last changes: Sunday, January 06, 2008


Keeping and Breeding of the

Tropical Chicken Snake

    Spilotes pullatus

spilotes wc-male of 1989


The chicken eater is a stately and mostly prettily marked snake from Central- and South America. It lives in many areas from Oxaca and Yucatan in Mexico down to the northern Argentina. It isn't bound to any particular land form and in different woods forms and in the mangrove area distributed. It climbs with pleasure, however has regularly been watched on the ground in nature, too. My animals have only seldom left her branches. 3 m and sometimes also something partly longer become these animals. The average lies 2.5 m of length in the terraria.

The following 5 subspecieses are distinguished at the moment: mexicanus and argusiformis from Mexico and Central America, pullatus in the southern Central America and in the northern South America and the anomalepis and maculatus in Brazil.

The coloring is quite variable: Most animals have a black primary color and orange to yellow elements in the back part of the body. The patterns varie up to such a high yolk share, this hardly of this black a little of smaller elements on for the most part black ground. The paterns can be orange red up to shining yellowly to a dirty pale yellow (many animals of the Caribbean islands). I got an orange animal from Honduras but I don't know whether it was caught there. A friend saw also personally orange animals in Brazil.

With a yellow central dorsal stripe and in the back part of the body the back middle's yellow spots relieving to the belly the ssp. mexicanus is usually the striped variant, there are intergrades of this ssp. with the argusiformis in Honduras. More southern of this most animals of the 4 other subspecies have many more or less exactly marked diagonal markings on the side of body.

Keeping and Behavior

14 years with the Chicken Eater:

I got my first chicken eater pair from a Honduras import in 2-11-89. 2 strong animals with approx. 2 m of length. The patterns of the snakes varied widely:

spilotes wc-pair of 1989

The male had orangely spotted stripes on black groumd. Mass 1100 g. , the female had a yellowly dotted back stripe and yellow sides. Mass 900 g, l = 210 cm. The two animals came in the beginning into a terrarium with the measures 80 cm x 70 cm x 100 cm (LxDxH). Equipped it was with water bowl, climbing branch and one 20 W luminescent material tube, underfloor heating by the warmth in the terrarium below.

The temperatures in the terrarium didn't increase about approx. 26° C within the first weeks and at first the examination duration only was 6 h, because other snakes brunated in the the same room. Therefore I only held the temperature in the room at approx. 20°. By chance I watched a mating of the snakes (on 2-12-89 at 3:00 pm, 23°C and atmospheric humidity approx. 40%).

First food was accepted about 2 months after arrival.

The body size of 0.1 didn't increase visibly. Therefore I was very surprised when the animal started lay eggs on 4-15-89 in the evening in a dry place. 8 eggs were put down in 5 hours, all of them to a lump sticks together. The eggs were transported into an Incubator and hatched on aquarium filter-wool over a water basin at 28° C. A picture of this is on this side . On the 19th 06. 89 the first young one slit his egg and still on the same day slipped. The 4th young one slipped on 6-22-99. The size of these animals were approx. 50 cm. The young snakes were moved into a 20 cm of x 10 cm x 15 cm small terrarien. The equipment were made of beechwood chopping shaving, a small branch, a cork piece and a water bowl.

All joung snakes started with the eating on 7-6-89: defrosted nest young mice and grew good. One male lived for a while because of lack of space later with a pair bull snakes ; -).

The mother animal took only irregularly food, because the 1,0 was always present and it's feedingbehaviour was very wild.

spilotes-egglaying 1989

spilotes-cb of 1989

The death of the female being surprised for me at that time 28.10.89. Yielded a section on-settlement dates, unless for missing fat reserves. I got no new 0.1 for my animals for some time. I doubled the size of the terrarium to 160 cm x 70 cm x 100 cm. I finally then got one 0.1 from a USA import on 1-20-95: Yellow spotted side on black ground, lengh of approx. 170 cm, the animal were relatively thin. After an excrement sample and a following Panacur treatment I put the new 0.1 at 2-7-95 to 1.0 WC 89. Feeding of the new female were no Problem. It ate thawed chick and mice.

Into 03/95 I could watch mating activities of the 1.0 but a mating couldn't be seen. The Terrarien have been converted from a first floor apartment into a cellar room with little incidence of light in April of the year. Nothing has changed seriously to the temperarures.

The female puts 4 sticky eggs in a nesting box on 5-18-95. The eggs were transported into the above-mentioned incubator and hatched at 27° C again. On some warm days the temperature went rise also on 30° C. This female after egglaying was set alone in a terrarium to ensure a regular eating. All animals had slit their eggs on 8-9-95 and the 4 snakes hatched on 8-10-95.


spilotes-Nachzucht 1989 - 4 Jahre alt-

At first the eating of the hatchlings was problematic, I had to forcefeed nest young mice. After some weeks the animals then went voluntarily to the food: thawed + living nest young mice. I kept a female of the clutch, feed it regularly and it grew steadily.

I put the adult 0.1 after more days distance to the 1.0 WF 89 and the 1.0 NZ 89 again and again in 02/03/96 but no mating activities could be seen in this year and no eggs were laid in this year either. The adult female refused the food in the time of November till March.

