Why Breed Crickets for Bearded Dragons?
The house cricket is the main sustenance for bearded dragons and many other reptiles and amphibians; if you have one of these animals, you know that a constant and reliable supply of crickets is necessary.
Crickets can also be used for fishing, or you could even start a serious cricket farming business and sell the crickets you raise.
Before getting to the “how to breed crickets for bearded dragons” part lets first list down a few pros and cons of breeding crickets for bearded dragons.
Pros and Cons to Cricket Breeding
Before you start breeding crickets, there are some things you should consider.
Bad Things (Cons)
- The crickets will make a bit of noise, so you should have some place to put them where this will not become a problem.
- Some crickets may escape, be prepared. During the manipulation of crickets from container to container, some may escape. You can put insecticide pellets such as those used to kill earwigs in the room, so they don’t take over the house.
- Cricket farming can get a bit smelly. But if the breeding environment is kept clean, the smell will be significantly reduced.
Good Things (Pros)
- You will have a constant supply of insects to feed your bearded dragon. In the long run, it’s cheaper to breed your own crickets than to buy them. And the more animals you have to feed, the cheaper it gets!
- You could even earn some money if you find where to sell them in your area.
If you haven’t changed your mind about breeding crickets for bearded dragons which I am sure you haven’t, then let’s start building a nice farm for crickets.
Building The Cricket Farm
The Cricket Farm is compounded by a breeding container, a nesting container, and a rearing container.
The breading container is where we will build a habitat for the crickets to live and breed. These are also the crickets you will use to feed your bearded dragon or any other reptile.
The nesting container is where the eggs will be laid.
The rearing container is where we will place the nesting container for the eggs to hatch, and where the crickets will stay until they can go into the breading container or are sold.
Building the Breeding Container
To build a breeding container for crickets, you will need:
- 20 Gallon Rubbermaid tub with cover
- Aluminum mosquito screen
- Hot glue gun
- Egg flats
- Jar covers for food and water
One of the main reasons for crickets to die in farms is the lack of ventilation. The first thing we will do is to provide the breeding container with plenty of air.
We first cut big holes on both ends of the Rubbermaid tub and on the cover. When you cut the side holes make sure to leave a 3-inch border at the top. This is, so crickets don’t climb to the border and jump out when you open the container.
Then we cut a piece of aluminum mosquito screen for each hole. The screen pieces must be a bit bigger than the holes so that it can be glued. We then use the hot glue gun to fix the screens to the tub.
Check the image to see how the ventilation window should look like. (Ignore the interior of the container)
Once the ventilation is ready, we will glue three or four egg flats together to make them easier to handle when needed. Leave the egg flats in the breeding container.
Building the Nesting Container
You will need:
- Sandwich tub
- Some kind of substrate like Eco-Earth
- Something to make holes on the sandwich tub cover
The nesting container is easy to prepare; you just have to pack the substrate inside, leave about half an inch from the top of the soil to the rim of the container.
Drill holes into the sandwich tub cover.
Building the Rearing Container
You will need:
- Medium sweater box
- Egg flats
- Something to make holes on the sweater box cover.
- Cello-tape or packing tape
- Jar covers for food and water
Drill holes on the sweater box cover, about 1 inch apart. The baby crickets should not be able to escape from the sweater box due to the slippery of the walls. But if you want to guarantee that this doesn’t happen, you can fasten a strip of wide cello-tape or packing tape around the entire inside rim of the container. This makes the wall even more slippery.
Before we get to the breeding process, you should know what crickets drink and eat. This is very important because, with inadequate nutrition, your crickets will die or prey each other. Another important factor is that if the quality of the food is not good, those crickets won’t be good for your bearded dragon or any other reptile.
What to give the crickets to eat:
There are several commercial products that can be bought, like Fluker’s High Calcium Cricket Feed or Nature Zone Cricket Food Bites.
If you’d rather prepare your homemade cricket food, here is the recipe:
Buy commercial dried cat food, put it into the tub, add ten parts skim milk powder to 1 part of a good quality calcium supplement intended for reptiles and amphibians. Put a cover on the tub and shake it, so the powder coats the cat food.
To serve the food to the crickets, we will use jar covers or something similar.
What to give the crickets to drink:
Water can be a problem if you serve it on a jar cover crickets can drown. If you use damp cotton wool or sponge, you can have an issue with bacteria, and it’s also quite messy.
The best solution is to buy a product such as Fluker’s Cricket Quencher, or Nature Zone Cricket Water Bites.
You can also make your own water gel. Just buy water crystals at a plant shop, mix it with water, and you will get water gel.
Complete Cricket Diet Products:
Also, you can find products that will provide nutrients and hydration such as Fluker’s Orange Cube Complete Cricket Diet or Nature Zone Cricket Total Bites.
Once the farm is ready, and we know what our crickets will eat, let’s start the breeding.
You will need:
- 10 to 30 crickets if you will only use them for breeding, or from 500 to 1000 if you will also intend to feed your bearded dragon.
- Heat pad or heat bulb. This can be worked around if you want, continue reading.
The heat pad and the thermometer are to ensure that the crickets live in an environment of about 85º F, which is the perfect breeding temperature. If you go over, 95º F crickets will start to die. If you go under 70º F, they will not die but will breed less.
If you don’t want to buy a heating pad or heat bulb, you can put the crickets in a warm room, near a heater, or even on top of the computer if it’s always working, it’s up to you.
The next step is placing the nesting container, without the cover, into the breeding container. Also, put the jar covers with food and water gel.
Once the environment is ready, now put the crickets in the breeding container, and close it with the screened cover.
In 4 to 7 days, the female crickets will have laid their eggs in the nesting container, and it should be removed. If you want, you can put another nesting container in the breeding container to keep the crickets breeding.
Put the cover on the nesting container, remember it must have holes so the moisture can get out. The nesting container now should be put into a rearing container and kept at about 85ºF to 90ºF make sure the substrate keeps moist. If needed, spay it with water.
In about another 4 or 5 days the eggs will start hatching, it’s time to provide them some food. Remove the sandwich tub cover, and put some lettuce and greens on the substrate.
Once you’ve got tons of babies running around, put some food and water gel in the rearing container using jar covers. Put the egg flats inside the rearing container and a bit of toilet paper that goes from the substrate to the bottom of the rearing tub. The paper will be used by the babies to get out of the nesting container.
When all the baby crickets have left the nesting container, remove it from the rearing container. When the crickets get about 1/4″ put them in the breeding container, so they start the process again.
Important Tip:Before you put the crickets in the breeding container, you should clean it, and replace the egg flats for new ones if they are very messy.
All you have to do is open the breeding container, pick the egg flats (lots of crickets will be inside) and move them to a spare container. Then, using a box or similar, you can move all the crickets to the spare container.
Clean the container with hot water and soap to kill bacteria. Also clean the food recipients, if you can put them in boiling water to kill bacteria. Once this is done, dry everything and put the crickets back in the breeding container.