How to prevent unwanted egg clutches?


Chameleon Enthusiast

Very often breeders and keepers parott again, and again, the following message, especially to beginners: the females of chameleons will lay eggs even without the mating: they will lay infertile eggs like chicken every second month, regardless what you do. They recommend to have for the females always a lay bin present in the cage and block a substantial part of the bottom of the cage with an unnecessary heavy and voluminous object.

Now, what is the reality? The above mentioned statement is of course wrong, or at least partly wrong. Obviously, unwanted clutches of eggs exhaust the females tremendously and cause them being weak and die young. So, it is desirable to prevent the unnecessary infertile unwanted clutches.

The question is: How to do it? And the answer is very simple:

In the wild, females lay eggs in the breeding season. In both most commonly kept species of chameleons, namely, the Panther Chameleon, and the Yemen Chameleon, the breeding season falls into the warmest and most moist period of the year. And the reason is obvious: the females need to have enough food and higher temperatures for speedy metabolism, enabling them to build quickly the eggs and deposit them to the soil for incubation.
The problem of captivity is: we misinterpret the climatic data and keep the Chameleons based on outdated instructions, recommending to keep them at temperatures, which are equal to the hottest and warmest period of the year its means to the reproductive season.
Many (if not most) commercial breeders do so on a purpose, because if the female stays in the breeding mode, thanks to the surrounding conditions and abundance of food, the female will not lay one clutch in a year like in the wild and then rest, but may lay four or even six making the business P&L positive. Moreover, it is a well known phenomenon, that the number of eggs is proportional to the amount of food eaten by the gravid female. So, they are fed hummongous ammounts of food, become very fat and big and lay instead of 25-35 eggs as in the wild, 50-60-70, in the case of the Yemen Chameleon it may be even over 100 eggs. The result is obviously exhaustion of the females, which are forced to lay more eggs in one year than they would normally lay in their entire life, so that they have problems to recover, to restore calcium deposits in bones, they get sick and die young. And this for nothing or even for evil. If the eggs are infertile, it is waste of the energy and purposeless exhaustion and torture of the females, which often die because they simply can not lay so many eggs or they become so fat, that the fat-body situated in the pelvic region blocks the oviducts, causes inflammation or mummification of the eggs or follicles and subsequent sepsis and death - or, many hundreds of dollars of costly surgery and treatment by a VET, all with questionable result. If the eggs are fertile, all the dangers as above apply too and in the lucky event if laid eggs the luck turns to evil, because there will be dozens (an in case of a prolific female even hundreds) of siblings polluting the captive population’s genome and increasing the inbreeding level of it.

So, to make it explicit, the reason of the unwanted clutches is:


by the care parameters, namely:

- too high ambient temperatures (should be low 70sF)(is often above 80F)
- too high basking temperatures (should be 78-80F)(is often 85-95F)
- Too long basking light ON (should be 2times a day max 30minutes)(is as a rule 12h)

- too much food (should be limited so that the adult animal does not gain weight while not growing any more - with the exception of gravidity of course - should be on average one big adult cricket per day)(is often ad-libitum or even excess food left all the time for the case)
- too nutritious food (should be flying insects as BSF, bees, wasps - chameleons are specialist in eating low energy food)(is often beetle or moth larvae or roaches, high in fat and protein)

People will often say nonsense, which you please ignore, like:
- “I will not let my baby starve” - and feed it ad-libitum to obesity and death
- “I will feed them as much as they want to, as they can auto-regulate” - and feed them unlimited amount with same effects as above ignoring the fact they can not auto-regulate, as there is not so much and so nutritious food in the wild ever so that they cannot overeat
- “I can not let them cool down, they will not be able to digest” - ignoring that the metabolism speed is temperature-dependent and the lower temperature the less food is the rule - and heat them up, speed up their metabolism and force them to eat more and die young
- “I can not keep them so cool, they would be not comfortable” - and ignore the climatic charts which for Yemen refer to area 6000ft a.s.l. And for Madagascar is nowadays about 5-7 degrees higher than 100 years ago due to deforestation and ignoring the animals spend most time in deep shade

So, once more:

This is very informative and makes complete sense to me

- Too long basking light ON (should be 2times a day max 30minutes)(is as a rule 12h)

Question, on this line

2 times a day for 30mins, what would times that the lights on for this period mean in terms of actual times? 9am and noon?

just curious, love your insights, watch your videos and interviews and love your FB posts
This is very informative and makes complete sense to me

Question, on this line

2 times a day for 30mins, what would times that the lights on for this period mean in terms of actual times? 9am and noon?

just curious, love your insights, watch your videos and interviews and love your FB posts
Thank you for your warm words. I would suggest to follow what they do in the wild: they bask as early morning as the first sunrays are a available (it does not need to correlate with the sunrise - thy often live in deep valleys or forested areas so the first available rays may appear as late as 9 or even 11AM), then the most daytime they stay hidden from sun to get exposed again in the late afternoon when the sun is about to fall below the horizon.
Very interesting!
I have a few question if you dont mind, as I am new on this world. and the information regarding Females Veiled Chams differ a lot.

I try to keep the barking area around 80, and instead of turn of the lights I just change the distance.. so is always around 75-85 at maximum. humidity around 40-60 in the day and crack up to 100 at night, in the night the temps go between 60-65.
Food wise - she is still juvenile, so I am giving her around 15 small - medium crickets a day, She dont eat everyday like this. but she never pass a day withou eating at least 3 crickets and 1 or 2 nice dubia.

is anything else I can do to prevent the unfertile egg laying thing?

Also, do you have any other advice for someone that never got a reptile before, and was very misinformed when get his first 1?

I'm breeding veiled chameleons since over 20 years now. I can confirm the correlation between egg laying and diet.
What I cannot confirm is the impact of high temperatures. My chameleons live in screen cages in front of a south side window in a top floor. The temperatures in summer often stay above 86F at day and that for weeks. Nevertheless I have no female laying unfertilized eggs when feeded moderately. Currently I keep 3 females that hatched 4.5 years ago and I could not sell during Corona. None of them layed any eggs.

My rule of thumb for feeding adult veiled chameleons is 2 adult crickets (or other insects of equal mass) for female and 3 adult crickets for male veiled chameleons twice a week.
Hatchlings get as much as the want up to an age of 3 month from there I reduce the food step by step until they get the adult diet from 9 month on.
You said…”What I cannot confirm is the impact of high temperatures”…I keep the female veileds at the cooler temperature of 80F to slow the metabolism and make them hopefully feel less hungry. I’m not sure that it plays any major role in preventing egg production other than that.
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