Breeding Bearded Dragons
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Bearded dragons are relatively easy reptiles to breed. Follow correct husbandry procedures, and you’ll maintain healthy parents and offspring. Be sure adult dragons are mature, fed, supplemented and housed adequately and you will be ready to Breed Bearded Dragons.
- Sexing: Determine the gender of your beardies.
- Brumation: “Cooling” before breeding season.
- Mating: Breeding. Encouraging reproduction.
- Egg Laying: Proper egg laying enclosure.
- Incubation: Keeping eggs sufficiently warm until hatching.
Bearded dragons are among those reptiles that will breed best when provided with a winter “cool down” period, also called “brumation.” Unlike hibernation, bromating reptiles do not sleep deeply through the period, although they do reduce their activity level significantly and stop eating.
Many dragons will hibernate spontaneously, and you’ll observe a decrease in food intake and activity level in the late fall and early winter. Brumation can be encouraged by gradually reducing the basking temperatures to 75-80 degrees F, reducing the photoperiod (the number of hours where lighting is provided) to 8-10 hours a day, and turning off any secondary heat sources. Heat, light and basking temperatures can be gradually restored after approximately 6 weeks.
Breeding (Mating) Bearded Dragons
Opinions vary about whether to house breeding groups of bearded dragons together or whether to introduce the male for copulation only. Some argue that housing a male-female pair together will overly stress the female if the male decides he wants to breed frequently. Plus, in general, housing bearded dragons in groups increases the likelihood of injuries from competition for food, basking spots or rejections of attempts to copulate.
If you decide to house them together, it is essential that the enclosure be large (at least 6 feet long for a pair of beardies) with several choices of basking spots, hiding areas and food. Having said all that, it is probably safest to house the dragons individually.
Introducing The Breeders
Once the bearded dragons appear to have increased their activity level and food intake, usually in February or March, the male and female can be "introduced". If the dragons have been housed together throughout the brumation period, they will likely spontaneously begin to display mating behavior.
Most breeders who keep dragons separately find it best to introduce the male into the female’s enclosure in order to maximize the female’s comfort level and reduce the male’s aggression. The male bearded dragon will approach the female with a variety of head bobs and may display his full beard.
As with most reptiles, copulation is a vigorous, somewhat violent process. The male will copulate with the female by biting her neck, climbing on top of her and twisting his body so he can insert one of his hemipenes into her cloaca; copulation is completed fairly quickly.
If copulation was successful, the female should be ready to lay her eggs 4-6 weeks afterwards. The female will demonstrate she is ready to lay her eggs with increasingly active and agitated behavior. For example, she may attempt to dig in her cage.
Provide an enclosure for laying with at least 12” of substrate in which she can dig (coco fiber, dirt, potting soil, etc.). The female will dig a deep hole and lay generally 10-30 eggs. Females can store sperm and may lay multiple clutches after just one mating, up to 5 or more in a season every 3-4 weeks.
Once the female has completed laying, eggs should be carefully excavated and placed in an incubator without turning them or changing their orientation. They can be marked with a permanent marker to be sure of which side is up. For incubation, eggs are generally partially buried in a container of moist perlite or vermiculite (moisten the substrate with water and squeeze out the excess).
More recently, some breeders have begun using a system where the eggs are suspended above moist substrate in an egg container. Some breeders put several pin-holes in the egg container for air exchange. Others keep the containers “airtight” in order to maintain proper humidity and open the containers briefly every week for air exchange.
The eggs should be incubated at 82-85 degrees F with humidity above 75%. Eggs should hatch in 55-75 days with earlier hatching at higher incubation temperatures. It may take a day or two (or longer) for the entire clutch to complete hatching. Although there are some indications that more male dragons result from higher incubation temperatures, temperature sexing determination has not been thoroughly understood with bearded dragons.