Breeders

Trioceros ellioti

Ep 157: Trioceros ellioti with Michael Nash

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Trioceros ellioti is a  small chameleon from Eastern Africa that is a livebearing species with the typical care requirements of montane chameleons. It is a charming species where the males and females are equally desirable as far as color and shape. Ease of husbandry and hardiness of this species make it a prime candidate for establishing in captivity. Today, Michael Nash comes on and shares his insight into breeding this species. It is hoped that this will help increase the number of breeders working with T. ellioti and raise awareness for this species.

If you would like to contact Michael about obtaining some of the babies he produces you may contact him at nashchams@gmail.com .

To learn more about Trioceros ellioti and its husbandry please visit the Chameleon Academy Husbandry guide which was based upon the experience of Michael Nash. You can find it here: Trioceros ellioti Husbandry Guide

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veiled chameleon

Ep 31: Finding Homes for your Baby Chameleons

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Today we talk about finding, or creating, good homes for the chameleon babies you raise up. A big part of this is setting yourself up so you do not get pressured to make a quick sale. That way you can be selective as to where you sell the baby chameleons you worked so hard to raise up.

Transcript (more or less)

Show notes :                                                       .

 

Business Insight for your mini-MBA lesson for the day!

Facebook operating expenses for Q4 2015 came in at $3.28 billion. That is about $1 billion per month. It takes a lot to run the social media platform that we all enjoy for free!

Facebook Expenses Q4 2015

Does anyone remember Border’s Bookstores? They and Barnes & Noble ruled the big box book stores until the Great Recession hit. Barnes & Noble survived and Borders didn’t. Borders went down for a variety of reasons. While we can look back and debate their decisions that led to not having enough money to cover their debt payments the fact is that they had become too big and didn’t have the money to sustain their debt payments. We can do the same thing on a personal scale when we breed too many chameleons and end up with more babies than we can take care of. But for those who would like to learn more about Borders and their fall, you can check out this link.

Five Reasons Borders Went Out Of Business

 


Show Transcript (More or Less)

Introduction

Hello chameleon wranglers, Today we are going to be talking about breeding project. More specifically, how you can best find good homes for your baby chameleons.

Breeding chameleons is an exciting project. And, if you are successful, you will soon find yourself in the position of sending your chameleon babies to new homes. And this becomes a point of great thought. How do I make sure I send these to the right homes? You have worked so hard to raise these chameleons up. And you now have a better appreciation for how much it really costs to do it! The last thing you want to do it send them off to a home where they will not get as good of care as they had with you.

And this is what today’s podcast is about. Finding the right home for your baby chameleons. Now, I am going to tell you something upfront. In the end, success in selling your chameleons probably won’t come as much from finding the right homes, but in your ability to create the right home! We’ll talk about both finding and creating.

 

Standards, Capitalism, and the Death of Idealism

But first, let’s talk about maintaining control of your standards. Let’s acknowledge that for some breeders, the standard for the right home comes down to whomever has money. This podcast is not for those individuals. That formula is pretty easy. Fill cages with as many females as will fit and push the females to produce as many clutches as possible. Females only need to live long enough to produce two to four clutches. Sell babies as soon as they can ship and not die. Sell retail whatever you can and wholesale out the back door whatever you can’t sell retail. You are such an awesome breeder that you have hordes of eggs in the incubator right behind this clutch. And why not? Chameleons are like printing money, right? You have to blow everything out quickly because you have those one or two or five clutches of eggs hatching right behind this one. Keep track of the number of babies produced in your mill because that is how you measure how awesome you are. You’ll need that number to bash anyone that suggests that your methods are suspect. Heck, you’ve produced 3000 babies to their 100. So obviously your husbandry is superior, right? Babies not selling quick enough? Lower prices! That is the capitalist way! You captain of industry, you!

As I said, this podcast is not for those individuals. They have it figured out anyways. This podcast episode is for the breeder that is looking to hang on to quality over quantity and realizes that doing both is exponentially more difficult. This podcast is for the breeder that is concerned not only about the quality of their chameleons, but the quality of the home their chameleons go to.

