Interesting blog about Free ranging

Sonny13

Avid Member
I came across an older blog about free ranging which is pretty interesting when doubting about it. Source is http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2013/05/free-ranging-risks-and-benefits.html

Free-Ranging - The Risks and Benefits​

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A free-range (FR) is typically something you associate with poultry, but the term has found its way into a growing, alternative trend on how to keep chameleons. In this blog I talk a lot about the best screen cages to use and how best to set them up, but few people know that for over a year my chameleons had the run of their own room (and part of the living room) in what was a huge FR.


The idea consists of housing chameleons without cage walls, allowing them relative freedom to move about but still providing all their husbandry needs. This means that they still need their correct lighting, access to water, and food but without the cage walls. Many chameleons do incredibly well with this set-up, including but not limited to wild caught chameleons and large chameleon species (like Meller's, for example, who fit into both those descriptors.)
However, there are downsides to this style of chameleon keeping, so I will do my best to provide an honest assessment of the benefits and downsides to free-ranging and how to deal with the bad.

THE GOOD

1. Chameleons tend to respond really well to not being caged. Even very aggressive, terrified chameleons usually relax and become more comfortable with people when they do not feel trapped/cornered in a cage. The great people at The Chameleon Farm have a blog where they explain how to raise social chameleons, which includes free-ranging first and foremost. Their methods are amazing and I highly recommend checking it out.
2. Depending on the size of the FR, a large one allows them to exercise more, which lets them maintain a healthy weight and muscle tone. Obesity in chameleons is bad, and usually leads to problems with their liver eventually.

3. It lets them regulate their needs better. By not being trapped under a light all day long, they are able to choose whether to be under the heat light or the UVB bulb throughout the day.

4. You see a much more natural range of behavior and (dare I say it...) lots of personality. It seems that more space really brings out the full behavior spectrum of a chameleon, with all their quirks, weird little habits, and favorite activities. Males that would have fought otherwise forged "friendships."

THE BAD

1. You cannot set food items free in the cage for them to catch. You have to get used to either cup or hand feeding. So get used to (or get a set of tongs for) holding those bugs! And get used to the idea of a few of them escaping every so often from your grasp (or their mouth) and running around your home. Roommates may not be happy about this.

2. You have to hang the lights from the ceiling or something very tall. So making holes in the ceiling of a home you rent may not be a great option. But you don't want the chameleon climbing up the cord, onto the light, and burning himself. So I usually screw something into the ceiling from which I can hang my lights and then tape the cord along the wall, so no one can climb up.
3. Figuring out how to provide water is a huge pain. I know other people who come up to their chameleons with a dropper full of water and their pets will just drink from the dropper, but what happens if you don't have the time to sit there (chameleons are slow drinkers) or your chameleon isn't trusting? I've had to make frames that go over the FR so I can rig up the misting system or dripper.

4. Figuring out how to collect the mist/drip water is a bigger pain. You'll definitely have to get creative, or you'll end up ruining your floors. My solution was to turn my cage drainage tables into stands for my free range plants, and double as the drainage: How To Make A Drainage Table

5. Even if you provide everything your chameleon needs to be happy, you may still have one that wanders. Whenever they get off the FR they are putting themselves in danger, so you may have to make a little barrier around the FR, or block off the room, so they cannot escape and get lost in the house. (Although thankfully they do not hide under fridges or couches, but you may find them asleep on a coat in the closet.)

A great idea to make a FR safer and keep them from wandering away into an unsafe area is to make a little smooth wall that they can't get over. One way to do this would be to take sheets of stiff acrylic, for example, cut them so they are taller than your chameleon is when standing, and make a fence around the FR perimeter. Glue or secure the pieces along the outside, so they can't climb up hinges or glue tracks. Something like the idea below:


THE UGLY

1. Free-ranging can be very dangerous. Pets (especially cats) are a huge risk, as are small children, electrical wires, sharp objects, etc. You have to carefully chameleon-proof the room they are in and then be very diligent about keeping other pets away. And then you have to be careful to check where you're walking, that you don't run them over with the door coming into the room, that you don't leave windows open, etc.


Additional Thoughts
I know that the negatives are longer than the positives. You may be wondering, why bother to go through all the trouble? The answer is that if it's simply not feasible for you and your situation, then don't. They'll be probably just as happy in a very large cage, where they are safe, accounted for, and everything is confined. But for those who don't have cats/dogs, perhaps have a spare bedroom, only have one or two chameleons, and are looking to keep them in a more natural way then this might be an option worth looking into.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tP7hn_szluA/UadnwZXfWkI/AAAAAAAAAr8/AVTDue7GsIw/s1600/Blog+FR+7.jpg

I free-ranged my entire gang for a year, and observed such amazing behavior from all of them. I saw them make friendships with unlikely partners (for example, two panther males became the best of friends). I saw how each one marked a territory within the room for himself, and they all respected each other. They would take turns eating from the feeding station or just share, depending on their mood. I saw them really communicating with each other via body language and settling disputes peacefully. It really was fascinating.

