Neena is an owner of two bearded dragons and a self-described reptile enthusiast.
Whether you're a first time reptile owner or know quite a bit; it can still be daunting when winter time comes. What is brumation? How long will they sleep? Will they need food? What about water? What will they need when they wake up? And what should you do to prepare them for this?
Brumation is comparable to a semi-hibernation
Some bearded dragons will slow down during the cold, winter months. Not all will go into a deep sleep. Some will sleep for 40-60 days; and others may sleep for a week- wake up for a couple days- and then go back to sleep.
1.) How to prepare your bearded dragon for brumation
First thing to be clear of is that you dont want to force your bearded dragon go into brumation. It's not something that always happens and each bearded dragon is different. And on the other end of this: if they are trying to brumate, you don't want to keep them up. They either will, or won't on their own. So, how do you know?
- The weeks leading up to a deep sleep they will bask for a shorter amount of time
-They will start hiding alot, going under their hide, closing their eyes.
When you notice this happening alot especially late fall, early winter, you want to:
-Stop feeding leading up to brumation.
-Make sure they have one final bowel movement before allowing them to go into a deep sleep.
The reason for these things are essential. If they are going to sleep for a period of time, any food left in their stomachs have a chance of rotting inside, and you don't want that!
So, this leads me to the next point..
2.) What if they DON'T have a bowel movement?
If they continuously are hiding, trying to sleep, and still haven't had emptied the remaining of their bowels, there are a few things you can do to help:
Give a warm bath every day or every other day to stimulate the bowel movement
Offer water or a small amount of baby food to also get it going.
It may take up to a week or two (for a really stubborn case) after doing these things but it will eventually happen, and then your bearded dragon is ready for brumation! So then what?...
3.) Where are they going to sleep?
They will typically go under something to hide such as a cave in their enclosure. Once they lay down somewhere that they chose, I typically cover it with a blanket so its dark for them. Its also okay to have them sleep, undisturbed, outside of the encloure, a few things to keep in mind though; temperature and lighting
- You'll want to ensure the room is at 70 degrees. If your apartment or house stays at that temperature, its okay for them to sleep anywhere during their brumation.
- If the air temperature is not at 70 degrees, they can sleep in the enclosure with a ceramic heat emitter that does not produce light.
- They do not need UVB lights during this time
- Natural light and room lights will disturb them, so I always cover their spot with a blanket so it stays dark.
4.) Water and food
Your bearded dragon will not need food during this time. It is okay to check on them from time to time and offer water if they wake up. They may wake up for a short time and go back to sleep. You will still want to not offer food, only water. If you offer a bath, you can place them under their heat lamp to dry off and they will likely return to their cave after a short amount of time, and it is okay to leave them be to sleep again.
5.) What to do when they wake back up?
When they do fully wake back up, there are a few important things to do.
- Offer water
- Offer food slowly, perhaps baby food and greens first
- And then insects after a few days of being awake
It's important not to offer insects right away just incase they do go back to sleep again. They will likely have more energy when waking up completely vs when they wake up for a day or two and then go back to sleep.
And then your bearded dragon has had a successful and natural brumation; and will carry on as normal.
Thank you for reading!
I hope this article is helpful to you!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Neena Daniels
Neena Daniels (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on December 10, 2020:
Thank you for the comment, Peggy! Yes it does feel tricky getting it right during brumation! In the wild they may wake up and lick the dew drops around them for hydration- And regarding food, sometimes they may even eat the wrong things in the wild! Which is why wild bearded dragons live about 3 years on average compared to domestic ones living 10-15 years! Them being prey animals has alot of impact on their lifespans as well!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2020:
This sounds a bit tricky to know how and when to offer water and food to a bearded dragon when they are going into or out of brumation. In the wild, they undoubtedly do these things naturally.