how to design a free range course for a hands-off cham

cham_urchin

Established Member
Hi guys, this is part design question, part self-peptalk.

Background: Me and my cham Pete (male veiled, 10 mos. old) have a friendly truce kind of relationship. He agrees to hide whenever I approach, and I agree to bring food and remove poop. I've attempted a few times to move him in/out of cage for cleanings, and while I tried to remain calm and deliberate, he leaped off my arm and fell about 2 feet into a bin. That scared us both, and I gave up. I do have a medium Reptibreeze I've moved him to a couple times for transport...I move him on whatever plant he's hiding in. But it can be an ordeal to herd him into a plant long enough to move it. I'd kind of prefer a root canal.

Goal: I'd like to create a free range extension Pete can access by crawling out of his cage on a vine to a potted tree and cargo net or lattice near the window . (Guilt is the motivator, here. Don't want to leave him cooped up just cuz I'm scared to deal with him.) I've seen other members post similar set ups. It would be on a short term basis, under supervision. (I have 2 dogs)

Questions:
1. Can you offer any general truths about how chams (veileds) behave when free ranging? Such as, do they stay up high? Or do they climb to the lower surfaces/floor and take off? I know I'll need to watch him-just wondering what you can say about this.
2. How best to herd him back to the cage? What have you found works well? The first few times we try this, I know it'll be stressful as f*ck so any tips are appreciated.

Muchas Gracias!
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Maybe just build a much larger enclosure... I know what you mean with the aggression. Beman has now hit 15 months old. I have seen a total change in personality in the last 2 months. He recognizes me but acts totally different with me now. If he were to ever bite me this would end me trying to take him out because honestly I know I would shake him off my hand just from the shock of it.

The worry with trying to do a free range to me is if he is not friendly then honestly how are you going to get him back in? So I would go with a bigger cage rather then trying to battle dogs and hope he stays where he should. If the free range is not done right they will find a way down. I had this issue with Beman when he had his free range.
 
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cham_urchin

Established Member
Maybe just build a much larger enclosure... I know what you mean with the aggression. Beman has now hit 15 months old. I have seen a total change in personality in the last 3 months. He recognizes me but acts totally different with me now. If he were to ever bite me this would end me trying to take him out because honestly I know I would shake him off my hand just from the shock of it.

The worry with trying to do a free range to me is if he is not friendly then honestly how are you going to get him back in? So I would go with a bigger cage rather then trying to battle dogs and hope he stays where he should. If the free range is not done right they will find a way down. I had this issue with Beman when he had his free range.
Gah! I get you....but I just finished a new custom rolling cart for his enclosure a few months ago ;) I am also considering connecting to another enclosure via a screen tube of some sort. His cage sits next to a credenza which could hold cage #2....
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Gah! I get you....but I just finished a new custom rolling cart for his enclosure a few months ago ;) I am also considering connecting to another enclosure via a screen tube of some sort. His cage sits next to a credenza which could hold cage #2....
Well then give that a whirl lol. Or try the free range. I am just saying unless it is totally suspended he will find a way lol. You would think they would stay high... Not so much. If there is any way they can get down they will. Beman is getting more and more aggressive with me. He has moments where he looks at me like he recognizes me and totally calms down but he fires up almost every time I walk into the room. The past month he has been a totally different cham. What used to be my sweet boy that happily came to me and would bask on me well he now wants very little to do with me. He now intimidates me. So if yours does the same and you don't think he would be cool with being moved from a free range back to the cage then I would not try it lol.
 

Jammoos

Member
They'll typically stay more elevated unless they feel like there's a reason to be on the ground. Free-ranging probably isn't the best if you need to herd them into their cage multiple times. If your cham is nice and happy with his enclosure he'll try to climb back in when he wants to feel safer (although he should feel safe outside too.) Herding him might cause him stress. If your dogs are a major concern I'm siding w/ what was said above in that a larger enclosure might be better for your cham. Unless you have/can implement a room where the only dedicated animal is Pete and he can free-range without too many concerns and get safely back to his enclosure on his own terms. So no stress for him or you is involved.
 

cham_urchin

Established Member
Well then give that a whirl lol. Or try the free range. I am just saying unless it is totally suspended he will find a way lol. You would think they would stay high... Not so much. If there is any way they can get down they will. Beman is getting more and more aggressive with me. He has moments where he looks at me like he recognizes me and totally calms down but he fires up almost every time I walk into the room. The past month he has been a totally different cham. What used to be my sweet boy that happily came to me and would bask on me well he now wants very little to do with me. He now intimidates me. So if yours does the same and you don't think he would be cool with being moved from a free range back to the cage then I would not try it lol.
Yup, think you're right. I'm intimidated too *sigh
 

cham_urchin

Established Member
They'll typically stay more elevated unless they feel like there's a reason to be on the ground. Free-ranging probably isn't the best if you need to herd them into their cage multiple times. If your cham is nice and happy with his enclosure he'll try to climb back in when he wants to feel safer (although he should feel safe outside too.) Herding him might cause him stress. If your dogs are a major concern I'm siding w/ what was said above in that a larger enclosure might be better for your cham. Unless you have/can implement a room where the only dedicated animal is Pete and he can free-range without too many concerns and get safely back to his enclosure on his own terms. So no stress for him or you is involved.
Great points, thanks! Pete is in his own room, doors can be closed...but I agree with you and @Beman that this free range concept would be more destructive than constructive, given the stress involved.
I will pursue something enclosed, an extension of his enclosure maybe. I'm tight on space and his enclosure has a limited footprint, so a larger one isn't an option at the present time. I've been thinking about a large screen pop-up hamper, turned sideways and hung on a rod in front of the window...and the best way to create access to it....there's about 5' between his enclosure and the window. Some kind of flexible duct tubing? (chameleon habitrail, lol)....this may be hairbrained, I realize. He may take one look and avoid the whole thing. Come to think of it, this is very likely.

