Bearded dragons mating in captivity have requirements that can be challenging to meet. However, they’re relatively easy to prepare for mating compared to other pet reptiles. Male and female beardies become ready to mate at around one year of age.
If you’re planning to breed bearded dragons, you can find helpful tips in this article. I’ll provide you with essential information about when your beardies are ready for mating and how to set up a conducive environment for them to do so.
Also, you’ll learn how to determine if the mating has been successful and if you have young beardies on the way!
How Do Bearded Dragons Mate?
One thing that beardies have in common with most animals is that the male mounts the female to mate. It then inserts the hemipenis and releases sperm that fertilizes the eggs being carried by the female.
At first, mating in beardies may appear violent, but there’s nothing for you to worry about. The process starts with the male approaching and circling the female.
It will bob its head frantically while darkening its beard. The female will respond with a slow head bob, which insinuates that it’s ready to mate.
The male beardie will then mount the female lizard and hold it in position by biting her neck or the skin on the shoulder.
Once the female cloaca and the male hemipenis are aligned, the male will insert its hemipenis into the cloaca and deposit sperm to fertilize the eggs.
On average, the mating process can take between 1-2 minutes. Female bearded dragons can lay about 4-5 clutches of eggs within a single breeding season, usually between spring and early summer.
What are Some of Bearded Dragons’ Mating Rituals?
When bearded dragons are about to mate, they tend to display visual cues that every bearded dragon keeper should be aware of. The signals convey a message to the opposite sex about the male beardie’s willingness to mate.
It’s crucial to note that many cues come from male beardies. Some of the signs and behaviors displayed by males include:
- Beard puffing and darkening. Male beardies darken and puff up their beards to show females that they are sexually mature and capable of producing viable offspring.
- Stomping. Males will stamp their feet randomly or in a coordinated fashion to gain the female’s attention and to display their strength and masculinity.
- Head Bobbing. Since there might be multiple beardies interested in the same females, the male beardie bobs their heads to display dominance. Head bobbing also sends a message to the female beardie that the male is ready to mate.
Contrary, a female bearded dragon won’t just sit there without doing anything when it wants to mate. It’ll send responses to indicate whether they are ready to mate or not. If they are in the mood for mating, they’ll bob their heads slowly as a sign of accepting the male bearded dragon’s advances.
They’ll try to escape from the male bearded dragon if they’re not interested. If the female and male beardie are in the same cage and the former isn’t receptive to mating behavior, they’ll try to hide and might keep running around the cage.
Can Beardies Mate with Other Lizards?
Straight of the bat, bearded dragons can’t mate with other lizards. Different lizards exude distinct genetic make-ups, and their physical reproductive structures are also different. Conversely, beardies also perform courtship rituals that differ from other lizard species.
Inherently, genetic make-up determines whether or not the reproductive structures between a male and a female are compatible.
If animals are not from the same species, they will have different genes, meaning their reproductive systems will also be incompatible.
Conversely, the mating and courtship behaviors are different between lizard species. The chemical signaling and the behaviors that indicate that animals intend or want to mate are not the same in lizards that are not from the same species.
Species with near-similar genetic make-up like horses and donkeys; and lions and tigers are likely to mate.
However, lizard species exude sharp differences in genetics and physical reproductive structures, meaning they can’t mate or reproduce with one other.
However, it’s essential to understand that subspecies of beardies can mate with one another and bring forth some offspring.
This is because they’re from the same species, and only a few subtle features make them grouped into different subspecies.
Can Bearded Dragon Siblings Mate?
Bearded dragons in the wild can mate with any animal of the opposite sex, even if they are from the same species. For beardies, parents can mate with siblings and even siblings with other siblings. Unlike humans, beardies aren’t aware of family bonds, and neither do they comprehend the concept of siblings and parents.
To them, any bearded dragon of the opposite sex is a potential mating partner. So, if you put a male in the same environment with a female beardie, they’ll likely mate regardless of whether there are siblings.
