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Lessons Learned From A Bearded Dragon Owner
We knew nothing about owning a bearded dragon when the thought of buying one came to us. Before diving into the purchase, I wanted to make sure we at least had some idea of what we were getting into. We read books and did some internet surfing. We thought we were ready. As it turns out, there were some things we didn’t learn about and had to discover on our own. I’m going to share with you 4 very important lessons we’ve learned from owning our bearded dragons.
Lesson 1: High Maintenance
You would probably think that a lizard would be a simple and easy pet to care for; however, a bearded dragon is a bit different from other lizards. Bearded dragons are social creatures and need to be socialized by their owners. As the parent, you will need to socialize them daily to get them used to you picking them up and handling them. This will help them not to be afraid and also develop a trusting relationship between you and your pet.
Bearded dragons enjoy being out of the cage. Ours will often go exploring around the house. Once they are out of the cage you will need to watch them as you would a 2 year old. The dragons get a sense of their surroundings by licking everything. One time we had a wet paper towel on the floor from cleaning the cage and Cessna licked it and started eating it. We had to jump into action and get it out of his mouth. On another occasion, Hawker was out in the sunroom when I left for a second to answer the phone. When I came back I couldn’t finance him anywhere. Just as I was about to give up and look in another room, I saw his tail sticking out from behind a bookcase. I had to use mom’s strength to move it and get him out. He was quite shaken because he didn’t know exactly what had happened. Lesson learned never leave your dragon outside unattended, not even for a second.
All this running around is great exercise for them. Just like us, they need to stretch their legs and run. It helps to move the body and work internally and externally. This also means that your dragon will have “accidents” outside the cage. Make sure you’re prepared with a paper towel and some carpet cleaner. You might be able to paper train them, but I haven’t really tried yet. One time Cessna was in the sunroom while I was reading the newspaper on the floor. He ran to my paper, did his business and ran away. It hasn’t happened again, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t.
Since bearded dragons spend most of their time in their cages, they will need baths. We bathe our dragons about once a week or as needed. Some people suggest bathing them more often. A bath is beneficial for them because they are able to absorb the water through their skin for hydration. Not all dragons enjoy their baths. Hawker, in particular, hates bath time and climbed my husband’s arm up his back just to stay out of the water.
Lesson 2: Food
We thought it was great that bearded dragons eat mostly vegetables. This will be easy because every week we buy vegetables for ourselves, we just need to buy a little more for the dragons. I also new that they needed protein every day for about the first year, but it wasn’t forever. We just didn’t consider how much food 3 dragons would eat in a day.
Once upon a time we thought that growing our own vegetables would be cost effective. The only thing we didn’t consider was the fact that we hadn’t found our green thumbs yet. Our soil is mostly clay and then there are the rodents, bugs and diseases. If you have ways to discourage the pests and diseases then you have to deal with the weather. In southern Virginia, our summers are hot and wet or dry. When our schedules are busy and we are in a drought, we can often forget to water our plants. Then there are the hurricanes and the plants drown. I just can’t seem to figure it out yet. To those who can successfully grow a garden, my hat goes off to you. Regardless of whether you grow them or buy them, you will still need to chop and clean food regularly for your dragons.
Now on to protein, bugs (I like to call them wrigglies). My husband thought it would be a big money saver if we breaded our own crickets. Between 3 dragons they ate hundreds of crickets every day. He researched and set up a container and tried to breed crickets. I have to admit, we did get some babies; however, they did not live very long after hatching. The mess and the stench wasn’t worth the trouble or the savings. We continued to buy crickets in boxes of 1000 and kept them long enough to be eaten. The worst was when we had to buy large crickets because not only were they smelly, but they were also noisy. My husband was also curious about breeding dubious roaches because he had read that they weren’t that dirty, but I didn’t want to go through that again.
Lesson 3: Multiple Dragons
Little did we know that male dragons cannot live harmoniously together due to dominance issues. Somehow we ended up with 3 male dragons. Maybe if we had at least 1 female, things wouldn’t be so tense in my house. Needless to say, my house is full of testosterone with 3 male dragons, 2 male cats, a son and a husband. Yes, I’m the only female who runs this crazy house.
I have seen many videos on the internet where bearded dragons roam around the house at the same time or even share a cage. This will not happen with my dragons. Piper hates Cessna, Hawker hates Piper, and Cessna doesn’t care about any of them. Only one dragon can be out at a time unless rules are followed. To keep them from getting close enough to fight, my husband made harnesses for them. The dragons will need to wear their harnesses and keep a good distance from each other if more than one dragon is out at the same time. With laminate floors they are not able to get much traction and it can be quite amusing to see them slide across the floor and run in place.
We have noticed that when they get all excited about each other’s cage trying to fight through the glass, they will often leave “gifts” at their enemy’s cage. They will also head, arm-sign, blacken their beards and glass dance. Some days are quieter than others. They are in separate cages, but all live in the same room and can see each other and hear each other climbing all around the cage.
Lesson 4: Financial Expenditure
Not once did we consider the cost of these dragons. Because of their testosterone dominance, we needed to buy 3 cages. In those cages are a log, lights, heater, house, outlet timers, and food bowls. All of this can add up quickly and this is just to set up the house. Fortunately, we save some money on the substrate by using newspaper, but if you decide to use sand, it will be an additional cost.
Since their lights and heaters are on most of the day, we definitely saw an increase in our electric bill. We certainly didn’t think about our electricity bill when we got the 3 dragons. One dragon probably won’t make that much of a difference in the electric bill, though. Don’t forget replacement bulbs! You will always have one burnout when you are not ready.
Finally, we go back to the food. The fresh vegetables, the crickets, and then whatever extras you can get as treats. It all comes together quickly and may surprise you. I hope to take away the surprise of the financial outlay that comes with owning bearded dragons.
Hopefully after reading about the lessons we’ve learned, you’ll be more aware of what you’ll be doing each day for your new pet. I wouldn’t change that having 3 dragons, I’d like to know a little more about what we’re getting into. I do enjoy and love my 3 dragons! Good luck and enjoy your new pet!
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