And, first a side note. Most breeders start off with a healthy dose of idealism and only become the mass producer when they fall into the trap of “more is better”. There is a market for mass produced chameleons. But it is a completely different world than producing and raising up the single clutch that was such a great experience that you wanted to do it again. It is too easy for the chameleons to start to become commodities. They become numbers. And it is much easier to produce 100s of babies than it is to properly care for hundreds of babies. You can get yourself into a bad place very easily. The bad place is that it is no longer fun and you are forced to sell without any knowledge as to where the chameleons will eventually end up. You start to become detached from the chameleons because you can’t focus so much on individuals. They are just bins of babies. Obviously, the tone in my voice implies I am not impressed with many of these operations. There are precious few that have been able to keep quality with quantity. Most compromise quality in hidden ways that you don’t see. I’ll leave it at that for now. My bringing it up in this episode is more to be a warning for the enthusiastic beginning breeder with visions of where they can take their hobby. Beware as you can easily scale up your operation and quickly lose the standards that you started with.

Now back to those standards. A typical standard that beginning breeders start of with is wanting to make sure that the home their baby goes to is as quality as the effort put into raising this baby. I have to say that this is one of the first things to fall when reality comes a knocking. But it falls not because it is unreasonable, but because the breeders with those standards are not prepared to back them up with facility structure.

For the purposes of this conversation, I’ll summarize the three month panic again. That is when the chameleon’s anti-social nature spills into becoming overtly physical. Before the three month period, the dominance and bullying between babies is subtle and can go unnoticed by those not attuned to these interactions. At around the three month point, you will get more biting and tail nipping and there is noticeable physical damage. It is at this point that the typical breeder starts panicking because they don’t have the space to separate the babies and they start getting “B” grade animals which means damaged and they start noticing the submissive ones not growing as fast or not coloring up because they have accepted their submission. Now, let me say that each clutch has their own dynamic. I have had clutches that have kept the peace and have given me little problem. And then I have had clutches that thought they were in the Hunger Games. And, of course, you have every shade in between. If you have the Brady Bunch clutch then you talk about what an awesome breeder you are that you have no problems with co-habitation (it must be your natural skill). If you have a couple of bad apples (in other words, the combination of an alpha chameleon and another chameleon that disagrees with the social structure) then you can have problems that can seem to start overnight. And if you are not prepared with proper caging then the panic starts. You end up getting rid of them at any price as soon as possible and any standard you started off with has flown the coop in order to be done with the stress and cost of keeping the now juveniles.

So how do we avoid the three month panic? This is simple, but difficult to implement. You need a bank of cages for babies and a bank of grow out cages. The formula is simple. The length of time you can hold onto to your standards is in direct proportion to the number of grow out cages you have. A grow out cage is a cage big enough for your chameleon to reach at least young adulthood. You need to make sure you do not reach a point where you have to sell because you do not have the space. The more cage space you have the longer you can hold out.

Wait a minute, hold out against what? Isn’t it easy to sell panther chameleons? You see it happening all the time on Facebook. And, heck, some places have a waiting list! These things should fly off the shelves, so to speak! The truth is that until you have a reputation in the industry things will not be flying off the shelf. And if you lower your prices and sell in bulk then it is difficult for you to get that reputation because that is what many others are doing when they run into the same situation you find yourself in. To develop that critical reputation you need to differentiate yourself in some way. Selling your one clutch over, say six months is one way of doing that. Making it quietly known that you care enough that your babies will only go to quality homes will bring out people that care themselves. Don’t do this in a self-righteous sort of way, just make it known you would like to pre-screen your buyers.

So I am going to suggest that if you want to start a breeding business, keep it small and manageable. If you create an operation that centers around pushing one clutch at a time through and sell over three to six months you will be able to maintain quality. Every breeding operation has the 0 to 3 month caging taken care of. If you want to take a step towards differentiation then invest in a bank of grow out cages. The standard 20” cage will get panthers to about six months while the 36” can get them to about 12 months. These are not ideal dimensions, but if the chameleon grows up in their grow out cage from three months on then most will be used to it. Just make sure they go into a larger cage when they go to their forever home. To pull this off you would have to invest in a bank of 6 to 9 cages. The more cage space you have the longer you will be able to wait for the right buyer before compromising. And if you resist the urge to double or triple production you will be able to develop a strong reputation in the community for the highest standards. The fastest way to ruin success is to suddenly scale it upwards beyond your ability to maintain. This is a basic business trap and one that is fallen into by many businesses. Remember the book seller Borders? They went out of business while Barnes & Noble remained in business because Borders was in the midst of an expansion and then the recession crippled their ability to pay their loans. Of course, as with anything like this, that is an extreme simplification of the situation. And I will be easier on the Border’s executive team than the business pundits were and say I don’t know that anyone would have made a different growth decision with the information available at the time. But their growth became unsustainable. Don’t let this happen to you! That’s right. On the Chameleon Breeder Podcast you never know when you might get drama, poetry or even a mini-MBA class.

