If you’re a fan of barbecue chicken or pot pie, among endless flavorful recipes, you may want to feed some chicken to your bearded dragon. Not only is it versatile and affordable, but it’s also packed with protein and vitamins such as B6 and B12. Even so, chicken may not be as good for bearded dragons as it is for people.
So can bearded dragons eat chicken? The short answer is no. Chicken is not exactly a safe food for your beardie. A piece or two might be fine every few months, but if your bearded dragon eats a lot of chicken, it can result in illness or death.
Why Can't Bearded Dragons Eat Chicken?
Chicken is nutrient-dense, protein-packed, and overall great for human health. However, due to its phosphorus content, chicken puts bearded dragons at risk of developing metabolic bone disease (MBD), a major health concern that could result in permanent paralysis or death.
The danger of too much phosphorus. One of the most important nutrients for bearded dragons is calcium. They need it to digest their food and keep their bones, muscles, and tissues strong. If a bearded dragon doesn’t get enough calcium in her diet, she will develop metabolic bone disease. Symptoms of MBD include:
- Lack of appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Swollen and misshapen limbs and jaw
- Fractures and broken bones
- Paralysis or difficulty moving
If a food contains calcium, it’s important to see if it has phosphorus as well, because phosphorus depletes your dragon’s calcium supply. If the food has more calcium than phosphorus, then the calcium will make it to your dragon’s bloodstream. But if there is more phosphorus than calcium, that usually means trouble.
Chicken has a dangerous calcium to phosphorus ratio: 1 to 16.7. The calcium in chicken will never make it into your dragon’s bloodstream. Its absorption will be prevented by the phosphorus, which will then go to work trying to pull more calcium from your dragon’s bones.
If your dragon eats chicken frequently, or even as infrequently as once a month, the overwhelming amount of phosphorus poses a threat to your dragon’s health. It’s best to just avoid feeding your dragon chicken. Even though bearded dragons technically can eat chicken every so often, it’s far better to be safe than sorry, and there are many other excellent sources of nutrition and protein for them that won’t put their health at risk.
Alternatives to Feeding Your Dragon Chicken
If you are looking for a way to get more protein in your dragon’s diet, the easiest way is to feed live insects. Dubia roaches are possibly the best source of protein for your bearded dragon, but crickets are also available if you live in a state where roaches are illegal.
Chicken eggs are also a great source of protein for your bearded dragon. The best way to serve them is to scramble them without any additional ingredients. Some dragons love eggs, and they work as a great backup plan if you run out of live feeders or have a picky dragon who is currently refusing to eat live bugs.
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