Before I got my bearded dragons I tried to learn as much as possible about them. I asked around and read a lot. But I hear much about brumation. Now I understand that most adult bearded dragons WANT to brumate and they must be allowed to do that. I have also found out that all dragon's brumates in different ways. Even if you try to prevent them from brumating - they will do it anyway..!
The first time your bearded dragon wants to brumate - it will probably scare you. Your dragon will become lethargic, sleepy and he or she seems sick. Ok, It is always best to take a fecal sample to the vet to rule out sickness before you let your dragon brumate. If the dragon has parasites it can be dangerous for it to brumate.
Must be healthy
If you know that your dragon is healthy, it is quite safe to let it brumate. HOW you let your dragon brumate varies a lot. It seems to be as many methods as it is dragons and owners. One thing is very important though - because they doesn't bask and digests its food during brumation they shouldn't have any food in their stomach. So make sure your dragon has pooped before it goes to sleep.
This is how I do
Personally I notice that my dragons gets less active in November/December and just wants to sleep. Usually they don't want to eat as much either at this time of the year. When I see these signs I take fecal samples and bring them to the vet and if they are healthy I reduce the daylight hours down to 7-8 hours/day. Depending of where the dragon decide to brumate I turn off the UVB-light. Disa sleeps under the log and doesn't get any light anyway, so for her it doesn't matter if the UVB is on. Until 2002 Teo and Cicero lived together and 2001 Cicero brumated, but not Teo. 2002 it was the other way around…! Therefor I leave all the lights on but cut down the hours to 8. Teo sleeps under a piece of corkbark, but are half-awake. Disa is also half-awake but stays under her log.
Once a week I bring them out and give them some water to drink. Not all owners do this - but since I keep my dragons in room temperature they don't go into total brumation (it is too warm for that) their metabolism isn't "closed down" so in my opinion they can use some fluids once in a while so they don't get dehydrated.
Because the brumating methods vary I have asked some people to write down their own experiences. You can read them below.
Do you also want to tell me how you do this?
Please email me!
Disa is brumating, only her foot is visable..!
Personal experiences from bearded dragon owners
I continue offering food but if they don't want to eat then I'd let them be... no enticing them to eat... one of mine
is in semi-brumation... he's not losing any weight but has no intention of
moving from his branch unless he sees a red Repcal-pellet or blueberry. He's going on 2 years old and has been like
this for a month. One of the other dragons goes to her bowl every other day and eats and is only awake about 6 hours
a day before she retreats to her hide box to sleep. I won't force any of them to eat as long as they are maintaining
their weights and have a overall healthy appearance. I figure if they do want to go fully to sleep, then it'd be better to
have empty stomachs.
If mine go into brumation I intend to turn off the UVB light, lower the wattage on the heat light, and just leave them
on the normal winter timer (9-10 hours of daylight). I will let them brumate in their tanks. Once they wake up, I'll up
the wattage's back and return the UVB light.
I tend to be someone who lets animals go with their natural instincts. I disagree with the general philosophy that
beardies need to brumate in order to breed.
My first winter with beardies I had two females. One was two months older than the other and she decided to brumate.
I didn't want them to because even the older one was only 90 grams. I did all that I could to wake her up. She would
crawl under their basking log every day and go to sleep. I would pull her out and put her in the heat. She would sit
there sleepy-eyed for a while then crawl back under the log. The other one, two months younger stayed awake all winter.
She grew much larger than the brumater, Tata. The younger one, Lipstick became a great breeder, laying five clutches a
season with 24-28 eggs each, all hatching. Lipstick never sleeps if a light is on.
Tata brumates as soon as cool weather approaches. Tata is infertile, I don't know why. She's healthy and came from a
good breeder I've become good friends with. But she has been with the same male that Lipstick is with. Just never laid
an egg. So if they seem to want to sleep now I let them. Same with other lizards I own. I don't brumate them, they brumate
themselves. If they get really sleepy, I stop heating them, but I don't "cool them down." I just leave them in the room
temperature of our house.
And every few weeks I wake them up and see if they want any water or greens or anything. Usually they only want water,
if anything. And I weigh them to make sure they're not losing any weight. Oh, and that first winter when Tata slept for
nearly six months, she would eat about one cricket a week when I made her wake up. And I did weigh her once a week since
she was so little She only lost one gram. Now she's full grown and healthy and a great pet for my son. But she was much
smaller than Lipstick when she finally crawled out from under that log in the spring.
