The Basic Herpetoculture Series go back to the Home Page.

The Illustrated Guide to the
Pinkie Pump

The Pinkie Pump® is an important tool of herpetoculture. Its primary use is as a tool for quickly and easily force-feeding hatchling kingsnakes and other snake species that as hatchlings prefer to eat lizards, but can be expected to eat rodents once they are growing. Secondarily, it can and has been used to maintain non-feeding snakes for extended times, and it can be used to administer vitamins and medications.
The Pinkie Pump is designed to be used on snakes weighing 8-20 grams. There are other preferred methods to force-feed snakes outside that size class.
While the idea of force-feeding tools has been around for decades, there was no suitable tool to feed the thousands of lizard-eating kingsnakes that were being hatched for the first time in the kingsnake craze of the late 1970s. Bob Barker of BJ Specialties designed this version of the Pinkie Pump in 1977, for the next 25 years he manufactured and sold them. More than 2,500 Pinkie Pumps were sold. The Pinkie Pump is still in use in herpetocultural collections around the world.
We here present in ten images an illustrated guide to the use of this tool:
Step 1
This is the disassembled Pinkie Pump. The pieces along the bottom are assembled with the cutter fitted into the tip, the black rubber washer placed between the tip and the glass barrel, and the red fiber washer is then placed on top of the glass barrel. The metal barrel is slid over the tip and over this assembly, and the cap is screwed onto the metal barrel. The cap is kept from contacting the glass barrel by the red fiber washer. This creates the barrel assembly. The plunger has on it an inner cap that slides freely on the shaft of the plunger and an adjustment nut that is threaded into the shaft. The plunger is fitted into the barrel assembly through the center hole of the cap, the inner cap is screwed into the threaded center hole in the cap, and the Pinky Pump is assembled. There are keepers out there that have done this so many times that they could do it underwater in the dark.

See an enlargement of the Pinky Pump parts

Pictured is the cleaning rod, a small straight piece of stainless steel that comes with the pump. It is used to knock the cutter out of the tip after use, and to clean the holes in both the cutter and tip. Also supplied, but not pictured here, is a plastic replacement for the glass barrel.
Step 2
See an enlargement of Step 2
This shows the cap being placed on the barrel assembly. The metal barrel is finely threaded and some care must be taken not to cross-strip the threads by carelessly starting the cap on crooked.
Step 3
See an enlargement of Step 3
2-3 thawed small pinks are placed in the barrel assembly, enough to feed two or three hatchling kingsnakes.  Small hairless pinks are recommended, preferable 1-4 days of age. Also, it works best if the pinks have been frozen, as they pass more smoothly through the pump than do freshly-killed pinks. Be certain to use only completely thawed room-temperature pinks.
Step 4
See an enlargement of Step 4
Once the pinks are loaded into the barrel assembly, be certain to fasten the inner cap on the plunger into the cap of the barrel assembly before any pressure is placed on the plunger. Failure to do so will allow the plunger too much side-to-side movement, which will break the glass barrel. Once the inner cap is secured into the cap, then squeeze the plunger into the barrel assembly until just a bit of pink shows at the tip. This also serves to get the air out of the tip before the pump is used.
Step 5
See an enlargement of Step 5
The shaft of the plunger has graduated markings inscribed on one flat side that measure cc units of volume. Set the adjustment nut so that a measured amount of food will be squeezed into the snake that is force fed. We would feed 1-1.5 cc of food for a small kingsnake.
Step 6
See an enlargement of Step 6
Pick up the small snake to be fed and control its head using two fingers and the thumb of the right hand. Hold its neck and anterior body against the palm of the right hand with the ring and little fingers.
Step 7
See an enlargement of Step 7
Pry open the mouth of the snake using the tip of the pump, and gently push the tip into the mouth of the snake and into the throat of the snake, until the mouth of the snake is against the bevel of the tip.
Step 8
See an enlargement of Step 8
Now, and this is IMPORTANT, move your fingers down on the body of the snake until the two fingers and thumb are restraining the snake, holding it by the neck at the level of the tip of the pump. The thumb should be on the belly of the snake. Gently squeeze the food into the snake with the left hand, as shown. It’s necessary and IMPORTANT to use the fingers and thumb to seal off the throat of the snake, so that none of the pink comes back up into the mouth of the snake. As soon as the food is injected into the snake, use the thumb and fingers to keep the food in place. Seal off the throat for a moment so that the food is not pulled up the throat of the snake into the mouth by the vacuum formed as the tip is gently withdrawn.
Step 9
See an enlargement of Step 9
Set the pump down and restrain the head of the snake with the now-empty left hand. Use the two fingers and thumb of the right hand to gently stroke the food down the body into the lower esophagus and stomach of the snake. One or two good strokes will usually do it. Relax your grip on the little snake and encourage him to crawl forward. Typically, little snakes that are flicking out their tongues and crawling forward will not make any attempt to regurgitate their injected meals.
Step 10
See an enlargement of Step 10
Pictured here is the stainless steel cleaning rod being used to clean the holes in the cutter and about to be inserted into the tip to clean its shaft.
Force-feeding is stressful on both the keeper and the kept. All too often the keeper waits until the troublesome snake is weakened and emaciated before making the decision to undertake force-feeding, and then the keeper does not force-feed enough food to create growth in the snake. If there’s a secret to successfully force-feeding hatchling colubrid snakes, it is this: We recommend that, once the decision is made to use the Pinkie Pump, a keeper force-feeds at intervals of every 4-5 days. The object must be to supply sufficient nourishment to initiate a growth spurt in the unwilling snake. It is that growth spurt that will give the little snake an interest in feeding, which, in turn, will cause him to begin to consider rodents as suitable prey.
go back to the Home Page.

Website design © 1998-2004 VIDA Preciosa Publishing, LLC.
All other content © 1998-2004 Vida Preciosa International, Inc.
Please report problems to .