For as long as she can remember, Crystal Kendrick has had a thing for reptiles.

But it was only when the 29-year-old library worker got to know her husband Michael - and his menagerie of pets - that she came to love snakes.

The couple keep eight of them, including a 3m Burmese python called Xena, at home in West Virginia. She calls them her "babies".

She says each snake has its own personality and temperament, though they all do pretty much the same thing all day - laze about.

And she says her snakes recognise and know her. "When the cages are open, they will actually climb into our hands and Xena usually lifts her head up to have her neck scratched."

But, know their keepers or not, Crystal's pets have taken a bite to the hand that feeds them. Xena once grabbed Michael's hand so hard she left four deep puncture wounds. That incident, says Crystal, was the result of what "we in the reptile world" refer to as an SFM - Stupid Feeding Mistake.

"When reaching for the snake we make sure to move deliberately always allowing the snake to know what our intentions are and we approach from the underneath toward the backside," she says. "Approaching from over the head stresses the snake as this is the way a predator would approach."

Crystal and Michael have had two escapes. One from forgetting to lock the cage door and the other from a custom-built cage that was not secure. Both times, the snakes hid in a warm dark nook in the house.

Crystal had a baby this year - but they'll still keep the snakes.