The Eight Letter Secret to Keeping Chondros: PATIENCE

calm-beachThere is a reason why people will get into chondros, invest lots of money over a short period, only to bail out and sell off everything a short time later.  These animals require a significant amount of patience.  The general husbandry techniques can be more trying than that of most other reptiles. But the breeding, incubating, and hatching techniques are ridiculously hard to nail down.

Breeding.  For starters, there seems to be a need for chemistry to be present, and since they can’t talk this is extremely hard to know what two animals will have the right chemistry.  Then, once tail wrapping occurs, it is almost impossible to know if the tail wrapping was actual copulation.  This cat-and-mouse game of watching, studying, looking for signs of progress takes several months before knowing if a breeding is successful.

Once the breeding is successful, the next four events will happen on their own.  The follicle swelling, ovulation, pre-lay shed, and then egg laying will all take place on roughly a predictable time schedule.   This is the easiest part of the process since it requires no effort on our part, the female does this all herself.

Once eggs are laid, breeders have a choice to make of either letting the female maternally incubate, or using artificial incubation methods.  Most breeders opt for the latter to promote a faster recovery for the female.  That means the next 50 days the breeder will be responsible for maintaining a suitable incubation environment.  Stable temperatures and humidity are essential here, and a 50 day stretch is certainly long enough for problems to occur requiring either a minor or a major backup plan.

At the end of the incubation period, surviving embryos are developed ready to hatch.  They usually can do so on their own, but sometimes the shells are tough, and they can drown in the eggs without assistance.  On the contrary, if the breeder is hoping to avoid drowning related deaths and pips the eggs, they can be pipped too early allowing pre-mature neonates to emerge before they are ready, also resulting in death.  This is a very delicate balancing act of timing and luck.

For those breeders lucky enough to have been successful at getting them to breed, produce eggs, and hatch, then the real work begins.  Trying to get baby chondros to feed on their own is where the super-patience is required.  Many, many hours can be devoted to working with stubborn non-feeders to help stimulate them into eating an unnatural prey item (frozen thawed rodents).  When I am working with babies trying to get them to eat, I usually set aside an hour or two, get a good beer, and do my best to settle in for a relaxed session of attempts to feed.  Getting frustrated and anxious will only prolong the time it takes for good results.

Chondros are a fantastic species to work with, but they are far from easy.  Only those with a tremendous depth of patience and the ability to pull on that resource will be able to repeat successful breeding programs.

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