Panther Chameleon Breeding - Mating

This is Part I in my three-part documentation of my first successful panther chameleon breeding. This one will focus primarily on the pre-breeding care for the females, the coupling itself, the laying process, and post-breeding care for the female.

Panther males are not very romantic. 
This really began years ago when I raised my favorite panther male, a Nosy Faly x Ambanja cross, and decided that instead of trying to breed my Ambilobes or Nosy Bes, that I would make my project breeding panthers for the sake of color (my color preferences, honestly) instead of just purity of locale. This lead to the purchase of my female several months later, when I found a girl from a lineage I really liked as well. She is a cross of Nosy Be x Ambanja x Sambava, with the blues in her genetics reigning supreme. I've always loved very blue chameleons with red bars or spots, and I thought her mix was perfect. And with a little research, I could trace back her ancestry to 5 generations back, which is especially critical when breeding crosses ethically. 

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-Breeding

 Ideally, 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.

Nutrition

During 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.

Mating

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 Eggs

Hormonal 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

She will need an egg laying container. I outlined how to make one in this previous blog, On the Specific Care of Females, but will go over it again quickly. She will need an opaque container at least 12" deep and another 8-12" wide filled with 12" of moist sand or soil. I use a mixture of about 70:30 organic topsoil to sand, personally, but either works fine alone. And it must be moist enough to hold a tunnel without collapsing, but not wet. If it is too wet it may collapse or the eggs may drown in standing water when she lays them, as she will dig all the way to the bottom of the container. 

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.

Post-Laying Care


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. 


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Information on how to dig up the eggs will be found in Part 2 of this blog series: 



And Part 3:




25 comments:

  1. Hi,
    What age do you put a laying bin in a female panthers enclosure, I have two 6 month old females and at present just have the ficus plant pots in there, thanks Darren

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    1. I usually start at about 6 months, as this is more or less when they hit sexual maturity and may begin producing eggs. I've also used plant pots full of soil/sand or 5 gallon buckets as my laying bins.

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  2. Hi Olimpia, Thanks again for the quick response. Do you change the girls supplements when they are 6 months? I currently give sticky tongue miner-all daily and a mutli-vit once a week.

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    1. Sorry for taking a little while to reply, I made a mental note to get back to you but I forgot anyway. Is your Miner-all with or without D3? If it is without then your schedule is fine, I wouldn't change it. If you start seeing some edema (swelling around the neck and chest, which sometimes is a symptom of being gravid) I may cut back the multi-vit a little bit, to maybe just once or twice a month.

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  3. Hi Olimpia, my female panther has also developed a swelling around the neck and also a small lump behind each front leg, do you believe she could be egg bound or does this sound like gout? I have made a vets appointment for Monday but am a little worried

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    1. Hey Darren, that sounds like edema. This can sometimes be a normal side-effect of being gravid, and not necessarily from anything being wrong. Make sure she's getting calcium but not TOO much of any supplement, as that can add to the edema. I don't have a lot of experience with edema in chameleons, however, so perhaps let your vet know it looks like gular edema and see what he says about it. He may also tell you that it's a symptom of being gravid and not to worry, but I don't want to say that since I'm not 100% sure.

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    2. Thanks for the quick response, I have heard of the neck swelling for gular edema but not the lumps behind the front legs, can this also be a symptom of being gravid?

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  4. Hi Olimpia,
    The vet did indeed confirm that she was full of eggs. I said that the eggs are likely to be putting presure against a gland meaning that the fluid cannot circulate as normal and builds up around the head / neck, in his opinion she is healthy and providing she lays the eggs then there should be no problem. One thing I did notice this morning that she kept closing her eyes like she was having a quick nap, is it normal for them to be lathargic when carrying eggs or could this be the fluid build up? She has a laying box at the bottom of her enclosure 70/30 mix of damp top soil and sand but has paid no interest in it at all yet.

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  5. Hi Olimpia

    The inflamation has now subsided although my female still hasn't laid any eggs or started to show any interest in the laying bin. One thing that has changed over the last week is her colour, she is showing much more black / grey as per the gravid colours shown on this page. I believe got to be at least 30 days since she started to fatten up so I assume things will start to move soon? When should i start to get concerned and is there any signs I should look out for?

    Many thanks
    Darren

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  6. Hi Olimpia

    My female doesn’t seem to have got any bigger over the last 2-3 weeks and still hasn’t laid her eggs, it was the vet that confirmed she was pregnant. She is paying no interest in the laying bin at all and it must have been a good 6 weeks before the first signs of her being pregnant, how much extra weight should I expect her to put on taking in to account that this is her first time. She is still eating although a little less and pooing etc, your opinion would be greatly appreciated, many thanks Darren

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    1. Hey Darren,

      I'm sorry, I'm not sure how I missed your other comments. The weight can vary tremendously between females, especially if we're not sure how many eggs she's carrying. But I think a gain of at least 30 grams would be normal, but probably more than that. One trick that may work for reluctant females is to put them in a laying bin they can't escape from, so something like a trash bin. You put the laying medium at the bottom as usual with maybe a small branch down there to hold onto and then leave her in there with no way to climb out.

      She may want to climb out for the first 20-40 minutes but if she is ready to lay then she should get down to business once she realizes where she is. My first veiled female also avoided her bin at all costs, but once I put her in a trash can she laid her 33 eggs that night. If she doesn't show any activity after being in there a few hours then I may go back to the vet. It seems like a long time to carry eggs and you want to make sure nothing is wrong before she starts getting lethargic or weak.

