Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Keeping A Female Veiled

Keeping A Female Veiled Chameleon
By Lynda Horgan

From the day they hatch until they are sexually mature, I raise both male and female veiled chameleons the same ... same food, same supplements, same conditions. I don't rush their growth. I feed them daily, as many appropriately sized insects as they will eat in a couple of minutes and then leave a couple of crickets free in their cage for later. These insects have been fed a nutritious diet, gutloaded and supplemented.

I house the hatchlings in long, low, glass cages (approximately 20" x 12" x 12" with a screen lid). In each I keep several hatchlings, separating them when size and behavior dictate that it's necessary, until there is only one hatchling left per cage by the time they are 4 months old.

I have double fluorescent hoods over the cages. Each hood houses a tube/linear Repti-sun 5.0 and a regular white fluorescent tube light. This maintains the temperature in the low 80's at the warmest end of the cage. You can see the setup in my article in the e-zine: A Babies first weeks. The shelves can be moved forward more than is shown in the pictures in the article to allow for more of a gradient in temperatures and more air flow as well.
Most of what is in this article is still current but I have made a couple of changes.

I maintain the same lighting and temperature range when the females are moved to their adult cages. I do not use a basking light, but continue with a double fluorescent hood keeping temperatures in the low eighties. The cages are of various sizes, but the smallest is 24" tall x 24" wide x 18" deep.

I feed them 8 to 12 crickets every two or three days depending on the season. I use other feeders too, of course, but just give an equivalent amount (not number) instead of the crickets.

In the summertime it isn't always possible to keep the temperatures in the low 80's but the increased temperatures, periodically, don't seem to push the females into cycling. I keep the diet the same during this time.

I dust the insects with a phosphorous-free calcium powder at most feedings.(Since the hatchlings are fed more often, they will get the calcium more often.) I dust the insects twice a month before feeding them to the chameleons with a vitamin powder that contains a beta carotene source of Vitamin A. And I dust the insects with a phosphorous-free Calcium/D3 powder twice a month because my chameleons rarely get direct sunlight.

I gutload/feed the crickets with an assortment of veggies (carrots, squash, zucchini, celery leaves, sweet potato, white potato, sweet red pepper, etc.) and greens (dandelion, kale, collards, endive, escarole, once in awhile parsley, a little romaine lettuce, mustard greens, etc.).

Maintaining the females in this way, they do not produce any eggs and they generally live to be over 6 years of age or even older. My females are not skinny, and do not look starved ... they are definitely not overweight either.

To cycle the females ... once the female has been mated, her diet can be increased and the temperature of the cage increased slightly too. It seems that once she has started to produce the eggs, the number of eggs is set and the clutch size will be small. So, this increased feeding is just helping to make the eggs she's working on healthy. Once the female has laid the eggs, I feed her well for a couple of days and make sure she is well watered. Then I start to cut her back again slightly until I know 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 this second clutch is laid, she is then put back on the maintenance diet and temperature and will not likely produce another clutch.

The above method has worked for me for quite a few years now. As I have said, the females that are kept this way live long lives. The females that I have cycled and kept as described have lived long lives and produced healthy babies ... quite a few of which I have kept and raised over the years. The babies seem to do as well as the mothers have.

Please be aware that I live in a cool climate and I'm not sure if this would work as well if the climate was always hot.

At the moment I have one female, Latefah, that came from a female who produced no eggs until she was mated and produced the clutch that Latefah came from. Latefah is over 4 years old now.
I have another female, Mafana, who will be 7 in a couple of months who came from a similar situation.
Neither Mafana or Latefah have produced a single egg.

Lynda has kept chameleons for over 20 years now. The first chameleon eggs that she hatched were C. chamaeleons in 1995. Although she has kept, bred, hatched and raised a number of other lizards and reptiles, chameleons still remain her favorites.