If you’ve ever thought about breeding your bearded dragon (or dragons!), you would be surprised to learn the process is quite complex and involves many interesting behaviors and mating rituals.
It is essential to understand how to best monitor and facilitate your lizard’s breeding stages to end up with healthy parents and babies for years to come.
To successfully breed two sexually mature bearded dragons, you will need to facilitate the stages of brumation, courtship, mating, and finally, egg-laying for the female. Cohabitate the lizards together for a week at a time before separating them to ensure at least one successful mating event.
Keep reading to learn more about the fascinating process of mating for bearded dragons.
We’ll cover what you should expect and how to best prepare yourself for every stage involved, from determining the sex of your dragon to courtship behaviors to the hatching of your very own fertile clutch.
When Is Bearded Dragon Mating Season?
In the wild, the mating season for bearded dragons typically occurs during the warmer months or any time during the spring or summer.
These lizards are native to Australia, which is in the southern hemisphere, so the warmest year is from October through March.
Many dragons will still brumate due to their instinctual urges; however, depending on where you live, brumation usually occurs during the coldest months of the year.
When Do Bearded Dragons Reach Sexual Maturity?
To breed your dragons, both need to be fully sexually mature.
For most beardies, sexual maturity is reached around 10 to 12 months of age.
Avoid breeding underweight dragons, as breeding and laying eggs takes up a massive amount of metabolic energy.
This is why both lizards must be full-sized and within a healthy adult weight range.
Generally, a full-sized sexually mature adult bearded dragon will weigh anywhere from 450 to 550 grams or more, with males typically slightly larger than females.
See our bearded dragon weight chart for more information.
How Do You Determine A Bearded Dragon’s Sex?
Before you ever establish a breeding pair, you will need to identify the sex of both dragons to ensure you aren’t putting two males or two females together.
You will need to look for a few different characteristics to accurately determine a bearded dragon’s sex.
Keep in mind for most of these methods; your dragon will need to be either fully sexually mature or nearing the age of sexual maturity, as their bodies are not fully developed before this stage.
Here is our complete guide to finding bearded dragon gender but below is a general overview if you’re already familiar with the process.
1. Hemipenal Bulges
On the underside of your dragon’s tail between their legs, look for a bulge or pair of bulges near the lizard’s anus.
Males have two of these pronounced bumps side-by-side, also known as hemipenal bulges, while females only have one near the center of the tail.
You will probably need a flashlight and possibly a magnifying glass to get a good look at your dragon’s bulges.
A jeweler’s loupe is excellent for this purpose.
2. Femoral Pores
Bearded dragons have a line of small dots on the underside of their hind legs known as femoral pores.
Males’ pores are generally larger and more pronounced, while females’ pores are barely visible and usually fewer in number.
Interestingly, these pores are suspected of playing a role in mating, as they secrete pheromones which send specific signals to other dragons.
It is widely believed bearded dragons can determine various qualities from each other’s femoral pore secretions, such as age, health, sex, and diet.
Another way to help determine your dragon’s sex is to look at its body size and shape.
Male bearded dragons usually have larger, more broad heads, and their tails are generally thicker than the females’.
Females tend to have more slender heads with longer, thinner bodies and tails, and overall they have a slightly lower body weight than males.
Preparing to Cohabitate Your Bearded Dragons
Although long-term cohabitation of a male and female dragon is not recommended, if you are breeding a pair of dragons, it is best to keep them in the same enclosure for around a week at a time to facilitate their courtship behaviors and the eventual mating ritual.
If either dragon has any infectious diseases or parasites, it will likely spread to the other lizard.
Both dragons need to be in optimal health and healthy body weight, as breeding uses up a lot of energy, particularly for females.
At the same time, she develops and eventually lays her clutch of babies.
Healthy parents will also generally produce healthier babies.
Don’t breed dragons with severe genetic deformities or disabilities.
Also, be sure your breeding pair of dragons are of similar size and age.
If one is significantly larger or older than the other, the process of breeding will be dangerous for the smaller lizard.
This is especially problematic if your male beardie is much larger than your female, as he will likely hurt her while mounting her and potentially even cause serious injuries.
Cohabitation Of Breeding Pairs
Not much will need to change from the usual lighting, temperature, and humidity settings for your dragons when you cohabitate them for breeding.
The only times any significant changes will need to be made to your lizards’ enclosure setups are during brumation and when your gravid female is preparing to lay her clutch later on.
However, it is critical to ensure your enclosure is large enough to comfortably house two adult beardies for several days to a week or more at a time.
This will help to give your lizards adequate space to facilitate their mating behaviors and rituals and prevent stressing out either animal.