However, I did have to constantly check on them to make sure everything was ok, they were all still there, and find the one who maybe had wandered away looking for more food. It was more stressful than knowing they were each in their separate cages, safe and sound. And when I moved I decided to just make them each very large cages to live in.

But I do have plans to do it again when I am in a home where it is feasible again. With a little pre-planning and some ingenuity it's an amazing way to keep these animals.
 

nightanole

Chameleon Enthusiast
" They'll be probably just as happy in a very large cage, where they are safe, accounted for, and everything is confined. "

Nope. You will find their behavior changes drastically once they have the room. They will start a routine, look out the window, patrol the room for rogue chameleons, etc. And mine always end up spending several hours a day in their cage, under the uv lights, and sleeping at night. I just take the walls or door off the reptibreeze and the come and go as they please.
 

Sonny13

Avid Member
" They'll be probably just as happy in a very large cage, where they are safe, accounted for, and everything is confined. "

Nope. You will find their behavior changes drastically once they have the room. They will start a routine, look out the window, patrol the room for rogue chameleons, etc. And mine always end up spending several hours a day in their cage, under the uv lights, and sleeping at night. I just take the walls or door off the reptibreeze and the come and go as they please.

Spending time in front of the window, staring outside, gives them or just more stress? My Iguana stared all day out the window, however don´t know how chameleons would react. I´ve all day movement, cars, cyclists, pedestrians (with dogs) etc....
 

TayloredExotics

Established Member
Spending time in front of the window, staring outside, gives them or just more stress? My Iguana stared all day out the window, however don´t know how chameleons would react. I´ve all day movement, cars, cyclists, pedestrians (with dogs) etc....
Really depends on the individual. I have one of my males' cages right against a window (no drafts or direct sun, don't worry), because he would always run over to look out whenever he was out of his cage. His favorite thing is to watch the mailman and neighbors pass by... Whereas I had to move one of my females to a completely different room, because she could see a window 12 feet away, and was getting freaked out about it 😕
 

nightanole

Chameleon Enthusiast
Spending time in front of the window, staring outside, gives them or just more stress? My Iguana stared all day out the window, however don´t know how chameleons would react. I´ve all day movement, cars, cyclists, pedestrians (with dogs) etc....

Mine loves mean mugging the neighbors. They have to walk 8ft to the window, the cage is not near the window. And the window never gets any sun, so its all viewing pleasure.

IMG_20131207_093015 (1).jpg
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
" They'll be probably just as happy in a very large cage, where they are safe, accounted for, and everything is confined. "

Nope. You will find their behavior changes drastically once they have the room. They will start a routine, look out the window, patrol the room for rogue chameleons, etc. And mine always end up spending several hours a day in their cage, under the uv lights, and sleeping at night. I just take the walls or door off the reptibreeze and the come and go as they please.

Unless you have a Parsons where they want a room sized enclosure and use about 2 feet of it for months at a time 😆.

I've free ranged 2 species(not together) for the last several years and it really does seem to calm them down.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
Idk about 'All' animals, but many I'm sure benefit. Some like to feel enclosed. Keeping animals in general isn't very natural, free ranging vs caging... unless you have a climate and habitat built to replicate their habitat, they're about equally unnatural(but not in a bad way, I'm all for free ranging if you have the ability don't get me wrong, just for the sake of discussion).
 

Sonny13

Avid Member
I have alway free ranged all of my chameleons. They are much happier. I believe that all animals hate being caged. It’s not natural but I do understand that it’s not safe for some people to free range.
Now I really wanna go for free range.......
 

Sonny13

Avid Member
Idk about 'All' animals, but many I'm sure benefit. Some like to feel enclosed. Keeping animals in general isn't very natural, free ranging vs caging... unless you have a climate and habitat built to replicate their habitat, they're about equally unnatural(but not in a bad way, I'm all for free ranging if you have the ability don't get me wrong, just for the sake of discussion).
Working on something to simulate......
Got a free room left and which would be the easiest way, less natural light. However, I would the keep her in the same room as us and that's more difficult. If I can´t figure out something for the living room, then it will e spare room.
 

CasqueAbove

Chameleon Enthusiast
OK I will chime in. I don't own any cages lol. What she says is correct for the most part. But as was mentioned, define cage. Is an entire room still not a cage ? So it is about cage size. For most of us the easiest way to get the size is free range.
One highlights the dangers part and special care should be taken to mitigate the risks.
A two yrs of age mine have decided the like their areas and rarely come down unless for food. However they will escape anything. I have seen my male get a branch swinging to reach an edge. I have seen both climb out on a branch past the "barrier" lol and just drop. I have also seen them get over smooth walls using single tiny defects in the material until a claw hooks, then like a mountain climber they lift a little ant look for the next. If it worked once it will work again to them. They are smarter and far more determined than you would believe.

