Considering how fascinating, engaging, and easy to care for bearded dragons are, it is no surprise that many hobbyists become interested in breeding them. Bearded dragons now come in a wide array of fascinating colors, patterns, and scale variations. This makes dragons especially appealing for a breeder. You can begin your own breeding program to achieve a new morph or faithfully replicate an existing morph.
Breeding bearded dragons aren’t hard. You may, however, find incubating the eggs and raising the hatchlings to be much more challenging. Read this article to learn everything that you need to know about incubating bearded dragon eggs before you make the decision to breed your dragons.
From when it is appropriate to breed, to recognizing breeding behavior, learning about egg laying and incubation, and how to raise a neonatal bearded dragon, learn everything that you need to know to incubate your bearded dragon eggs.
Be a responsible dragon breeder and learn everything that you should be thinking of before you consider breeding, from how old your dragon should be to you what kind of genetic mutations might not mix well.
Once you have the perfect pair and they are old and healthy enough to breed, it is important that you recognize breeding behavior and look out for the female’s well-being during breeding.
Learn everything about egg laying, from your options in providing an egg-laying container to how to successfully find the eggs once they are laid.
The incubation process is not difficult. However, it is very important that you watch your eggs closely as they develop. Learn how to set them up for success with the right conditions.
Once your eggs hatch, you have an entirely new responsibility. Learn what to look for as hatchlings come out and how to care for them in their first couple of months.
Before You Breed
Bearded dragons breed readily in captivity, and much accidental breeding occurs when a young dragon ’s sex is misidentified. It is very important to prevent accidental breeding and to breed responsibly since great harm can come to the mother and offspring if care is not taken. Your first responsibility is to choose two dragons which are genetically healthy and unrelated. If you have chosen to breed a specific color morph or scale pattern, it is your responsibility to learn the proper breeding of that morph.
Breeding for certain scale patterns, colors, and other mutations can result in genetic disorders if the right combination of dominant and recessive traits are not made. If you are experimenting with breeding mutations keep in mind that you may accidentally produce unhealthy offspring. Think seriously about your decision to enter into this hobby before you begin.
Male dragons should be at least 18 months old and female should be at least 2 years old before they breed. If a specific female appears small or underweight at that age, she should not be bred until she is healthy and genetic issues have been ruled out. The health of the male is also important. Males that are underweight at 18 months should wait before breeding to watch for potential health problems before considering breeding.
Some breeders force hibernation before breeding, but this is unnecessary and may overly stress dragons. Most bearded dragons will enter into courtship and breeding as soon as they see a dragon of the other sex. Try exposing your dragons to each other for several months with observation before inducing breeding through hibernation.
Prior to breeding, female dragons should be provided with a high level of calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in addition to the normal multivitamin which all dragons should be provided with. Healthy eggs require large amounts of calcium to create their shells. Failure to provide sufficient calcium can result in poor health for the offspring and mother dragon.
Recognizing Breeding Behavior
Bearded dragons engage in a wide range of activities related to breeding. If you, like most hobbyists, watch your dragons on a regular basis and know their behavior well, the changes associated with breeding behavior become immediately obvious to you.
When your male dragon begins to court, his beard will darken. Normally colored dragons will develop black beards while the beard may be some other color if you have a different color morph.
Both dragons will head bob, but not as quickly or vigorously as in the case of an aggressive display. Females will also wave their arm to the male in order to signify submissiveness for breeding. The male dragon may chase the female for some time before breeding occurs.
The dragons should be provided with a large enough enclosure that the female can get away from the male for periods during courtship. Visual barriers such as rocks and logs should also be provided so that she can have some rest. Courtship may take hours to days, depending on the dragon. Watch carefully for signs of stress in the female.
Meeting itself consists of the male dragon biting the neck of the female. Mating may occur several times over the course of several months. If your female dragon loses weight or appears stressed, or if you observe the male dragon chasing her continuously, she can be removed. Generally, one breeding event is sufficient to fertilized eggs.
Eggs will be laid four to six weeks after successful breeding. You will see the female become plump, and you can often see the outline of the eggs visible through her belly. Light and translucent color morphs are especially good at revealing the outline of the eggs within a pregnant dragon’s belly. If you are unsure whether mating has occurred, keep checking your dragon’s belly, with a flashlight if necessary, to see if eggs are developing.
Time to Lay
You’ll know that your bearded dragon is ready to lay her eggs when she begins displaying digging and searching behavior. She will dig at the corners of her enclosure, especially around the water bowl where there may be
The egg laying container should be a plastic box with approximately six to eight inches of moist sandy soil. The mixture should be just damp enough to barely clump when you squeeze it. There are commercially available options that are very good.
Presenting the Container
You have two options for how to offer the egg-laying container to your dragon. You can place a suitable plastic container into the dragon’s enclosure. This is the most traditional technique and how most breeders have done it historically.
However, there is a chance that your dragon will fail to lay her eggs within the box. This is especially true for first-time mothers who who may not realize that they are about to lay an egg or who are not be good at recognizing the right conditions. Even accomplished mothers may lay their eggs in the wrong location due to some distraction or simply a failure to feel the correct instinct around laying eggs.
Safest Way to Present Container
In order to avoid the possibility of your dragon laying her eggs in the wrong place, you can provide her with a plastic tub or container large enough for her to move around comfortably within and with a secure lid so she will not escape. You can put your female in and keep an eye on her over the next several hours. As long as she begins digging behavior, you can expect that she will lay eggs soon. If your dragon doesn’t begin digging within a couple hours of being placed within the container, you can place her back in her enclosure and see if you need to make any changes to the container.
