UK Bearded Dragons:
Breeding / Sexing
Breeding / Reproduction
Bearded dragons become sexually mature between one and two years old - but until then it is very hard to tell the sexes apart. In adults males head bob, display their beards and try to defend territory, but rarely arm wave. On the physical side, males possess a large vent opening, hemi penal bulges after the vent and enlarged scales before the vent (i.e. before is from the head down, so the enlarged scales are in between the stomach and vent). Females, on the other hand have a small vent opening and no enlarged scales or hemi penal bulges.
The optimum age for breeding in bearded dragons is between two and five years old, but they can continue to reproduce for a couple of years after that, although success rates drop. Before reproduction bearded dragons must be conditioned for breeding. To do this, several months before actual breeding (in the autumn, say) you must begin to gradually drop the temperatures in the enclosure, and decrease hours of light in a day, down to around 9 hours of light, which will send your lizard into a 'semi-hibernation' when the animals are generally much less active and eat less too. Hibernation stimulates the development of reproductive cells in the bearded dragon, but unless the dragon is in perfect health, hibernation should not be considered as it will cause considerable stress and could lead to death in your pet. The cage temperature should drop to 24 - 28 degrees centigrade (76 - 82 degrees Fahrenheit) at day and around 18 degrees centigrade (65 degrees Fahrenheit) at night.
Hibernation should go on for about 10 weeks, and then temperatures and daylight hours should slowly be increased again, up to summer temperatures after a few months. Feed your dragons as much as they will eat and add extra calcium than normal to the female's diet. You should notice more displays of head-bobbing and arm-waving, but make sure the male is not too aggressive; if the female has cuts or scratches - although a few small bites near the neck are typical occurrences during mating, so unless they are deep or infected, do not worry too much - or seems to be very worried by the male, split them for a few days.
If the female becomes gravid, which happens a couple of months after breeding, she should be very plump and the outline of eggs may be visible through her abdomen. She will begin to dig into the substrate, and a nesting box should be placed into the enclosure. This should be at least 6 inches of damp substrate, vermiculite or soil for example, and could be placed in a cat litter tray or in a tub. The female should then, when ready, dig a hole in the box (hopefully!) and lay between 10 and 25 eggs, and she will then re-cover the eggs in the nesting box substrate. After laying will look lighter and flabby and should be feed food high in calcium. The female bearded dragon may lay up to five clutches in one breeding year, at 25 - 35 day intervals.
The eggs should then be placed in an incubator - without being turned. They should be incubated at 29 degrees centigrade (84 degrees Fahrenheit) for roughly two months. A couple of days after hatching the bearded dragons should start feeding on lots of little insects. They eat a lot!
How Dragons Breed
If you have acquired many bearded dragons and both male and female are present in the group, you have to pay some attention to their breeding habits.
Here you will encounter problems right at the start.
Is Your Dragon A Male Or A Female
Even when you buy the hatchlings, it is difficult to distinguish the males from the females. Some misleading beliefs in this respect are:
Males are larger than females
Males have a larger head than females
You cannot notice any difference between male and female
If your dragons head turns black during beard flaring, it is male; otherwise it must be a female.
Female dragons alone wave there forelimb.
size difference between male and female bearded dragons may not vary greatly.
The size difference between male and female bearded dragons may not vary greatly.
Females may have smaller head in relation to their body but this is not a conclusive factor to say unambiguously that males have larger heads than females.
Males do display beard flaring more often than the female but the beard region of both turns black.
Both male and female wave their forelimbs
Differences do exist but you have to look in the right place to spot them. To determine correctly whether your bearded dragon is male or female, you should examine the cloacal region, or the underside where the tail meets the body.
Even this poses a problem when the dragon is very young.
When your dragon has grown to a length of about 8 inches, colacal examination gives the correct answer to the riddle of the sex of your dragon.
How Many Dragons Can You House Together
Incidentally you should pay attention to the way you are going to house them.
Two male dragons in one cage
Two females in one cage
One male and one female
Many males and females.
When you havetwo male dragons in one cage, as they grow one is bound to dominate the other.
The submissive dragon may then underfeed, get sick and die.