If you’re super interested in breeding, here’s our post on keeping male and female bearded dragons together.
Pre-Breeding: Brumation In Bearded Dragons
Brumation is often considered to be an essential stage in the breeding process.
Brumating is essentially a form of hibernation for reptiles, and it typically occurs during the colder months.
It helps boost your lizards’ fertility and provides both of them with adequate rest before mating and, for the female, laying eggs.
Remember, courtship and mating are quite physically strenuous for both lizards; it is incredibly stressful for the female as she has the added responsibility of producing and laying a fertile clutch afterward.
Gravid females can lay anywhere from 5 to 20 or more eggs per clutch, and they will often lay multiple clutches after just one successful copulation!
Brumation is different amongst individual dragons; some will hardly rest and simply become slightly less active, while others will sleep for months on end and barely move or eat during the entire cycle.
Do not cohabitate your dragons during brumation, even if they seemingly get along well.
Keep them in separate enclosures until brumation is over and it is time to put them together for mating.
You will likely not be able to monitor the lizards’ behavior constantly for any issues, and beardies strongly prefer brumating alone.
The brumation cycle is a little bit different for every lizard; after all, so many issues will potentially arise if one wakes up before the other and attempts to mate while their partner is still brumating.
Ideally, the whole breeding process starts with each lizard having a proper, separate brumation cycle.
After brumation, it is safe to begin cohabitating the lizards temporarily for courtship and mating.
The final stage is ensuring your gravid female can develop and lay her eggs properly, resulting in a healthy clutch!
Common Mating and Courtship Behaviors In Bearded Dragons
When it’s time to finally put your breeding pair together, you will notice an interesting set of courtship behaviors from both lizards.
As we touched on earlier, it is best to cohabitate your breeding pair for a few days to a week at a time and monitor them to look out for at least one successful breeding attempt.
Generally, your lizards will display much more interest in each other than they would if they were not a viable breeding pair.
They will likely spend most of their time together before breeding and for some time after copulation.
Keep in mind not all breeding pairs will be viable or get along well enough to mate.
If you notice excessive aggression or an outright refusal to mate from either dragon, it is best to separate them and attempt the process again with a different lizard or lizards.
A typical display of interest in a mate, usually from the male dragon, is head bobbing.
This behavior is precisely what it sounds like: the male will approach the female and bob or nod his head quickly up and down.
The male will typically also flare out his beard to make it look larger and make himself come off more dominant to the submissive female.
The beard will usually turn dark brown or black.
While this process, also known as “black bearding,” is usually a display of aggression, it is more of a display of dominance and willingness to breed in the context of courtship and mating.
Many of these behaviors will look a bit aggressive or even violent if you haven’t seen them before.
Interestingly, it isn’t unheard of for females to display this behavior, but their head bobbing is usually slower and more deliberate than the males’ rapid, frantic nodding.
Usually, the females will head bob (and wave their arms, which we’re about to cover in the next section) in response to the males’ bobbing as a display of submission and readiness to mate.
This is another prevalent behavior displayed by males when they are interested in a potential mate.
The male dragon will chase the female around the enclosure and stomp his feet to display dominance and willingness to breed.
Foot stomping is regular and often accompanied by head bobbing, and beard darkening as the male approaches the female dragon for breeding.
Think of this behavior as the female’s submissive response to the male’s head bobbing.
Initially, the male head bobs and flares his beard out at the female to display interest in her.
If she reciprocates this interest, she will usually return the gesture with either a slow head bob, arm-waving, or both behaviors.
Arm waving is also precisely what it sounds like: the bearded dragon will lift one of its front legs at a time and slowly “wave” at its potential mate.
The waving usually is in a circular or semicircle motion, and she will often repeat this gesture until she gets the male’s attention.
Once the male has signaled to the female readiness to mate and the female has responded positively, the two lizards will usually enter copulation and successfully breed, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.
More on bearded dragon’s arm waving.
This behavior commonly accompanies the previous two displays, and it is observed in both males and females just before and during the mating process.
Bearded dragons tend to open their mouths to help regulate their body temperature since they cannot sweat like many other animals.
Since courtship and mating behaviors are quite physically strenuous, this is your dragons’ way of working up a sweat.
Black bearding or beard flaring is also commonly observed alongside this gesture.
Just be sure to observe your dragons during courtship and breeding for any signs of excessive aggression or violent behavior, and promptly separate them if necessary.
More on bearded dragon keeping mouth open.
Bearded Dragon Mating and Copulation
Once your lizards have displayed sufficient interest in one another via the aforementioned courtship behaviors, the male will likely approach the female for copulation.
