Generally, it is known that when animals get pregnant, their needs tend to change. To make sure they are in the best possible condition you have to take care of their diet, prepare a proper birthing environment for them among other things. Chameleons are no different.
It is known that male chameleons, on the average, live longer than female chameleons. On the average male Veiled, Jackson, and Panther chameleons can live for as long as 8 to 10 years. Female chameleons regardless of species only live for an average of 3-5 years. Vets and biologist usually attribute this difference in lifespan to the fact that female chameleons lay eggs and it has an effect on their health.
The female chameleon becomes thinner and weaker from the stress of laying eggs, not only this, but it’s immune system also becomes greatly weakened and it is vulnerable to illness at this time more than at other periods. Doing this frequently and repeatedly, therefore, has a long-term effect on the chameleon’s health and lifespan. That’s why your pregnant chameleon needs your extra care.
This article has been written to provide all the basic information you need to ensure your chameleon and its baby are safe.
Breeding and Reproduction in Veiled Chameleons, Panther Chameleons, and Jackson Chameleons
Most species of chameleons are oviparous (i.e. they hatch their young from the eggs that they lay) while some others are ovoviviparous (they birth live young). Female chameleons start laying eggs from when they are around six months old, and they continue to do so every few months for the rest of their lives.
The oviparous species of chameleon lay eggs three to six weeks after copulation. Female chameleons that are about to lay eggs become restless and usually cease feeding for one to four days.
The female will find a soft sandy patch or any other kind of soil that is easy to dig, and then dig a hole which is usually between 10 and 30 cm deep, depending on the species, and deposit her eggs. The sand ensures that the eggs are kept warm and also that the ground does not harden over the hatchlings.
Chameleon clutch sizes vary greatly with species. A female veiled chameleon can lay a clutch of between 20 and 200. Panther Chameleons usually have smaller clutches, laying only 10–40 eggs.
Clutch sizes can also vary greatly among the same species.
Eggs generally hatch after four to 12 months, again depending on species. The eggs of Parson’s chameleon, a species which is rare in captivity, can take up to 24 months to hatch.
Unlike many other reptiles, female chameleons lay eggs even when they do not have a male to mate with. This is because female veiled chameleons retain sperm and may produce a second clutch 90 to 120 days after the first mating, even if the animal has not mated again.
However, there is some evidence that these unmated, double clutches result in weaker hatchlings. Even when it has used up sperm from its previous mating, it will still continue to lay eggs. Of course, if the eggs are not fertilized, they won’t hatch.
In the case of the ovoviviparous species of chameleon, such as Jackson’s chameleon, have a five to seven month gestation period. Each young chameleon is born within the sticky transparent membrane of its yolk sac.
The mother presses each egg onto a branch, where it sticks. The membrane bursts and the newly hatched chameleon frees itself and climbs away to hunt for itself and hide from predators. The female can have up to 30 live young from one gestation.
See more: 7 Things You Need to Know About Baby Chameleons
How Do You Know When Your Chameleon Is Pregnant?
・In captivity, when a female chameleon is ready to lay eggs, it usually exhibits laying behavior. The female chameleon will continually scratch at the cage floor or dig in any space in the ground that it can find.
・Its color changes and it displays colors to show that it is gravid. Gravid female veiled chameleons usually display dark green colors with yellow and blue lines across the body. The female can maintain this coloration for 3 to 4 months after mating.
・You may also notice the dramatic increase in weight. This is why you must regularly weigh your female chameleon especially if they are in the breeding period so that you can know whether your chameleon is pregnant or not.
・The female chameleon’s food intake will increase dramatically.
・During the period that the female lays eggs, it stops feeding for a couple of days of laying eggs.
・It becomes aggressive to male chameleons, if a male chameleon approaches a pregnant female chameleon, it will turn black and start to hiss at the male chameleon. It may also begin to gape or rock back and forth.
・It will also not move around much but will instead spend most of the time basking.
Caring For a Gestating Female Chameleon
To ensure the best possible conditions for your gestating chameleon, here are a few things you should take into consideration.
Ensuring That It Has a Proper Place to Lay Its Eggs
When you notice that your chameleon is pregnant, a lot of vets and breeders recommend that it is removed and placed in a bucket that is filled with soil up to 1 foot deep by 9 inches wide. Some keepers prefer to keep with the chameleon’s natural instincts and use sand or while some others use sand and soil mixture, and some prefer placing the laying box or bucket in the cage.
The soil is moistened only enough so that it clumps and the female can dig a structurally sound tunnel to its egg-laying site. The bucket can then be covered with a screen and placed in a warm, dark corner of the breeding facility. Some chameleons are most comfortable in an environment that closely resembles their habitat; therefore some breeders recommend that you put a plant in the box.
The chameleon lays its eggs in a matter of days then it sits on top of the soil with its tunnel covered, noticeably thin from egg laying. You can then return the chameleon to its cage immediately.
While chameleons like every other animal love variety, but since crickets are common in most places where chameleons are native to, most chameleons regard crickets as a staple diet. The keeper may also add varieties to the chameleon’s diet like cockroaches, super worms, silkworms, hornworms, houseflies and stick bugs.
However, you must make sure that the insects have not been contaminated with pesticides, as pesticides can be harmful to your pet chameleon. You may also dust every insect with vitamin supplements in order to help the chameleon get the required supplements it needs, especially if the chameleon’s appetite is reduced.
