Hatchling Womas - Getting Started
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We set each of our hatchlings up in a small plastic shoebox from our rack system with a couple layers of newspaper on the bottom (we use a moistened paper towel until the hatchling completes its first shed) and a small inverted flowerpot saucer with a notch cut in the side for a hide box. The saucer should be just large enough for the hatchling to fit in, providing a nice tight hiding spot (they seem to like the contact and feel more secure than they do in a larger hide box). We do not offer our hatchlings a meal until after their first shed, which typically occurs within two weeks after they hatch. At that time, we begin offering frozen/thawed (f/t) mouse pinkies once per week, leaving them in the entrance to the hide box and removing any uneaten items the next morning.


Until you get to know them, hatchling womas appear very aggressive, typically rearing up with mouth agape and striking at anything that moves. The reality is that they are terrified of everything! They really are quite amusing. We have found that offering a live pinkie to a hatchling woma only serves to stress out the woma as it will rear up and strike at the pinkie every time it moves for as long as you leave it in the cage – but the pinkie will usually not be eaten. Likewise, do not bother offering food items from tongs. Just stick with the weekly f/t offering and eventually they will all begin to eat. Our hatchlings typically take their first meal between the first and fourth offerings, and though some will begin to eat regularly after the first meal, many others require several more weekly offerings before they begin to eat consistently.


After several weeks to a few months, the hatchlings calm down and will start to accept prey items offered with tongs. A young woma will often nose up to a prey item, and then shake its head and back away, only to approach again and repeat. When this behavior is observed, rubbing the prey item gently along the woma’s sides and back (the "rat tickle" technique) will usually elicit a feeding response, characterized by the woma pushing back against the prey item with its body and turning to bite and coil the item. Womas are very touch sensitive, and the combination of the prey item’s odor coupled with the touch cues really gets them fired up. In fact, we regularly have womas bite water bowls, hide boxes, tongs, plastic shoeboxes and lids, and themselves! They are not at all mean, it’s just that now rather than being terrified of everything, they want to eat…everything!


All of our womas have gone through a phase during which they were difficult to handle because every time they were touched elicited a feeding response. Several years ago, Stephanie had a juvenile woma in her lap as she sat cross-legged on the floor while I cleaned its cage. We watched it slowly tilt its head down pushing its nose more and more firmly against her ankle, and then almost in slow motion open its mouth and grab a pinch of skin right on top of her ankle bone. That woma was just sure there had to be something to eat around there somewhere! They’re really not very difficult to deal with even when they’re going through this phase. I have never had a woma strike during this phase, they just like to nose into you and take a little taste if you let them. So, as long as you pay close attention to what they’re up to while you’re handling them there won’t be any problems. Fortunately, they do grow out of this phase and become very calm and easy to handle as adults.

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