When I was considering getting a pet chameleon I did lots of research into their care needs, as any responsible pet owner should. Deciding on whether I should buy a male or female chameleon I wondered about whether or not female chameleons lay eggs? Whether they laid unfertilized eggs? And how often would this happen.
The vast majority of chameleons are oviparous meaning they lay eggs without developing an embryo inside their body. Female chameleons do not need a mate to lay eggs and will lay unfertilized eggs every three to six months.
A noticeable exception to this is the ovoviviparous Jackson’s chameleon which gives birth to live chameleons which have hatched inside her body.
This article will focus on chameleon egg laying in general and not caring for pregnant (gravid) chameleons or how to care for baby chameleons.
Some things do need to be in place to care for an egg carrying chameleon, even unfertilized eggs, this guide will answer your questions.
Do Chameleons Lay Unfertilized Eggs?
Like most species of birds and mammals, chameleons have a cycle of developing eggs capable of fertilization should the female chameleon find a suitable mate within the time period.
Again, like most species of birds and mammals, this period is short leaving only a small window of time for fertilization before the egg is fully formed inside the female. Once the eggs are fully formed the female needs to lay the eggs in order to begin the cycle all over again. So yes chameleons can and will lay unfertilized eggs without the need to find a mate beforehand.
How Often Do Chameleons Lay Eggs?
There are many variables on determining this. The frequency at which chameleons lay eggs will depend on environmental conditions, like whether she’s too hot or cold, how well hydrated she is and how well fed.
On average though a chameleon will lay a clutch of eggs between every three to six months. If you have a female chameleon as a pet it’s best to try to help her lay eggs only once every five to six months because egg carrying and laying is very taxing on a female chameleon’s body. Ultimately you have little control over this but you can help matters by lowering the temperature by a just a few degrees in her enclosure and try feeding her a little less, around every two to three days instead.
My article on how often a chameleon should eat has more info on this.
What Age Do Chameleons Start Laying Eggs?
Again there are many variables in answering this question. Think of children developing into teenagers and how some develop earlier or later than others. The same is true for developing chameleons and while they won’t develop into teenagers with mood swings, they’ll always have mood swings, but they do develop in stages like every other species on the planet.
Some chameleons will start laying eggs as young as six months whilst I’ve heard of others not starting to lay eggs until two years old. It’s even possible to raise them to lay only once clutch of unfertilized eggs or none at all! It all depends on conditions of the enclosure, feeding schedule and the genetics of the chameleon itself and its ancestry.
How To Tell That A Chameleon Is Ready To Lay Eggs
The best piece of advice to owning a female chameleon is to always be ready for and to keep an eye out for this eventuality. Having a female pet chameleon is really no different to having a male in terms of care requirements except for providing the right conditions to help her lay her eggs.
A female chameleon ready to lay eggs will spend more time than usual on the floor. She will eat less and may stop eating altogether but will carry on drinking, she will likely scratch on the ground, at the sides of her enclosure and may even dig in plant pots.
Female veiled chameleons will often, but not always, show absolutely stunning colors to indicate they are carrying eggs.
Keep an eye on your chameleon’s size as well. If she is gradually getting fatter while your feeding schedule is still the same there’s a good chance she’s carrying eggs also.
If you see a few of these behaviours present you need to prepare an area for her to deposit her eggs.
Where Does A Chameleon Lay Her Eggs?
A female chameleon won’t just lay her eggs anywhere. In the wild she will find a secluded spot of damp dirt, dig a hole, lay her eggs and then bury them meticulously before leaving them to incubate and hatch. The spot will be in a cool place to ensure the ground remains moist so the hatchlings can crawl out when they are born.
In captivity you need to recreate this. You do this by finding a wide topped container, a large flower pot will do and one that is at least twelve inches tall and twelve inches in width . Fill the container about three quarters of the way from the top with soil that hasn’t been treated with any chemicals or pesticides. Washed play sand also works well for this purpose.
