Breeding Bearded Dragons
If you have always wanted a Bearded Dragon and don't know how to get or keep one this website is for you!
What age can Bearded Dragons breed?
It is best to wait until the beardies are about 18 months old before thinking about breeding them, however if you keep a male and female together you don't have a lot of say in the matter! Bearded dragons have been known to breed from as young as eight months, size seeming to be a more important factor than age. Shrek and Fiona suprised us by breeding when they were about 14 months old.
How do you know when a mating has been successful?
I was totally unprepared for Shrek and Fiona to breed - Fiona seemed to be putting on weight which I took as a good sign as she was always the smaller of the two. Then she seemed to go completely off her food, and she seemed to change shape! One day I noticed that her stomach looked like it was full of marbles! Unexpected though it was, Fiona was obviously gravid, that is, pregnant and full of eggs. That explained the not eating - the eggs take up too much room in the stomach so there's no space left for food.
Interestingly the 'act' must have happened whilst we were away on holiday and they were being looked after in the local pet shop. It's possible the change of temparature put them in the mood! However, they have shown mating behaviour before and since.
The male bearded dragon is not the gentliest of courtiers - the head bobbing habit demonstrated from a very young age becomes quite violent. The male will jump onto the female and hold her in place by biting at the skin on the back of the neck. Although very rough behaviour, the female seems to tolerate it, although in some dragons the male has been known to tear the females skin.
Dig dig dig
Fi became extremely restless, running from one end of the viv to the other, digging constantly, but in various places and never in the same place twice. Shrek kept as far out of her way as he could, but was often covered in sand that was flying around. The neatly arranged vivarium resembled a bomb site - you could barely see in the glass with all the sand she had kicked up!
In the end I emptied a bag of damp sand into the vivarium - a damp medium encourages them to lay. A couple more days, and I was lucky enough to see a glimmer of white in a hole. It was obviously an egg. Fi had just laid them, and was now busy burying them as deep as she could. Shrek interestingly stood by in an 'on guard' stance, not moving even though he, too was becoming buried in the sand. Once all the eggs were covered she lost interest in the site and moved away. She immediately looked for something to eat! She needed feeding up, as she was by now very skinny!
I hadn't dared to believe that the eggs would be fertilised - the first clutch a female lays are often yellowly in colour and infertile. I hadn't got an incubator prepared, so left the eggs where they were overnight. First thing the next morning (and aren't Mums lovely?) I got mine to run me around trying to find the makings of a home made incubator.
Bricks were placed in the incubator, with a grill over the top, and the eggs put in boxes safely above the water. Unlike birds eggs which need to be kept dry, reptile eggs need to be kept humid. I placed the eggs in damp vermiculite - the vermiculite should clump together when squeezed, but water shouldn't drip out. Using water water to control the temparature also helps keep a steady humidity. The main benefit of this incubation method is it is cheap to set up - the whole thing cost around £20, which, seeing as at that point I didn't know whether there would be any viable eggs to incubate, was a very good result!
So now it was back home, to set up the incubator, to try and stabilise the temparature at hopefully a constant 84 degrees fahrenheit (28 degrees celsius) and to see what the eggs were like.
I started very gingerly digging into the sand using a teaspoon and paintbrush. Quickly I uncovered the first egg - it was gleaming white, and looked healthy! I carefully placed it in the container in the vermiculite, making sure that I kept it the same way up as I had found it. Then on to the next and the next.
I had only expected to find a few eggs, but to my suprise there were 22 in total! I placed three containers full of eggs in the incubator, and then started the long 60 day plus wait.
The eggs in the incubator - the two top left trays and the middle left are the first batch of eggs and can clearly be seen to be larger than the eggs laid the day before.
Shrek looking very fed up and trying to keep out of the way as Fi races round dig dig digging! You can see the sand kicked up on the glass!
The eggs as I started to uncover them. Fiona seemed to have forgotten about them by this time, and didn't mind me moving them!
Fiona clearly showing eggs in her stomach
A word of warning...
Breeding bearded dragons is not hard - in fact it's too easy. Put a female and male together and you'll soon be hearing the patter of lots and lots and lots of little tiny feet. And feet come attached to mouths which are very very hungry!
A bearded dragon can have multiple clutches of eggs from just one mating - two is the norm, but three or four are not unheard of. And each clutch can be twenty to thirty eggs.
So you'll need to buy lots of vivariums. And then there's the food - up to £50 a week for a clutch of growing bearded dragon babies! And then you will find there are so many babies being bred at the moment that unless you are breeding high end colour morphs you will end up almost giving them away - and certainly not making enough money to pay back what you spent for all the vivs and food.
This is something you do for the love of it - not the money!
This page shares with you my experience.
Now I began to worry that she might become egg bound, so to encourage her to lay I filled various containers and put them in the vivarium but she completely ignored everything I put in, preferring to dig dig dig in the sand that was already there! More days passed, Fi had laid no eggs and I was beginning to get very worried!
Our Homemade incubator
Not even knowing if the eggs were going to be fertile, we didn't want to spend a lot, so were grateful to the advice given by a local reptile and fishkeeping shop. They provided us (for free) with a poly box (one of the large polystryene boxes that they sell the likes of Koi carp in), and recommended filling this to a depth of six inches with water, and using an aquarium water heater/thermostat to keep it to temparature.
Bearded dragon eggs should be incubated at 84 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees celsius) Humidity should be kept very high. Humidity should be maintained at 70 - 90% As well as my home made version, you can also put a heat mat (attached to a thermostat) at the bottom of the polystyrene box, with a bowl of water to keep the humidity high.
Eggs should be placed in damp vermiculite - this is clean and bacteria free. Don't use damp soil as this can contain harmful bacteria.
Hatching time can be from 50 days, but anything up to 100 days or just over is normal.
Always lift the eggs gently from the laying box, keeping them in the exact orientation that they were laid. Eggs should never be turned as the embryo inside will die.
Some experts 'candle' the eggs to see the growing embryo - this means holding them up with a light behind them. I don't recommend this for beginners as it is so easy to inadvertently turn the egg over and kill the embryo inside.
You can read about the process of hatching on my Babies page, but just a quick word here about eggs that do not hatch. The eggs do not all hatch out at once, and a couple of eggs may not hatch at all. Don't be in a hurry to remove unhatched eggs - it does no harm leaving them in the incubator for a few days just to make sure. Never try and open the egg - if the baby isn't strong enough to get out itself it is nature's way of saying it won't be able to survive. Trying to cut into an egg to get the baby out is more likely to damage a baby which would otherwise be healthy.
Embryos should be kept in the incubator until they are moving around independently as they need to absorb the yolk sac.
If the eggs were infertile they would collapse and go bad within a week - none did!
4 weeks later Fi laid a second batch of eggs. This is perfectly normal and to be expected, as bearded dragons retain sperm. What I didn't expect was the second clutch to be as large as the first! This time Fi laid 21 eggs, making a grand total of 43 in all! This time I was better prepared, and had placed a cat litter tray in the vivarium. After another week of running about and creating havoc (but only going off her food for a couple of days this time) Fiona kindly took the hint of the hole I had started in the damp sand and laid her second clutch there.
Once the eggs were removed and put in the incubator it was clear to see how much the initial batch had grown!
In the end the first clutch of eggs took 73 days to hatch, and the second clutch started hatching on the 71st day - which was Christmas day, so a nice sight for our visitors!
Before you think about breeding think about the cost. Ideally each five babies should be housed separately so that they don't tail or toe nip - they are not vicious, but a tail disappearing behind a rock looks an awful lot like a cricket to a hungry baby.
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