Introduction to Egg Care
Properly caring for bearded dragon eggs in a domesticated situation where everything must be simulated can be a difficult task without the proper tools. This section will explain in detail how to care for your bearded dragon eggs as well as the different options to successfully recreate the ideal egg laying and incubation set ups. We look to cover ideas for success for all levels of breeders from the first time, low budget hobbyists to the professional breeder hopefuls and veterans. The portion of information that is to follow is presented with the assumption you have already read through the breeding section of our information center to best prepare yourself for this process.
There are many levels of care you can apply when it comes to rearing bearded dragon eggs. We will discuss tools capable of adequate support for your beardie eggs ranging from the cost efficient to high-end quality equipment.
Items necessary for success of the most basic set-ups include:
Egg Laying Bin
Incubator (capable of 87 degrees and 70-90% humidity)
This can be a do it yourself cooler incubator or a production level name brand incubator, regardless it has to be capable of those temp and humidity levels.
Egg Laying Bin
This is a safe location for your female dragon to lay her eggs. Ideally 3-4 feet wide, 18 inches deep and at least 16 inches high. Filled with a soil/sand or like mixture for your dragon to dig an egg den deep into the substrate.
Hygrometer & Thermometer
You will want at least one hygrometer which tells you the relative humidity level and one thermometer to tell you the temperature near the eggs. Ideally you’ll want multiple thermometers and hygrometers of both digital and analog measure to help accurately measure in multiple locations.
If you invest wastefully in one category this one would be it as a quality substrate, which is relatively cheap anyway, can be the difference between mediocre results and the ideal results you want. A combination of perlite and vermiculite sometimes mixed with small amounts of sand or soil make for an ideal substrate for your eggs to incubate in.
You will want at least a few containers capable of fitting in your incubator. If you are breeding bearded dragons, which are capable of 5+ clutches, you will want to be able to comfortably and safely store up to 3 or 4 clutches of up to 30 eggs in your incubator. Tupperware containers and “shoebox” size storage containers make for ideal egg containers.
Many other items and tools can be handy, but in a bare necessity manner the previously mentioned equipment will suffice for very good results. Continue reading as we cover all these tools and topics in the following sections.
Preparing for Eggs
This section covers preparation for the eggs in the days prior to your dragon laying them. For information on how to properly prepare your dragons for the rigors of mating, see the Breeding Section here. Preparing for eggs involves setting up either a place in her enclosure or another enclosure with at least a 12″x 12″ mound of soil/sand or similar mix substrate. Typically this is done by mounding about 12-16″ of soil against one side of the enclosure that fills to about at least 12″ inches from the outside wall.
Our preferred substrate is about 60% high quality top soil, 20% heavier grain sand, 20% lighter grain sand. A 60% soil 40% sand mix is most likely just as good. Some people also like to add perlite or vermiculite to this substrate to loosen it up even further. Whatever mix you decide on, the most important concept is to prepare it properly. Be sure to break up any chunks of soil and be sure to thoroughly mix your substrate ingredients.
Upon adding the substrate to your egg laying bin or enclosure, be sure to loosely pack the substrate as you add it. When you finish piling up the mix for the mound, lightly pack down the top and side. Lightly spray this mound with water. you want to dampen it enough it will allow some water to seep slightly deeper into the mound. If your substrate becomes too heavily hydrated or muddy, remix that substrate with drier substrate deeper in the mound.
You will now want to take a heating pad and/or heating lamp and apply it the mounds location. Ideally you will want to take a heating pad with temperature control and set it to about 90 degrees. You can then also take a heat lamp and shine it directly on the mound to help warm the mound to the necessary 87-92 degrees. I personally work hard to be sure and maintain a temperature closer to 92 degrees but many can attest to success at lower temperatures. Keep in mind the temperatures being read closer to the edge will be higher then those found deep in the middle of the mound.
Your egg laying bin may need up to 24 hours to balance out its temperature to maintain a soil temperature of around 90 degrees. Again, keep in mind deeper in the mound the temp could drop as to 85 or even 80 degrees. Once you get a steady temp reading either near or in the soil, your egg laying bin is ready to go.
Egg Laying Process
Once you have prepared your egg laying bin, you are now ready to place your female dragon in their so she can begin her dig. At this point, it is also wise to prepare your incubator which will be discussed shortly. Now that your dragon is in her egg bin, try not to disturb her while she digs.
It may take time before your female decides to finally dig and lay her eggs, so be sure the egg laying bin can act as a viable housing location for your dragon until she lays. Once she starts digging you will want to remove any water bowls from the enclosure as she may knock them over and get the substrate too wet. She may dig several holes over the course of hours before she decides a location is adequate.
With a completed hole your dragon will turn around and deposit her eggs, packing them in soil as she goes along. If fertilized your eggs will come out oval and plump while unfertilized eggs typically have what look like dents in them. After she completes laying her eggs she will pack the substrate back on and shes all finished. I typically leave the female in the enclosure an extra hour or two to rest before moving her back in to her own enclosure for a few days, and then eventually sometimes back with the male.
