Breeding crickets at home is a great way to save money on buying them to feed to your pet and will give you a consistent supply, without ever having to venture out to the pet store. Breeding these insects is relatively simple provided that you have the right set-up, furthermore, you could start up a business farming crickets to make yourself a nice side income.
Introduction to How To Breed Crickets For A Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets in the world since they are easy to take care of and relatively docile animals that are a great introduction to the world of exotic pets, especially for children. But these animals have an appetite for crickets and this is one of the staple parts of their diet; most beardie owners will be familiar with the regular trips to the pet store to top up their supply of live crickets.
But what if there were an easier way? The good news is that there is a far easier way of feeding your lizard; breed your own!
In this article, we will be looking at the best way to breed crickets for a bearded dragon as well as giving you a deeper insight into the pros and cons of feeding your pet this way.
How To Breed Crickets For Bearded Dragons.
In order to start breeding crickets for your beardie, you will need to start a cricket farm; and don’t worry, this is not as complicated as it might first sound. In short, you will need a container in which to keep the crickets and this will need to be split into three sections. One section should be for rearing pinheads, a breeding container where the bulk of the crickets will live and mate, and finally, a nesting container where the mothers will lay their eggs.
Most people will use a series of plastic containers, although you can purchase specialized enclosures for the crickets should you wish to do so. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you would set up each aspect of the cricket enclosure.
The Breeding Container
As the main area where your crickets will live and breed, this is potentially one of the most important parts of the cricket farm. Not only are these crickets those that will make up the bulk of your colony but they will also be the ones that you offer to your pet, so you must ensure that they are healthy.
You will need a plastic container that is at least 20 liters and you will also need a ventilated cover. Many people make the mistake of not providing good airflow through the enclosure and this will cause the crickets to perish. The best way to do this is to make holes at either end of the container and cover these with an aluminum mesh, a mosquito screen would work well. You can then place egg flats inside and seal the container with its lid.
Be sure that there is no way that the crickets can escape; the last thing you want is a family of crickets hopping around the home.
For this, you can use a much smaller container – many people opt to use nothing more than a regular plastic sandwich tub. It does not need to be as large as the breeding container. However, you must be sure to line the base with a quality substrate, which can be purchased from a pet supply store. Do not make the mistake of lining the tub too thinly; you will need to leave only an inch of clearance between the top of the substrate and the top of the tub.
Of course, ventilation is important but with this setup, you are free to simply drill some holes into the lid of the container and this will be enough to provide the crickets with sufficient airflow.
This container needs to be a decent size and a lot of home cricket breeders will use a sweater box, in a medium size. You must be sure that the baby crickets are not able to climb the sides of the box and a good way of ensuring this is to line it with sellotape or some other slippery tape.
Inside the container, you can place the egg flats as well as a shallow dish for food and water. Once the cricket eggs hatch, you will keep them in this container until they are either fed to your pet, moved into the breeding container, or sold on if you have decided to set up a business selling crickets to other pet owners.
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What Can I Feed My Crickets?
In much the same way that you will want to provide good nutrition for your bearded dragon, you will need to make sure that his food is fed adequately.
One of the great things about breeding crickets for a bearded dragon is that there are several reputable crickets feeds available both online and in pet stores that you can offer directly to the insects. However, if you are looking to save money, and most people who are breeding at home are, you can make a home-made feed for the crickets.
This is a relatively simple recipe and consists of skimmed milk powder and dried cat food. You will mix ten parts of the skimmed milk powder into a calcium supplement that is specifically made for reptiles. Then mix this in with the cat food so that it becomes covered in the powder. You can then place this in a shallow container and into the cricket enclosure.
Of course, your crickets will need hydration but if you offer water in a dish, there is a risk that the insects may fall in and drown. However, a great alternative is to place a soaked cotton wool ball into the enclosure and the crickets can take their moisture from this. When using this method, it is important to keep in mind that if you do not stay on top of changing the cotton wool, there is a risk of bacteria developing. If you will not be able to regularly change it, cricket water bites can be purchased as an alternative.
How To Breed The Crickets
Putting the crickets into the breeding enclosure is all the action you will need to take to begin with and it is then a matter of allowing nature to take its course. The number of crickets you will need is quite high, with most people accepting at upwards of 500 will be enough to feed your dragon. However, to start breeding, you might only need around 50.
You must ensure that the crickets have a home that is conducive to breeding and a temperature of 30ºc is ideal – this can be achieved using a heat lamp or pad.
You will need to place the smaller nesting container into the breeding container as this will allow the females to access it and lay their eggs. The process should be complete in around 7 days and at this point, you will need to remove the nesting container. This can be replaced with a new nesting container if you would like to keep the cycle going.
You must keep the nesting container at a similar temperature and be sure to keep the substrate moist to prevent the eggs from dying. They will not take long to hatch, in fact, in around four days, you will start noticing the babies emerging.
You can then place the nesting container into the rearing container and use a piece of kitchen paper as a ‘ramp’ for the babies to leave the nesting container. You will also need to make sure that they have a good supply of food and water. You will then leave the babies in the rearing container until they are around a quarter of an inch in size, at which point, they can be transferred to the breeding container.
What Are The Benefits Of Breeding Crickets For Bearded Dragons?
It is clear to anyone that breeding crickets at home are one of the most thrifty ways of feeding your pet. Of course, you will need to make an initial investment in the crickets and the equipment for creating the farm, but after that, the maintenance costs are far lower than constantly purchasing live crickets from a pet store.
Furthermore, these insects are in high demand so, as we have mentioned, there is an option to sell your yield for a profit – just be sure to register the appropriate documents for running a business. If you don’t want to set up shop but have more crickets than you know what to do with, there is also the option to use them as fishing bait; if this is a hobby you are into.
You will never run out of food for your bearded dragon and the process of breeding the crickets is quite simple and will not take up masses of your time; certainly, no more than it would take to pop to the pet shop.
However, there are also a couple of downsides, but this isn’t enough to put most people off. Primarily, there is a small chance of cricket or two escaping and the cricket farm may give off an unpleasant odor. Furthermore, the crickets can make a substantial amount of noise but all of these problems can be combated by keeping the farm in a room that is closed off – for example, an insulated garage or in the home office.
Breeding crickets for your bearded dragon is a great way to save money and have a constant food supply for your pet. Getting started is very straightforward and involves no more than gathering together the right containers and a few pieces of equipment such as a heat pad and substrate.
Once you have an established farm, it is merely a matter of rotating nesting tubs and crickets and then taking your pick of the best ones to offer to your bearded dragon.