We understand things better. We have better science within the hobby, that really does aid in all elements of the keeping process.
You will often find the female of a species is not as popular due to the fat the egg laying is part of the associated worry in keeping them. Female Chameleons and Bearded Dragons are a prime example here, so I’ll focus on these for this article. But It can honestly be used for so many species.
They’re simply not as popular due to the related “egg laying” issues. This is a Fact.
Any breeder will tell you, they get a healthy batch of Chameleons or Beardies, and it’s always the females who are last to go. Again, this is a fact. For me, I this is quite sad, and these days it’s totally unwarranted.
Finding The Facts:
I understand the reasoning. It is a worrying time for keeper, and of course, the female reptile in question. But when you look at the evidence of for example here, the captive bred Chameleon or Bearded Dragon having egg binding, or egg related issues over the past few years, it’s actually not all that bad at all.
If you are browsing social media, like a reptile Facebook group or a reptile based forum, you will see a few disaster stories. But, this is because people are rarely going to post photos or updates of their Chameleon/Beardie who has just laid her eggs successfully. It’s not “interesting” enough. But lets be honest, the amount of captive Chameleons, or any other reptile in the world, in comparison to the deaths/problems caused by the egg laying process, statistically, it’s very very low.
Simple reason being, we understand things better then “back in the day”. We have better science within the hobby, that really does aid all elements of the keeping process.
So for our egg laying females, there are a few key improvements over the past few years…
We understand how vital hydration is for our Reptiles, regardless of the sex or species. But a Female that is not hydrated sufficiently, may well ‘give up‘ the dig process. Get tired. Of course, this causes delay of the lay. That’s a bad thing.
But with the range of hydration options available today there’s no excuse for dehydration to ever happen, for any species.
(See my multiple published article of Chameleon hydration, here).
We have excellent supplements available now days. And they have honestly improved a great deal over the past few years. With Arcadia EarthPro-A and Calcium-Mg being top of the game for me and my reptiles. The correct use of a quality supplement give your Reptile the calcium, vitamins, & minerals needed. Again, providing they are used correctly. A female getting the correct nutritional needs, will of course aid egg producing, laying, health. Pretty much everything.
With that being said, the overuse of supplements is linked to excess egg production in the captive environment (more of this later)
Heat & UVB:
It’s a given that not only the tech of heat and UVB have advanced over the past several years. But our knowledge of its proper use for so many species has moved their care forward leaps and bounds. Resulting in longer living and healthier reptiles.
But it’s role in the production of eggs is also apparent.
It’s been said that a slightly cooler basking temp for Chameleons results in less egg production. Personally, I see zero effect with my Chameleons.
But regardless of this, the correctly administered heat and uvb will aid everything else for the reptile. The digestion of food. Breakdown of supplements, etc etc. All aiding healthy eggs, be them fertile or infertile.
We should all know how important a varied diet is. Long term reptile keepers, like myself will tell you. Going back 25+ years ago, all that was available were mealworms. Certainly here in the UK, you’d get the odd batch of field collected crickets and moths, flies etc. But only if you collected yourself (I still collect wild bugs to this day, without ever having any adverse effect in 32 years of keeping. But this will all be explained in a future post, so keep your eyes out for that 😉 )
None of this rubbish of “they will only eat morios/supers and wax-worms“. That’s bulls**t. They are eating these, because it’s what you are feeding. That’s YOUR fault. They have zero choice on what YOU feed.
Today, there is absolutely NO excuse for not having variety in the diet. Like most things, if you feed just one or two items solely, it will cause issues over time. Variety of course is also vital for egg production, and healthy laying. As during the egg creation process, calcium and vitamins are often taken from the body reserves. So it’s crucial these are kept at the best levels.
We also know overfeeding is not only a huge issue regarding captive reptile obesity (see my multiple published article, here), but overfeeding contributes to the over production of eggs, and frequency of which they are lay. So a good and natural/realistic feeding schedule, including amounts fed is a must.
Again, we now understand because of various helpful reptile forums, Facebook groups like mine (ALL my groups, here), and our collective experiences within the following topics:
- What’s needed by the various species of Chameleon/Bearded Dragon
- What are the best products to use to keep and maintain a healthy Chameleon/Bearded Dragon
- What works and what doesn’t for certain Reptiles.