However, since most breeders and owners breed to increase diversity and bring forth resilient and versatile pets, they highly discourage inbreeding.
They argue that inbreeding leads to less adaptive offspring and can lead to genetic disorders.
Still, some experts argue that inbreeding can only lead to disorders if it occurs in several generations. They claim that inbreeding is essential for maintaining bloodlines and unique characteristics, such as colors and patterns.
Will Beardies Mate Throughout Their Lives?
Beardies are solitary creatures that will spend their time alone and only come together during mating and reproduction. As cold-blooded species, these scaly friends will do everything to conserve energy and use it only when necessary.
They will not go to lengths in search of mating partners; instead, they’ll find those near them.
The creatures can have multiple mates over their existence and will always choose their mating partner based on proximity and physical promise.
Since the scaly reptiles are preyed on by various animals, their reproduction strategy is to hatch several young ones to elevate their survival rate to adulthood. Unfortunately, beardies don’t provide parental care to their young ones.
Once a male and female bearded dragon mate, the female lays lots of eggs, buries them with dirt, and leaves them to hatch. Once out of the eggs, baby beardies must fend for themselves until they become adults.
When Do Bearded Dragons Become Sexually Mature (Both Male and Female)?
Beaded dragons in the wild reach sexual maturity when they are about 1 and 2 years of age. However, female beardies can become sexually mature after eight months. Male bearded dragons may begin to mate as early as one year.
In captivity, beardies are considered sexually mature when they are over 18 months. This ensures they have fully developed reproductive systems and can lay eggs without complications.
However, it’s important to mention that sexual maturity in beardies is like human puberty. It varies from one individual to the next.
While some beardies will be capable of successfully producing new offspring when they are above one year, others must wait until they are 2 years of age.
At times, bearded dragons could become sexually mature at a specific size before they are even 18 months old. However, to successfully breed healthy babies, bearded dragons should only mate after 18 months.
Allowing beardies under 18 months to reproduce may lead to complications such as egg-binding and stunted growth in both parents and babies.
Can Female Bearded Dragons Lay Eggs Without Mating?
Female beardies don’t need to mate with a male to start laying eggs. To them, egg-laying is a natural process stimulated by factors other than copulation.
Changes in the environment are the first culprits that lead to beardies laying eggs without a female. When female beardies become sexually mature, they start experiencing a normal reproductive cycle that follows seasonal changes.
Beardies notice seasonal changes with fluctuations in daylight hours and temperatures. When the scaly friends learn that temperatures are plummeting and days are shorter, they send signals to the brain stimulating their bodies to prepare for reproduction.
Brumation is an integral factor in the wild, as it signals the start of the mating season. Once beardies are out of brumation, they start increasing their food intake in readiness for reproduction.
Since the weather is perfect once beardies are out of brumation, this is considered the best time to lay eggs. Laying eggs during this period increases the chance of offspring survival.
Another significant cue that causes beardies to lay eggs is sexual stimulation. If a female sees a male and observes some courtship or mating signs, this is enough to stimulate them to lay eggs even if they don’t mate.
Surprisingly, some experts claim that handling your bearded dragon too much during the mating season can stimulate them to lay eggs!
How Long are Beardies Gravid For?
We use the term pregnant when referring to a mammal with a fetus growing inside its womb. However, we use gravid when referring to a reptile carrying eggs in its stomach.
After mating and fertilization, female bearded dragons carry eggs for 4 to 6 weeks. You’ll be able to tell when your scaly friend is gravid because of weight gain and a lumpy stomach.
When the bearded dragons are about to lay eggs, they’ll display some unique signs, such as losing appetite and digging in the ground.
Once the eggs are laid, they’ll need 55-75 days to hatch into young ones if the correct incubation temperature is maintained.
Based on the conditions during the reproduction period, the time it takes from mating to the appearance of hatchlings is about 83 -114 days.
How Many Times Can a Female Bearded Dragon Get Gravid?
