Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breeding Beardies

Although it is too late in the season for this, I thought I would run the article now to give everyone something to think about for the Spring.  And, I will run this article again in February. Remember, females should be kept in a lowered temperature environment for at least two to four weeks before trying to breed.   Meanwhile read and research all you can about breeding beardies if you are interested.  There is lots of information on the internet and for the most part, they do not disagree with one another.  This article mainly deals with preparing your beardies to breed, creating the correct habitat and behavioral changes to observe.  For information on caring and hatching the eggs, I will give in the follow up article in February.

First, make sure you have a male and female, and, always quarantine new beardies-  have them checked by a vet before introducing a new potential mate to your established pet.  To successfully breed, it is best to place the female with a male of equal size or weight. It is recommended that females not be bred until they are at least 18 months old or more than 350 grams. So, you will need two suitable habitats for your beardies, not just one.

For optimum fertility, provide a period of decreased temperature and daylight hours, called brummation, for two to three months or a minimum of two to four weeks. Although many beardies successfully breed without a brummation period, you can expect decreased fertility if the rest period is not provided before breeding season.

After the brumation period, it is very important to ensure that the habitat is correct for the species. There should be a temperature gradient of 77 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit with a focal basking spot of 105 degrees. The beardies should be on a balanced diet with adequate calcium. The lizards must be in optimum condition -- especially the female -- because breeding, developing eggs and then laying eggs (called oviposition) takes a lot of metabolic energy and will take calcium from the female much as it does with humans.  Remember, full-spectrum lighting, including UVB, is necessary for proper calcium metabolism. Either natural sunlight (not filtered through glass or plastic) or an electric bulb that produces UVB is a necessity!

 Once a sexually mature male is ready to breed, its beard darkens. He will bob his head and stamp his front feet to gain the attention of a female. He may begin chasing her around the enclosure, and he may bite the base of the female’s neck while attempting to position himself for breeding. The male then everts a hemipenis and inserts it into the female’s cloaca. During this period it is crucial to observe the pairs to ensure that the male does not harm the female.  Remove the male if she is exhibiting fearful behaviours such as hiding, burrowing, excessive hand waving etc.

There should be enough room for two adult beardies to comfortably cohabitate, branches for each for climbing and a cave or nontoxic plant (or two) to allow one to retreat and hide from the other if necessary. Keep in mind that keeping your bearded dragons together is temporary. You will need two separate habitats in the long term as well as a separate suitable habitat for the hatchlings when the time comes.  I have seen some comments where owners think that the female cares for the hatchlings but that is not true and she may even see them as a food source.

Allow the pair to remain together for one week and then remove her for a week. Return her to the male’s cage again for another week, and remove her again for another week. Finally, put her with the male for one more week. At this time (if you have witnessed successful copulations), separate the pair and place the female in her own cage with a lay box.
A lay box is a plastic box filled with moist topsoil, or potting soil, placed in the cage at a slant. This box allows her to dig and oviposit her eggs. A female ready to lay will dig and pace to the corners of her cage.

A female usually lays her eggs four to six weeks after a successful mating. While developing her eggs inside the shell gland, she will appear fuller in the abdomen, and she may eat less and less. Eventually, she may stop eating altogether, though some don’t.

I am not going to go into removing the eggs, incubating the eggs, hatching out neonates and caring for the hatchlings. I just wanted you to show you that a whole lot more is involved in breeding beardies than simply putting a male and female together. Breeding requires dedication, preparation, planning and knowledge of the reproductive habits of these amazing agamid lizards.

I recommend you purchase a good text on bearded dragons or spend some time visiting some of the excellent bearded dragon websites out there. They will explain in greater detail what is involved in successfully breeding beardies and hatching the eggs.

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