Basics of Providing Enrichment For Bearded Dragons
What is Enrichment?
According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, enrichment gives animals a creative outlet for physical activity and mental exercise, as well as choice and control over how they spend their time.
Some small things we can do to provide enrichment to our pets include puzzle feeders that encourage animals to forage for food, climbing structures that enhance habitats, and training sessions where animals can interact with their owners.
Inside Your Bearded Dragon’s Enclosure:
Providing enrichment within your beardie’s enclosure is a form of enrichment called environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment is defined as changing a captive animal's environment in a way that improves the animal's quality of life. Here are some great ways to easily provide enrichment in your bearded dragons terrarium:
Rearranging Your Bearded Dragon’s Enclosure
Another great way to provide environmental enrichment and some visual enrichment is to rearrange your beardie’s enclosure. This will also provide mental stimulation as your pet will have to relearn where everything is like their food and favorite basking spots.
Our Animal Care Manager, Kasey, tells us more about how our bearded dragon, Chi, reacted to the change in his environment: “So what I did was take out all of Chi’s, different logs and branches, his Zen Cave, and I'm just going to put them in new spots. So that's going to give him mental stimulation because he's going to have to figure out where everything is. And it's also maybe going to provide a little bit more exercise because he's not going to be used to the same ways that he was climbing previously. This is going to hit on our environmental enrichment and also provide visual enrichment because it is a change to his environment. After we rearranged everything, we put him back into his enclosure and he seems to really be enjoying the new placement of his habitat. He's been laying on it and basking up.”
Promoting Natural Behaviors In The Wild
We can provide enrichment methods that promote natural behaviors such as digging by providing species appropriate loose substrates. In the wild bearded dragon like to dig and burrow. Providing a nice digging area within your enclosure is a great way to encourage your pet to exhibit some of their natural digging behaviors.
Providing Mental Stimulation
Providing mental stimulation to your pet is probably one of the most important forms of enrichment and is called either behavioral or cognitive enrichment. Animals have the ability to become bored and when that happens you can sometimes see negative effects, like behavioral changes or even illness. Some things you can do within your pet’s enclosure is provide foraging opportunities, puzzle feeders and even moving all the enclosure décor around.
Providing Physical Exercise
For physical exercise, we go back to the term of environmental enrichment. Providing climbing opportunities is a great way to help them build up muscle mass for a healthier animal. In the wild male bearded dragons are often observed on top of fence posts surveying their territory and females.
Outside Your Reptiles Enclosure:
We can also provide both environmental and behavioral enrichment outside of our reptile’s enclosure. By working with your pet hands on, hopefully you will become enriched too! Here are a few ways to provide some enrichment for your bearded dragon outside of their enclosure:
Reptile Toys For Bearded Dragons – Puzzle Feeders
Reptile toys provide incredible behavioral enrichment. Some of my favorite options are puzzle feeders and treat dispensers. Only in recent years have I seen commercially made reptile toys, but you can definitely use toys that are made for other species like dogs, cats, birds and small mammals.
Reptile Toys For Bearded Dragons – Bug Balls
This is something we have tried with our bearded dragons multiple times! For this reptile toy, you are simply creating a puzzle feeder by using a clear ball with a hole drilled into it. Next, all you have to do is put a feeder insect inside the ball, and you are good to go! Your bearded dragon will love rolling around the ball to try and get their snack out!
Supervised Time Outside
One of our favorite ways to provide a change in environmental enrichment is to have supervised outside time with your bearded dragon. This can be time on the floor of my reptile room or even outside as long as weather permits. For example, we love to take our bearded dragons outside in the summer, it gives them opportunities to forage for dandelions, bask in natural sunlight, and just gives a change of scenery. A caveat to mention is that your animal should be supervised at all times, as accidents can happen. We wouldn’t want you to lose your animal or potentially have it snatched up by a predator. Natural foraging should only be done if you know no pesticides or other chemicals have been used in the area.
Complete Bearded Dragon Care Guide
At Zen Habitats, one of our missions is to provide the best possible care for your reptiles. Click here to read through our complete bearded dragon care guide, which provides everything from the basics to advanced tips for taking care of your bearded dragon.
Do you have a young, bearded dragon? Take a look at our complete care guide for baby bearded dragons here.
Happy Zenrichment 2023!
Throughout the month of January, we are holding our first-ever Zenrichment Challenge! Are you looking for ways to provide a more enriched life for your pet? Start the new year off right by joining the challenge! Participants get to follow along with each other on social media and share their pet’s progress throughout the month with weekly check-ins. In addition, Zenrichment participants will get access to exclusive educational content, DIY projects, discounts, souvenirs, and more via email. Ready to join in on the fun or just want more information? Fill out this quick form.
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