When the conditions are right, a female bearded dragon can lay between 4 to 5 clutches of eggs in a year. Each clutch boasts about 20 eggs, meaning the animal can produce up to 100 hatchlings in a year.
Your scaly reptile can lay the 5 clutches in short bursts at random times throughout the year or in successive months.
However, it’s imperative to note that the number of times a bearded dragon becomes gravid will depend on its overall health. It will also depend on the environmental conditions and stimulation of egg-laying behaviors.
Although there’s no way to regulate egg-laying in beardies, providing the right conditions and offering a proper diet will facilitate egg-laying.
It’s crucial to ensure that your bearded dragon’s cage has loose substrates that allow the female beardie to dig and prepare a laying nest.
If your scaly friend doesn’t find a suitable place to lay her eggs, they might get reabsorbed into the body, or in a worst-case scenario, it can become egg-bound. Egg-binding is a life-threatening condition where eggs get stuck in the beardie’s reproductive system.
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Mate?
Beardies only mate once every year. The mating happens immediately after brumation when the reproduction season commences.
The conducive weather in spring or early summer ensures that beardies produce healthy and viable eggs and increase their survival chances.
While females need to mate just once a year to lay eggs, males can mate with multiple females during the mating season. Beardies in the wild will come together after brumation to mate and go their separate ways.
However, when beardies of the opposite sex are housed together, they’ll mate anytime. This may exhaust their energy and physical resources and lead to unsuccessful breeding or unplanned reproduction.
Herpetologists recommend replicating the natural circumstances as much as possible if you want to have breeding success with captive-bred beardies. This means you should try to mate your beardies in spring or early summer.
When is Bearded Dragons’ Mating Season?
Since beardies are originally from Australia, their mating season is from September-March, which coincides with spring and summertime in the country.
These scaly beardies mate during this period since the weather is optimal and there’s plenty of food. This means there’s a high chance of fertilization and enough resources to facilitate successful reproductive behaviors.
Bearded dragons are fertile and most viable reproductively after brumation. When beardies come out of brumation, they experience hormonal changes that usher in their natural breeding and reproduction cycles.
Captive-bred bearded dragons can mate anytime during the year. However, expert vets encourage breeders to allow their beardies to breed in the spring and summer months since this is when they are naturally inclined to reproduce. Creating a near-natural reproductive cycle increases breeding success.
Why Is My Beardie Refusing to Eat During the Mating Season?
As mentioned earlier, during the mating season, bearded dragons experience significant hormonal changes that might affect their behaviors. One of the areas that can be affected by these hormones is appetite. It’s not uncommon for beardies to lose their appetite during the mating season.
However, the loss of appetite may be due to different reasons in males to females. For instance, when female beardies are gravid or about to lay eggs, they are usually under a lot of stress that might cause them to despise food.
You must consult a reptile vet if your gravid beardie is overdue and still not eating. Refusing to eat is one of the symptoms of egg binding in bearded dragons.
If you house a male bearded dragon with or in a line of sight to a female beardie, they might be overstimulated or hyper-fixated to try and stimulate the female.
It will spend much time trying to impress or signal the female and forget to eat. Therefore, always ensure a visual barrier between tanks of bearded dragons from the opposite sex.
My Bearded Dragon Won’t Mate; What Might Be the Problem?
Mating is something that’s naturally inscribed in all animals’ genetic make-up. Therefore, if your beardie won’t mate, there’s a problem. If your bearded dragons are not interested in reproduction, it could be due to any of the following reasons:
- Not yet attain sexual maturity – One of the reasons why your beardies may refuse to mate is if they are yet to become sexually mature adults. Beardies should only mate once they are 18 months and above.
- Putting beardies of incorrect sexes together – knowing whether your bearded dragon is male or female can be daunting, especially for beginners. If your beardies are not mating after putting them together for days, they might be from the same sex. It’s important to check physical features when pairing your beardies for mating. Males boast a more prominent head and have hemipenis bulge and femoral pores at the base of their tails.
