Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 
  Issue 4 Vol 7 May 2011
Breeding considerations In this Issue

By Aliza Arzt

You're a new or experienced reptile keeper with a large or small collection of a single or multiple species. You've raised juveniles to adult status, understand the care and feeding of your pets and treated them, with the aid of a reptile vet, for a variety of ailments. There's just one aspect of reptilian lifestyle you haven't experienced: breeding. Ideally, this is how the progression towards breeding should operate, since experience with reptiles in general and the specific species that you want to breed are essential for having a successful breeding outcome. Breeding puts some stress on the male and the female and may cause some medical complications such as anorexia (failure to eat)or egg binding. The babies are also frequently more fragile than even juveniles and may require extra care.

There are other important issues to think about when considering breeding which are described below:

Knowledge
Most reptiles are egg-layers. Some are able to incubate their eggs until hatching, while others require that the keeper remove the eggs and incubate them separately. It's crucial to know, before you start breeding, what your target species requires for pre-breeding conditioning, optimal maintenance when breeding, set-up to allow egg laying, incubation requirements, care and feeding of hatchlings. This information can be obtained by consulting with experienced breeders, reading books about your species or googling "[species] breeding". It's also helpful to understand the basics of the genetics for the species you're breeding in order to understand the morph outcomes.

Financial resources
Successful breeding requires an outlay of funds for breeding and housing supplies. This will likely include an incubator, if your species requires extra heat for incubation, a place to store eggs that don't need heat incubation, an appropriate place for the female to lay, housing and food for the hatchlings and funds for medical attention if the adults or hatchlings need it. Although many of these supplies aren't too expensive and can be cheaper if you make them yourself, if your finances are precarious you will find yourself without the resources to complete the breeding cycle, with potentially disasterous consequences for the adults and hatchlings.

Space and Time resources
Breeding takes up more of your space and time. The babies need housing and often cannot be housed in large groups because they may harm each other. It takes more time to feed your animals because many babies need to be fed daily and there are more mouths to feed. The range of hatchling output is large and can be difficult to predict. During the past 5 years, with a stable population of 6 female gecko breeders my season production has ranged from 30 to 75. At one point during a wonderful and terrifying breeding season, I found myself, as the first reptile show approached, with 90 mouths to feed and no place to put a single additional baby. Many people deal with the caging issue by building or buying racks. This is probably the most efficient use of space for multiple hatchlings, but it isn't always the most aesthetic and it still takes up some space.

If you are in a transition point in your life –about to go to college, about to move 1000 miles, contemplating having a baby-- these are not good times to start a breeding project since there's a good chance you will not only have to stop in the middle, but you will also have to sell or otherwise dispose of breeders and equipment.

Most people breed with the idea that they will sell some of all of the offspring. It's important, however, to be prepared to house all offspring until they are sold and to house them indefinitely if they can't be sold.

Emotional resources
There is great joy associated with the birth of a new baby of any species and that's one reason why many people want to breed. However, there is also the pain of hatching animals that don't survive hatching or that are born weak or deformed. There are 2 general schools of thought about how to deal with weak or deformed hatchlings. One opinion, which values the responsibility of the breeder to preserve the integrity of the species, recommends culling (killing) hatchlings that are weak or deformed in order to avoid weakening the species through future breeding of poor specimens. Even if these offspring are sold as "pets only" there is no guarantee that they won't be irresponsibly bred and some breeders would prefer not to take the chance by culling poor specimens.

Other breeders subscribe to the idea that any animal that can survive without undue pain or suffering has the right to live and be provided for and that it's the breeder or keeper's responsibility to provide for these animals if possible for as long as they live. Some of these initially poor specimens improve in health as they mature and can live relatively normal lives; others will require assistance for their entire lives.

Regardless of which opinion you have, as a breeder you must be prepared to deal with death and deformity as well as life and health.

