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Lessons Learned From A Bearded Dragon Owner
We didn’t know anything about owning a bearded dragon when we thought of getting one. I wanted to make sure we at least had an idea of what we were getting into before we went shopping. We read books and surfed the internet. We thought we were ready. As it turned out, there were some things we hadn’t learned and had to discover for ourselves. 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 is a simple and easy to care for pet; however, the bearded dragon is a bit different from other lizards. Bearded dragons are social creatures and need to be socialized by their owners. As a parent, you have to socialize them every day to get them used to picking them up and handling them. This will help them not to be afraid and develop a trusting relationship between you and your pet.
Bearded dragons enjoy being out of the cage. Ours often go to explore the whole house. When they get out of the cage, you have to watch them like a 2-year-old. Dragons sense their environment by licking everything. Once there was a wet paper towel on the floor from cleaning the cage and Cessna licked it and started eating it. We had to jump in and pull him out of his mouth. Another time, Hawker was out in the sunroom when I left for a moment to answer the phone. When I came back, I couldn’t get financing anywhere. Just as I was about to give up and look into another room, I noticed his tail sticking out from behind a bookshelf. I had to use the strength of a mother to move her and get her out. He was very shaken because he didn’t know exactly what had happened. The lesson is never leave your dragon unattended, not even for a moment.
All this running around is great exercise for them. Just like us, they need to stretch their legs and run. It helps the movement and functioning of the body inside and out. This also means that your dragon will have “accidents” outside of the cage. Make sure you’re ready with a paper towel and some carpet cleaner. You might be able to train them on paper, but I haven’t really tried it yet. Once Cessna was basking in the sunroom while I was reading a newspaper on the floor. He ran to my newspaper, did his business and ran away. It hasn’t happened again, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.
Since bearded dragons spend most of their time in their cages, they will need a bath. We bathe our kites about once a week or as needed. Some people recommend bathing them more often. The bath benefits them because they are able to absorb water through their skin for hydration. Not all dragons enjoy baths. Hawker especially hates bathing and my husband put his arm around his back to keep him out of the water.
Lesson 2: Food
We thought it was great that bearded dragons eat mostly vegetables. This will be easy because we buy vegetables for ourselves every week, we just need to buy a little extra for the dragons. I also learned that they needed protein every day for about the first year, but it wasn’t forever. We just didn’t take into account how much food 3 dragons eat in a day.
We once thought that growing your own vegetables would be cost-effective. The only thing we haven’t considered is that we haven’t found our green thumbs yet. Our soil is mostly clay and there are rodents, bugs and diseases. If there’s a way to deter pests and disease, you have to deal with the weather. In Southern Virginia, our summers are hot and humid or dry. When our schedules are overloaded and we are in a drought, we often forget to water our plants. Then there are the hurricanes and the plants drown. I just can’t figure it out yet. Hats off to those who can successfully grow a garden. Whether you grow them or buy them, you still need to regularly cut and clean food for your dragons.
Now for the protein, the bugs (I like to call them wrigglers). My husband thought it would save us a lot of money if we breaded our crickets ourselves. Between 3 dragons, they ate hundreds of crickets a day. He did research, set up a container and tried to breed crickets. I have to admit, we did have a few babies; however, they did not live long after hatching. The mess and stench wasn’t worth the effort or the savings. We continued to buy crickets in boxes of 1000 and kept them long enough to eat them. The worst was when we had to buy large crickets because they were not only smelly but also noisy. My husband was also curious about breeding dubia cockroaches, because he read that they are not so rough, but I didn’t want to go through that again.
Lesson 3: More Kites
We didn’t know that male dragons couldn’t live harmoniously together because of 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, 3 male dragons, 2 male cats, a son and a husband. Yes, I’m the only woman running this crazy house.
I’ve seen plenty of videos online of bearded dragons roaming around the house at the same time, or even sharing a cage. That won’t happen to 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 the rules are followed. To keep them from getting close enough to fight, my husband made harnesses for them. Dragons must wear their armor and keep a good distance from each other if more than one dragon is present at the same time. They can’t get much traction with laminate flooring and it can be quite entertaining to watch them slide across the floor and run in place.
We have noticed that when they get upset in each other’s cages and try to fight through the glass, they often leave “gifts” in their enemy’s cage. They will also bob their heads, let go of their arms, turn their beards black, and do a glass dance. Some days are quieter than others. They are in separate cages, but they all live in the same room and can see each other and hear them crawling around the cage.
Lesson 4: Financial expenses
Not once did we consider the cost of these kites. We had to buy 3 cages because of their testosterone driven dominance. Those cages have a log, lights, heater, house, timers, and food bowls. It all adds up quickly, and it’s just to set up the house. Fortunately, we save money on the substrate if we use newspaper, but if we use sand, it is an additional cost.
With their lights and heat on most of the day, our electricity bill has definitely increased. Of course, we didn’t think about our electricity bill when we got the 3 dragons. However, a kite probably won’t make that much of a difference to your electricity bill. Don’t forget the replacement bulbs! You will always burn out if you are not prepared.
Finally, we come back to the food. The fresh vegetables, the crickets and all the extras you get are a treat. It all adds up quickly and you may be surprised. I hope you can take the surprise out of the financial expenses associated with owning bearded dragons.
Hopefully, after reading 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 it to have 3 dragons, I just wanted to know a little more about what we were getting into. I really enjoy and love my 3 dragons! Good luck and enjoy your new pet!
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