I don't really entice nor force my BDs into brumation, however, if I see that they want to go down I help them settle
First I should state that I do change the duration of how long the lights are on. I gradually change the timer from
14 hours a day to 11 hours a day with the coming of winter. When I see a dragon eating less and less, and sleeping
more and more; I will reduce the number of lights-on hours to 8.
I only feed about every other day for those dragons who are light sleepers and don't feed anything for those dragons
who are heavy sleepers. All the dragons get baths (drinks) once a week. This is the only time I've gotten bitten by a
dragon. A heavy sleeper did not like me digging her out of the hide for her bath.
As for hides... again I play around with various ones till I find what the individual dragon likes, or doesn't like.
There are a couple who just want their heads peeking out, a few who like it dark and a few who just want *shade*.
The dragons get weighed before bath time. If they loose a few grams I don't worry about it.
As I try to answer your post, I realize that I don't do things the same at all for my dragons. They are such individuals
that I just adjust what I do according to THEM. So, I'm sorry if I didn't give you a straight forward answer.
I put light back to 11, 12 hours. I do this when I see they go into the cave and sleep and stay there the whole day.
I also turn some fewer watts in enclosure then. Instead of a 100 watt I put a 60-watt in.
So at least the have a bit of warmth. Most of time they come out of the cave after 2-2½ months.
Mine did it themselves. They just stopped eating and started sleeping all day under their logs. I still turn on the heat
light for 10 hours a day but I am using lower watt bulbs. They are not completely asleep, often their eyes are open and
they look at me when I talk to them but they have not moved out from under their logs for weeks (unless I pull them out).
I have been bringing them out every week or so, offering food and water, which they do not take. I give them a bath and put
them on their basking spots to heat up. They stay there most of that day but then jump down and go back under their logs.
I hope I am handling this right because I am not sure what to do. We read all the books and care sheets before we even got
Princess and Dunlap but this is something I don't think I was prepared for. I miss them so much!
My daughter keeps asking when they will wake up but I figure that they will probably wake up when they want to. I know they
are pets, not wild animals, but I have tried to let them do as they wish with this horrible brumation thing. When I get
them out they look healthy and they have not really lost any weight. I will be happy when they wake up though.
Buddy went without my help. I noticed that he was sleepier as the weather got cooler and even though he was only
9 months old at the time I knew what it was.
He slowed down on his eating and became less active. I shortened his "daylight" to 12 hours and left the heat at
his regular temps. He slept for 1 week and woke up for a while. He would wake up daily for another week but still
wasn't eating. Now 2 weeks later he's awake and eating again. We started him on just veggies for 2 days and then
when he was eating a good amount of veggies we started giving him crix as well.
Brumating can be essential to making sure your animals are healthy if you intend to breed.
We're all nervous parents here, in captivity, we haven't really got a choice whether they brumate or not.
Some dragons don't want to brumate, one of ours didn't this year, and another slept for 3 months...
If they want to go to sleep, there's not much you can do to stop 'em :)
Just make sure the area is well ventilated, doesn't get too cold, and that there's always fresh water available.
The Reptile Rooms
I have 6 adult dragons. One of them (7.5 years old) has never brumated. The rest have brumated before but only
one has done so this year. The one that chose to brumate started about 2 mo. ago and today came out to bask.
This female is in a tank with 3 other females. 2 of the others slowed down a bit and ate less but didn't really
alter their routine too much. The 4th one (who brumated 2 years ago and last year) hasn't showed ANY signs of
slowing down at all on eating or basking.
Luau, now 2 years, brumated the first year on me. She was only about 10 inches long when she did that. Made me
very nervous but she came out of it and pigged out in 2001. This year she has slowed a bit and glares at me from
a branch about 1 foot from the heat light most days.
I have not ever TRIED to brumate a dragon. I don't really see the useful purpose. I leave it up to them.
Reptiles among other things
I don't brumate them... they do it on their own.
When the male does go down for the winter.. I just shorten the photoperiod (the female has never brumated.)
Usually mine will just start slowing down. Actually she is starting to brumate right now I think.
It usually happens when the temperature outside of the enclosure (and inside) is cooling down.
The beardies realize this and start slowing down. Eventually it is like hibernation and they will just sleep.
Of course you just leave some food in with em to nibble on (they don't sleep constantly you know) and some water
and leave em to sleep.
I just let my dragons do their own thing. I've had them brumate while sitting on the basking branch at
100 degrees and I've had them burrow into the substrate and close the opening behind them.
I've had free-roamers spend a month or more crashed out in a closet or under a nightstand.
I've never been able to force a brumation on any of my dragons, they just decide when it's time and that's that...