Skip to Content

Do rattlesnakes lay eggs? (With Video)

do rattlesnakes lay eggs
Do rattlesnakes lay eggs?

Do rattlesnakes lay eggs? This is a question that is often asked.

As rattlesnakes are reptiles, it is only logical to think that they lay eggs or is it. In this article, you will discover everything you wanted to know about rattlesnake reproduction and their eggs.

Do rattlesnakes lay eggs?

Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they carry eggs that hatch inside the mother. She then gives birth to live young. Other ovoviviparous animals include sharks, rays and certain species of insects and fish.

Baby snakes are called snakelets, and depending on the rattlesnake species, they can be 17.8 – 25.5 cm (7 – 10 in) long. A female rattlesnake will only have young every 2 – 3 years, usually giving birth to anywhere between 5 – 12 snakelets.

The female rattlesnake will seek out a secluded damp, shaded area to give birth to her young. The CBS Documentary video below shows a mother rattlesnake giving birth.

Rattlesnake gestation period

A rattlesnake’s gestation period is usually 4 – 5 months, depending on the species. While the baby rattlesnake is inside its egg, it feeds on the yolk. Unlike bird eggs, the shell is soft and becomes thinner over time. Eventually, becoming just a thin membrane around the snake. This is when it is ready to be born.

Do baby rattlesnakes have rattles?

juvenile rattlesnake with a button instead of a rattle
Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Baby rattlesnakes are born without their distinctive rattle. They have a button, a small round tip at the end of their tail. Once they go through their first shed, they will develop the first ring of their rattle.

Young rattlesnakes can be more dangerous than adults as they are born venomous but lack the rattle to alert you to their presence. You may be close to a rattlesnake when you are out in the wild without realising it. This is dangerous, as you wouldn’t know when the rattlesnake would be getting ready to strike.

Do mothers care for their young?

A mother rattlesnake will stay with her newborn young for around 1 – 2 weeks. At this time, they have their first shed, which gets rid of their newborn smell. Even though the mother is present, she doesn’t give them any maternal love. She keeps an eye out for predators to make sure they are safe.

Sadly 70% of rattlesnakes will die within their first year as they are an easy meal for predators that prey on rattlesnakes like roadrunners and the common kingsnake. Or they succumb to the cold weather as they struggle to get enough food before hibernating in the winter.