Four white eggs on a bed of straw

Do Chameleons Lay Eggs?

If you have a female chameleon, you’re probably wondering whether or not, and at what point, she will lay eggs. Most chameleon species lay eggs, although there are some chameleon species that give live birth, for example the Jackson’s Chameleon.

Do Chameleons Lay Eggs?

Most female chameleons lay eggs

Oviparous Female Chameleons

Chameleons that give birth in the way of most reptiles – by laying and hatching a clutch of eggs – are referred to as oviparous.

In the wild, an oviparous female chameleon will climb down from her arboreal home onto the forest floor, then she’ll dig a burrow to lay her eggs in. Once she’s laid her eggs, she’ll cover the burrow over so that it looks as though it was never there. Then she’ll climb back up into her tree while her eggs incubate.

The vast majority of female chameleons and chameleon species are oviparous. But there are a few exceptions.

Ovoviviparous Female Chameleons

Although not in the majority, there are chameleon species who give live birth. 

Chameleons that give live birth are called ovoviviparous. An ovoviviparous chameleon’s live birth doesn’t take place in the same way as with mammals. Rather, the female chameleon actually hatches her clutch of eggs inside her body, then gives birth to her hatchlings.

Among pet chameleons, the most well-known ovoviviparous chameleon species is the Jackson’s Chameleon. A female Jackson’s Chameleon can give birth to up to 30 live hatchlings, each being pretty much independent immediately after birth.

Other ovoviviparous chameleons include species in the trioceros and the bradypodion genera. 

When Do Chameleons Start Laying Eggs?

Female chameleons begin producing eggs around the time that they reach sexual maturity. This differs from species to species, and can even differ from individual to individual within a species. Some chameleon species reach sexual maturity within six months. Others can take up to two years to reach sexual maturity.

In general, however, most species of chameleons reach sexual maturity within their first year.

Pro Tip: If you plan on breeding your female chameleon, it’s best to wait until she’s at least 18 months old because of the toll that egg production and breeding can take on her body.

How Often Do Chameleons Lay Eggs?

Once a female chameleon has reached sexual maturity, her egg-laying cycle will begin.

Again, giving room for variance among species and even among individuals, you can expect your female chameleon to lay eggs a couple of times per year. Some species lay eggs every 3-6 months. Rather than think in terms of how many times per year your female chameleon may lay eggs, it’s best to simply watch for the signs that she’s about to do so.

Signs that your female chameleon is about to lay clutch of eggs include:

  • Change of Color. Chameleons change color to communicate. For her part, a female chameleon will change colors to let males know whether they’re receptive or gravid. These colors will be different from her normal resting colors.
  • Change in Appetite. Some chameleons eat less when they’re about to lay eggs, others will eat and drink more. You’ll want to be on the lookout for any change in your female chameleon’s normal eating habits.
  • Spending Time on the Floor. In her natural habitat, a female chameleon will climb down to the ground to look for a place to lay her eggs. If your chameleon is spending more time on the floor and is scratching the floor or the sides of her cage, she’s looking for a place to lay her eggs.
  • Enlarged Belly. An enlarged bell is a good indication that your female chameleon has eggs to lay.
  • Weight Gain. This can be difficult to judge if you can’t handle your chameleon without causing it stress. However, if you’ve been able to regularly weigh your chameleon, a sudden increase in weight from her norm is a good indication that she’s about to lay eggs.

Green chameleon on a branch

What to Do If Your Female Chameleon Is About to Lay Eggs

When the signs point to your female chameleon being ready to lay a clutch of eggs, you need to provide her with a proper place to do so.

Start by setting up her laying bin.

  1. Get a plastic bin between 10-12 in. long, 10-12 in. wide, and 8-10 in. deep.
  2. Fill the bin with 6 in. of moist substrate. Most chameleon keepers use a mixture of “washed play sand” and organic potting soil. 
  3. Test the substrate to make sure it’ll hold its shape. If the substrate is too dry, the hole will collapse on the female chameleon, and she may not complete the egg-laying process. This can cause “egg retention.” An egg bound chameleon is at serious risk.
  4. Provide a plant or stick or some other way for your chameleon to climb in and out of the bin.
  5. Make sure she has the proper UVB lighting over the enclosure. You need a T5 High Output Linear UVB light.
  6. Proper supplementation. You should be gut-loading your feeder insects prior to each feeding. You should also dust them with calcium without D3 on every feeding, and a multivitamin and calcium with D3 twice per month.

As much as you may want to watch your female chameleon dig her burrow and lay her eggs, you need to give her lots of privacy. If you disturb her at all, she may abandon her efforts and retain her eggs. 

Pro Tip: Add some extra privacy to your chameleon cage by wrapping it with a bed sheet to give her privacy. Be sure to cut a few holes in the sheet for proper ventilation.

A chameleon’s egg-laying process typically takes between 6 to 10 hours.

How Many Eggs Do Chameleons Lay?

The number of eggs per clutch depends in large part on the species, but also on the individual female.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger the species, the more eggs per clutch a female chameleon is likely to lay. Some species can lay up to 100 eggs per clutch. However, this is not the norm, and you’ll want to do what you can to keep your female chameleon’s clutch size to between 20-30 eggs.

You can achieve this by maintaining a strict feeding schedule and keeping your chameleon cage at optimal temperature and humidity levels.

Egg Bound Chameleon: Know the Signs of Egg Retention

Egg binding, or dystocia, is a potentially life-threatening condition with female chameleons. Fortunately it’s also very preventable with proper husbandry. Simply providing the best conditions for your female chameleon to lay her eggs will significantly reduce the risk of her becoming egg bound.

However, even when you take all precautions and provide your chameleon with the best conditions for her to lay her eggs, you’ll still want to keep your eyes open for signs of egg binding. These include:

  • Prolonged gravidity without egg-laying
  • Continued loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Visible discomfort

If you suspect you’re dealing with an egg bound chameleon, get her to your reptile vet immediately. If left untreated, the eggs will rot inside your chameleon and she will likely die.

Takeaway: Most chameleon species lay eggs. However, there are a few species of chameleon that give live birth. Jackson’s Chameleons are the best-known species of chameleon that gives live birth.

If you have questions or would like to give feedback, please email us at 

team@dragonsdiet.com

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