Cutting Ball Python Eggs
To cut or not to cut?
Cutting eggs before they hatch is a very controversial subject amongst ball python breeders. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to wait on some of our most heavily anticipated clutches, but I have discovered that allowing eggs to hatch naturally seems to be least detrimental approach. When cutting early, which is rare these days, I have noticed that the hatch-lings tend to hatch with less weight due to lost yolk during the cutting process. A far more serious yet underlying issue overseen by keepers and breeders alike, is the increased risk of a twisted umbilicus. I've noticed in certain circumstances where the baby barely absorbed any nutrition at all from the umbilical cord, or popped off the cord entirely. This risk of a twisted umbilical cord seems unnecessarily high when evaluating the entire egg laying process. When in doubt, be patient and give the eggs more time.
That being said, I do believe that there is an appropriate time at the end of the incubation process where cutting can do very little to no harm. Once the snakes begin to pip and emerge out of their eggs, most of the veins attached to the side of the egg are mostly absorbed. When cutting eggs, if you see blood from the veins, put the egg back and give it some more time to Incubate. Once the veins have been entirely absorbed into the umbilical cord, the cord itself will then detach from the remaining blood vessels connecting it to the egg. At this point, all the baby snake needs to do is absorb the rest of the nutrition for the umbilical cord and when it's ready, emerge from the egg. Besides cutting the snake or the remaining umbilical cord, there is a very minimal chance of inflicting injury to the snake during the final process of the hatch. With that in mind, it is still wise to use caution.
Typically, I like to wait until several ball pythons have pipped in the clutch before I consider cutting any eggs. That is if I even cut at all. If one egg has not pipped, but all the others have, it is at this point that it may be wise to cut the egg open to ensure that the hatching process is going smoothly. I have seen some instances where the baby drowns in the egg before emerging. I'd like to think that if I could save a baby ball python by assisting it in emerging from the egg to get fresh air, that the effort would be well worth it. As stated above, I recommend doing this only at the latter stages of the hatching process.
*Pipped - past tense: the action involved as a ball python cuts its egg open with the egg tooth and emerges from the egg.