Breeders especially recommend these three supplements Rep-Cal Calcium without Vitamin D3 Rep-Cal calcium with vitamin D3 Rep-Cal Herptivite (which is to ensure that the animal gets enough vitamins in order to make its bones strong)
Illnesses That Affect Pregnant Chameleons
When your female chameleon is pregnant, it is a period of stress for the chameleon. As we have mentioned above, the weakened state of the chameleon means that its immune system is weakened and thus it may be vulnerable to one or two diseases.
This is why you must pay special attention to your chameleon when she is pregnant. Here are a few medical conditions that may affect a pregnant female chameleon.
This is a condition where a female chameleon is carrying eggs but it is unable or unwilling to lay them. An egg bound chameleon can become seriously ill as the eggs she has retained inside her absorbs all the nutrients that she is supposed to use for her own growth. Egg binding can be caused by anatomical defects, large malformed eggs, poor condition of the mother, and an overly high temperature in the enclosure of a dehydrated mother.
Egg binding is a major cause of death in female chameleons. The eggs press down on her lungs and she becomes unable to breathe properly. While chameleon females go through a period of reduced activity when they are pregnant, they are still alert and sensitive to their environment. Thus if your chameleon is overly lethargic or depressed or you find it straining and raising its hind legs without laying any eggs, then it might be egg bound.
Therefore, to ensure that your female chameleon does not become egg bound or suffer any ill health as a result of laying eggs, you must provide her a container of sand within her cage for her to lay her eggs in. You must also enrich its diets and ensure that you mist its cage regularly.
When your chameleon becomes gravid it reduces its food intake and its water intake. This may lead to the chameleon becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can be dangerous to chameleons more so a pregnant chameleon. If you notice yellow urate, sunken eyes, and weak skin, then your pet might be dehydrated.
Dehydration is also a major cause of egg binding. To prevent dehydration, check that you are misting your chameleon’s cage properly. If you are misting as normal and the chameleons are still not drinking water, then it might be time to see a vet.
When your chameleon is pregnant, its body is weakened; its reduced appetite means it is not as strong as it should be. At this point, you must be careful with handling her because she is very vulnerable to injuries. At this time, you are not only required to be careful with handling the chameleon herself, but you are also required to be careful with objects around her.
Make sure all the light sources and plants in her enclosure are firm so as not to risk any of them falling on her, make sure she is kept at a decent distance from lamp sources so that she does not sustain lamp burns and more important mist her enclosure regularly in order to prevent dehydration with can cause the animal’s skin to crack.
How to Make Sure That Pregnancy Does Not Affect Your Female Chameleon’s Health
Pregnancy could sometimes affect the health of your chameleon, it’s good to be on the safe side by following these few things.
Controlling its Diet
Some chameleon keepers have been able to find ways to slow their female chameleon’s egg production, thereby reducing the amount of stress the animal has to undergo and ensuring that it can live longer. It has been discovered that in the chameleon species that are common in captivity, controlling the diet of the females seems to slow/stop egg production and the females seem to live longer lives.
Keepers have found that in veiled chameleons, females can even live for up to 6 or 7 years if they get the proper care during pregnancy. See more: 35 Cool Facts About the Veiled Chameleon
Once the female chameleon has mated, its diet can be increased and the temperature of the cage slightly increased too. Once a female chameleon starts to produce eggs, the number of eggs is set and the clutch size will be small. This increased feeding is just helping to make the eggs she’s working on healthy.
Once the female has laid the eggs, the breeder should feed her well for a couple of days and make sure its enclosure is well watered. Then the breeder can cut her back again slightly until she is starting to work on producing the next clutch. Usually, there is another clutch laid with some fertile eggs after this one so the diet/temperature process is repeated.
Once your chameleon has laid eggs, feed her well for a few days and then put her back on the diet, etc. so that she won’t produce eggs again. You need to know what you are doing. The diet has to be controlled appropriately depending on the state or point of reproduction that the female is in order to prevent large clutches and egg production and not stress your chameleon.
Do Not Constantly Breed Your Chameleon
Most chameleon owners start breeding their chameleons from maturity. The stronger the chameleon when it starts breeding, the less of a negative long-term effect that laying eggs and gravidity will have on your chameleon. Several breeders have in fact talked about how they don’t breed their chameleons at all. If you focus on having your chameleons live long healthy lives and generally only breed them to continue their lines.
Then you can expect a long-lived female chameleon.
Breeders have noted that if you, for example, do not breed your female chameleon until it is three years old. She will likely live to be at least 7 years old. So far the chameleon’s diet is restricted (especially if it is a veiled female) and her basking temperature is kept a couple of degrees lower than it would be if it were male. Then she should be able to produce a healthy clutch of eggs and remain healthy as well.
Even though it is a generally accepted wisdom, that there is a high discrepancy between the lifespan of a male chameleon and a female chameleon, which is one of the reasons why some chameleon enthusiasts always advise owners to go for male chameleons instead of female. See more: Pros and Cons of Own Female or Male Chameleons
However, your female chameleon need not be a liability if you take care of it properly. Pregnancy is one of the important phases of a female chameleon’s life but it need not cause death or stress to your pet if you learn how to take proper care of your chameleon during its pregnancy.
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Thanks for reading.