Keeping two bearded dragons together is unnatural. In their natural environment bearded dragons are quite happy leading solitary lives. Males and females will come together to mate, then, having performed the deed, will go off on their separate ways again. Members of the same sex do not come together to socialise.
In setting up a bearded dragon’s vivarium we concentrate on getting its living conditions as close as possible to how it lives in the wild. We wouldn’t think of lowering the basking temperature just because we would be uncomfortable sitting under that degree of heat – so why is it that we so often think they are miserable living on their own as nature intended just because we wouldn’t like to live like that?
Why is it that we put time and energy into researching their physical needs, but ignore all the evidence that points to their social requirements?
Let’s face it – people buy two bearded dragons out of the mistaken belief that they need company. I did it myself so I can’t criticise, but I can question, why? It appears that as human beings are very social animals we cannot come to terms with any creature that appreciates solitude. The only other animal similar in these requirements is the far more common hamster. And it’s probably only that a great many more people have had experience with keeping these as pets for a much longer period of time than the relatively new bearded dragon that there is a more general acceptance of this. No pet shop would sell you two hamsters to live in the same cage together, but they’ll happily sell you a pair of bearded dragons.
As bearded dragons are notoriously difficult to sex until they are adult – and even then ‘males’ can surprise their owners by laying eggs – buying two juveniles is a risky business. It is generally accepted that two males will fight, but people assume that two females or a male and female will live happily together. Wrong. They may do, or they may do for a number of years, but there are reports that even after 5 or more years they turn on each other. And beardies can do very severe damage in the first fight, sometimes resulting in death or at the very least, serious injury.
The result of keeping a male and female together is that they will breed. That sounds a wonderful idea at first, but after you’ve paid for new vivariums to house the 40 or 50 babies that result, and then look at having to do it a second, third, fourth and goodness knows how many times around, it’s not just the female that’s suffering from the over eager attentions of the male, but your purse and your time! If you don’t want the eggs to hatch you can freeze them immediately after they are laid which is a humane way of disposing of them before the embryo develops its nervous system. But constantly being gravid will damage the female’s health. No wonder in the wild females keep away from males!
The worst thing that we can do when keeping bearded dragons – or any kind of reptiles or even other pets come to that – is to humanise them. I still get asked whether you can leave eggs in the vivarium to hatch! Apart from the fact they won’t hatch as the environment is all wrong, as soon as those cute little hatchlings emerge from their eggs the mother would simple view them as a delicious meal and gobble them up. They do not have a maternal instinct like we do, and are no lesser creatures for that. They are simply not human! We weren’t sure what sex a deformed baby we kept was until one day when he was fully grown we let him out at the same time as his parents. He immediately tried to mate with his mother and kill his father. Quite natural for a bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons have bearded dragon thoughts and feelings as well as physical requirements and these should be taken into account as much as anything else when setting up the vivarium. If you want two bearded dragons, even if you’re planning to mate them, have two separate vivariums. For bearded dragons this is being kind, not cruel. Getting this right is as important as getting the heating, substrate and feeding requirements right.