Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thar Be Dragons...

...in that shipment about to arrive on my doorstep. Baby Bearded Dragons that is; and fifteen of them should be here by 1000 hours. Yes I am getting back into the keeping of bearded dragons, one of my favorite lizards. I'll probably keep 4 or 5 of these for breeding purposes. I figure by this time next year, the ones that I keep of this clutch will be producing offspring of their own for me. So why get 15, when I plan to keep 4 to 5 of them. Well chances are I can offload the others so that I break even on my initial cost for the ones I keep. If they are all healthy, and one can only hope I am dealing with a reputable breeder who is selling these to me (and he certainly sounds to be one so far), then I should easily at least break even.

The little lizards started their journey late yesterday afternoon in or around Minot, North Dakota. By 2320 hours they were in Memphis, Tennessee, and at 0646 they were in Jamaica, NY (part of NYC), and (since I just refreshed the tracking screen) I see that at 0819 they were at the Garden City facility, only about 2 miles from my home. I guess they really will be at my doorstep by 10 AM as promised. What a good breeder/dealer from what I can see so far. I sent payment, and he had them shipped within hours! As a matter of fact, ah loving wife I have, she who puts up with things like bearded dragons, other lizards, turtles, tortoises, lots of snakes, frogs, toads, newts, breeder mouse colonies, dwarf hamsters, and of course me and my son.

Oh the waiting, the pacing back and forth (and me still under the weather doing all that pacing), the apprehension as to whether or not all will be healthy and complete with all their little toes and tail tips, the having to prepare a play pen a proper enclosure for them, having to pick names for all of them.and all that stuff. Now don't get me wrong, that is almost all in jest; I am not a pet keeper among those who names all of his animals and then talks to them while cuddling them each day, nor do I name lizards. While I am enthralled by them, and I enjoy keeping them as pets and curiosities, and to breed them as a hobby, they do not get handled on and even daily basis, and certainly not talked to or played with like I play with our 3 dogs. After all, a lizard is just that - a lizard!

Bearded dragons do make neat pets though, and are fairly responsive among the reptiles, and even among the lizards. They grow to a very manageable size of about 16 to 20 inches. They are usually very docile toward humans, although you cannot keep males together because they will fight over territory and females. Speaking of territory they originate in desert and semi-arid areas of Australia.

As far as care goes, and adult would require about a 30 gallon long sized tank (minimum). A pair could be kept in that but a bigger sized enclosure would be much more suitable for a pair. A secure screen top is not mandatory if the enclosure is deep enough with slick walls, but I strongly suggest a completely secure enclosure for them. Into that, I typically add play sand for a substrate, the tan stuff, not that very white sand filled with sea shell bits that can be had at some hardware depots. I add a few red bricks, or natural stones for climbing and basking areas, and maybe a fairly stout piece of tree branch. The only other inside the cage furnishings would be feeding bowls.

Atop the enclosure you need to mount a heat lamp over the basking area. The surface temperature of the basking area should reach between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be done by using an incandescent bulb, or a full spectrum bulb that emits heat as well as UVA and UVB light. If you use an incandescent bulb, then you will need to add a full spectrum florescent bulb for the UVA and UVB light which are essential for good health in bearded dragons. There are bulbs made specifically for keeping desert lizards like these which are available at reptile expos, and at some pet shops. Bearded Dragons benefit greatly from exposure to natural sunlight, and they can be kept outdoors in proper outdoor enclosures (no glass or plastic tanks as they would overheat inside these in the sunlight). A decent temporary outdoor enclosure for them is a bird cage with bars that they cannot squeeze between to escape. They could be put outside in this setup everyday, for a couple of hours, weather permitting. A good idea is to have whatever outdoor enclosure you house them in, to be partly in the sun and partly in the shade at all times so they can regulate their body temperatures as they need to, and so they do not overheat.

As for feeding them: While very young, they eat primarily insects, but as they grow they begin to eat both insects and vegetable matter. They will eat a large variety of insects, but crickets and superworms are easy to get commercially, so they are most often fed to bearded dragons in captivity. As for vegetables, they love green leafy plants and I have fed mine: mustard greens, red and green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, escarole, dandelion greens (yes from my back lawn which is pesticide and lawn chemical free), radish greens, spinach, cabbage, broccoli rabe, carrot greens and so on. Certain of these leafy plants listed above should only be given in moderation such as cabbage, and carrot greens. They also love to devour green beans, Lima beans, corn, tomatoes, shredded carrots, broccoli, and I purchase frozen mixed vegetables to give to them (thawed first of course). Every now and then I give them a treat of a strawberry, a piece of banana, or some other fruit (non-citrus). As to insects, when you feed young BDs make sure the insect's length is no longer than the space between the lizards eyes from left to right. Larger dragons will eat just about anything they can swallow, and large crickets are fine. You can use vitamin supplements for them, and many folks do use reptile vitamins for their dragons, but I have found that if given a proper varied diet, they don't absolutely need it unless maybe you are conditioning a breeding female which will need calcium supplements. It is also a good idea to provide some extra calcium for baby bearded dragons as they grow. One thing you need to make sure you do is to supply gut fed crickets to your BDs. In other words, feed your crickets something nutritional for a couple of days before you feed them to your dragons. As far as water goes, I mist baby bearded dragons everyday on the advice of a friend who used to breed them in high numbers. Adults can be misted every other day to three times per week. Yes even though desert animals they need to drink; and note I said I mist them. Most bearded dragons will not learn to drink from a water bowl, and misting them and their enclosure is the preferred method of supplying them drinking water.

Bearded dragons can live up to about 12 years (maybe more) in captivity. If you plan on getting one or more, make sure they have been captive bred (which all of them commercially available in the USA should be). Also make sure they appear healthy, no oozing or crust coming from their eyes or cloaca (anal and sexual opening), make sure they have all their toes and their tail tip (otherwise get a discount), make sure they do not have wounds, make sure they do not have ticks or mites. Buy one that is alert, and active. Don't buy them if the enclosure in which they are kept is filthy, or has other lizards in it that look sickly. For more detailed advice, here is a link to an excellent care sheet: http://www.lihs.org/files/caresheets/sheet16.htm. By the way, you can see that care sheet is supplied by the Long Island Herpetological Society. I strongly recommend joining a local herp society if you are going to keep any kind of reptile or amphibian. There is a lot of free advice and knowledge available at such clubs, and you can often find great deals on animals during their meetings. Besides that, many of them offer monthly meeting, newsletters, interesting presentations, and other activities. Most are a bargain too.

Now I have to attend to the little boogers dragons a bit more than I already have done; yes they arrived about an hour ago, and I took a break in typing to set them up in their new home. Just as promised they arrived before 1000 hours. Got to love a dealer/breeder who keeps to his word (thanks Jeremy), and got to love a good shipping company. All of them still have all their toes and tail tips (sometime young ones in the excitement of feeding nip another by accident), and all appear healthy, with only one seeming a little sluggish. I figure that is due to traveling from North Dakota to New York, and imagine it will be looking good once it soaks up some rays.

All the best,
Glenn B


MightyMom said...

Hey, I was here last night and caught up on all your posts. Sorry you were under the weather, hope you're feeling better now.

Lizards huh?
Do they eat fleas and spiders?

You sound like quite the proud new poppa!! all their toes...HA.

Jungle Mom said...

I met a few bearded dragons... some family was traveling with them in a kennel. I bent down to see the cute pups or whatever ...only it was not anything cute but two of those dragons. Shiver!!!

jennifer said...

Hey Glenn, I have some temporary penofjen tech issues so come over to mcbenningschool.blogspot.com to see the temporary home of Pen of Jen!


jennifer said...

Glenn Forget my last comment ...penofjen is back!!