My advice is stay with what is comfortable for you. Free ranging is a great thing if done right, but it doesn't have to be for everyone.
You do get better behavior if they don't feel trapped. Notice the translucent pvc on Dragonstrand. Being surrounded by light makes a difference over being surrounded buy dark sides. This coupled with a larger cage obviously can achieve much of the same affect. It is about creating an illusion for them that they could get away if they wanted. Simply leaving the door to the cage open while you are in the room again can help with the illusion of freedom.

As most of our cages are tall and near the celling, you can get a 48" UVB ,actually cheaper, then you can suspend it above you cage, and free range area next to cage.
 

Sonny13

Avid Member
I just love free range and hate I cage inside the room. My iguana had about 30 square meter on free range, even more. Built a plateau in front of window, with branches and everything. From there a complete network across the ceiling. With a rope to climb down to floor.
Now comes the best of it and this is a true story. I always left the room door open and before noon, he would walk 3 stores down, in a straight line. Then on ground floor, he would scratch the living room door, and when opened by someone, he would walk again in straight line towards the bathroom. There he went into the shower, would do his thing (crap the hell out of it) and would walk straight on towards the attic / my room again, climb the rope and proceed basking. Somethings in this proces he went on an excursion, but mainly all straight away. Loved it, tell that story for more then 10 years 😂

The challenge you didn’t had was humidity and that’s thing making it more challenging with chameleons free ranging. Still I’ll find a perfect solution and I can add another unbelievable story😎

940871C6-A485-4ECC-892E-ABE6C10A5BCC.jpeg

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jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
OK I will chime in. I don't own any cages lol. What she says is correct for the most part. But as was mentioned, define cage. Is an entire room still not a cage ? So it is about cage size. For most of us the easiest way to get the size is free range.
One highlights the dangers part and special care should be taken to mitigate the risks.
A two yrs of age mine have decided the like their areas and rarely come down unless for food. However they will escape anything. I have seen my male get a branch swinging to reach an edge. I have seen both climb out on a branch past the "barrier" lol and just drop. I have also seen them get over smooth walls using single tiny defects in the material until a claw hooks, then like a mountain climber they lift a little ant look for the next. If it worked once it will work again to them. They are smarter and far more determined than you would believe.

My advice is stay with what is comfortable for you. Free ranging is a great thing if done right, but it doesn't have to be for everyone.
You do get better behavior if they don't feel trapped. Notice the translucent pvc on Dragonstrand. Being surrounded by light makes a difference over being surrounded buy dark sides. This coupled with a larger cage obviously can achieve much of the same affect. It is about creating an illusion for them that they could get away if they wanted. Simply leaving the door to the cage open while you are in the room again can help with the illusion of freedom.

As most of our cages are tall and near the celling, you can get a 48" UVB ,actually cheaper, then you can suspend it above you cage, and free range area next to cage.

That was my point pretty much, in less words lol.
 

CasqueAbove

Chameleon Enthusiast
I just love free range and hate I cage inside the room. My iguana had about 30 square meter on free range, even more. Built a plateau in front of window, with branches and everything. From there a complete network across the ceiling. With a rope to climb down to floor.
Now comes the best of it and this is a true story. I always left the room door open and before noon, he would walk 3 stores down, in a straight line. Then on ground floor, he would scratch the living room door, and when opened by someone, he would walk again in straight line towards the bathroom. There he went into the shower, would do his thing (crap the hell out of it) and would walk straight on towards the attic / my room again, climb the rope and proceed basking. Somethings in this proces he went on an excursion, but mainly all straight away. Loved it, tell that story for more then 10 years 😂

The challenge you didn’t had was humidity and that’s thing making it more challenging with chameleons free ranging. Still I’ll find a perfect solution and I can add another unbelievable story😎

View attachment 296161
View attachment 296162
Because if it is worth doing, Its worth overdoing. (y)

For Chams I have a sleeping area. They don't need as much humidity during the day. But an extra challenge for sure.
 

GrayMadder

Chameleon Enthusiast
I just love free range and hate I cage inside the room. My iguana had about 30 square meter on free range, even more. Built a plateau in front of window, with branches and everything. From there a complete network across the ceiling. With a rope to climb down to floor.
Now comes the best of it and this is a true story. I always left the room door open and before noon, he would walk 3 stores down, in a straight line. Then on ground floor, he would scratch the living room door, and when opened by someone, he would walk again in straight line towards the bathroom. There he went into the shower, would do his thing (crap the hell out of it) and would walk straight on towards the attic / my room again, climb the rope and proceed basking. Somethings in this proces he went on an excursion, but mainly all straight away. Loved it, tell that story for more then 10 years 😂

The challenge you didn’t had was humidity and that’s thing making it more challenging with chameleons free ranging. Still I’ll find a perfect solution and I can add another unbelievable story😎

View attachment 296161
View attachment 296162
Ive passed by houses w cats in the window, never an iguana! 🤣🥰😍 This is cute!
 
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