them in the following order depending on the species and size of your snake:
For mice - from pinky mice to fuzzy 4-5 days old, followed by fuzzy 7-10 days old, then hoppers smaller than 15g, increasing to hoppers bigger than 15g, from here you start feeding medium 18-24g upgrading to larger than 25g and lastly, extra-large which is bigger than 30g
For rats – starting with pinky rats moving on to fuzzy smaller than 20g then fuzzy larger than 20g, you then feed hopper 30g, hopper 50g and the next step is over to rats 80g. From here on you can slowly increase to 100g, 120g, 150g, 200g and at the end of the rat list your jumbo rats larger than 300g.
Keep in mind: Do not feed rodents that are too big for your snake. Even if the snake does eat it, it might regurgitate it later.
Interesting fact: if the food is too large for the snake, it might not show interest in the prey.
We have added a guide by each of our frozen feeders that will assist you in getting the right size feeder for your snake or lizard.