The dominant male can even kill its weak companion.
In the case of two females also, battles for domination ensue as they grow.
In either case, it is better to keep them in separate cages.
You may feel that the ideal situation is to buy and place only one male and one female dragon in a single cage.
Even this is not without drawbacks.
To begin with, the male and female you buy may have come from the same parent.
They will breed when they reach adulthood but in the wild, nature usually guards against such in-breeding.
In a cage, you will not be able to prevent such inbreeding.
If you choose to breed your bearded dragons (given the opportunity, they will breed anyway), there are two general considerations you must think about prior to breeding. 1) The animals you are attempting to breed must be healthy. This means they should have put on weight and indicate no symptoms of disease.
2) You must have at least one sexual adult pair. (It usually helps to have at least two of the opposite sex.)
You should take adequate measures to ensure the females well being.
Some of the measures are:
First of all, take care that the female is not subjected to repeated mating by an aggressive male
Enhance the supply of nutrients and supplements to the female.
Provide an egg-laying box for the gravid female.
It may be a good idea to have one male mating with several females. This will ensure that the male will be less persistent (because he has a choice of females) and less aggressive. Thus, there will be less chance of injury from mating bites on the neck and back of the females. If you have a lot of room, you can even put two males with several females. This competition will urge the males to work harder to mate. Besides, the purpose of the large space is that if two males should ever cross paths, there will be enough room for the losing male to escape and hide. Thus, preventing injuries or even death from fighting.
Breeding often requires a period of hibernation or brumation prior to the breeding season. What some breeders do is they decrease the temperature for two or three months to provide a winter season before breeding season. The basking spot should reach temperatures of 75°-80°F, with the ground temperature gradient from 65°-70°F. During the winter nights, the temperature should be 55°-65°F on the ground. Bearded dragons can safely tolerate temperatures in the low 50°s. After the winter cooling down period is over, you can change the temperature back up again to their normal daily temperature, which signals the start of breeding season.
You must take care to steer clear of inbreeding, especially among siblings. Breeding behavior often appears violent. Head bobbing and black beards are among the breeding behaviors associated with males (these behaviors are also typical of territorial disputes between males). Females often perform arm waving and slow head bobbing. The male usually bites the female around the neck to secure her and attempts to get the female to lift her tail for copulation. Gravid females will get quite large and often appear lumpy. Feed gravid females often and supplement it with calcium more frequently. The eggs can often be felt in the female's stomach when she is close to laying. After the mating has taken place, you should provide a laying box or a moist substrate area in the enclosure to provide a digging spot for the female to lay her eggs in. Many breeders use laying boxes so that the buried eggs can be easily removed for incubating.
The female lays her eggs after a 20-30 day gestation period. Place the eggs in a incubator. You should have moist vermiculite as the substrate in the incubator for the eggs. To test the moisture of the vermiculite, squeeze it between your index finger and thumb, if the vermiculite squeezes out any drops, then it is too moist and will drown the embryos. The vermiculite should stick to your fingers. When the vermiculite is sticky, put the eggs in the incubator about 1/2" deep in the substrate. As they incubate, the incubation temp should be 84°F. Make sure the temperature doesn't reach 90°F, as the heat will kill all the developing embryos. Pogona vitticeps eggs will take approximately 55-75 days to hatch. About 24 hours prior to hatching, the eggs will take on a soft and collapsed appearance, and healthy babies will start to slit the shell with their egg tooth. The hatching process will take approximately 24 hours.
When the female lays her eggs, another dilemma confronts you: whether to discard the eggs or to allow them to hatch and rear the babies.
If you choose the latter option, It involves:
Transfer of the eggs into suitably sized box, preferably transparent, with perforated top
Sand like medium to keep the eggs partly buried and
Thermostat equipment to maintain a constant temperature of 90 degrees F in the box.
You would do well to take some advice from a veterinarian regarding further
steps for the care of the eggs.
You would do well to take some advice from a veterinarian regarding further steps for the care of the eggs.
SEXING BEARDED DRAGONS
The photographs and text concerning the
"sexing of Bearded Dragons" is reproduced with the help and kind permission of
2006 UK Bearded Dragons