Around 70% of snakes give birth by laying eggs, which is called oviparity. The remaining species of snakes give birth to live young, which is called viviparity.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on 13 species of snakes that lay eggs.
- King Cobras
- Black Mambas
- Inland Taipans
- Large-scaled Pit Vipers
- Eastern Brown Snakes
- Rat Snakes
- Grass Snakes
- Mud Snakes
Note: The snakes are ranked in no particular order.
Table of Contents
Scientific name (family): Pythonidae
All python species are oviparous, which is a stark contrast to the family of boas (including anacondas), which give birth to live young. Females will lay eggs and incubate them until they hatch. An important aspect of incubation is protection.
Since the eggs are completely defenseless, many predators would make a meal out of them if the mother wasn’t carefully watching.
The female will not eat during the incubation period, and it will only leave the nest to regulate body temperature. During this time, snakes are very easily agitated.
Reticulated pythons, the largest and longest snakes in existence, can lay up to 80 eggs at once, which can take up to 3 months to hatch.
2. King Cobra
Scientific name: Ophiophagus hannah
A female king cobra will lay its eggs into the nest it had built, while a single clutch can contain 43 eggs (although this is rare).
The incubation period can last from 2 to almost 4 months, depending on the temperature and individual speed of development.
The snake will keep close by to protect the nest for up to two and a half months. Once they finally hatch, juvenile cobras are just as venomous as their mother.
They’re also very aggressive, much more than adults (adult king cobras aren’t aggressive towards humans), as they’re very nervous.
3. Black Mambas
Scientific name: Dendroaspis polylepis
Black mambas can lay up to 17 eggs at a time, and they usually lay them in decomposing vegetation. The process of decomposing releases heat, thus warming the eggs.
After mating, these African snakes that lay eggs become extremely aggressive (and they’re usually highly aggressive snakes, even without mating) if the male doesn’t leave.
When they hatch, black mambas can be 20 inches long, but they can grow several feet in size during their first year.
Although they’re just as dangerous as adult black mambas, juveniles are often preyed upon by predators, such as eagles and mongooses.
4. Inland Taipans
Scientific name: Oxyuranus microlepidotus
The most venomous snake in the world will lay up to 20 eggs, which will take two months to hatch.
These Australian snakes that lay eggs don’t build nests like king cobras, but invade nests of other animals or their burrows to lay eggs.
Snakes that eat plentifully tend to reproduce more, while thinner snakes reproduce less. Young taipans are just as venomous as adult taipans and they’re dangerous from birth.
Scientific name (genus): Bungarus
Female kraits stay with the 12-egg litter until the young hatch, keeping them warm and protecting them from predators.
It usually takes about 60 days for the eggs to hatch. Juveniles can be up to 14 inches long after hatching.
Just like with all venomous snakes that lay eggs, kraits are venomous from birth and are very easily agitated.
Scientific name (genus): Lachesis
On average, a bushmaster will lay 12 eggs and stay with them during incubation. They’re extremely aggressive during this period and will strike anything that approaches the nest.
Even in captivity, when it doesn’t have to hunt and
Bushmasters are the only known genus of pit vipers that lay eggs – all other American pit vipers are viviparous snakes that give birth to live young (although a disparity of this rule is being debated).
7. Large-scaled Pit Vipers
Scientific name: Craspedocephalus macrolepis
These Asian pit vipers are also an exception to the rule, just like bushmasters, as they lay about 5 eggs.
Aside from them, the only Asian pit vipers that lay eggs are Kaulback’s lance-headed pit vipers and Okinawa habus.
Although they’re venomous from birth, the venom of these snakes is not fatal to humans. Juveniles are strikingly green, just like the adults, which allows them to camouflage and catch prey more easily.
8. Eastern Brown Snakes
Scientific name: Pseudonaja textilis
Common brown snakes don’t mate earlier than October, and they can lay up to 35 eggs (depending on sexual maturity and how well-fed the female is).
It’s possible for several females to lay eggs in the same location, such as burrows or tree stumps.
It can take anything between 36 and 90 days for the eggs to hatch, depending on the temperature of incubation.
Juvenile males have to avoid adult males for a long time, as adult males will readily kill them to eliminate future mating competition.
Scientific name (genus): Naja
Cobras are oviparous snakes that lay up to 30 eggs (depending on the exact species and health of the female). In the case of Indian cobras, they use rat holes and termite mounds as nests – they don’t build their own nests.
It can take more than two months for the eggs to hatch and the juveniles are entirely independent of the mother as soon as they hatch.
After hatching, their primary objective is finding
10. Rat Snakes
Rat snakes are snakes from various genera in the Colubridae family, so they don’t belong to any specific taxonomic group. All snakes that primarily feed on rodents are called rat snakes.
Most rat snakes lay eggs and they behave similar to pythons – females warm the eggs and move very little during the incubation period. This period can last up to 10 weeks.
Hatching grounds – often burrows and hay piles – are commonly used by more than one female at a time.
Scientific name (genus): Lampropeltis
Depending on the exact species, kingsnakes can lay up to 12 eggs in a single clutch, but it’s possible for them to lay more than 20 eggs, although more rarely. It can take up to 2 months for the juveniles to leave the eggs.
During that time, the female will usually protect the eggs from predators. When choosing a location for the eggs, kingsnakes pick a partly-shielded location to minimize the chance of predator involvement.
12. Grass Snakes
Scientific name: Natrix natrix
Grass snakes can lay up to 40 eggs, which can take up to 10 weeks to hatch.
To incubate the eggs properly, females choose areas of rotting vegetation, which can provide temperatures of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, although temperatures over 80 degrees are preferred.
After hatching, juveniles leave the nest immediately, and the mother no longer cares for them. Grass snakes are the most common snakes that lay eggs in Europe.
13. Mud Snakes
Scientific name: Farancia abacura
Amazingly, mud snakes can lay up to 111 eggs (at least that’s the biggest batch ever documented) in moist soil nests, which they dig out on their own. They’re also known to lay them in alligator nests.
Larger females usually lay more eggs, after which they stay on top of them to protect them and incubate them. After hatching, juveniles refrain from entering the water for some time.
Laying eggs is a simpler process for the mother, as it’s usually extremely vulnerable when giving birth to live young. This way, the snake lays eggs quickly and it just has to guard them for some time until they hatch.
This usually isn’t a problem for snakes, as they can live for months without eating. Most snakes guard and warm the eggs up after laying them for the juveniles to develop. Venomous snakes are venomous as soon as they emerge from the egg.