Still...... :)
 

Gingero

Chameleon Enthusiast
I seriously think free-ranging my cham, Neptune, is what got him comfortable with him coming out and me handling him. When Neptune was a baby, he legit jumped off my hand like a paratrooper when I first held him. That was terrifying for both of us.

After the suicide bomber attempt, I just let him come out on his own by pushing my couch up against his enclosure which he would happily climb onto after a bit of time. He would then crawl down the couch, across the floor, and up onto the plant that I had chilling by a window. Whenever I wanted to put him back in his enclosure, I would pick up the plant and tilt it towards his enclosure until he climbed back in (no more than a minute or two). This caused no stress to him or to me. Eventually after doing that enough times, he started associating me with getting to come out. One day I held out my arm instead of pushing up my couch when he came up to the front wanting to come out. If he wanted to come out, he was going to have to use me as a branch to do so. And after 20 minutes of holding out my arm, he decided potentially getting eaten by me was worth the risk of coming out and crawled onto me. Then I quickly transported him to his plant by the window.

As far as where a cham will climb goes, remember that chameleons can't climb plastic. So I had my plant in a large plastic pot so once Neptune was on the plant, there wasn't a way for him to climb down. I would make sure there was a stick or vine to help him get onto the plant, but then I would remove it.

I also made a YouTube video about how to set-up a freerange so I'll link that here for you to watch if you want:

 

cham_urchin

Established Member
I seriously think free-ranging my cham, Neptune, is what got him comfortable with him coming out and me handling him. When Neptune was a baby, he legit jumped off my hand like a paratrooper when I first held him. That was terrifying for both of us.

After the suicide bomber attempt, I just let him come out on his own by pushing my couch up against his enclosure which he would happily climb onto after a bit of time. He would then crawl down the couch, across the floor, and up onto the plant that I had chilling by a window. Whenever I wanted to put him back in his enclosure, I would pick up the plant and tilt it towards his enclosure until he climbed back in (no more than a minute or two). This caused no stress to him or to me. Eventually after doing that enough times, he started associating me with getting to come out. One day I held out my arm instead of pushing up my couch when he came up to the front wanting to come out. If he wanted to come out, he was going to have to use me as a branch to do so. And after 20 minutes of holding out my arm, he decided potentially getting eaten by me was worth the risk of coming out and crawled onto me. Then I quickly transported him to his plant by the window.

As far as where a cham will climb goes, remember that chameleons can't climb plastic. So I had my plant in a large plastic pot so once Neptune was on the plant, there wasn't a way for him to climb down. I would make sure there was a stick or vine to help him get onto the plant, but then I would remove it.

I also made a YouTube video about how to set-up a freerange so I'll link that here for you to watch if you want:

thank you @Gingero ! I had found and watched your vid before posting. It was very helpful! Its good to hear how you led up to that free range, and gives me some hope... but Pete the Veiled is SO leary and I don't think its gonna get any easier as he matures.
I will consider this and thanks again for your perspective and for sharing your experiences. :)
 

Gingero

Chameleon Enthusiast
thank you @Gingero ! I had found and watched your vid before posting. It was very helpful! Its good to hear how you led up to that free range, and gives me some hope... but Pete the Veiled is SO leary and I don't think its gonna get any easier as he matures.
I will consider this and thanks again for your perspective and for sharing your experiences. :)
Oh wow! That's so cool you found my video :)
You're welcome. I would try putting a plant on a chair in front of his enclosure and seeing what happens. He might surprise you.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
A couple of things to keep in mind with free range setups...
While they're in the free range they won't be getting any UVB unless you set something up for that in the free range. They also will not have a place to bask unless you set that up too. If you use lights in the free range set up you have to make sure that they can't reach the lights/climb/sit on them.

You also need to think about feeding and watering them while they're there.

None of this will matter much if you're just going to use if for a couple of hours at a time.

Another thing to think about is will the chameleon be within its daytime temperature range in the free range area.

The chameleon may try to escape by going down to the floor. They can "jump" off the set up too....so you will want to make sure the room is safe from those furry "predators".

I think it's great for them to have a free range area though in spite of all the precautions etc we have to go through.
 

cham_urchin

Established Member
A couple of things to keep in mind with free range setups...
While they're in the free range they won't be getting any UVB unless you set something up for that in the free range. They also will not have a place to bask unless you set that up too. If you use lights in the free range set up you have to make sure that they can't reach the lights/climb/sit on them.

You also need to think about feeding and watering them while they're there.

None of this will matter much if you're just going to use if for a couple of hours at a time.

Another thing to think about is will the chameleon be within its daytime temperature range in the free range area.

The chameleon may try to escape by going down to the floor. They can "jump" off the set up too....so you will want to make sure the room is safe from those furry "predators".

I think it's great for them to have a free range area though in spite of all the precautions etc we have to go through.
Thank you @kinyonga Yes...those environmental controls have me thinking this would be for short lengths of time, for certain...really do hope to find a good balance b/t stimulation and stress ;)
 
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