Leave him to settle in for two weeks before handling him - he will get used to you being the one who feeds him, and then when you handle him he wonít be too frightened. Baby bearded dragons are prey animals, and have the instinct to hide away or escape from anything bigger than them. Letting him settle in for this time will help him adjust to you, and be easier to handle in the long run. When you do start to handle him slide your hand underneath him and scoop him up. Again, a predator will swoop in from above, so anything picking them up in this way is interpreted as a threat.
Hold a baby beardie firmly. They don't seem to have a fear of heights, and are likely to jump off your shoulder and hurt themselves landing on the floor.
Your beardie will probably have been eating small/medium crickets - if the crickets are too small he wonít be very interested in them, and may find them harder to catch. Feed him as many crickets as he can eat in about 10 minutes, and feed him 3 times a day until he is three months old. A good rule of thumb is never feed anything larger than the distance between the beardieís eyes.
Avoid feeding mealworms as they are not nutritious and their skin is hard to digest. Locusts are a very good food source, but are expensive. You will need to have lots of spare cash to feed a growing beardie on a diet of locusts!
Remove any crickets which are uneaten - if you donít these can nibble a baby when he is asleep, and at the very least cause him stress.
Put a pinch of calcium dust on his food once a day - this is vital. Beardies grow so fast they need a lot of calcium. Pet shops may try to sell you Nutrabol, which is a good vitamin mix, but you should not use this all the time. 4/5 days a week with a calcium dust, and the other days with Nutrabol would be a good mix.
In your vivarium you should have a basking spot for your beardie which should be between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature should be on a rock, or piece of wood directly under the basking lamp. The other end of the viv should be no higher than 85 degrees. It is very important to maintain this temperature range. Beardies are cold blooded and regulate their temperatures by moving from one end to the other. I recommend having a dual temp thermometer so you can easily see what the temps are. Read the page on thermostats to help you get the temperature set up right. Read about controlling your temperatures with a thermostat.
Beardies need a UV light on for about 12 hours a day as they absorb vitamins from it. An Arcadia 12% is recommended for bearded dragons.
Bearded dragons donít hibernate, but sometimes they slow down in winter, and can have a period of a few weeks when they hide away and rarely eat. Whilst this is entirely normal in older dragons, sub adults, i.e. under the age of 18 months, should not brumate as they are growing too fast, and not eating would harm them.
If your baby hides away under a log or in a cave, remove the cave or log to force him to come out and be sociable again.
Thereís no doubt about it - your beardie will give you cause for concern! Please join my bearded dragon forum where you will hopefully be able to get any of your queries answered.
I am not a vet, however, and if your beardie really appears to be ill, the best thing you can do is seek qualified help. Just in case you need a vet in a hurry, it is a good precaution to find out where there is a vet that specialises in reptiles in your area and have their number to hand. Hopefully you will never need it!
Once your baby has settled in, start to handle him. Make sure your hands are warm, and he should be quite happy to be held. When very young he will scamper a bit, but just keep calm and take him out little and often. As he grows he will become calmer, and happy to sit on you. You can get a leash for him which is the safest way to take him outdoors (but make sure he is used to it inside first!)
I hope you will have many years of enjoyment with your beardie - certainly as much as Iím having with my bearded dragons.
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Baby Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
When you buy your bearded dragon the breeder or pet shop should give you a care sheet to tell you how to look after him.
If you haven't been given a caresheet hopefully this page will help you.
All baby beardies will have been fed on crickets - check with the breeder what size he is eating. Make sure you ask the breeder what vegetables he has been eating so you know what food he is used to.
Before you bring home your Bearded Dragon
You should aim to buy the vivarium, heat lamp, thermostat and UV light at least a week before you bring your new baby beardie home. This is so you can get it set up and running and get the temperatures stablised first.
If you haven't yet looked at them these pages will give you the information you need:
Equipment - Advice on what you need to keep a bearded dragon
How to set up your vivarium
Accessories you might want to buy
How to set up the thermostat and lighting
Size of Vivarium for a baby bearded dragon
Some people recommend starting off with a small vivarium for a baby bearded dragon - they say that a baby feels lost in a large vivarium, and can't find it's food.
Baby bearded dragons are usually sold at the age of 2 months - by six to eight months you'll be needing to buy a larger viv, so it really isn't worth buying a small one to start with because it won't last long. In the wild bearded dragons hatch into a huge desert and survive perfectly well! Keeping the viv decoration plain to start off with helps the baby find its food - and doesn't allow crickets much space to hide!
I recommend you go for a 4 foot x 2 foot x 2 foot vivarium from the start as this is the size an adult bearded dragon will need. If you do feel your baby feels lost in this size of viv there is nothing to stop you blocking off one half of it!
It is also easier to get the temperature gradient right in a larger vivarium.
The picture on the right shows bearded dragons which are an ideal size and weight to move to a new home. They look happy and healthy, and are plump enough to survive any period of not eating caused by the stress of a move to a new home.
This little fella is a bit too small and will be hard work for a novice owner to look after
The move to a new home will be a strange experience for your beardie and be prepared for him not to eat for a couple of days, and not to eat normally for up to two weeks. This is the main reason why it's recommended that you do not buy a baby of less than six weeks old as they will not have built up sufficient fat reserves to survive this settling in period. If your baby has been well handled by the breeder then he may settle in straight away, but it's more common for them to go through this period of not eating. The older the bearded dragon the easier it is to look after - if this is your first reptile you might want to look for one about six months old.
Settling your bearded dragon into his new home
Fresh veg should be given every day - curly kale is often a favourite. All my beardies (adults and babies) love this. Veg should be very finely chopped so he cannot choke on it. Carrot (grated finely), and finely chopped apple can also be offered, along with a selection of most fruit and veg - donít feed iceberg lettuce, tomatoes or cucumber as there have no nutritional value and will go straight through their digestive system leading to runny feaces.
Young beardies cannot recognise standing water - I recommend putting a very shallow bowl of water in the viv, but to make sure that he is getting enough moisture, spray his food with a calcium rich mineral water (I use Evian).
If he starts looking unhappy and the skin is sunken in between his eyes this could be a sign that he is getting dehydrated - as well as food, water should be available for the babies - this should be offered in a shallow drinking container or a saucer. Dragons at this age may have difficulty recognising water, so until you are sure they are drinking properly it is useful to spray the sides of the vivarium, or plants, so they can see water dripping down. Be careful not to overdo it though - this is a desert vivarium, and you are not trying to create a sauna!
NEVER put water features, for example, waterfalls, in the bearded dragon's vivarium. This raises the humidity which their lungs are not built to handle. Likewise bearded dragons SHOULD NOT be bathed - unless they are extremely constipated, have run through their poo and are dirty or, if female, after laying eggs. Bathing regularly will damage their lungs. Some people think that beardies like being bathed as they can swim. This is just because all animals have a built in instinct to swim when placed in water. This should never be interpreted as beardies liking water, or it being good for them!
Substrate for a juvenile bearded dragon
Until your beardie is six months old do not put sand in the vivarium - as he eats he will pick up grains of sand, and these can cause impaction in his stomach and he may die.
Paper towels are the best flooring for a young beardie - they can be changed regularly, so you can keep the viv nice and clean.
Some people never use sand, but use tiles or vinyl instead.
When he is old enough for sand use Play Sand, as this is very fine. Do not be tempted to buy the special Calci Sand as this clumps together when wet, and would cause impaction if swallowed. Read more about substrate.