Reasons not to breed
The primary reason not to breed reptiles is the belief that you will make a lot of money doing it. Most reptile species that are easy to breed are currently being bred to excess and the market is saturated. Species that are less common in the market are often more difficult to breed and keep which will limit your success and your ability to sell. There are people who make a living from breeding reptiles but if you calculate their hourly wage, it is frequently pretty low. Occasionally a breeder is able to get in on the "ground floor" with a highly desirable new morph but the price usually drops drastically within a season or two as more of the same morph are bred. A new breeder without a reputation will often fail to sell reptiles at all or at the same price that the established breeders can command. Don't breed to "get rich quick" because you won't.

Another poor reason for breeding is the "accident" as in: "I never saw them mating", "I only put them together for a little while", "he got into her cage somehow" This inadvertant breeding is either due to naiveté or carelessness. Geckos are programmed to breed and will usually do so given half a chance. If you don't intend to breed, keep your male and female geckos apart, and any other reptiles for that matter.

Breeding can be a most exciting and rewarding undertaking if you are doing it for the right reasons and have the resources for a good outcome. If that's not the case for you then I recommend you find a breeder whose reptiles you can visit and refrain from trying it yourself.

 

Aliza Arzt is an editor for Gecko Time (www.geckotime.com) and has been and avid keeper of reptiles foir many years.


  1. Breeding considerations
  2. Benefits of a Snake Hide for Your Pet Snake
  3. Get Paid to write an article
  4. Tell Us What You Think
  5. Feedback and Updating

Other Issues

Other Articles & Resources

ReptiTemp 500R

Benefits of a Snake Hide for Your Pet Snake

Snakes are well known for spending much of their time hiding—whether it is in underground holes, underneath rocks or in and under logs. For snakes, hiding is a natural instinct of self-defense. When they hide, they are protecting themselves from predators, such as foxes, large birds, raccoons, and even other snakes. Just because a snake is removed from the threat of predators does not mean it loses its instinct to hide, which is why caretakers of pet snakes should provide hiding places inside snake cages. These spots identified as "snake hides" help to promote the good health and happiness of a pet snake.

A good rule of thumb for a pet owner of any reptile in captivity is to recreate its natural habitat as much as possible. Snakes in unfamiliar environments do not make ideal pets and can actually result in unhealthy snakes. So in order to have a pet snake to enjoy for years to come, be certain to provide snake hides for your pet.

While some snake owners use hides made of cardboard, the flimsy material can actually breakdown easily and breed bacteria from water or urine and fecal matter. A better choice is a hide made from a plastic, or an even sturdier stone or ceramic. These will provide a higher quality hide for your snake that will be long-lasting and durable—much like the natural world snakes to which snakes are accustomed.

Snake Hides Create a Homey Feeling for Your Pet

Imagine being taken from your homeland and placed in a new planet to live. This is much what it feels like for a pet snake, unless the owner works to create a natural environment. One of the simplest ways to put your new snake at ease is to give them the hiding places to which they are naturally drawn.

Snakes in nature spend their days and nights moving from one hiding spot to another as they keep themselves hidden from predators and search for food. This is natural, instinctual snake behavior that doesn't change, even when the environment changes.
In order to care for your snake and ensure it feels comfortable, provide one or two snake hides inside the cage. Two hides is ideal, because it gives the snake the opportunity to move from spot to spot, replicating the natural behavior. A snake who feels safe and secure is one who eats well, which is obviously what keeps the snake among the living.

Without snake hides in the cage, you increase the possibility that the snake will stop eating and fail to thrive. Providing snake hides is a simple, inexpensive way to keep your snake happy, healthy and a part of your life.

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For use in any pet habitat, glass and other surfaces within habitat ie: heat rocks, gravel, artificial plants etc.  Safe for use on all strong animal/reptile odor sources and stains, can even be used when pet is in it's habitat!

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Apologies & Tell Us What You Think!!

Reptile-cage-plans apologises for the dealy in the newsletter this year. The mail server went down with all of the subscribers and purchaser email addresses and it took some time to recover this data. The backup subscriber files were also sadly missing in action.

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