      If the vet feels she's ready but is still not laying eggs on her own he may give her a shot of oxytocin (the hormone that induces contractions) and one of calcium, to help as well. At that point it'll send her into "labor," and she'll probably drop the eggs right there in the vet's office or at home an hour or so later.

      Let me know how she continues to do!

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  7. Thanks Olimipa, will keep you posted, when I last saw the vet he said that he rarely has any sucess with inducing panther chameleons, does your experience differ from this?

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    1. What do you mean by introducing, introducing a male and female to each other to breed? I haven't found it difficult at all, you just have to work around the female's cycles, but if she's pink and receptive then it's a matter of showing her to the male and if both parties seem interested then leave her in his cage for a couple hours (under some discrete supervision, to make sure no one starts fighting after the mating takes place.) The Meller's are a different story because they have long, drawn out social rituals that might take weeks or months, but panthers and veileds are a bit like rabbits by comparison! Very little romantic gesturing!

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  8. Hi Olimpia

    Sorry I meant inducing in the sense of an injection by the vet to bring on egg laying, the vet said that it had little success and that they quite often have to operate to remove the eggs etc.
    Kind regards
    Darren

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    1. Oops, I misread. I don't know, I would have to ask my vet friends what their experiences have been. But I think that if it's done while the female is still strong then it's much more successful.

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  9. Hi Olimpia

    I tried her now twice, each time for two to three hours in a tall bin with a small branch sticking 4 - 6 inches out with no luck I'm afraid, the only thing that cam out was a poo. It looks like she may need to go see the vet over the next few days. It would seem that my other female is also pregnant for the first time as she has fattened up a bit and also has the saggy / inflamed neck that the first one has. Maybe I should take them all to the vets!

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  10. Hi Olimpia, do you provide your girls with heat and light when they are in the trash can laying bin? The vet has asked me to leave her in the bin for a full day at a time and if no change go see him next week. Thanks Darren

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    1. I will provide light, but not necessarily heat. I usually want to make sure they have all the privacy in the world, so that may mean I put the trash bin in a closet and leave the lights on so she has something to see with but I don't clip a heat light over the bin or anything so it doesn't get too warm and stress her out. My house is typically at 75-78F so it shouldn't be uncomfortable. And then if they are still in there during the night I will turn off the light and they will sleep in their tunnel and continue the next day.

      I think leaving her in there a full day is a good idea, if she's ready eventually she has to give in. As long as it seems she's been gravid she really should be ready to pop, I can't believe she's still holding onto her eggs.

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  11. Thanks Olimpia, I will give her a day off tomorrow to make sure she gets a good feed and then put her in the following day without heat, thanks again, Darren

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  12. Hi Olimpia

    After a full day in the bin there was no activity, she also seems to really hate it in there and was black and stresses when I put her back yesterday.
    I’m starting to question if she really does have eggs inside her the vet was insistent at the start of June however she seems smaller now than then she is eating well at present. Is there any way that the eggs can collapse inside her?

    Thanks Darren

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    1. Darren,

      That could definitely be a possibility, some females can and will reabsorb the eggs instead of laying them. I would palpate her gently and see if you can still feel the eggs. She may not let you (most chameleons tense up so you can't feel anything as well unless they are really full of hard eggs) but it's worth a try! With your thumb and index finger on either side of her squeeze gently and feel for any hard lumps towards the back of her abdomen, closest to her back legs. If she's "empty" you shouldn't be able to feel anything too bulky or hard back there and if she is full of eggs you should be able to feel the little hard lumps (like little beans.)

      If you're still going to keep the appointment with your vet he may suggest an x-ray to see what is going on. That's usually the best way to see how many eggs are there, if any, and how far along they are by how calcified they are.

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  13. Hi Olimpia, I have checked her and she certainly has eggs inside her. I am going to the vets anyway to have her checked out as I'm taking my other female to see if she is pregnant and also my male as he seems to be constipated as not has a poo in 3 - 4 weeks so a little worried, bad times :-( will let you know how I get on. Thanks Darren.

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  14. Hi Olimpia, hope you are well.
    The vet confirmed that she looks to be absorbing the eggs give or take 1 or 2 that he can still feel although he did say that she may have laid them so I will have a searchat some point confirm. I was going to look tonight however they were all a little stressed which resulted in my first Chameleon bite, which was fun! :-) The other female looks to be in the early stages of pregancy and the male hasbeen given some lactalos to help him along. Hopefully things will quieten down now!

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  15. Hi olimpia, just to let you know that the vet to carry out a full historectomy on amber this week as it would appear she was full of egg folicules and unable tobovulate for some reason. The operation was very tricky as one of her ovaries was fussed to another organ and she had a bleed. She survived the op and was making good progress but colapsed on Thursday and died. I'm obviously gutted as I felt like I give her every opportunity to lay but clearly something wasn't right. Anyway just thought I would update you, thanks for all you advice throughout her issues, let's hope her sister is more successful! Many thanks Darren.

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  16. Hello my name is paige and I am from Texas, i absolutely love chameleons, my male is almost 2 years old and he is the most awesome pet ever, he comes when he is called, and loves to be held, and he wants to go everywhere with me, and wants people to hold him. I also have a female who is a sweety as well. I plan on breeding them in a few months and i am terrified, i am going to do something wrong. Do you have suggestions on an incubator and temperature best for them.

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