- Not considering seasonal cues – Bearded dragons are more fertile and viable in the spring and summer months. While our scaly friends in captivity can mate anytime, reproductive and breeding success is attained when you allow them to copulate during the spring and summer.
- Health complications – Your scaly friends may also refuse to mate if they have an underlying health complication. If you suspect your beardie is sick, don’t hesitate to visit a reptile vet.
- Poor care and husbandry – Beardies must be provided with proper conditions to mate successfully. Lack of adequate heat, food, lighting, and hygiene might affect their ability to breed and produce viable offspring.
How Will I Know That My Bearded Dragon Is About to Lay Eggs?
You’ll know that female bearded dragons are gravid and bout to lay eggs once they:
- Start gaining weight rapidly
- She spends more time in the basking area
- Its belly becomes increasingly bumpy and swollen
- Has a significant decrease in its usual appetite
- Start moving around as if they are looking for something or digging up the substrate to make a nest.
If you don’t provide your beardie with an excellent place to lay their eggs, they might decide not to stay with them, and this may lead to egg-binding, which is life-threatening.
At What Age Are Bearded Dragons Ready for Mating?
Bearded dragons typically live up to ten years in the wild but may thrive for 15 years or longer in captivity due to the constant food availability and the absence of predators or other threats.
Since they live for a relatively shorter time than humans, many pet owners consider breeding them for additional companions or sometimes even to sale baby bearded dragons.
However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t attempt to have your bearded dragons mate until they’re way beyond sexual maturity.
Male and female bearded dragons are ready for mating at around one year old. Some may even reach sexual maturity as early as six months. However, you should keep your male and female beardies apart even if they show signs of readiness for mating until they turn two years old.
Having your beardies mate early – less than two years of age – can cause complications for them that you may find challenging to deal with later on.
Here are some of the risks associated with letting your bearded dragons mate early:
Your Bearded Dragon May Get Injured
Male beardies tend to be persistent and sometimes even aggressive during courtship. Young female beardies may be too small to fend for themselves and may get injured. In the worst case, they may even die.
It’s also important to remember that even if the male dragon is ready for mating at six months old, you shouldn’t pair him with a two-year-old female beardie. The difference in size and power can be detrimental for the male beardie.
Therefore, it’s always ideal for pairing a male and a female who are close in size and age. Before mating, the most suitable weight for beardies should be at least 0.77 lbs (350 grams).
Depending on the species of bearded dragons you have, you shouldn’t let them mate until they’re at least 80% of their maximum growth potential.
Remember that keeping them in separate enclosures is crucial until they reach the desired size and age for mating. Male bearded dragons tend to be territorial and may attack other beardies regardless of sex.
Your Female Bearded Dragon May Suffer From Nutrient Deficiency
Another significant concern is that if you introduce a male beardie and a young female beardie early, the latter will lay fertilized eggs and may exhaust her calcium and essential nutrient reserves and suffer from health complications.
As the female beardie runs out of calcium for the eggs’ development, she’ll involuntarily extract calcium intended for her bones or other body parts. As a result, she’ll have physical development disorders, especially in the limbs and jaws.
Moreover, if your female bearded dragon doesn’t get enough calcium from her diet and vitamin D from sunlight, it can lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD). This condition typically appears before vulnerable beardies turn two years old.
Calcium deficiency resulting from egg development or metabolic bone disease can be fatal for a young female beardie.
Therefore, it’s best to wait until your female beardie turns two years old and becomes nutritionally stable before introducing her to a male beardie for mating. It can also help ensure no other health risks can compromise your beardie’s overall health when she gets pregnant.
How To Tell if a Bearded Dragon Is Ready for Mating?
Bearded dragons have remarkable mating or courtship behavior, making it easy for breeders or pet owners to tell when their pets are ready for reproduction. Male and female beardies show different behaviors or physical signs.
