The Bearded Dragon is by far the most common pet lizard in captivity today. There are many reasons for their popularity as pets. They have a very docile nature, they are easy to handle, and they are diurnal and therefore are active and look great during the day in a display setup. Another reason that they are such common lizards is that they are one of the most prolific breeders out of all of the agama species, and therefore breeding them is fairly simple and easy, which has resulted in there being many of them around! In this article we discuss on how to breed Bearded Dragons and also look at the various factors that you need to consider before you decide to breed your Beardies.
Before you decide if you are going to breed your Bearded Dragon, you need to make sure that you can handle incubating the eggs and, more importantly, know how to care for and accommodate the babies. You also need to make sure you have a plan for what you are going to do with the babies that you breed. Make sure that you can sell them once they big enough to go to new homes, and make sure that you know of homes that they can go to. Speak to other local breeders and find out how they sell their babies, and you should also speak to your local pet shop and find out if they will buy them from you, or try and sell them for you. Once you are confident that you can sell them, then you just need to make sure you can afford to set up another enclosure for them in order to raise them up. If these factors are all in place then you are ready to breed your Bearded Dragons!
First things first you will need to determine the sex of your Bearded Dragon. Sexing Bearded Dragons can be tricky, especially when they are young. There are also a few myths, for instance that females are smaller than males, that only males turn their beards black, and that only females wave their arms. None of these myths are absolutely isolated to one gender or the other. Males do tend to turn their beards black more often than females, but it is not something to use to determine sex. The simplest method of determining sex in Bearded Dragons is by lifting their tail: just above the vent there is typically either a single bulge (or none) or two separate bulges. If you see two clearly separated bulges you have a male. If you see only one you have a female. When they are young Bearded Dragons all look like females, but then develop clear signs as they get older. Accurate determination of the sex of baby Bearded Dragons is difficult and at best it is an educated guess.
If you are planning on breeding you need to make sure you have a mature male and female and an enclosure that can house the two of them comfortably. Bearded Dragons can also be successfully bred with one male and two females. In larger enclosures (minimum of 180cm x 80cm) breeders have had good success with housing two males and four females, which seems to be a very effective ratio for larger scale breeding. As things start getting cooler your Bearded Dragon will go through a winter shutdown period.
Bearded Dragons that have been raised very fast in breeding facilities have been known to breed as early as five to six months of age, and by the time they are a year old they may be able to produce up to three clutches a year. Under normal conditions maturity is reached at twelve to fifteen months of age with around three clutches being produced in the first eighteen months of age and, after the second winter shutdown, up to seven clutches can be produced and in their third year only three to four clutches will be produced. This pattern seems to be common in species of lizards that mature quickly. The females are highly prolific breeders for the first two to three years and then their egg production steadily declines; by their sixth year their egg production is insignificant and by seven years it has often completely stopped. Due to this, age records on animals, especially females, are very important if you want to maintain productive Beardies.
As we mentioned, it is best to put your Bearded Dragons through a cooling period. This can be done during their second winter. During the winter shutdown they become inactive, spending extended periods in their shelters and eating little or no food. This brumation period seems to be necessary for ensuring long term breeding success.
A reduction of daily exposure to light along with cooler temperatures induces this brumation period. Light exposure should be reduced to 10 hours a day and basking spots can be cooler during the day at around 23 – 26°C. Night temperatures can drop to 15 – 20°C. These conditions can be maintained for around two months, and are best achieved during the winter months of the year. After two months temperatures and light hours can be returned to normal.
About 3-4 weeks after the brumation period, reproductive activities begin. This includes courtship, territorial and competitive behaviours, and copulation. The time from mating to egg laying is around 4 – 6 weeks. Keep an eye on your female and you will see as the eggs start to develop; they will press against her abdominal wall, looking like grapes or marbles. When it comes close to laying time your female will start to dig a nest. You will need to set up an egg laying box with some damp soil that she can dig in. Potting soil can be used to fill a container and when it is slightly moist it can be pressed down with your hand to will make it suitable for digging a burrow in. Females lay on average between 20 – 30 eggs. Reports have shown that the German giant line of Bearded Dragons can lay excess of fifty eggs per clutch!
When you can see that your Bearded Dragon is starting to dig, it is time to get an incubation container ready. An incubation container can be as simple as a plastic ice-cream tub with a few small holes drilled into the lid. Incubation medium can be dampened vermiculite. To achieve the best ratio, weigh out your vermiculite and then add the same weight of water. We also fill up the tub about half full with the vermiculite. After your Bearded Dragon lays her eggs, carefully dig through the soil and remove the eggs and bury them half deep horizontally in the damp vermiculite. Now you need to place then lid on the container and place the tub with the eggs into an incubator that maintains the temperature at around 27.5 – 29-5°C. Be careful to double check your incubators, as temperatures above 32°C can result in the death of the embryo. Incubation time of the eggs can vary from 45 – 55 days depending on temperature; warmer temperatures will result in faster hatching time. One more thing that will need to be monitored throughout the incubation period is the moisture in the vermiculite, as it does tend to slowly dry out. I open the container every few days to check on the eggs and remove any bad ones, and if you notice it is getting a bit dry and eggs might be denting in a bit, add a little bit more water into the corners of the container. Twenty-four hours prior to hatching, Bearded Dragon eggs sweat to varying degrees. This sweating is followed by a slight collapse of the egg 12 hours prior to hatching. Strong, healthy babies usually slit through the egg shell using an egg tooth at the top of their snout within a few hours of this initial collapse. After hatching the babies will remain within the egg for several hours; do not disturb them at this time and wait for them to become active and start running around. At this time they can then be removed and placed in a rearing cage.
This article gives you a breakdown on the process of breeding these popular lizards. Bearded Dragons are wonderful animals to work with – breeding them is not very difficult and can be very rewarding. Once again: before breeding your Bearded Dragons make sure that you can sell them once they are big enough to go to new homes!
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