Are you wondering how chameleons mate?
Do you want to get into breeding these cute reptiles but want some basic information on how to get started?
Having chameleons breed is a fun twist on owning these pets, but if you don’t know what it all involves, you’re never going to succeed and could even cause harm to your pets.
With all this in mind, you may be asking yourself:
How do chameleons mate?
Once chameleons have reached their age of sexual maturity, they mate during their breeding season, which is typically after brumation. The male inserts his hemi-peni into the female and mates several times. The female then gestates the eggs, lays them in the soil, and the eggs hatch on their own 9-12 months later.
Read on for more details.
You may also want to check out our how to breed chameleons guide.
One of the most common and avoidable problems with new owners breeding chameleons is with the pet’s sexual maturity.
Normally, when chameleons reach the age of 12 months, they are considered sexually able.
This can occur as young as nine months, or they may wait until 15 months.
Don’t rush your pets to mate!
They may be physically adults and not ready to mate.
There is no hard and fast rule for determining if your pet is ready other than just giving it a shot and waiting if they aren’t ready.
Don’t try before your chameleons are at least 12 months old, and if it doesn’t work, wait and give it another go later.
When Do Chameleons Mate?
The other main thing to remember when chameleons mate is what time of year they do.
As with many animals and specifically reptiles, chameleons mate in early spring.
Why is this?
Well, the chameleons have just come out of brumation.
Brumation is the period when the weather gets a little colder in the tropical environments they live in.
This dip in temperature causes them to slow their bodies’ function down to the point where they rarely move, eat, or actively drink.
This state can last for as long as the weather is cold, but it’s usually between 3-6 weeks.
Within a week after the weather and behavior are back to normal, chameleons enter their mating period when they’re ready to breed.
In captivity, we should watch the behavior of the chameleon around late winter.
You may notice your pet slows down and doesn’t eat quite as much.
This is a sign of brumation. When you see this, lower your temperature by about 10° degrees Fahrenheit (-12° C) during the day.
Keep feeding your pet, although you may back it off to every 3-4 days.
Continue to mist the cage twice per day.
After three weeks, gradually bring the daytime temperatures back to normal and increase their feedings back to every other day.
Learn more about how often to feed chameleons.
Once the reptiles are back to normal, you’ll notice breeding signs (see next section).
It’s also possible to force chameleons into brumation at any time of the year.
You do this by lowering the temperature to simulate the winter months.
However, doing this too often may throw off your pet’s normal cycle.
This could result in serious health problems from undue stress.
We suggest allowing the chameleon’s behavior to tell you when brumation is starting.
As we said above, look for a gradual decrease in appetite and mobility around when winter would normally be.
However, it won’t cause undue stress if you force brumation at a different time in the year.
The key is to make sure you don’t force brumation too often.
If you’re going to force it, stick with once per year total.
Twice with many months in between may be OK every once in a while, but more than this isn’t recommended.
Too much brumation will drastically shorten your chameleon’s life span.
Is Your Chameleon Ready To Mate?
Even after brumation is done, and it seems like it’s time to mate, you still need to watch out for signs the chameleon is ready to mate.
Normally, you should keep chameleons in separate cages, and the case is still true here.
But you should pay close attention to your chameleon’s colors.
Start by recognizing what a typical coloration looks like for your particular chameleon species and gender.
When males are ready to mate, it’s typically quite obvious.
They’re colors become brighter, more brilliant, and move towards the blue and red spectrum.
The difference will be clear, trust us.
This color change will stay consistent during the mating season, so watch for this as a sign as well.
Females are similar, although it’s sometimes harder to tell.
Their colors are usually browner and muted compared to males of the same species, but when they get ready to mate, the color does brighten slightly.
If the male is ready, but you’re unsure about the female, it’s OK to attempt mating.
Just stay close in case the female denies the male.
Such confrontations may get violent.
How Do Chameleons Mate?
When both are ready to mate, place the male in the same cage as the female.
In the wild, males will seek out females to mate with.
If the female is receptive, she’ll signal a willingness to mate with the male.
The male won’t mate with a female unless she accepts him.
When she signals a willingness to mate, the male mounts the female and inserts one of two hemi-peni into her.
The chameleons may copulate several times during this process.
When the female is done, she will instantly turn a drab brown and force the male away.
At this point, if you’re doing this in captivity, remove the male back to his own cage.
In the wild, the male will leave the female alone and either look for more mates or move on with his life.
Warning! Chameleons don’t like to share space with other adults of any gender, so keeping the two in the cage together when they’re done could turn violent.
If the eggs have been successfully fertilized, they gestate inside the female chameleon for 10-15 days.
During this time, it’s business as normal for the female chameleon.
When the eggs are ready to be laid, the female begins to make her way down to the ground level.
In the wild, she will dig a small hole in the soil and lay her eggs.
Then, she’ll cover the eggs over with a layer of soil to insulate the eggs at a steady temperature and humidity.
This cover also provides protection for the eggs from predators who like to eat the eggs.
At this point, the female chameleon will leave the eggs, never to check on them, or see them again.
As pets, we need to do a little work to make this natural process as smooth as possible.
After mating, you need to watch for pacing on the ground of the cage.
This will usually happen 10-15 days after mating.
The pacing is a sign the female is ready to lay eggs, but she doesn’t have enough sand/soil to do it in.
At this point, you need to move her to a nesting box or container filled with sand or soil (play sand works well).
She’ll then lay her eggs in the sand/soil.
Then, remove her back to her cage.
You must move the female cham to the nesting area as soon as you notice the pacing.
If not, the eggs may develop too large inside her, and she may die.
Note: Even impregnated females will lay eggs around once per year.
Always be watching for this pacing when it comes to female chams.
Hatching The Eggs
Chameleon eggs require almost no work other than being kept at a consistently warm, 84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C), temperature, and relative humidity (around 50%).
In the wild, this is just accomplished by leaving them buried in the sand.
In captivity, you could just leave them in the nesting box, if you keep these stats regular.
Or you may wish to move them to an incubator where you have more control.
After 9-12 months, depending on species and chance, the eggs will hatch, and the chameleons will climb out.
At this point, the baby chameleons climb up to where they can and fend for themselves.
In some cases, baby chameleons will come across an adult cham.
In these instances, the baby will follow around and learn from the adult even though it’s not the parent.
Adult chams don’t seem to have a problem with the babies, but as they grow, the babies leave to protect themselves from the adults.
For more information, read about how to take care of a baby chameleon.
We hope you found this information on how chameleons mate helpful.
Once they’re fully grown, and after brumation, the chameleons may mate quickly and move on from each other.
Then after 15 days of gestating the eggs and 9-12 months incubation, baby chameleons are born.