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Caring for Your Gravid Bearded Dragon

Only a small number of reptiles give live birth; these reptiles are know as viviparous. Most reptiles, like bearded dragons, lay eggs, and are referred to as oviparous. Understanding the process of caring for a gravid (pregnant) or egg-bound bearded dragon before she starts laying eggs can help ensure the best possible outcome for your beardie if she does become gravid.

Female bearded dragons generally lay eggs when they become sexually mature at around 8-18 months (about 1 and a half years) of age, but some bearded dragons have laid eggs as early as 9 months of age in rare cases! If your female bearded dragon hasn’t been around a male in over a year, more than likely, the eggs will be infertile. Wait, a whole year?! That’s right - female beardies can store males’ sperm in their reproductive tracts for egg fertilization for up to a year!

Signs your beardie might be gravid

When a female beardie is gravid, she might begin to act abnormally. She may become lethargic, eat less, and sleep more. She might begin to scratch and dig around the habitat, searching for a suitable place to lay her eggs. You may notice her becoming bloated, and you may feel several marble-sized swellings in her abdomen. Once you notice these nesting behaviors, offering her a suitable place to lay her eggs is critical to helping prevent her from becoming egg-bound.

Making a nest

There are several suitable options when it comes to setting up a laying or nest box for a gravid bearded dragon. One of the simplest options is a clean plastic box or small plastic waste basket, filled about halfway full (at least a foot deep) with potting soil or vermiculite (a mineral that comes as a bag of small flakes that retain water). The laying box can be placed in a corner of the dragon’s habitat or just outside of it, as some bearded dragons will not lay within their usual enclosures. The box or basket should be laid on its side, so that the bearded dragon can crawl inside and have a private, quiet, warm place to lay her eggs. 

It is normal for bearded dragons not to eat when they are gravid. If, however, a gravid bearded dragon becomes very lethargic or weak, is straining to lay eggs but none are passing, or has had a swollen abdomen for several weeks without laying any eggs, she may be egg-bound and need veterinary attention. Egg-binding can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Caring for the eggs

Once a bearded dragon lays eggs, they will only hatch if she has been mated with a male, and the eggs have been fertilized. Candling is a method used to help determine whether eggs have been fertilized. Do not to disturb the bearded dragon to candle the eggs while she is laying, or she may only lay part of the clutch of eggs and retain the rest. Bearded dragons typically bury their eggs once they have finished laying them. If you are going to candle the eggs, wait until she has buried the eggs before you handle them. When candling an egg, carefully hold the egg in your line of sight, and shine a flashlight through it, from the side of the egg farthest from you to the side closest to you, so the light is facing you and is filtered by the egg. When you look through the egg, you will notice a pinkish embryo inside if it if has been fertilized. Fertilized eggs should be handled as little as possible. If you must handle them, be extremely careful when moving them, as you do not want to disturb their fragile contents. If you do not see an embryo inside an egg, the egg is likely not fertilized, and you may dispose of it to discourage the beardie from eating it. To maximize chances of fertilized eggs hatching, eggs can be moved to an incubator or maintained in the laying box. The incubator or box should be monitored with a thermometer and hygrometer to ensure that the temperature is 80-85°F with about 75% humidity. The substrate may be misted to increase humidity if it gets too dry. The eggs should not be misted directly, as they can become moldy. Fertilized eggs will become chalk-white as they incubate and will deflate just before hatching. Fertilized eggs can take anywhere from 55 to 75 days to hatch. 

Keeping your beardie happy

Once a gravid beardie has laid her eggs, she will need help replenishing her resources to get back to optimal health. Providing her with a clean environment, adequate humidity, a balanced diet of both vegetable matter and protein, along with calcium and both vitamin and mineral supplements, is critical to helping your bearded dragon regain her strength quickly after laying.   

Caring for a mother bearded dragon and her offspring can be difficult, but by providing the proper care for the mother not only after, but also before she gives birth, you can help ensure a happy and healthy outcome for both momma and babies! If at anytime you’re worried about how your beardie or the babies are behaving, please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.

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