Veiled chameleon outdoors, year round

Jakedn

New Member
I haven't been on the forum for around a year, and I have been testing how my veiled chameleon withstands being placed outdoors year round in a part of southern California where it has reached over 100 degrees quite a few times this summer.

From what I see, this species is far more resilient than given credit for on these forums.

Around a year ago, as some of you may remember I purchased a baby veiled chameleon who was pretty sickly. After a couple months, he got better but still had some irregular problems, like a deformed eye, that he has trouble seeing out of. I'm not sure if this was a problem from birth, or damage that didn't heal properly when he had an eye infection.

But anyways, this sickly small chameleon has been kept in an outdoor enclosure for a year now, through the heat of the summer, and the cold of the winter nights. He has been fed some wild insects such as house flies when he was younger, grasshoppers of all sizes, and moths.

He isn't fed daily or in massive quantities like some people here say you should do. He isn't misted constantly if the temperature is too high, or not misted when it is too cool. However, if he shows signs of heat stress I do take the neccessary actions to cool his enclosure down, though it isn't often needed.

Instead, I watch him for what he needs as his enclosure is outside my window next to my desk where he gets full sun.

Before I did this he would refuse to eat any sort of greens, now with the hot summers he has adapted; he will now eat leaves and flowers from his enclosure when he is thirsty or hungry and I take that as a sign for me to feed and mist him.

When I do mist him, I will mist him for a long time to ensure he can drink as much as he wants, and to clean his eyes etc.

When I notice signs of dehydration, I order him some horn worms and those take care of that problem pretty quickly haha.

Under this care, he has not fallen ill, he has not shown any irregular symptoms. He is as active as ever, and will sure as hell let me know I'm not wanted if I am not bringing him food haha. Just as any healthy veiled chameleon should act.

I see him going to the bottom of the enclosure to eat some sand/dirt on occasion, but that is not abnormal for him, as he did this when I provided him with all the recommended care provided on this forum. I don't know why he has always done this, but it has never been a problem, nor has there been a way for me to keep him from it. There is no large pieces like bark for him to eat either.

All around though, from my limited experience, with just this average veiled chameleon, he is thriving in my outdoor enclosure with much less effort needed from when I kept him indoors.

With this chameleon I have tried an indoor enclosure, an indoor free range, and now this outdoor enclosure. Each set up has had its own problems though.

With the indoor enclosure it took up alot of space in my room, he wasn't very active, and it required special lights for the plants and himself, and special nutrients on his food (like vitamin D), and misting him indoors caused other problems that needed special solutions like drainage etc. Also, indoors I ran into other problems like bugs etc which I didn't want inside the house.

After he showed alot of inactivity (even for a chameleon) in this enclosure, I decided to try out a free range so that I could use that same cage that I kept him in for an outdoot enclosure I could bring him out to occasionally.

In the free range I ran in to problems where he would climb on top of the set up and kind of lean up against his lights as they were warm rather than basking in them, and it was a pretty abnormal behaviour and I suspected he wasn't getting the UV rays he needed etc because of all the time he spent up there.

And so after that problem, I decided to try a more permanant solution in an outdoor enclosure, where he has been for atleast a year now.

The only problem I have encountered with him in his outdoor enclosure so far, wasn't caused by him, or by the environment, it was caused by my dogs who before the problem never showed him any attention.

One day though while the dogs were unsupervised near his cage they must have attacked his cage somehow and they damaged the screen leaving huge holes in it (Waldo was unharmed thankfully), though he escaped his cage through those holes.

He didn't wander far though and I found him about 10 feet from his enclosure.

I solved this problem by moving the enclosure to an area my dogs never have access to, where it is positioned now (right outside of the window by my desk). I have had zero problems in this location so far.

So, in my opinion, I strongly prefer this outdoor set up, where he has been thriving for a year under relatively minimal care.

With some knowledge of chameleon behaviour, and a close enough eye, a veiled chameleon can thrive under minimal care in a year round outdoor enclosure here in southern California near the Los Angeles area.

I am excited to see how he continues to do in this upcoming winter after this long and hot summer.

I haven't been on these forums in quite some time, and I just wanted to give an update on how well Waldo is doing and share my experiences with his enclosure set up. If anyone else is keeping a veiled chameleon outdoors year round I would be interested in seeing how you have it set up and what problems and/or solutions you have encountered.
 

