|Panther males are not very romantic.|
NOTE: I mention her lineage because picking the lineage of the female is just as important as that of the male. It's easy to overlook females since they all look the same, but they carry 50% of what will make up your hacthlings, so make sure that 50% counts!
Pre-BreedingIdeally, a female should not be bred until she is about a year old or older, as before then she is still growing herself and needs the calcium and other vitamins/minerals in her diet to keep growing herself. Making her deal with creating upwards of 40-50 eggs with all the essential nutrients they need to grow healthy babies for a 6-10 month incubation is tough. And small females may suffer internal damage if they lay eggs that they are not big enough to pass. That's why it's wise to let females reach their adult size at about a year - year and a half.
NutritionDuring this time, her diet needs to be perfect. This doesn't mean that she needs to eat like a pig every day, no. But she does need a healthy, varied diet of several different insect species very well gut-loaded, and dutiful calcium supplementation. The healthier she is even before she mates and makes eggs, the better the eggs will turn out. So dust her meals lightly with a phosphorous-free calcium without any additional vitamins most meals, and then a multivitamin about 2-3 times monthly lightly.
A female chameleon will only mate when she is receptive, and will attempt to fight off the male viciously otherwise. Typically a female's coloration changes when she is receptive, changing to a bright peach or pink. This would signal to a male that she is ready to mate. In my experience, my female will get extremely restless and will pace her cage looking for a male to mate with, which is when I will usually introduce her to my male. However, they do not always become very restless, so you can hold your female outside of your male's cage and see how she reacts. If she turns dark, gapes, and hisses she is certainly not ready!
You can try this once a week if you are sure she's becoming receptive and gauge their reactions. If she stays fairly light, doesn't gape or hiss then she may be interested. In this case, you may put him in her cage (I do this because she is more familiar with where to hide if she needs to) or put them both in a neutral place like a ficus tree. She will not run away, but she may walk away slowly, hinting that he needs to chase her. He, on the other hand, will bob his head and usually display intense colors, especially black spokes around their eye turrets. He will (especially the first time) clumsily follow behind her, try to stand on her, and mate with her. This may take a little time and he may not accomplish it the first time, especially if he knows people are watching. I will usually leave my female in with my male for a few hours, so I know that they have mated a couple times at least.
Gravid with EggsHormonal changes in her body will change her coloration to darker, gravid (pregnant) colors immediately, especially if she is still with the male and would rather not see him again.Do not be alarmed if she is almost black with some peach spots, this is normal gravid coloration for a female. You have anywhere from 3-6 weeks for her to lay the eggs (30 days is the average, although mine took 3 weeks) so during this time make sure that her diet stays really strong. Lots of good calcium sources and supplementation and lots of outdoor sunshine time too if possible. She will gain weight during this time and become more rotund around her lower torso. When she is approaching the time to lay eggs she may begin to refuse food (or not) but do not be alarmed if she does begin to refuse food. She may also begin to get restless, and pace her cage looking for an adequate place to lay her eggs.
NOTE: Females can lay up to 3 clutches of eggs from a single mating. They store sperm and will use it to fertilize eggs 2-3 times, not just the first time. They may not all be fertile the second or third time but some may.
Laying the Eggs
During this time she needs lots of privacy! If a female catches you watching her too many times she may feel unsafe and just abandon laying altogether, which can lead to a very deadly condition known as egg binding. So drape a sheet over the cage if you have to, but if you see her starting to mess with her laying bin it is best to leave her completely alone. She can go without food for a few days, and you can set up a dripper over the cage to provide her with water if she needs it. It can take up to 3 days for them to dig a tunnel they like, lay the eggs, and cover them up again. She may even sleep in the tunnel.
However, if a female is stubborn and will not use a laying bin for whatever reason there is a trick you can try. I will take a kitchen trash can and fill it with 12" of soil/sand mix and leave her in there with no way out. She may scratch around a little at the sides but after a little time if she really needs to lay she will settle down to the task at hand. Sometimes it seems that females will wander excessively looking for a suitable place to lay, unconvinced that the bucket in her cage is really the "ground," so leaving her in a trash can usually does the trick.
You will know she is done because she will be thin, dirty, and basking under her light.
Immediately when you notice your female has finished laying give her a nice long misting (you can even give her one with warm water, which they usually appreciate very much) and offer her food supplemented with calcium. She will be exhausted and hungry, and they will usually eat immediately. I would allow her to eat as much as she wants for about 4-5 days afterwards to recover and then put her back on her regular diet. If you have access to liquid calcium, a drop or two daily during this time will be a great help as well. She may lay a retained clutch in another 2 months, so it is important to get her healthy and well fed for that. Always be very diligent with the diet of a female, as laying eggs with poor nutrition will only shorten the life of a female that much more.
Information on how to dig up the eggs will be found in Part 2 of this blog series:
And Part 3: