Welcome to the Breeding Page
In addition to reading about it, a good way to get info about breeding is to find reputable breeders (check the Breeder's care sheets, the shape of their hatchlings, and their reputations to see if they are good breeders) and ask them. Most will be quite willing to help you out. Research this as much as you can. There is a huge amount to learn on this topic. It's not something you can just wing.
Preparation for Breeding
So, you have decided you want to breed. What do you do first?
The first thing is that you need a considerable amount of money saved up (considerable = at least several hundred dollars). Breeding is incredibly expensive. You are also exceedingly unlikely to make money. Frankly, you'll be lucky if you make back the money you spent on feeding the hatchlings, let alone the money you've spent on everything else.
Obviously, you need a healthy male and a healthy female. However, keep in mind that they will need to have brilliant coloring if you expect to sell the hatchlings for a decent price. They will both need to be at least 18 inches long from snout to tail and at least a year and a half old. Personally, I feel more comfortable if they are both at least two, but a year and half old is acceptable. No younger.
Next, you need to know the genetic background of the pair for 3-5 generations back to make sure they aren't related. No fresh stock is entering the Bearded Dragon pet trade, and the pool really can't take any more inbreeding than has already occurred. Also keep in mind that there can be severe problems in inbred hatchlings. If you can't find the genetic background, there are DNA tests available.
An exceedingly important step is having both of the pair checked for adenovirus (which is like Bearded Dragon HIV, except extremely contagious). This is an endemic sweeping across the United States, and it has the potential to become a global pandemic very quickly. Bearded Dragons with adenovirus should not be bred under any circumstances. It's that simple. For testing information, check out PATS. Sometimes Bearded Dragons are not shedding the virus at the time tested, and you can get a false negative. Therefore, you should test more than once.
The Act of Breeding
Wild Bearded Dragons have a breeding season; the spring. Captive Bearded Dragons can breed all year round. However, many breeders choose to breed in the spring anyway if their animals undergo a full brumation. Once the animals have resumed normal activity and have had a vet check, then they are bred. This is done because, if an animal undergoes full brumation, their hormone levels are up when they are awake and they are more eager to breed.
It is best to bring the male and female to neutral ground (e.g. a bathtub, or a room they never/rarely go in) for the act of breeding. The female will usually slowly bob her head up and down and/or wave her arm. The male will blacken his beard and bob his head quickly and almost spasmodically. He will then very suddenly jump on the female, bite her neck to keep her still, and mate her. It will only take several minutes in most cases. After he climbs off, each can be returned to their separate enclosure.
A single mating will produce an average of 3-5 clutches (groups of eggs). Each clutch can have anywhere between 15-35 eggs, although 15-25 is the average.
Warning: If the Bearded Dragons start circling each other and twitching their tails, get them separated IMMEDIATELY. That is a sign that they are about to try to kill each other, literally.
Here's a video I got off of youtube (it was recorded by a 'jm999f') that shows a pair of Beardies mating. I'm afraid that the premating ritual isn't really shown on this, but the actual mating itself is a good example.
The Gravid Female and Egg Laying
Your gravid (pregnant) female will require extra TLC.
Her calcium supplementation should be increased to five times a week, and her multivitamin to three times a week. She should be given foods high in nutrients, especially calcium. Foods such as Collard Greens, Sweet Potato, Arugula, Cactus Pad/Pear, Dandelion Greens, Endive, Escarole, Mustard Greens, Squash (Acorn, Summer, Butternut, Hubbard, Scallop, and Spaghetti are all good squashes), and Turnip Greens should be fed daily. Things like Chicory, Alfalfa Sprouts or Greens, Cranberries, the leaves of Hibiscus (make sure they are safe to eat, no fertilizer or pesticide), Papayas, Peppermint Leaves, Seaweed/Kelp, and Wheat Grass twice a week would be good too, or at least a couple types of fruits if you aren't already doing that. This is the time when, if you choose, pinkies can be fed. It would also be a good idea to up the number of feeder insects she is getting, and if you can feed her some silkworms and phoenix worms, those are both excellent foods for this time.
