How Do I Care for a Pregnant Bearded Dragon?

Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer
Pregnant bearded dragons often enjoy eating silkworms.
Pregnant bearded dragons often enjoy eating silkworms.

A pregnant, or gravid, bearded dragon requires special care, which includes feeding it with food high in nutrients such as calcium. It also needs a plastic container high enough for the lizard to stand up in while laying eggs. Each batch of eggs, called a clutch, can include anywhere from 15 to 35 eggs. A bearded dragon can deliver from three to five clutches following one mating, each delivered at different times.

Kelp is a good source of calcium for bearded dragons.
Kelp is a good source of calcium for bearded dragons.

Calcium is the most important nutrient to supply when caring for a pregnant bearded dragon. Supplements are required at least five times each week, and multivitamins should be administered three times a week. Green vegetables, squash, cranberries, alfalfa sprouts, papayas, kelp, and wheat grass are some high calcium foods which are good for a bearded dragon that's expecting. As small pets, it is important to watch the food intake of these lizards, but pregnant bearded dragons require more nutrition, and additional insect snacks such as silkworms and phoenix worms are also beneficial.

Alfalfa sprouts can be included in a bearded dragon diet.
Alfalfa sprouts can be included in a bearded dragon diet.

Reptiles are cold blooded and require warmth. A heat lamp should be used to keep the pregnant bearded dragon warm, and exposure to Ultraviolet B light outdoors also helps if the temperature is above 70°F (about 21°C). Bathing a gravid bearded dragon is also recommended because it is important for the female to stay hydrated. Frequent exercise will keep up her muscle tone and make it easier for the eggs to pass through.

Bearded dragons thrive in warm temperatures, and this is especially true for the lizards when they are pregnant.
Bearded dragons thrive in warm temperatures, and this is especially true for the lizards when they are pregnant.

It takes three weeks on average for a pregnant bearded dragon to lay eggs following mating. A plastic box should be filled with wet sand or soil to make it easy for her to dig a hole for the eggs. The container should be about 12 inches (30.48 cm) high at the deepest end and decrease in depth gradually for the reptile to choose where to dig. When a bearded dragon lays eggs, a warm lamp should be clamped to the box. When the egg laying is finished, the animal can be put back in its usual enclosure.

The pregnant bearded dragon should lay all the eggs she has. If more can be felt, the female should be immediately treated by a veterinarian. All eggs laid must be handled carefully. Tilting them could kill the embryos, and a small incubator should be set up to 86°F (about 30°C). The eggs must also be kept dry during their 55 to 75 day average incubation period.

Pregnant Bearded Dragon Belly

Much like with other animals, one of the most noticeable physical changes with a gravid bearded dragon is a change in belly size. Your bearded dragon may start to look much fuller and rounded around the abdomen area. Sometimes this change in size can cause them to behave clumsily. 

As long as you are very gentle, you can touch the bearded dragon's belly to see if there are eggs. You should be able to barely feel them. Even though bearded dragons usually lay around 20 eggs at a time, you may only feel a few from the surface. 

How Long Are Bearded Dragons Pregnant?

Once eggs start to develop, a bearded dragon will carry them for about a month to six weeks. It is important to continue to give her the proper care during this time. You should especially focus on a nutrient-rich diet, as pregnancy can leave a bearded dragon depleted of calcium and other vital vitamins and minerals. 

After the eggs are laid they will need anywhere from about 55 to 75 days in a safe environment before they hatch. You should have a plan in place before the eggs are laid about where they will be and how you will care for them. If there is not a proper nesting area for your dragon to lay her eggs in she will become stressed. Serious health issues including an inability to lay the eggs can occur if the right resources aren't available. 

What Are the Signs of a Pregnant Bearded Dragon?

If your bearded dragon is acting or looking unusual, you will want to determine what the root of the change is. While carrying eggs is one possibility, you want to make sure that is the case so you know there are no other underlying health issues to be concerned about. 

One of the first things to consider is the age of the dragon. If you have a young baby dragon, pregnancy is unlikely. They generally become sexually mature around five to six months of age, though this can vary a bit from case to case. 

What Behaviors Should You Watch For? 

You should take note of common behavioral changes that indicate the lizard is gravid, such as digging in the terrarium. She may also act much more restless than usual and consume a lot of food quickly before eventually beginning to eat much less. Restless digging and scratching behaviors are part of the instincts these lizards have to dig a safe den to lay their eggs in. 

Another behavior to watch out for is your bearded dragon acting less sociable and friendly. While normally very docile lizards, during pregnancy they can become consumed by the task of preparing to lay eggs. This means that they often avoid attention to stay focused. This should not be a major cause for concern, as your lizard's normal behavior should return after the eggs are laid. 

What If You Only Have One Bearded Dragon?

Confusion can arise about whether or not your bearded dragon is pregnant, especially if they have not interacted with other bearded dragons recently. An interesting fact about these lizards is that they can lay eggs even if they have not been around a male. The eggs laid will be unfertilized and will not hatch.

Sometimes people purchase a bearded dragon under the impression that it is a male, only to discover that it is a female when she becomes gravid. Identifying the sex of bearded dragons can be difficult, even for people with experience in the pet industry. While it may be a good idea to take your pet to a veterinarian if they are acting strange, it is highly possible for a bearded dragon to be the opposite sex from what you thought.

 

When Should You Be Concerned About the Health of Your Bearded Dragon?