Once your female dragon lays her eggs she can return to her enclosure. Repeat the process the next day in the afternoon or early evening, as this is when dragons like to lay. Keep the chamber around 80° for the health of the mother and offspring during this time.
Finding the Eggs
If you have provided your bearded dragon with the proper egg-laying receptacle and she has used it appropriately, the eggs should all be located within the box. If your dragon did not find a place to lay her eggs they will likely be scattered across the tank or even in the water dish. Some dragons hide their eggs very well in the corners of their tank. Look carefully for evidence of digging in the corners if you have chosen to provide a laying box within the dragon’s tank.
Very carefully dig out the dragon’s eggs, starting at the corners of the lay box and working your way very slowly in. Eggs should be clustered together so once you find them you will find all of them in most cases. In general, clutches are between 16 and 24 eggs, however you may end up with dramatically more or fewer. This can make it difficult to plan homes for your future hatchlings, but you will have some time before it is appropriate to rehome them to find homes.
Incubating the Eggs
It becomes increasingly more important throughout the incubation process that eggs are kept oriented in the same position. Even right after the mother dragon lays the eggs, they should remain in the same position when you move them. Mark the eggs gently with a pencil to ensure that you maintain the same position as you move the eggs to the incubator.
It is not important what kind of incubator you use, so long as it remains stable and maintains temperature. Incubate the eggs at 84 degrees. A variance of two or three degrees will not affect development. Temperatures over 90 degrees will rapidly kill embryos, however.
Placing the Eggs within the Incubator
Eggs will not be placed directly within the incubator. Instead, set the eggs into small plastic containers filled with vermiculite or a commercially produced reptile incubation medium. Dampen the medium until it clumps but does not drip when squeezed. Maintain his moisture level throughout the incubation process.
Provide enough medium around the egg itself for you to touch and manipulate the medium in order to determine humidity. Each container should have ventilation holes and a tight lid. This lets you easily control the humidity of each egg and reduce the possibility of losing the entire batch. The eggs will grow as they incubate, so make sure that there is plenty of room around each egg.
Monitoring the Eggs as they Grow
Monitor the eggs consistently as they develop. Condensation on the lids indicates too much moisture. Dimpling or collapsing of the eggs show that they are too dry. You can dry out the container by removing the lid for approximately 24 hours. Add moisture by slowly adding water to the medium around the egg, being careful not to wet the egg itself. Healthy eggs will become white as they develop and will grow to twice the size they were initially.
Any eggs that become pink, yellow, or green, or who fail to grow, are unlikely to result in viable dragons. If they do not grow mold or pose a threat to the other eggs you can leave them to come to term. Sometimes healthy, viable dragons come from oddly colored eggs.
Watch Them Hatch
Bearded dragon eggs take about two months to hatch. There is significant variation, up to a couple weeks, depending on a range of factors. You can tell if the eggs are getting close to hatching when they begin to deflate. If all of your eggs or nearly all of them appear to deflate at approximately the same time, you will know that this is not a sign of insufficient humidity, but rather an indication that hatching is near.
Appearance of Eggs
Eggs will also begin to gather droplets of moisture on their surface during this time. This is another indication that they are getting ready to hatch. Deflating and dimpling combined with moisture accumulating on the surface is a sure sign that it is not humidity but that eggs are ready to hatch. When you see the signs, hatching is likely to occur 24 to 48 hours later.
Like most egg-born animals, baby bearded dragons have a special tooth to help them slice open the egg and get out. You will see a slit develop, followed by the nose and head of the lizard. Some baby dragons will stop for some time once they get their heads out. They may do this for up to a day, so don’t worry if your baby dragon spends some time half in and half out of the egg.
You should never pull or force a baby bearded dragon out of its egg. You could cause damage. Healthy dragons emerge on their own. Therefore, it is unlikely that a dragon that has failed to get out on her own will survive. For the first 24 hours after completely emerging, baby dragons should stay in the incubator. This lets them adjust and avoid temperature shock.
This gives any last hatchlings that are still in their eggs the best chance of getting out as well. Even after the 24 hours have been completed, it is a good idea to give any eggs that have not hatched up to a week in the incubator, as sometimes eggs will hatch late.
Neonatal Dragon Care
Set up baby bearded dragons on moist paper towels so they don’t get dehydrated. This also
Neonatal Dragon Food
Good food options for neonatal dragons are pinhead crickets and finely chopped greens. A variety of small worms such as wax worms that are suitable for adult dragon are good for babies. Make sure they are small enough and without hard shells.
Neonatal Dragon Housing
You can house young bearded dragons together, but there is a high probability of toe and tail nipping. Baby bearded dragons are highly reactive and responsive to any movement. They may not realize that they’ve taken off a brother or sister’s toe until it is too late. Such injuries do not generally affect the quality of life for dragons. If it is possible it is best to separate dragons at least by size. Also, provide a fair amount of room for each dragon.
The Growing Hatchling
Young dragons grow quickly. They will prefer a diet of mostly live food at the beginning. However, they will quickly come to accept vegetables and dry offerings as well. Enjoy raising your young dragons and be responsible for finding them good homes. Dragons should not be rehomed until they have gained significant weight and are eating readily on their own. In general, the longer you keep a young dragon the better off it will be in its next home.
Bearded dragons are easy to breed and a lot of fun to raise. As long as you are careful and follow the guidelines, you are likely to have fun and a lot of success. This is an engaging hobby which may well take you further than you expected. Before you know it you’ll have a whole hobby room and cricket breeding colonies. You’ll be addicted to breeding all kinds of color morphs and mutations. Even if you only breed your dragons once or twice and give the offspring to friends and relatives, it can be a very rewarding and engaging experience.