Male Bearded Dragon
Male beardies show both physical signs and behavioral changes to indicate that they’re ready for mating. Here are some ways to tell your male bearded dragon is seeking a mate:
- His “beard” will appear darker. The color change can spread from the lower jaw down to the chest. However, this isn’t a definitive sign of your beardie looking for a mate. Bearded dragons can also darken their beard when they’re scared, angry, or sick.
- He keeps bobbing his head. In addition to darkening his beard, constantly bobbing his head at the sight of a female beardie is a telltale sign that your male beardie is ready for mating.
- He stomps his feet. Although there may not be a distinct sound coming from the movement considering the small size of their feet, male bearded dragons stomp their feet to attract a female beardie’s attention.
Female Bearded Dragon
Female beardies may bob their heads more slowly than the male beardies to show they’re ready for mating. When a female sees a male beardie bobbing his head at her or showing other courtship behaviors, she’ll raise a leg and wave to show that she welcomes the courtship.
Otherwise, female beardies will run away, hiss, or hide. Sometimes, females may not be ready for mating for several reasons, such as health concerns.
Since male beardies can be persistent and sometimes aggressive, it’s best to observe your pet beardies for the first hour of introduction and wait until they become more open to each other. If the chasing escalates to violence, it may be best to put them back into their separate enclosures.
If the male beardie bites the back of the neck of the female beardie, that’s normal mating behavior. However, if the male bites the female’s legs or mouth, that’s most likely a fight, and you have to break them apart.
When Is the Best Time To Set Up Bearded Dragons for Mating?
The best time to set up bearded dragons for mating is during the warm season. Depending on the climate of your area, it’s best to prepare your beardies for mating from spring to summer, when temperatures range from 77 to 95 °F (25 to 35 °C).
In their native environment in Australia, bearded dragons become ready for mating after they come out from brumation.
What Is the Brumation Period?
The brumation period is a time of dormancy or hibernation for most reptiles in regions with cold winters. Bearded dragons originally came from Australia, making them highly likely to brumate during winter months.
Since your pet beardies are indoor pets with a more or less controlled environment and temperature, they may not need to brumate. Nonetheless, you can provide a setup that’d allow them to burrow.
How To Prepare Bearded Dragons for Mating?
When your bearded dragons reach the desired size and age for mating, you can set them up for mating rituals after they emerge from brumation. Here are some things you can do to help your bearded dragons prepare for mating:
- Feed your female beardies a calcium-rich diet, including collard greens, kale, and broccoli.
- Prepare an enclosure large enough for the two beardies to explore if the female needs to run away from the male.
- Fill the enclosure with fresh, sterile sand and accessories to ensure there are no contaminants that can cause microbial infections in your bearded dragons.
- Place the male beardie inside the enclosure and introduce the female while keeping her outside the glass.
- Observe the courtship behavior. If the female responds by slowly bobbing her head and waving her hands, she’s ready for mating.
- Place the female inside the enclosure with the male, and watch their interaction for at least an hour. It’ll help ensure that you’re ready to rescue the female when necessary.
- Once they warm up to each other, leave them together for a week before putting them back into their separate enclosures.
Signs That Female Bearded Dragon Is Carrying Eggs
All-female bearded dragons can lay eggs even without a male mate. However, the eggs will be unfertilized. It can be difficult to tell whether your female bearded dragon carries fertile or infertile eggs until she lays them.
However, if you’ve exposed your female to a male bearded dragon, the eggs are likely fertilized. Female bearded dragons have the unique ability to store sperm in their body so that they can produce several clutches of fertilized eggs.
So if you let your male and female dragons spend some time together during the mating season, you can expect your female beardie to continue laying fertilized eggs several times even after putting them in separate enclosures.
Gravid bearded dragons look the same and behave the same way regardless of whether they’re carrying fertilized or unfertilized eggs.