Moisten the soil enough so you can make a tunnel all the way to the bottom that’s stable enough not to collapse. Test this by digging a tunnel with a spoon as if you were digging a hole in wet sand at the beach. Don’t make it too moist though as this will prevent your chameleon from digging a tunnel as much as soil that is too dry would.
When you have done this place the pot in the cage and leave well alone. When your chameleon is ready she will move into the pot, dig a hole and lay her eggs. Do not disturb her while she is doing this and do not let her see you looking. Doing so could cause her serious problems as she will abandon the hole and not lay her eggs. If this happens it’s likely your chameleon will become egg bound which will require veterinary attention.
How Long Does It Take For A Chameleon To Lay Her Eggs?
Again it depends on the variables of enclosure conditions and genetics already discussed. I will add one further point though and that is privacy and how comfortable and secure she feels. If you feel your chameleon is shy and needs a bit more privacy you can put a screen up on the side of the enclosure and place the container more in the corner. It’s important to stress again that they must be left lay their eggs in peace and without an audience.
Some chameleons will take a long time and will dig several test tunnels in the dirt first before settling on a comfortable one so don’t be alarmed if you see several holes dug as this is normal behaviour. Once a chameleon has dug a hole acceptable enough for her the whole laying process and covering of the eggs can be completed within an hour or two. Some can take a couple of days to complete it all depends on the chameleon.
How Many Eggs Does A Chameleon Lay?
Yep! You guessed it! It all depends on those variables again! On average though a female veiled chameleon will lay between twenty and eighty eggs while a panther chameleon will lay between ten and forty. In extremely rare cases a veiled can lay up to two hundred! Whilst the tiny pygmy leaf chameleon will lay just one or two.
What To Do After A Chameleon Lays Eggs?
This question concerns both dealing with the infertile eggs and caring for your chameleon after she has laid a clutch.
Unless your chameleon has recently been mated the eggs are going to be infertile so there’s no need to keep them and worry about how to incubate them. As they are organic matter they can be discarded in your recycling compost bin or just in your garden.
Egg laying puts a massive strain on a chameleon’s body. All that digging she does accompanied with the act of laying the eggs itself will leave your chameleon feeling very weak at the end of it.
When you see that your chameleon has finished covering and flattening down the sand, give her a little time to rest and then gently, if she will allow, pick her up and place on her favourite branch. She will need plenty of water and food.
Start off by giving her a good, long misting with a fine and luke warm spray. This will get all the sand and dirt off her body and give her the opportunity to get a much needed drink. Afterwards give her a couple of large feeder insects heavily dusted in pure calcium. This is important because her calcium levels will be depleted after all that effort. Give her extra food for the next three or four days so she can regain her strength and then return her regular feeding schedule after that.
What is chameleon Egg Binding?
This is when a chameleon retains her eggs inside her and becomes egg bound. This happens when she is unable to lay her eggs due to incorrect husbandry conditions or if a laying bin hasn’t been provided. It can also occur when she lays a clutch of eggs but not all of them are released. Egg binding is a rare occurrence but is very serious so you need to be on the look out for this.
If you see signs of illness such as sunken eyes, not eating for long periods of time, open mouth breathing then your chameleon could have a problem. These symptoms can mean your chameleon has any number of problems but you can check for signs of egg binding by feeling the sides of her stomach and seeing if you can feel any eggs.
If you suspect your chameleon has become egg bound you will need to take her to the vets as soon as possible. If egg binding is diagnosed your vet will likely inject her with oxytocin to induce laying, several of these may be required over a few days. If this doesn’t work then surgery to remove the eggs will be the only other option and something that your vet will discuss with you.
Following the advice I’ve given in this article about how to prepare your chameleon for laying her eggs is the best way to prevent egg binding from occurring. As I mentioned, egg laying is extremely hard on female chameleons. It’s the main reason they have shorter life spans than males but give them the care they need and they have a much better chance of living a longer life and quickly getting back to full health after they’ve laid a clutch of eggs.