Keeping Kenyan Sand Boa: 5 Things to Know
By Sviat Oleksiv | Updated on June 27, 2021
If you are looking for a docile yet calm and laid-back pet snake, the Kenyan sand boa is your perfect match.
The Kenyan sand boa is one of the smallest boa species on Earth. It is famous for its “armored” and head-like tail which she uses as a defense mechanism. Pet Kenyan sand boas are very docile reptiles and can be tamed – you just need to be patient.
What to consider before getting?
If you are interested in a Kenyan sand boa but not sure whether this snake makes the perfect pet choice, take a look at the following considerations.
The Kenyan sand boa is relatively easy to handle. It is not very active so there is no risk of escaping or falling. However, its size might be an issue, especially with males.
Male Kenyan sand boas are significantly smaller than their female counterparts, meaning they are more sensitive and can get hurt if squeezed or improperly handled.
Another issue is their fondness of biting. In fact, the biting is not that much of an issue as it is the inability to predict it – they spend most of their time buried underneath the substrate and can strike without warning signs.
If you are interested in some simple Kenyan sand boa handling tips, take a look at this video:
When it comes to care, Kenyan sand boas are extremely straightforward. Basically, all they need is a good enclosure with a good lid. The emphasis is put on a good lid – unless you want your Kenyan sand boa to go for a walk or better said slide.
The only care-related issue is the need to feed on mice. This is something snake parents might find troubling. However, the good news is they feed readily and easily – unlike most snakes that make the feeding time fussy and challenging.
Finally, when it comes to care you also need to consider its length. Namely, in captivity Kenyan sand boas can live for up to 30 years thus posing a long-term commitment.
The basic necessities are enough for Kenyan sand boas to thrive. Just provide them with proper heat and lighting, good bedding substrate, and constant water source. Of course, you also need to be careful not to squeeze or crush them.
Kenyan sand boas are somewhat easy to find. They are available from breeders and reptile expos as well as pet stores.
They are not as common as some other pet snakes but considering their increasing popularity and the fact they are easy to breed, their availability is constantly rising.
Recently even the Kenyan sand boa morphs (albino, tiger, snow, paradox, stripped, and anerythristic) are reasonably easy to find and what is even better – do not cost too much.
Because of their availability both regular Kenyan sand boas and morphs are reasonably priced – they are often listed among the most inexpensive snakes.
What is more, it is not just the snake that is inexpensive – the enclosure comes with a reasonable price tag. Namely, because of their small size and reluctance for physical activity, Kenyan sand boas need relatively small hence not very expensive enclosures.
How to care for?
If you considered the factors reviewed above and decided that the Kenyan sand boa is a good pet snake choice for you, it is time to go through the following care tips so you know how to raise your new pet.
The ideal enclosure for Kenyan sand boas is the classical enclosure with built-in, sliding lid that does not require clamps for fixation. The art of escaping is not this snake’s strong suit but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
In terms of housing, the average-sized adult Kenyan sand boa can do well in a 10-gallon tank. However, if you have a super-sized female, it would be wise to look into larger enclosure options.
You can see how the enclosure set up goes in this video:
Heating and humidity
As in any other terrarium you will need a heat source and a reptile thermometer and hygrometer.
In its native habitat the Kenyan sand boa will go through extremely hot days and slightly colder nights. To mimic these conditions, you should keep the temperature in the warmer end of the enclosure at 90-95⁰ F (32.2-35⁰ C) and in the low 80s⁰ F (26.6⁰ C) in the cooler part. During the night, you can allow the temperature to drop to 70⁰ F (21.1⁰ C).
Kenyan sand boas are used to living in drought areas and do not need high humidity levels. Therefore, instead of the traditional humidity box you can use a simple spray bottle for occasional misting. Keep in mind that you will need to increase the humidity when your Kenyan sand boa is shedding.
Kenyan sand boas do not require special lighting. However, you can use a low-strength UVB light to establish more distinctive day and night patterns. Alternatively, if you keep the snake in a particularly dark room, it is advisable to leave the room light on, once again to maintain a proper day and night cycle.
To décor your Kenyan sand boa’s enclosure you can use a nice cork bark and some other durable but lightweight items. As any other burrowing species, the Kenyan sand boa will rearrange all items in the enclosure and if some of those items are heavy she can get injured.
Decors lice plants, climbing branches, and hideouts will improve the overall esthetic component of the cage but do not expect your Kenyan boa to use them – a good bedding is all this snake needs for entertainment.
Interestingly, the Kenyan sand boa can live up to one year without food. However, this phenomenon is best left for Kenyan snake boas living in nature. In captive conditions, you will need to feed your snake with mice.
The mice feeding part can be troubling for some pet owners. If feeding live mice is more than you can handle you can always use frozen mice – just make sure they are well-thawed at room temperature before serving (ice crystals can cause fatal injuries in snakes). If you do not mind feeding live mice it is important to monitor your snake during mealtime – mice can be feisty and end up hurting the snake.
Juvenile Kenyan snake boas should be fed once per week while adults can eat once every two weeks. As with other snakes, it is best advised to feed them in a separate tank – you do not want your snake associating the enclosure opening with mealtime (unless you want bite marks all over your hands).
Checkout this video to see how the Kenyan sand boa feeds:
As mentioned, Kenyan sand boas are extremely easy to breed. Plus, the sexual dimorphism is well-pronounced thus making the breeding even easier.
Unlike some other snakes, Kenyan sand boas are viviparous – meaning instead of laying eggs they give birth to live snake babies. Because of the female’s size, the average litter has dozens of babies. Sometimes, a Kenyan sand boa can give birth to up to 40 babies.
Do not be confused by the name – even Kenyan sand boas do not do well with sand as a substrate. They might be less sensitive to sand than other snake species but they are still susceptible to health problems. Sand gets damp easily and if the snake ingests damp sand it will trigger gastrointestinal health issues.
As burrowing snakes, Kenyan sand boas benefit from a high-quality substrate that can support their natural digging habits, ideally something like aspen shavings. Alternatively, you can use newspapers or coconut mulch.
Unique physiological needs
In terms of physiological needs, Kenyan sand boas are not very different from most snakes. Two important situations are the shedding and brumation.
To ensure proper shedding you need to keep the humidity within the enclosure in the adequate range. Ideally, if everything is well your Kenyan sand boa will slough off its old skin as a big sock. Never attempt to peel the old skin, even if it seems particularly loose.
As for brumation, as scary as it may look, it is important not to be alarmed – brumation is completely normal, just like hibernation is in certain mammal species. However, the sleep-like state during brumation is not as deep as the one associated with hibernation.
A snake in brumation can wake up to rehydrate and then go back to sleep. To make the brumation phase more pleasing, you should diminish the light and lower the temperature.
Who are Kenyan Sand Boas right for?
Kenyan sand boas are the right pet snake for choice for owners who know how to appreciate the glorious skin pattern of this species.
However, that appreciation can be imaginative at times since Kenyan sand boas do not spend much time out in the open – they are generally buried underneath the bedding and are not particularly active.
On the bright side, they are easy to care for and breed thus making them perfect for both first-time snake parents and aspiring snake breeders.