Here are some signs your bearded dragon is carrying eggs:
- Increased appetite. Your female beardie needs calcium to produce eggs, whether or not they’re fertilized. As a result, your pet will have more appetite than usual. She’ll be much hungrier if the eggs contain embryos.
- Swollen belly. A gravid bearded dragon will have a bigger belly with noticeable lumps that feel like marbles when you touch it.
- Lethargy. While it can indicate several other health concerns, the lethargy that follows after your female beardie shows a swollen belly is a clear sign she’s pregnant. She’ll also tend to sleep more later in the pregnancy.
- Constant digging. If your bearded dragon eventually starts obsessively digging around, it can be a sign that she’s ready to lay eggs. Reptiles typically start digging to create a spot where they can safely lay their eggs.
The only way to find out if the eggs your female bearded dragon is carrying are fertilized is to wait until she lay her eggs. After which, you can inspect the egg using a light source the same way you’d when checking a hen’s egg.
When observing a fertilized egg using a light source, you’ll see blood vessels that appear pink or deep orange against white light. Depending on the age of the embryo, you may also notice a dark lump inside the egg.
It’s pretty easy to recognize unfertilized eggs because there’ll be no traces of networks of blood vessels inside. In addition, the eggs will remain translucent and appear clear or yellow against white light.
How Long Does It Take Before a Bearded Dragon Lays Eggs?
It usually takes around five weeks before a female bearded dragon lays eggs. Considering that you’d typically leave the female together with the male for a week, the length of time it takes for her to lay eggs will vary depending on how soon the beardies successfully mated after exposure.
The gravid female will start digging around the sand shortly before it’s ready to lay eggs. Therefore, be sure to clean the enclosure regularly and replace the soiled sand to protect the mother beardie and the hatchlings from infection.
How Does Temperature Affect the Sex of the Embryos?
Bearded dragon breeders cater to a wide range of clientele who may have specific requests regarding their preferred sex for their future pets. Interestingly, breeders can influence the sex of beardies before they hatch by controlling the temperatures during egg incubation.
Temperature affects the sex of the embryos by creating female embryos in warmer conditions. When exposed to temperatures over 95 °F (35 °C), male bearded dragon embryos may become female due to temperature-dependent hormonal changes.
Many reptiles, including bearded dragons, are susceptible to temperature-dependent sex determination. It’s due to some chemicals responsible for sex hormone production being more active at higher temperatures.
One such chemical is the enzyme aromatase. It’s responsible for producing female sex hormones and tends to be more active at higher temperatures. As a result, higher temperatures during incubation may result in female bearded dragon babies.
Many breeders take advantage of this knowledge to produce the desired number of male or female bearded dragons.
How Can You Help Your Bearded Dragon When It’s Gravid and During the Egg-Laying?
Never try to massage the egg out. Since the eggs have a soft shell, you can easily break them with a gentle press. If an egg breaks inside the beardies body, it can lead to internal trauma and egg-yolk peritonitis.
Conversely, you must only handle your gravid beardie only when necessary. Holding the scaly friend too much can cause a lot of distress on top of the stress caused by them being gravid.
Watch for any signs of egg-binding or follicular and seek immediate professional advice if you think your beardie is sick. Since beardies are hardy creatures, they might be unwell for days without showing any symptoms.
You should ensure that your bearded dragon stays hydrated during the egg-laying season. The light and heat should also be optimal, and the diet should be rich in all nutrients.
Do I Need a License to Breed Bearded Dragons?
The rules and legislations surrounding bearded dragon breeding depend on your location. For instance, you need a license to keep or breed bearded dragons in Australia. Additionally, you can’t export beardies from Australia as they are considered endangered.
However, breeding and ownership of bearded dragons in the UK and US are unmonitored and unregulated. Still, you must check with your local authority about any obligations as a bearded dragon owner or breeder
Do Bearded Dragons Have Periods?
Female bearded dragons don’t menstruate or experience periods. Menstruation is a natural phenomenon that only takes place in primates, bats, and a few rodents.