Lizard Egg Incubation
Incubating lizard eggs is a fun and easy process for most any reptile enthusiast. To hatch lizard eggs you will need to mimic the conditions of the nest in which the eggs are laid in the wild by the mother. From species to species these conditions can vary but there are some constants that all lizard eggs need which are heat, moisture, and air. Without these 3 simple things lizard egg eggs simply cannot survive.
Note that one special consideration that sets reptile eggs apart from chicken eggs is that they must be kept in the position in which they were laid. You can do this by marking the top of each egg with a sharpie or soft leaded pencil. Then when you move them from the nest to the egg box you will be sure which way is up.
The time in which it takes lizard eggs to hatch can vary so be sure to research your species thouroughly.
Overall temperatures for incubating lizard eggs range from 70 degrees for some chameleons up to 92 or higher for desert dwelling species. Also the temperature you incubate your lizard eggs at can determine the sex of the babies if kept within an acceptable range. This is called temperature sex determination or TSD. One example is leopard geckos. When incubated at between 80 and 86 degrees fahrenheit you will get mostly females. When incubated between 86 and 92 you will get mostly males. Another interesting note is if incubated at 92 to 94 you will get females that have bad tempers and are infertile. These are called hot females.
Humidity is also another variable that lizard eggs need in order to survive. Lizard eggs perspire and aspire through pores in the egg shell. It is in this way that they essentially breathe and also absorb moisture. A good humidity for most reptile eggs is about 75%. This prevents the air from being dry (as in below 50%) which would wick away moisture from the eggs but is also not too wet as to promote the growth of bacteria, mold, and fungus, all of which can and will attack your eggs. If you do get bacteria, mold, or fungus on your eggs, then chances are that the eggs were not fertile or they were in hatching medium that was too wet.
To prepair a nest for your lizard eggs you will need a plastic container tall enough to fit them plus about 1" to 2" of hatching medium inside, and wide enough to fit inside your incubator. Your eggs should not touch each other in the container. You will also need a hatching medium or hatching substrate such as perlite or vermiculite to act as "soil". Once you have these items you are ready to set up your egg boxes.
First you will need to mix your incubation medium with water to the desired wetness. A common rule of thumb is to mix them 50% water to 50% vermiculite or perlite by weight. This really just means a bunch of medium to a little water as the medium is very light and water is heavy. Once you have your water and medium weighed mix them slowly adding water. Don't add it all at once and mix thoroughly. It should feel damp, but should not drip water when squeezed.
Once your incubation medium or substrate is mixed you will fill your container(s) with enough to cover the bottom in 1" to 2". Then make small indentations with your finger where the eggs will be placed remembering to space them a couple inches apart so that bacteria and fungus that may attack one egg will not spread so easily to the others.
To determine fertility of lizard eggs you will simply candle them after several weeks with a egg candler. This process involves shining a light through the egg to view the contents and is easiest in a dark room. After several weeks fertile eggs will appear pinkish and will have veins running through them. Infertile eggs are generally yellowish and have no veins or masses inside. Don't throw out eggs that you think are infertile until they stink or become moldy as we have had babies hatch from eggs that seemed infertile to start.
As your babies emerge from the egg they should be left in the egg container inside the incubator for a couple days to allow them to acclimate to their new environment. This will also allow them to absorb any yolk sac still attached and also prevent their skin from becoming overly dry during the first 48 hours. Then they can be moved to a hatchling container with plenty of shallow water and a good heat pad and light.
We cannot stress enough the importance of doing your homework and researching your exact species of lizard. There are way too many species for us to cover in this article and some definitely have special requirements while others will hatch with very little care whatsoever.