- frantic pacing
- engorged belly
- lack of appetite
Even if you don’t have a male bearded dragon around, females will regularly lay clutches of infertile eggs — just like chickens! The first time your female bearded dragon lays a clutch can be stressful, since you won’t be quite sure what she’s up to. Knowing the general symptoms and actively keeping a watch for them can prevent the painful result of a dragon who wasn’t able to lay her eggs: egg binding.
After you’ve observed a couple or more of the abovementioned symptoms, it’s a good time to introduce your female to the lay box. A lay box is simply a plastic bin with ~6 inches of dampened play sand in which your female can dig a hole for her eggs. If you’re not sure your female is ready to lay, a good test is to let her run around the house. If she darts from room to room without settling down, she’s looking for a place for her eggs. That’s when you put her in the lay box.
Preparing the lay box: Is easy. I use a Rubbermaid storage tote with 100 lbs of play sand. When the time has come for one of our girls to lay, I wet down the entire thing with warm water, mixing it thoroughly with my hands (I recommend removing any rings before doing this). Once the sand clumps together easily, it’s ready. The goal here is to provide a medium where your female can dig a cave that won’t collapse. Digging and laying is exhausting enough as it is without having to dig one or two collapsed caves as well. Once the sand is prepared, mount a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter to give your female the warmth and energy she will need.
Digging: Takes forever. Your female will be meticulous about her hole, likely digging to the very bottom of the bin. You will hear lots of scratching, but don’t worry, she’s making progress. My Nabooru has a tendency to dig in corners, so I guide her to the best digging spots by starting the hole for her. She seems to appreciate the help.
Laying: Happens eventually. After your female has dug a cave that she likes, she will turn around and deposit between 15-30 eggs. Breathing hard is normal. After all, she is more or less giving birth. Some females do better when left alone in silence, while others seem to benefit from the presence of a trusted human. I like to balance leaving Nabooru alone and checking in to say some encouraging words. I know, I’m weird.
Filling the hole: Also takes forever. Female beardies are crazy about making sure their eggs are perfectly buried. This means not only putting sand back in the hole, but also packing it down with her snout. It’s amazing, actually, and I love watching her do this. Do not remove your beardie or the eggs until she’s done filling her hole, or else she’ll get seriously stressed out.
Recovery: After the eggs have been laid and the hole erased, your beardie will be exhausted. Keep in mind that she just went through the equivalent of giving birth. It makes human menstrual cycles pale by comparison. Actually…probably just most. I estimate it would be about the equivalent of the ones you see described on Tumblr. Anyway, the key here is getting your little lady comfortable again.
- Give her a nice warm bath to rehydrate and rinse off all the sand.
- Feed her bugs if she’ll take them, generously dusted with calcium.
- Give her an opportunity to bask for at least an hour before bed.
- Every day for the next 3 days, give her bugs along with her greens, generously dusted with calcium. She needs these to replenish her calcium and protein stores.
Keep in mind that your female will likely lay up to 4 clutches in a season. If her belly seems bloated, feels full and she’s acting lethargic with little to no appetite, but with no attempt (or failed attempts) to lay, she may be egg bound. Take her to the vet immediately.
For further information on reproductive health in female bearded dragons, read our page on Yolk Peritonitis.