Jakedn

New Member
You think this would work in Northern Cali? It getts pretty cold so i would probly need a heat lamp... right?
I wouldn't know, I haven't even been up to northern cali. That is probably something you would have to experiment with yourself. I would suspect winters would be difficult though.
 

fluxlizard

Avid Member
I'm wondering how cold do temps at night get there during the coldest part of winter?

Thanks for posting your experience.
 

Jakedn

New Member
I'm wondering how cold do temps at night get there during the coldest part of winter?

Thanks for posting your experience.
I forget the coldest it got over last winter, I will have to record the temperatures this winter for you.
 
I have an older male veiled that I started keeping outside a few weeks ago. He is missing his tongue and is fed a liquid diet and he has trouble swallowing. Since moving him out side he has become more active and his color has improved. He is also more interested in both food and water.

I don't leave any of mine out if it is too hot or too cold though I know there are several SoCal keepers with year round outdoor chameleons.
 
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Jakedn

New Member
Working on fattening this guy up a bit for the upcoming winter, just got in a shipment of hornworms and he's loving it haha.

He is a bit skinny right now as I was testing around with how veiled chameleons react to low amounts of food intake. He reacted by becoming more active and actively hunts for food even when I haven't put anything in his cage at times.

But for anyone worried about going on a week vacation or something, just set up a dripper to drip slowly, and any veiled chameleon under mild temperatures will be perfectly fine, just get him some juicy worms when you get back haha.

I'm sure pretty much every captive chameleon under the type of care reccomended here has plenty of reserves to be just fine, these are very hardy animals.

Waldo has gone for up to a week without a misting outside in the summer (with me watching of course) without any long term negative effects, just slight dehydration that is easily correctable. (I would not reccomend doing this with any chameleon who is not in great physical health, and definitely not if you will not be able to monitor him as outdoor temperatures can quickly change. I did this only to see what reactions he would have to the lower water intake, and how he would compensate for that. Which he did by acquiring a taste for plant matter which he would have never began to eat otherwise.)

He has also gone for up to a month with only a few wild caught grasshoppers or moths, without any effect other than higher activity level and his fat reserves went down of course. (I would not reccomend doing this with a chameleon who does not have a good supply of fat reserves already built up, and I did this only to see how he would react under close observation. He reacted with a higher activity level and slow degradation of his fat reserves.)

He has picked up quite a taste for his honeysuckle flowers inside his enclosure now as an adaptation to those conditions and will regularly eat the flowers.

Take into account though, that I have only tested this with one veiled chameleon, who is a full grown adult, and is smaller in size than the usual full grown male veiled chameleon.

He is loving that his "diet" is over and he gets to fatten back up on worms though haha.

It is crazy though that Waldo has come from being such a sickly fragile baby veiled chameleon, and is now such a healthy and resilient animal.
 

Jakedn

New Member
I don't have access to a decent camera. Are you interested in seeing the enclosure or the chameleon?
 

Jakedn

New Member
Just snapped two pictures for you with my phone, not great pictures but it is all I can get for now. The enclosure is nothing special, just 24x24x48 with a Cape Honeysuckle plant and a couple sticks added in that he uses as basking perches.
 

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Chameleonaire87

New Member
I just moved my female Veiled's cage to my 2nd balcony door a few days ago. I purchased a tall Ficus tree and open up her cage so she can crawl out onto the tree and soak in the socal sun.

Honestly within 2 days I noticed a difference in her color, overall activity, and she wasn't bothered by my presence so much. I definitely agree that these beautiful reptiles thrive outdoors.
 

OceanLyons

New Member
I would like to keep my adult male veiled outside under shade in Arizona, and have begun research to see it that is possible.

What were your high temps. and their duration?
 

Jakedn

New Member
I would like to keep my adult male veiled outside under shade in Arizona, and have begun research to see it that is possible.

What were your high temps. and their duration?
Temperatures hit over 100 in the sun frequently this summer in heat waves that would last like a week with temperatures like that in the heat of the day.

If you are looking to do that in Arizona and areas of full shade is *required* for the chameleon to be able to get away from the sun at any time I would reccomend making your own very large enclosure to allow for more room to thermoregulate.

You will want atleast some areas where he can bask in direct sunlight when he chooses though.

My experience is limited to one chameleon, in one enclosure, in southern california. You will need to pay very close attention if you try this to come up with your own data and what your chameleon can handle. Experiment a bit, and keep an indoor enclosure ready with regulated temperatures if needed to bring him back inside for whatever reason if it doesn't work out properly atleast while you work out all of the kinks in the setup.

If you try it out keep me updated with your experiences please.
 