- Dietary requirement for the species in question.
- Species natural diets to base our own regimes on.
Lay Bin and Privacy:
Providing a good lay bin is vital. At least 8/10 inches in depth and at least the same in length. Chameleons and Bearded Dragons like to dig down, and often across. So a decent size is a must.
Keeping your chosen laying substrate damp is also key. For me, I use a sand/soil mix. It’s not a heavy as plain sand, so much easier for the reptile to arrange and manipulate. Also less tiring to do so. The mix is strong enough to hold its form when the laying female tunnels into it. Best way to tell if you’ve got the mix right. Poke a couple of fingers right down to the bottom. If on withdrawal the hole remains, it’s all good. You don’t want it to collapse on your digging female.
Once she has laid her eggs, she will then cover up the hole, and smooth out the surface, like nothing has ever happened.
DO NOT remove the bin until this process has taken place.
For me, privacy is so so important. Cover the front 3 sides of the vivarium as much as you can, leave her to it. Only interact if she comes up to the basking area for a warm up. Take this advantage to offer some water, and a little food. I tend to offer Silkworms here. A few wax-worms as a treat too. Something with good moisture content to aid strength and hydration.
I will offer a drink almost instantly. It’s vital she re-hydrates
So she’s done her bit. How can you tell?
Well, generally once she has lay, in the case of the Chameleon, and often Bearded Dragon, she will fill in any holes dug, so the lay-bin will be all smoothed out. Some Beardies do not do this bit. They’ll lay, then just go soak up some heat and UVB. But the reason for the smoothing over is so it’s not obvious something has been buried there. Remember, this process is something stamped in their DNA. They are thinking from a ‘wild‘ point of view. You wouldn’t want another animal feasting on your eggs, would you.
Once she has completed this process, she will go and bask. You can choose to remove the bin now. You can wait 24 hours to be sure, and then remove it. Don’t leave it too long. I have witnessed a few females wandering back down to the bin and messing about with it. More smoothing over, to me, it’s just added exhaustion. She will already be extremely tired from this whole event. I will offer a drink almost instantly. It’s vital she re-hydrates. Maybe a couple of silkworms too. Something soft with a good fluid content. But don’t feed more than a couple of items in that first 24 hours. Just fluids. Her insides will have been stretched around due to the egg’s squashing up everything, so it’s a good idea to allow everything to settle back into place before she pigs out and gets a full belly.
After 24 hours, let her eat. She will be very hungry. Offer a variety of fully gut-loaded and hydrated feeders. All
dusted with plain Calcium (No D3). It’s vital the bodies calcium levels are replaced since so much was used up in the egg forming process, even the laying. Over the next 3 days, continue to offer a good variety of live-foods, regardless of what your normal feeding routine is. She will be back to normal in no time. After 3 straight days feeding, you can then revert to your normal feeding regime, 3x a week for example for a Beardie. Several large feeders a week for your adult Chameleon, and prepare for the whole process to start again in roughly around 10 to 12 weeks.
So you see, please don’t overlook these beautiful female of a species because of the bad reputation our social media sources have given them. It’s really not that bad at all. Remember, people won’t post stories of a Chameleon or Bearded Dragon laying eggs without issue. So, don’t be scared of the eggs. We have the science, the products, and people to help us through such things.
You should already have an exotic Vet, and registered your reptiles. Let them know you have a female,, and be sure they can deal with any issues.
And as above…everything else is available to make it all happen without issues.
Of course, issues DO happen. But look at the statistics. These are NOT a common occurrence.
*This is an updated version of my article on Reptile Apartment from 2017*
Published author of herpetoculture.
Featuring articles on many species within,
Practical Reptile Keeping magazine (some linked on site as .pdf files).
Canadian Hobbyist magazine.
Also, Reptile/Amphibian blog article writer for;
Northampton Reptile Centre
Exotic Direct (links on this site)
Public talker at Reptile meetings, for various organisations.
And founder of several huge Reptile and Amphibian related Facebook groups (links on this site)
Reptile Reports – “Lizard Personality of the year” 2016 – 2017