After the winter months with a little lower temperatures (23-25°C daytime) and also rare foodacception the CB 0.1 from 95 died in 03/97. 1.2 m it reached in it's lifetime.

I set of January till March 97 the female to the male again, however, could recognize no mating activities in this time. In this year I had no CB of the Spilotes, too.

I gave my CB male of 89 to a friend to Berlin in September.

I got 1.2 Spilotes for this in November 97. Male, about 2.2 m, WC, yellow, bought at a reptile-fair and 0.2 NZ 95, orange, the about 1.4 m long.

I put the animals together after each other some days later. The two males executed at times easy pursuing code of conduct fights and sliping over the other animal, but I could safely let the animals together. One of the new females was held one by one. It refused the food many months and began eating itself in April 98. All other animals ate regularly.

I then gave one of the 0.1 CB 95 to the same friend who also got the CB 89 male in April 98. CB were never obtained however there.

In this year the yellow and the orangene female both laid no eggs. The yellow female ate fewer in the winter again.

In the beginning of 99 I put my Spilotes again together and mating tests could be seen.

On 2-19-99 the orangene female laid unexpectedly 6 eggs of which only 3 however were fertil. Well, the mating probably have been in fall. The eggs were transported into the incubator as above-mentioned. The females were put one by one again on this and carefully resumed food.

The yellow female then on 4-3-99 died because of exhaustion (?). It had at the time of death a length of 2.1 m.

The three animals of the stimulated eggs then on 5-7-99 started with the slip. The first shed of the skin had 70-77 cm of length.

In the middle of June 99 I passed the three on to a friend in Bremen/Germany. Some years later my friend sold them further and we never heard anything about the snakes again.

My orange male, the WC 89 died in 14.05.99 with a lengh of 2,2 m.

After the winter 2000 became the remained animals put together again but mating activities weren't watched.

The orangene female put an unfertilized egg on 24-05-00, 5 eggs were put down on 5-29 once again. 2 of this were fertil, 3 unfertilized. The two fertil eggs were transported again into the incubator under above-mentioned conditions. The two animals then started with the slip on 13-08-00.

The animals, it were 0.2, after the first shed of skin began to eat thawed nest young mice and were sold to in the middle of September to England. The orange female then died without obvious reason in the middle of August 2000. The yellow male stoped the feeding in winter, he starts a little eating in May 2001 again. He also died in winter 2002/2003.


The chicken eaters eat in the habitat various rodent and eggs (Trutnau), reptiles, also snakes shall be partly eaten. Just young animals often eat lizards. I fed them in the terrarium with mice, rats and chick. In one case a filet of fresh herring accepted, too. Most chicken eaters don't care after a short one acclimatization phase whether the food is thawed or living. Some specialists never went however almost to frost food and starved till there were rodents living again. I always once unite drops' multinational vitamin preparation on the the belly for the frost food. The preparation had never disturbed the snakes at the food.


The animals had no hibernation period but they live well with a time at lower (23-26 ° C) temperatures.


A factor will arrange brumation as well as this newly well the be of breeding groups for the copulation stimulations. I couldn't watch an influence of the air humidity on the mating activities at series of experiments.

Young Snakes

The young animals have the markings and color of the parents, only the colors are more shining. If they take food and have sufficient quiet and cover, they grow fast. Some animals already have 1.5 m after a year.

The animals with my Bremen friend grew up in a terrarium in the middle of a business office with opening hours. They didn't have any problems with that and grew splendidly.


Maturity, Lifespan

Depending on food offer and animal qualities the sexually mature enters in the 2. or 3. year.

My oldest animal lived with me for more than 10 years and was already imported with adultlengh. Other terrarian report of about 15 years.

My Snakes

My captive bred and of less other terrian and zoo have shown, that this snake is to CB either. I haven't only one time heard within the first years of my Spilotes attitude: Captive breeding of Spilotes: There is not, rubbish this one ...

Sometimes the young animals are a little tricky in the rearing: You don't like any stress at all. Some reptile fair day leads to 4 weeks food denial. At good conditions these grow up quite fast however to splendid, stable animals.

This stress vulnerability the constant deaths of my of long sought breeding animals and the fact, the this mine were only tropics animals (these actually don't hibernate yes at all), have moved me to this to keep no more further Spilotes.

Recommendet Literature

Der Hühnerfresser Spilotes pullatus im Kölner Aquarium am Zoo - Haltung und Reproduktion- von Hans Werner Herrmann aus der Zeitschrift des Kölner Zoo, 41 Jg. Heft 3 S 139-144

Die Schlangen von Venezuela von Lancini/Kornacker, Verlag Armitano Editores C.A.

The Snakes of Honduras von Wilson/Meyer, Verlag des Milwaukee Public Museum

Schlangen 1 von Trutnau, Ulmer Verlag  

Die Terrarientiere von Nietzke, Ulmer Verlag 

Notes of thanks:

For the supports and advice and the beautiful start-animals I thank Mr. Peter Schmidt. I got many good suggestions also by a lecture and an announcement of Mr. Dr. Herrmann/Terrarium am Zoo Köln (Terrarium at the Zoo Cologne).

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