On average these lizards will have between 16 and 24 eggs in a clutch and they’ll lay multiple clutches depending upon various factors. If the eggs are infertile then they may only lay one clutch, but if they’re fertile then expect around 6 batches – they’ll normally stop laying eggs as soon as they lay infertile eggs and that depends on how much sperm they’ve stored and how much energy and calcium they have. Also be careful to watch out for any symptoms of egg binding your Bearded Dragons.
Nutrition while laying eggs
Whether laying infertile or fertile eggs, the dragon will need plenty of calcium and energy, if you don’t provide additional calcium supplements, the eggs will use calcium from the dragons bones. Also all that digging and egg laying will exhaust the dragon so you’ll want to feed daily with more insects and vegetation – after all this is what the beardie will use to create the eggs. You should find that their appetite substantially increases during this period.
If your lizard should stop eating for more than a couple of days, it’s time to see a vet to get an x-ray and to monitor the condition, if the dragon doesn’t lay the eggs it can become egg bound, where the eggs solidify and bind internally with the dragon causing paralysis and even death. So be sure to keep an eye out for this.
You need around 6 inches at least, 10-12 inches is better, of substrate for the female to dig a burrow in, the best stuff I found is a mixture in equal parts of vermiculite (to retain moisture), play sand and topsoil. Add to this some water to ensure it can hold it’s shape without collapsing and get a big piece of bark to go over the top.
I also found that in the vivarium, the female will tend to prefer to dig a burrow in the warm end, normally under the heat lamp. Although before doing this, she’ll create several test burrows over the course of a few days, so you’ll need deep substrate for all of the viv – I slope it up towards the back to give varying height.
After she’s dug her hole, she’ll lay the eggs in under 30 minutes and then spend a while burying them up again. What you need to do is to carefully remove the soil again and taking note of the position of the egg, transfer them to the incubator keeping them in the same position (more on that later). If she just laid one set of eggs, you may be able to leave them in the tank, but in a few weeks she is more than likely to dig another burrow for the next clutch and she’ll always choose the same place when in the vivarium, thus ruining the eggs if left in there. Generally bearded dragons do not care about their eggs.
Infertile Dragon eggs
These will be yellow and smaller than average. Remove them straight away and throw them out. This also signifies that that’s the end of the egg laying. I mention infertile eggs also because lizards will develop eggs anyway (providing they’re not stressed), even if there is no male present, this works out in two ways, either they lay the infertile eggs or in some cases the eggs get reabsorbed into back into the body.
Fertile Dragon eggs
Fertile bearded dragon eggs are white in colour and will start to swell over a few days, the important things here are heat and moisture. If you notice the egg beginning to sag, don’t worry just add more moisture carefully and the egg should swell up again. If you leave it too long then the egg will die off.
Healthy fertile eggs will positively glow and will double their original size as they swell as the embryo begins to develop.
Incubating the eggs
You can buy custom made incubators or create your own. Since you’re likely to get many batches of eggs you have the opportunity to test different setups.
First of all the heat source – you can use a light bulb or heat mat or an airing cupboard. Light bulbs are expensive to keep on all day every day for a few months, so I preferred to try heat mats, however, I found that the direct heat from the light bulb above the eggs worked better, but I still had low success rate using either. I also tried creating a water bath to retain the heat and this seemed to work marginally better than just heating the incubation tub.
So far I have had 100% success rate leaving the eggs in the airing cupboard and this is what I would recommend.
Secondly you need to look at what to keep the eggs in, the small plastic tubs you get the insects in I found are unsuitable, too many small air holes which dried out the eggs too quickly. Instead you can get purpose made plastic hatchling boxes that are of a decent size, cheap, have a lid and enough airholes to allow the air to circulate without losing too much moisture.
Thirdly you need a medium to rest the eggs in and to retain heat and moisture, for this I found vermiculite to be the best. Add it about an inch deep in the tub and add water until it’s all damp and you can leave hollows in it. For each egg create a hollow using your thumb about a centimeter deep and gently move the egg and rest it in this hollow giving at least half an inch in space between the eggs. It is important to ensure that the egg remains in exactly the same position as it was laid, otherwise turning the eggs could lead to the embryo being malformed or other complications – such as the tail wrapping round and choking the embryo.
So rather than shell out for an expensive incubator I have now had 100% success rate with just a few plastic tubs, some vermiculite and an airing cupboard, and this has produced perfectly healthy mail and females, taking about 2 months to incubate and hatch.
Remember to check on the eggs daily and add more water if the it looks dry or eggs begin to shrink.
Incubation times can be as little as 45 days and can be up to 85 days, in my airing cupboard it took about 56 days and the ideal mid range is about 82 – 86° F if it’s hotter then you risk a higher chance of losing eggs.
Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination (TSD)
Interestingly the temperature you incubate the eggs effects the sex of the dragons rather than the chromosomes at the time of fertilisation. Higher temperatures lessen the incubation time but are more likely to create males where as lower temperatures are more likely to produce females but take longer.
The eggs took between 1 and 3 days to all hatch, the best advice here is to ensure that they are still in a moist environment to prevent the egg shell from drying out or sticking to the new born bearded dragon. If there are issues then carefully help the dragon out of the egg, but adequate moisture should prevent the need of this.
When they have hatched transfer them in to the vivarium but maintain the temperate the same as the incubator for the first few days. During hatching if you’re careful you can move them to the vivarium and leave them to hatch there as long as they don’t dry out.