If you have a male and a female bearded dragon living together then it is not a question of whether they will mate, but how to stop them and what to do afterwards. This article gives advice on both planned and unplanned breeding, from egg laying and incubation to rearing the hatchlings. It is ridiculously easy to breed bearded dragons. Put a male and female together and they will continue mating until you separate them. As the female retains sperm in her body she is likely to lay multiple clutches of eggs from one mating. Each clutch can have 20 to 30 eggs, and although two is the norm, there can be three or more clutches laid at 3 to 4 week intervals. Breeding bearded dragons is not something to be undertaken lightly. Accidental Mating If you have accidentally got a male and female, and you are seeking advice as you think the female is gravid (carrying eggs), then before you rush out and buy an incubator think carefully about what you are taking on. It is very exciting the first time your pets breed, but don’t let your heart rule your head. You will need to raise the hatchlings until they are 6 weeks or older which takes a lot of time, and an awful lot of money. If too many baby beardies are kept together then you will get tail and toe nipping, and babies with missing parts are less easy to sell. To house hatchlings properly you should have one 2ft vivarium for each 5 babies – so you can start seeing where the expense comes in. After 8 weeks you will then need to find homes for them all – you could sell them to a pet shop in bulk, but you will not get enough money back to cover what you have spent in raising them. Selling each singly as a result of advertising is rewarding, as you get to know what homes they are going to, but this takes time, and meanwhile the hatchlings are growing and eating. Breeding bearded dragons should not be undertaken lightly, although it is a great experience. If you are worried about the money, or do not have enough time to spare, then the best thing to do for an accidental mating is to freeze the eggs as soon as they are laid. This stops the embryo developing and is the kindest way to dispose of them. NEVER throw them out with the rubbish – there’s just a chance they might hatch on the rubbish heap. It’s kinder to stop the eggs developing than not being able to find suitable homes for them all. Make sure you separate the male and female into different vivariums so they do not have a chance to mate again. Planned Breeding If you are looking into breeding your bearded dragons seriously you should ensure that you have an unrelated male and female. If you have colour morphs you will find it’s easier to sell them, especially if the babies turn out to be a nice colour. Breeders get a lot of pleasure from experimenting with different colour morphs, and will probably find a better market than someone selling ‘normal’ morphs. The same advice about making sure that you’ll be able to find homes for them still applies and it’s useful to do some research first to find out how much juveniles are selling for locally. Even with colour morphs (unless exceptional) you are unlikely to make any significant profit. Incubation From mating to laying eggs takes 4 to 6 weeks. During this time you should make preparations for an incubator and also arrangements for housing the hatchlings. You can buy incubators, or it is easy enough to make one. Try and get hold of a polystyrene box from a garden centre that sells pond fish – the kind they use to transport Koi carp is ideal. Make sure you get one with a lid. If you buy other stuff there at the same time you may well get this for free. You will need some vermiculite for the eggs to rest on, and you can use cricket boxes as containers for the eggs. Collect these up, as you’ll need one box for every six to eight eggs. Depending on what method you’re using you will either need a heat mat with a thermostat, or an aquarium heater stat. Bearded dragon eggs need a high level of humidity. Method 1 is to put the heat mat in the bottom of the incubator next to a large bowl of water. Method 2 is to fill the bottom of the incubator with about 4 to 5 inches of water, and put the aquarium heater stat in the water. With both methods make a grill (we used perforated zinc) to fit tightly over the top, supported by something like bricks. The fitting should be tight so that hatchlings cannot fall through into the water! You should try and set up the incubator a few days before the eggs are laid so the temperatures can settle. You should aim for a constant 83f to 85f (28 – 29c). As the female gets close to being about to lay, put a lay box full of damp sand into the vivarium. We encouraged our female to dig in the lay box by starting off a tunnel in the sand so she got the idea. It’s best if the temperature of the sand is 83f (28c). We used a triangular cat litter tray that fitted well into the corner of cool end of the vivarium. When the eggs are laid they should be placed carefully on damp vermiculite in the cricket boxes. When you remove the eggs from the lay box be extremely careful not to change the orientation from which they were laid. Turning an egg over could kill the embryo inside. Hatching Place the boxes in the incubator and sit back to wait. Patience is needed now – the eggs will take from 50 to 100 days to hatch. The longest I’ve heard of is 112 days! If the eggs are fertile they should be a nice creamy white, if infertile they will be yellow. A female’s first clutch is quite often infertile. Some eggs may collapse over the first few days, and these should be removed. If all the eggs start dimpling then the humidity in the incubator is not high enough. Spray the vermiculite, but do not get water on the eggs themselves. Keep checking the eggs regularly, and remove any that are obviously not going to hatch. When hatching is imminent the eggs will start to dimple, and gradually you should see a little head poking out. Hatchlings take up to 24 hours to emerge from the egg – do not help them, it’s best to let nature do it’s work. Once one starts to hatch the others should follow over the next 3 to 4 days. If any eggs remain unhatched leave them in the incubator – don’t try to cut the egg to help the hatchling, almost none survive this. If they can’t make it out of the egg on their own, it’s as nature intended. There’s two trains of thought on whether you should remove the hatchling immediately it’s out of the egg, or whether to leave it in the incubator. I left mine until the egg sac was fully absorbed after hatching. If you do move them, be careful of any egg sacs still attached. Now you can move the hatchlings to their vivariums and start the business of growing on. They may not eat for 3 or 4 days, but provide the smallest size crickets, and very finely chopped veg. They will soon get the idea! Vivariums for hatchlings should be plain and simple, with kitchen roll as a substrate, and a rock or branch for basking. That way they can easily find the crickets to eat. For the next few weeks you will need to be buying crickets in bulk and cleaning out the hatchlings. Regular handling will help them become used to people. You should not think about finding new homes for the hatchlings until they are six weeks old or more. When they move to a new home they take up to 2 weeks to get over the stress of moving, and to begin eating again. A younger hatchling will not have built up sufficient fat reserves to survive this period of settling in. Of course, before you get to the stage of selling the first lot of hatchlings, the second clutch will already have started hatching! Breeding bearded dragons is hard work, but very rewarding, but like breeding any pet should not be undertaken lightly.