It is a well-known fact that most reptiles lay eggs, but there are a few exceptions. A handful of reptiles actually develop the eggs inside their body and then give birth to live young. So which category does a bearded dragon fall into?
Do Bearded Dragons Lay Eggs? Bearded dragons do, in fact, lay eggs. Regardless of how many bearded dragons you own – even if you only have a single female – you may one day suddenly discover eggs in your dragon’s habitat. A female bearded dragon can routinely lay a clutch of infertile eggs – similar to a chicken!
The very first time your female bearded dragon lays a clutch can be distressing, especially if you aren’t really sure what she is doing. Recognizing the general symptoms of a gravid (pregnant) dragon and preparing for her egg-laying are essential to avoid surprises and complications for your bearded dragon.
Before your dragon ever lays her first egg, it is imperative that you are ready, just in case. In order to keep her as stress-free as possible, you will need to be watchful and prepared.
Recognizing a Gravid Dragon
Female bearded dragons can lay their very first clutch of eggs when they are about one year old. If you have a mated female, you can expect a clutch of eggs to be laid in four to six weeks after mating.
A female bearded dragon can lay anywhere between fifteen and thirty-five eggs per clutch, and can easily lay one to three clutches per mating.
Non-mated female dragons can begin spontaneously laying infertile eggs as young as ten months old, but they typically only lay one clutch. Some non-mated females will never lay a single egg during their entire lives. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict if a non-mated dragon will lay eggs or not.
This makes recognizing the signs of a gravid bearded dragon extra important; otherwise, you may wake up to a surprise. Here are a few good indications that your dragon is gravid.
- Lethargy – When a female bearded dragon is getting ready to lay eggs, she may seem sluggish. She might spend more time sleeping or laying under the heat lamp than usual. (More on lethargy here.)
- Swollen Belly – Her belly will seem a bit larger than usual since it is full of eggs. Eventually, the eggs will resemble little marbles inside your bearded dragon, and you will be able to feel all the lumps and bumps.
- Digging and Restlessness – After a few weeks, a pregnant bearded dragon will begin to dig around and scratch continuously, even frantically, in her enclosure. (3 reasons why your bearded dragon is digging.)
- Abnormal Grouchiness – Your dragon may seem a little moodier than normal as she becomes more uncomfortable and feels more protective of the eggs inside her.
- Decreasing Appetite – As she gets closer to laying her eggs, you may notice your female dragon eating less food than you are accustomed to. (In case your bearded dragon isn’t eating, read this article.)
These can all signal the beginning of nesting behavior in your bearded dragon, meaning it is time to take action.
Gravid Dragon Care
- First, you’ll need to fill a nest box--also called a lay box–with a clean, damp material that will make it easy for your gravid dragon to bury her eggs. She will want at least six inches of something to dig in. If you want to use soil to fill the box, make sure that it does not contain fertilizer or plant food, as these additions are toxic to the eggs. Put the nest box inside your bearded dragon’s enclosure under heat lamps.
- Some owners choose to make a nest box in a separate container like a plastic storage bin outside of the cage if the regular enclosure is too small. If you opt to do this, make sure the bedding material is already warmed and dampened before you put your gravid bearded dragon inside.
- As you are waiting for your female dragon to lay, make sure that you are providing her with extra food and calcium to prevent any health issues, regardless of whether or not her eggs are fertile. Producing eggs pulls calcium from her bones; a short supply can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease — a serious and sometimes fatal condition.
- Your female dragon may also be in need of more hydration than normal. Be sure to offer her clean, fresh water a few times daily.
- After your bearded dragon has laid her eggs, she will be completely worn out, especially if it takes more than one day to lay the entire clutch. Make sure to give her a shower (with a mister) to hydrate her and remove any residual nesting material as often as needed.
- Continue giving her extra calcium for a few days. She will need to replenish her energy stores.
Fertile Egg Care
Once the eggs have been laid, they will need special care if they are indeed fertile. But how can you tell? If you are unsure, you can hold a flashlight close to the egg and look for a pinkish-colored embryo inside. Infertile eggs are usually dented with a yellowish tint; these can be discarded.
Caring for fertile eggs can be difficult and time-consuming. Here are some tips to help you:
- First and foremost, it is imperative that the eggs stay warm–between eighty and eighty-five degrees.
- Monitor the humidity and temperature of the egg environment constantly, and keep a vigilant eye out for any mold growing on the eggs. To create a more controlled environment, breeders often choose to use an incubator and leave the eggs out where they can see them. Without an incubator, you will need a thermometer and humidity monitor in the space.
- If you are moving the eggs to an incubator, do so immediately after your dragon is done laying; however, if you decide to keep them buried, you should refrain from touching them as much as possible.
- Check moisture levels regularly. It is critical that the eggs stay slightly damp and do not dry out before they hatch–which could take between forty and ninety days. Dragon babies will be unable to escape dry eggs because the outside shell will be too thick.
Female bearded dragons that have had eggs inside of them for more than forty-five days could be egg bound. The eggs may have to be removed, and it is quite possible your bearded dragon has low calcium levels that must be raised as well.
If you suspect that your bearded dragon is suffering from this condition, you need to see a veterinarian immediately. This condition is often fatal; a dragon who is egg bound should never be neglected or ignored.
Do bearded dragons eat their own eggs? A female bearded dragon eating her own infertile eggs is not unheard of. Because forming and laying eggs depletes female dragons of so much calcium, they can have a significant deficiency, causing them to eat their own eggs. It can also be an instinctual survival response, as dragons in the wild do not want their eggs to draw predators.
Can two bearded dragons be kept together? While being single is the preferred way of life for a bearded dragon, it is not uncommon to find two dragons sharing an enclosure. While a female-male or female-female combination may work, you should never pair two males. If you do decide to double the dragon fun, be sure that they are close to the same size, and be prepared to separate them at the first sign of territorial battles or aggression.