If it is above 70 degrees F. supervised trips outdoors for some sun (UVB) would be beneficial. If her UVB light is on the older side of it's time span, you may want to get her a fresh one.
More baths would be good for her as well, to make sure she is extra hydrated.
Giving her more opportunities to exercise is good as well. Lack of muscle tone is one of the reasons sited for egg-binding.
This treatment should continue for the entirety of the gravid state, not just till her first clutch is laid.
The average time from mating to laying (and between clutches) is three weeks. However, it can be earlier or later.
When the female is ready to lay you will notice obsessive, frantic, and constant digging. The female may also go off of her food, and in some cases it is possible to feel the eggs in her stomach. To make things as easy for the female as possible, it is important to provide her with a place to lay her eggs. Laying boxes serve this function well. A laying box is any large enclosure (like a rubber maid) filled with either sand, soil, or a sand soil mix. The material should be wet enough that it can hold it's shape, so that when she digs her burrow to lay the eggs in it will not collapse on her. It should also be fairly deep, twelve inches or so at the deepest end and gradually becoming more shallow so that she can choose her depth. Many females prefer if the container is not see-through. They also they like it warm. A reptile clamp lamp attached to the laying box is a good idea. Immediately after the eggs have been laid, the female will start to bury them. Allow her to do this without interference. Once she has wandered off, remove her and place her back in her enclosure.
First clutches are sometimes small, but if you believe that the female hasn't laid all of the eggs she has in her body take her to the vet immediately!
The video on the left is of a female Beardie digging her burrow to lay her eggs in, that I found on youtube posted by hjbq. The video on the right is a female in the act of actually laying her eggs, also from youtube, by monkerzz.
Moving the Eggs and Incubation
Moving the Eggs
This is a very important step. Use caution. The eggs must not be tilted or rotated, this will shift the embryo, causing it's death. Some use a spoon to move the eggs, others use their bare hands. The important thing is that they don't rotate. Put them exactly as they were in the indentations you've made with your thumb earlier in the vermiculite containers, and then place them in the incubator. Some like to mark which end is up, so they know they haven't rotated the eggs.
The Hova-Bators are good incubators. Just make sure you don't get the ones with fans. Also, don't get chicken incubators or anything that rotates the eggs, as this will kill the Bearded Dragon embryos.
Within the incubator you should have small containers filled with Vermiculite or Perlite. You should be able to find both at gardening stores. The Vermiculite should be moist enough that the soil sticks to your fingers but not so wet that water comes out when you squeeze it. Fill the little containers with this, and make depression with your thumb for the eggs to rest in. The eggs should not be covered with the vermiculite/perlite. You can put a lid on the containers.
The incubator should be in a room with a constant temperature. Incubating temperatures are very important. It should be between 82-86 degrees F. I like to stay on the lower end of that scale. Cooler will just slow the hatch time, hotter will kill the embryos. The humidity within the incubator should be between 60-80%. I personally like to keep it closer towards the 80% end. This can be maintained with a bowl of water in the incubator or misting. Warning: Do NOT allow water on the eggs. This can kill them. Don't allow condensation on the eggs, either.
Are the Eggs Fertile?
It is fairly easy to tell the difference between fertile and infertile eggs. Fertile ones will be white and leathery. Infertile ones will be yellow and hard. Some usually become infertile in the first week. As long as this only happens to a few, it's normal. After the first few days, it is possible to candle the eggs to see if they are fertile as well. Candling involves holding up a flashlight to the eggs in a dark room. If they are fertile, it is often possible to see small red lines and sometimes a red dot within the egg. (The dot should be upwards). The red lines are blood vessels, and the red dot is the embryo itself. Candling should not be done after the eggs are three days old. After that, the light may "startle" the embryos, causing them to make a rift with their egg sacs, and the eggs also become more fragile as they age.
A note on mold: it does not always mean the eggs are bad. Carefully wipe the mold off, and it is still possible that they are going to hatch. It's when they turn hard and yellow or start smelling that they can be thrown out.
Length of the Incubation Period
The average incubation time is 55-75 days. 90 days is also not uncommon. The length of time depends laregely on the temperature in the incubator.