You will want to provide your female with a nice hearty meal and a long warm bath to help really cleanse her. Be sure to feed her frequently in the next several days as she may be developing the next clutch while recovering from the process of laying eggs. Extra sources of calcium and protein are essential. Also be sure to allow for proper hydrating of your female as the process can exhaust a lot of their bodies hydration.
Recovering Fresh Laid Eggs
Now that your dragon has laid her eggs and been removed from the egg laying bin, it is time to harvest the eggs. You will want to be extra careful in this process as even though the eggs are quite hearty, you give them a far better chance when handling them with care.
Carefully start digging away your substrate around and on top of the area your dragon laid her eggs. As you get closer and closer be sure to be all the more careful until you find your first egg. Typically the eggs will be loosely clustered in one area so carefully remove each one you find and place them in either in a warm temporary container or directly into their incubation containers.
We typically place them all in a small temporary container of warm sand as we focus on making sure we have found all the eggs. Once we are sure we have removed every last egg, we get our pre-warming incubation container filled with a 50/50% mix of vermiculite and perlite from the incubator. Open your container and carefully, using an appropriately sized tool, poke into the substrate to create little chambers for the eggs. You will want the eggs to be capable of siting about halfway to 2/3rds of the way into the substrate. Place each egg in one by one as you go along, and be careful not to place them too closely too each other as the pressure from poking the next hole can press against the side of the previous hole’s egg.
You may find it necessary to split a clutch into 2 or 3 separate containers as some bearded dragons may lay up as many as 50 eggs. A typical clutch is somewhere in the 20-30′s. Also, if you find an egg you are not sure is bad incubate it anyway as it may plump up. If that egg continues to digress or becomes discolored, moldy or smelly remove it as you don’t want to contaminate the other eggs.
Once your container is filled, seal the lid, which should have a few very small breathing holes. Your eggs are now ready to go in the incubator for the next 60-75 days. Some eggs may come as early as 50 days while others may take the full 75. The better you can maintain ideal conditions consistently, the better your odds at a great success rate.
With your eggs carefully housed in their incubation container snug in their incubation substrate, it is now time for what may be the easiest and hardest part of this event. With a proper incubator, all you really have to do is wait about 50 days, then start regularly checking the eggs for hatchlings. The hardest part is actually patiently waiting for those eggs to hatch, especially if this is your first clutch.
Your incubator should be on and warm for about 24 hours prior to placing your eggs in for incubation. This allows the temperature and humidity to balance out to the right levels.
You will want to maintain a constant temperature of 85-87 degrees.
You will want to maintain a constant humidity level of at least 60%, though ideally 80-90% is better.
You can check your eggs along the way for progress by a process called candle-lighting, or essentially taking a moderately bright concentrated light and shining it inward on the edge of the egg. A growing egg will visibly show growing blood vessels and a visible embryo as soon as a week after being laid. Be cautious in this procedure as some people report this may shock your egg’s embryo which in turn can separate it from its yolk or blood vessels.
As your eggs progress they will actually plump up even more so as the baby dragons inside continue to grow. By the 50th day they may even appear nearly twice as large as when they were first laid. It is at this point you will want to check progress daily. Once you see your first egg hatching it is safe to assume the majority will be hatching shortly thereafter.
As your first eggs start hatching there is really nothing necessary to do other then possibly vent the lid on very air tight egg incubation containers, just enough to be sure there is a small amount of air flow capable.
It is very important you never help a baby bearded with the hatching process. While it is incredibly time consuming and they may appear exhausted, the process is both necessary and vital to their ability to transition into this world. It is at this time their lungs start to breath air, their heart rate is balanced, blood starts flowing and their organ systems kick on. They must also digest the rest of the yolk that is in their stomachs while going through a process of separation from the egg similar to that of a baby’s umbilical cord being cut.
Allow your dragon to rest in the incubator for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours if the baby dragons have yet to appear more alert and fully functioning. Once your dragon is capable of moving around on its own, it is ready for its new home. Don’t feel it is necessary to rush eggs to hatch, allow each egg to take all the time needed to hatch and repeat this process for each baby as it hatches.
I personally don’t give up on a healthy appearing egg until around the 100th day. Even though odds are slim at this point, rarely does it hurt, especially with a constant flow of other eggs incubating anyway.
Now that your baby beardies have hatched it is time for them to move to their new home. Their enclosure should be simple and definitely not too big, at least for the first several weeks. This allows them to live in a stress free environment while they build strength necessary to make them thrive as adults. By the third day after your dragon has hatched it should be ready to start eating. A basic diet consists of very small 1/4″ crickets twice daily, and very finely chopped greens every day.
You will also want to provide them with a clean shallow water bowl which must be changed daily. Several baby dragons can make a quick mess of a water bowl. The water bowl should be filled very shallow. You do not want a lot of water as a young dragon can sit in water and their temperatures can drop quite significantly. The Goal is just enough to have something to drink.
When feeding crickets, put a handful in and let the dragons finish them, then slowly add more crickets until your dragons slow in pursuit. This means they are full and you never want to leave too many extra crickets in their enclosure as this can stress the baby dragons.
Following these steps should get you successfully through the egg laying process to healthy baby bearded dragons. For more on Baby Bearded Dragon care see the Baby Bearded Dragon Care section here.