Provided you have made a proper nesting area available and given your bearded dragon the right diet, the egg-laying process should go smoothly. Problems can happen, though, so it is important to keep an eye on your pet for signs that they need to be taken to a veterinarian. If the four to six-week window has passed and your lizard hasn't laid her eggs, egg binding has likely occurred. This is a serious condition that can lead to death without proper treatment. 

Additionally, if your bearded dragon is acting strange, but you think pregnancy is unlikely, it can also be a good idea to take them for a check-up. Sometimes sickness or injury can cause bearded dragons to act unusually so it is better to be safe than sorry. 

How Long Are Bearded Dragons Pregnant?

Bearded dragons start being pregnant once they’ve reached adulthood. This is usually between 10and 18 months of age, normally starting when they’re about one year old. They only breed after brumation — the cold-blooded reptile version of hibernation. Their heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate and activity all decrease significantly when they are brumating. Unlike animals who hibernate, bearded dragons will move around on warmer winter days to drink water. They typically breed twice, the first time being after a month following brumation.

When eggs start developing, the bearded dragon will be pregnant for a month to a month and a half. Provide her with extra calcium-rich foods to support the pregnancy. This means feeding her more leafy greens, such as collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach and dandelion greens. You can also feed her a variety of fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Rhubarb
  • Figs
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips and turnip greens
  • Cabbage and Brussels sprouts
  • Okra
  • Broccoli
  • Blackberries and raspberries

The bearded dragon lays her eggs in groups of 20, called clutches. Normally, she’ll lay one to three clutches per pregnancy, but six clutches is not unheard of. If she lays six clutches, you’ll have 120 eggs to take care of.

Once she’s laid her clutches, you have a choice to make. You can either care for the eggs in the soil where your bearded dragon laid them, or you can move them to an incubator. Incubators have a higher rate for successful hatching, but you have to be extremely careful not to rotate the eggs, or the embryos inside could die. Once laid, the eggs, if fertilized, will take 55 to 75 days to hatch.

How Can You Tell if a Bearded Dragon Is Pregnant?

The first sign that a bearded dragon is pregnant is that she’ll become more lethargic. She’ll just lay around, not moving much, or sleep or lay under the heat lamp for longer periods of time. She may have a markedly increased interest in food, then suddenly have no appetite at all. She’ll also start digging in the soil to create a safe place to lay her eggs.

If your bearded dragon can’t find a decent place to lay her eggs, you’ll need to provide her with one, usually a box filled with sand or loose soil to make digging easier for her. She may also become stressed, anxious, weak and exhausted.

The sure-fire method of telling if your bearded dragon is pregnant is that her belly is getting bigger. Gently and carefully feel her belly, and you should be able to feel her eggs — which will feel like a bag of marbles. Be careful with how you handle her; if an egg ruptures inside her body, she will very likely die.

What Complications Can Arise in Pregnancy of Bearded Dragons?

Egg binding and dystocia — a difficult birth — are the most common pregnancy complications in bearded dragons. If she doesn’t have anywhere to lay her eggs, she could become egg-bound and need emergency veterinary surgery to remove the eggs. Some common, uncontrollable causes of dystocia and egg binding include:

  • First pregnancies
  • The eggs are too large, or they’re stuck together
  • The bearded dragon has anatomical abnormalities
  • There’s something preventing the eggs from being able to pass
  • Egg binding in past pregnancies
  • She’s bearing infertile clutches
  • The bearded dragon has an abscess

There are also preventable causes of egg binding and dystocia. These include:

  • Calcium deficiency
  • No good nesting area
  • Dehydration
  • Poor animal husbandry
  • Inadequate diet
  • Unsuitable temperature
  • Overall poor health of the bearded dragon

If the egg binding or dystocia is severe enough, it may cause your bearded dragon’s cloaca to prolapse — she’ll be straining so hard that her cloaca will turn itself inside out and protrude from the cloacal opening. This is a medical emergency; get her to the veterinarian quickly.

Can a Female Bearded Dragon Get Pregnant Without a Male?

Like any egg-bearing animal, bearded dragons can get pregnant without a male dragon in the picture. The only difference is that the eggs will be unfertilized, meaning no baby bearded dragons will be born. Think about chickens — the vast majority of their eggs are infertile, and we enjoy them for breakfast every day. If your bearded dragon gives birth to infertile eggs, you can throw them away. She’ll never miss them; bearded dragons don’t care for their young in the wild.

Bearded dragons are wonderful animals to keep as pets. You have to be careful if your dragon gets pregnant because she’ll require extra care and feeding to safely give birth, whether the eggs are fertilized or not.

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Discussion Comments

anon939311

Wouldn't you need to monitor the humidity inside of the incubator? Hence, having a cup of water in the incubator

anon262813

Why would you put a cup of water in?

anon247016

My bearded dragons are just laying eggs now. It's my first time. I have put the eggs in aviv with polystyrene and a cup of water and a thermostat at 80. Is this right? The eggs look healthy.

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    • Pregnant bearded dragons often enjoy eating silkworms.
      By: lily
      Pregnant bearded dragons often enjoy eating silkworms.
    • Kelp is a good source of calcium for bearded dragons.
      By: HLPhoto
      Kelp is a good source of calcium for bearded dragons.
    • Alfalfa sprouts can be included in a bearded dragon diet.
      By: Lev
      Alfalfa sprouts can be included in a bearded dragon diet.
    • Bearded dragons thrive in warm temperatures, and this is especially true for the lizards when they are pregnant.
      Bearded dragons thrive in warm temperatures, and this is especially true for the lizards when they are pregnant.