OceanLyons

New Member
Thank you for the information. The current plans would not allow him to be in direct sunlight at all. He would only receive indirect sunlight. He will be on my covered porch with MistKing on a timer.

I wasn't planning on turning on the basking light because the ambient temperature will be consistently high in the summer. So, I would assume he'll be ok to digest his meals. I also have a large ceiling fan nearby that could help with evaporating excess water and help lower the ambient temp. The enclosure is about 5ft x 4ft x 3ft an filled with plants.

Have you found any information on the range of temperatures that a veiled can safely handle? Also, what are the signs of heat stress. I plan on watching him very closely. I have an indoor setup that I can transfer him too if needed.
 

VeiledChams

Avid Member
I also keep my veiled outside 24/7 (except during big storms that could tip their cages over). They are much better eaters, colors are more vibrant, and seem to enjoy it more. There was a change in personalities too. My female veiled became friendlies, allowing me to hold her. My male was the opposite. He wants nothing to do with me and has already bit me.

I think keeping them outside is really good for them. Temperatures here have also reached 100 degrees, and have gone down into the 60's (havent had them out in winter yet). I'll keep them outside unless something prevents me from doing so.
 

ataraxia

Avid Member
can i see bigger pics?

is it just me?????honestly from your post it sounds like he has been mistreated. experimenting on low intake? now having to fatten him up for winter...idk. under the same care. 100% a mistreated chameleon living outdoors will out live a chameleon living indoors hands down.

i also keep my chameleons outdoors 24/7 from late spring to fall (when night time temps start to get chilly). they then come in. if we had mild winters they would be left outside also. with that said. i still provide daily water and proper nutrition.

some questions with your "experiment":

how often did you mist or have a dripper going?
what was the average humidity and rain fall where you live?

how often did you feed?
what types of feeders and quantity?
did you gut load and if so what did you gut load with?

did you use supplements? brands/type and how often?

is he in full sun or does he get shade at any point in the day?

we have young kids here and many super new keepers..just so others dont get the misconception that they only need "relatively low" care in a outdoor cage.
 
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ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Yeah I kind of agree...you're waiting until he starts eating plants before feeding or hydrating him? Why aren't you just feeding him like normal and making sure he regularly has access to water? Good thing no one waits until you start eating your pillows before someone decides to offer you food or water... And starving him for month just to see what happens? Don't agree with what you're doing.
 

Jakedn

New Member
Thank you for the information. The current plans would not allow him to be in direct sunlight at all. He would only receive indirect sunlight. He will be on my covered porch with MistKing on a timer.

I wasn't planning on turning on the basking light because the ambient temperature will be consistently high in the summer. So, I would assume he'll be ok to digest his meals. I also have a large ceiling fan nearby that could help with evaporating excess water and help lower the ambient temp. The enclosure is about 5ft x 4ft x 3ft an filled with plants.

Have you found any information on the range of temperatures that a veiled can safely handle? Also, what are the signs of heat stress. I plan on watching him very closely. I have an indoor setup that I can transfer him too if needed.
There is absolutely no time of day where direct sunlight will hit any part of his enclosure? I'm not sure how high the UVB will be in the shade you are talking about, or if it will be enough and I would suspect a chameleon with no opportunity to ever bask wouldn't be mentally stimulated enough as it is a very natural process and my veiled will sit in direct sunlight and bask even in over 100 degree weather.

I haven't yet reached a point where it became simply too hot for my veiled chameleon. He handled 100 degree weather easily. I am always able to easily cool him off if he ever shows signs of heat stress.

I look for 3 tell-tale signs of heat stress with my vieled chameleon. One of the most obvious ones is he will openly gape to release heat. The second sign I look for is if he is in the coolest and shadiest area of his enclosure constantly. The third sign, that shows he is truly under stress from the heat and not just taking precautionary measures to avoid the heat is when he shows a bright coloration much like being "fired up" however he doesn't show his normal angry dark polka dots along with the colors as he usually would do if I were to piss him off somehow haha.

I don't bother doing anything if he's hanging out basking while gaping, or if he is in the shade and not gaping. But if I see him in the shade AND gaping I will mist his cage to cool him off. I have yet to chance not lowering temperatures once he has shown heat stress colorations though, and it has only happened like once so far. As soon as I see that coloration I recognize it as a time to act and cool him off as soon as possible, a nice cool misting does the trick, and if needed you can drape a dark wet fabric of some sort over the hottest part of the enclosure to help keep things cool instead of just constantly misting.
 
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