Rosy boas, (Lichanura trivirgata) are beautiful striped snakes that are small, easy to raise, and easy to breed. They are nocturnal, living naturally in the mountains and deserts of southern California and Arizona, and south into Mexico. The colors of the various subspecies of this snake range from gray to brown, with cream, red-brown, pink, or orange stripes down the length of the snake. Blotches of color are also a possibility with the rosy boa.
These snakes only grow to about 40 inches long, and many only make it to 24 or 36 inches. Because of their smaller size, they prefer to eat insects like crickets and mealworms instead of mice. This fact alone might make them more desirable to some reptile fans, who would prefer not to have to deal with dead mice. Rosy boas are known for their gentle, docile dispositions.
Like all snakes, they have a long lifespan, living up to 18 years. Before getting any snake, it's wise to consider if you are really willing to care for this animal over the long haul. If you are, the rosy boa makes a nice snake to start with.
Rosy boas are burrowing snakes that need a dry enclosure. Two to four inches of a substrate like cypress mulch or aspen bedding will work well. If you prefer to line the bottom of the enclosure with newspaper for easy of cleaning, you should add some half logs or slabs arranged for the rosy to get under. Hides are also a good idea. These are small upside down bowls with an entry hole cut into the side. Each should be small enough for the snake to feel secure curled up inside of it.
The enclosure can be as simple as a 20 gallon aquarium or a similarly sized plastic tote such as those made by Rubbermaid. In addition to bedding and hides, it needs a source of heat. The home for the rosy needs to be kept at a temperature of around 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28.3 degrees Celsius) on the warm side and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (22.7 degrees Celsius) on the cooler side. This temperature gradient can be created by using an undertank heating pad under half of the enclosure. At night the temperature can be allowed to drop a few degrees. Don't let the enclosure get above 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius).
Use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature inside the enclosure. You might need to use a thermostat on the heating pad to keep the tank from getting too warm inside.
Like all snakes, rosy boas need an enclosure that is escape proof. Make sure doors and lids fit tightly. Snakes will push on a door, and if it gives, it won't be long before they figure out a way to get out. The lid can be made of screen which will allow extra humidity to escape. If you must use a plastic container with a plastic lid, make sure you make plenty of air holes in the sides and lid. Even better is a cage that has two or more sides made of screen. In humid areas, it is probably best to use a dry substrate like newspaper, instead of bedding, which can retain moisture.
A water bowl needs to be provided. Use one that will not tip easily and don't fill it too full. Snakes need water for drinking, and they also like to climb into their bowl for a soak. It will add humidity to the cage, though. A hygrometer is a device that can be used to check the humidity inside a snake enclosure. It can be bought in the gardening department of a store like Wal-Mart. The humidity should be kept under 60 %. If it gets higher, the rosy can have bacterial or fungal skin infections. The snake will also feel stressed, which can lead to other illnesses.
Rosy boas sometimes climb on low bushes, so it is a good idea to place a stick or two in the enclosure for climbing. Sticks from the pet store are easier to clean and don't have parasites or bacteria on them that could make the snake sick like sticks from the yard can. PVC pipe is sometimes made into snake climbing perches also because it is easy to keep clean.
Snakes can generally swallow larger food items than you would think because of their unhinged jaws that stretch to allow the food through. With rosy boas, however, the stretch is not that wide, so they need to be fed smaller food items. They can eat small mice or insects. Once every week or ten days is often enough to feed adults, but young rosy boas can be fed up to twice a week.
If using mice, they should be pre-killed. Some snake owners raise feeder mice just for their snakes. However, it is not recommended that you feed snakes live prey because the prey can injure the snake.
The entire pen should be cleaned and disinfected with bleach solution about once a month. Rinse and dry the cage and add new bedding before putting the rosy boa back in. Between cleanings the water dish should be washed frequently. Wastes and uneaten food should be removed promptly.
Rosy boas bear their young live instead of laying eggs. They need to be hibernated through the winter if you hope to breed them. The winter temperature should stay at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) for 3 months. Take a month to warm the snakes back up to the usual temperature, and then place the male in with the female. Leave them together for a week, then take the male out. Make sure the expectant female has a warm basking spot of around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) while she is pregnant.
The female rosy boa probably won't eat much while she is pregnant. About 5 months later roughly 5 or 6 babies will be born. Each should be about a foot long and active. They should not be fed until after the first shed, which can be after a couple of days or not for a couple of weeks. Pinkie mice are a good first meal for a young rosy boa.