First, the female will approach the male and sit still in front of him to signal she is ready for him to mount her.
In response, the male might circle her once or twice before finding a preferable position to climb on top of her.
Like some of the courtship rituals, this process will often appear to be rather aggressive and even a bit violent to someone unfamiliar with bearded dragon breeding.
Again, this is normal; just be sure the male isn’t seriously injuring the female or vice versa.
If either lizard draws blood, it is best to separate them and tend to their injuries.
In most cases, the male will climb onto the female and bite her neck and back to properly mount her.
His hemipenes, usually hidden, will emerge and line up with the female’s cloaca.
He will insert the hemipenes into her cloaca for fertilization.
After the male has inserted his hemipenes into the female’s cloaca for a few seconds, the female will lift her head to signal to the male it is time for him to release her.
All in all, the process is pretty quick, and it’s usually over within a few minutes once the courtship behaviors have concluded.
If the breeding attempt was successful, the female will become gravid and begin producing fertilized eggs.
To ensure successful mating and fertilization occurs, it is a good idea to allow the breeding pair of dragons to mate a few times over a few days or so before separating them.
Once the dragons have mated successfully and have fully separated, it is safe to put them back in their enclosures.
Keep their enclosures separated far enough, in separate rooms if possible, so the lizards cannot see each other.
It is common for the male to relentlessly pace around his enclosure and aggressively head bob at the female from across the room in his tank, which is stressful for him and the female if she happens to notice him.
Plus, your gravid female will need peace and quiet while her body grows her clutch of fertilized eggs, so keeping her enclosure in a quiet room by herself will help to make her feel comfortable and safe.
How Long After Breeding Will Your Bearded Dragon Lay Eggs?
After a successful mating event, your female dragon’s body will begin to change to accommodate the growth and development of her first clutch of fertile eggs.
A clutch will contain roughly 5 to 20 or more eggs, depending on your female dragon’s size, age, and health.
A female beardie containing a clutch of eggs is referred to as gravid, regardless of if they are fertile or not.
Interestingly, females can lay eggs even if they have not mated recently, though they will be infertile.
It is common for females to lay a clutch or two of eggs during the warmer months of the year after brumation, even without ever being near a male.
Regardless of whether or not your female’s eggs are fertile or infertile, you will need to make some adjustments to her enclosure and diet to properly care for her during this physically and mentally stressful time.
Post-Breeding Bearded Dragons
Caring For A Gravid Female
The two most important factors in caring for a gravid female bearded dragon are her diet and her enclosure, which will need a lay box, also known as a dig box.
Gravid female dragons need plenty of calcium so their eggs’ shells will be strong and so the eggs themselves will be viable and produce healthy baby dragons when they eventually hatch.
Be sure to feed your pregnant female beardie lots of calcium-rich foods and a regular calcium supplement, as her body will need it to stay healthy and accommodate her clutch.
In addition to a calcium and vitamin-rich diet, your female will also need what is commonly referred to as a dig box for her to bury her eggs in when it’s time for her to lay them.
In the wild, bearded dragons usually bury their eggs under the hot desert sands to keep them incubated.
In captivity, you will need to mimic this environment by providing the lizard with a shallow box full of a warm, moist substrate like sand, soil, or vermiculite.
This substrate should be around 5-6″ inches deep at its deepest point, so the female has adequate room to entirely bury and cover the eggs.
Learn more about the bearded dragon dig box and the recommended size and substrate for this in our guide.
How to Tell if Your Female Bearded Dragon’s Eggs Are Fertile
After your female has laid her clutch, you will need to remove them and determine if they are fertile or not.
There are a few quick ways to tell if an egg is fertile.
Not all eggs in a clutch are always fertile and viable; it is common to have a few “dud” eggs per clutch.
This process is commonly known as “candling.”
The egg’s shell should also be soft and full rather than dented and collapsed.
More on finding fertile bearded dragon eggs.
Caring For Bearded Dragon Eggs
If the eggs are fertile, you will need to incubate them for around 60 days, or until they hatch, at a constant temperature of about 85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
The eggs will need to be partially buried in a box of a moist substrate, similar to the substrate used in the female’s dig box while they are in your incubator.
When the eggs are ready to hatch, you’ll notice the eggs start to “deflate” slightly just before hatching.
Soon after, the babies’ noses will start to poke out of the eggs as they slowly wiggle out of their shells.
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the mating process, from brumation to courtship up to the hatching of your first clutch.
Remember to be prepared for your female to potentially lay a few more fertile clutches.