Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Breeding Veiled Chameleons
by Michael Monge
Fl Chams, Inc.
The Veiled Chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, represents a relatively simple species to propagate in captivity. They tend to breed readily and have large clutch sizes with eggs which are typically not problematic to incubate.
Combine this with the fast growth rate of the neonates and you have a recipe that has resulted in the successful establishment of this chameleon species in captivity with, by far, the majority of specimens being from captive bred origins.
Veiled chameleons can reach sexual maturity at a fairly young age with reports of some individuals becoming reproductive in as little as four months. That said, it is better to allow your animal more time before breeding is encouraged. If fed a proper diet with solid overall husbandry, a veiled chameleon should become sexually mature in 9-12 months, and should be of breedable size at the later end of that span. In particular, one should try to make sure that their female is of appropriate size before subjecting her to breeding stresses and while she should be well fed and of good body weight, obese animals shouldn't be bred as complications can arise as a result.
When a female veiled is receptive to breeding she will often adorn robin-egg blue spots on her body, indicating her willingness to mate. When presented with a male for breeding, she will not color up into gravid coloration, act aggressively toward the male or run from him. Rather, she will remain the same color and move around slowly and peacefully, allowing the male to court, advance and commence in copulation. If the female colors up or becomes aggressive, she is not ready to mate and the pair should be separated to avoid injury to either animal. If the female continues to show receptive behavior, the pair should be allowed to breed.
When introduced to a female, a male veiled chameleon will color up into an impressive display and advance toward her while bobbing his head in display. As this courtship display occurs, the female should allow the male to come up behind her and eventually beside her on the branch. At this point copulation occurs and can last as long as half an hour. In some cases repeated mating can occur over the next several days but care should be taken to closely observe the pair on further introductions for additional mating events as once the female becomes unreceptive, injury can occur if the animals are not separated immediately.
Once gravid the female will reject the males advances by gaping, hissing and showing a dark coloration with orange, blue and black patterning. At this point she should be separated from the male and allowed to form her clutch in peace. Laying typically occurs approximately 20 to 30 days after breeding and during this gestation, the female's diet should be supplemented with calcium dusting to ensure proper formation and calcification of the eggs. It is important during gestation to provide your female with well gut loaded food items, but not to provide so much food that she becomes obese and produces an abnormally large clutch, as this can cause complications with laying. Females will show an increased appetite during gestation and should (carefully) be fed accordingly.
When the female is getting ready to lay she will often go off food and will become restless, spending more time near the bottom of her enclosure and frequently pacing it's edges. At this point the female should be placed in a laying bin, in a private area with minimal disturbances. A five gallon bucket filled 1/3 of the way with a 50/50 mix of sand and peat moss for gardening works well as a laying site. This mixture should be mixed with water and compacted so that it is moist enough to hold the formation of a tunnel but not wet. When placed in the container a female, that is ready to lay and finds the laying mixture of adequate moisture, should soon start to dig a hole to lay her eggs.
A female can take quite a while to lay her eggs, and will occasionally dig test holes before settling on a hole in which to lay her clutch. Once the female has laid her clutch, she should be removed from the laying container and gently palpated to make sure the entire clutch has been deposited. Extra care should then be taken with the female to ensure she is able to re-hydrate, and that she has access to nutritious food so that she can regain her strength.
The eggs should be carefully removed from the laying container and placed into an incubation medium for incubation. It should be noted that females are able to store sperm and additional fertile clutches can occur without additional mating. Once allowed to recover, however, if you wish to get additional fertile clutches, it is best to re-breed your female as the offspring of retained sperm clutches tend to be less strong then offspring from a new breeding.
Michael Monge is the owner of Fl Chams and can be contacted via the Fl Chams website listed here under links.
You can see chameleons and enclosures currently available from Mike there as well.