Anyway, it will take time for that reputation to develop, but be patient. Reputations that develop over time are the strongest – and they are the ones that are sustainable. The patient breeder will be able to put the proper value on quality and resist the rush to scale up operations by holding back ten females from the first clutch and jumping right into the 300 egg club. For those new to my unique observations, I have noticed a number of would be big time breeders bragging about having 300 eggs in their incubator before disappearing from view. Remember how it is much easier to produce eggs than it is to raise up babies to three months old? Just stay firmly grounded and you can avoid being eaten up by your own success! It is a real thing!

Application process

So, say we have the breeding set-up that allows for a prolonged siege. We now have to figure out how to find the right buyers.

A typical approach to this dilemma is to create an application form and interview each person interested in buying a chameleon from you. This creates an extra layer of work for you and certainly weeds out a majority of buyers! Now, most people are not interested filling out an application and, unless you have a special species or bloodline, you may find few takers. And now you are surprised to find out that the number of people that applaud you for having such high standards greatly outweigh the number of people who will fill out your application and accept your judgment on their husbandry. Would you like to see this in action? I am sure there are others, but the one person I know who has a working, time tested application process is Elisa Hinkle at ChamEO. You’ll find it at chamlist.org. To adopt a rehabilitated chameleon you need to prove that you are knowledgeable and have the proper setup. You apply on a public forum, post images of your set-up and take feedback from Elisa and other forum members. How many people are willing to go through that? Well, if you want only the best then there you go. But you can go on and look at what she has to put into it and how few people make it through. She can do that though, because she has the caging necessary to hold the rehabilitated chameleons until she finds the right home for them. ChamEO is a working model of what it takes to maintain high standards. Now, you don’t have to have the rigorous standards that ChamEO has. ChamEO charges only an adoption fee of $25 so is a magnet for people wanting cheap chameleons. This type of person is not likely to spend what it takes to do a proper set-up or take their chameleon to the vet. Elisa’s mission is to place chameleons where they will have a high quality of life – not just to move inventory. So an intensive application process is necessary to ensure that the chameleon will not need to be rescued yet again.

Price

As you will be charging full price, most of the bargain hunters will not come your way. A, yes, you will be charging full market value because if you focus on quality then you deserve to be able to maintain the price.

Having a solid grow out focus in your breeding plan is also a good defense against the standard negotiator that wants you to sell cheaper in price. If you are not set-up for the long haul it is then much easier to fall into the trap of selling for less than they are worth. It is interesting how potential buyers will berate you for charging high prices and actually be offended that you had the arrogance to charge what you are. Somehow you charging what you determine they are worth is considered “greedy”, while them trying to get them below that value is considered “savvy”. This is a manipulation. Don’t fall for it. If someone is trying to hustle you…sorry, negotiate a better deal for themselves, then you are at liberty to say “no thank you” if you are not panicking for space!

You will have to stand firm. Nobody cares how much you invested into raising up the babies correctly. Facebook spends roughly $1billion dollars a month keeping Facebook up and running smoothly so we can share photos of cats with witty sayings. And when we see an ad we are angered and morally outraged that it is mucking up our personal space that, of course, Facebook is providing us free of charge. So, don’t expect buyers to care that you switch out your UVB bulbs every six months and purchase the best supplements. And, no, it is not fair that the community will talk about how husbandry is so important, then leave your fairly priced babies to go buy a lower priced chameleon elsewhere. It gets even better when they come back to you for advice and husbandry training because their chameleon from Acme reptiles isn’t doing so well and you seem to know what you are doing so could you please help? And, yes, I wish I was kidding on this one.

Finding New Homes

Once you have your internal structure set up for long term keeping you can hunker down and locate the right homes. Of course, you’ll have to be active about this. We will need to find, or create, the right buyers!

First- “Finding”.

Finding the home implies that a home with good husbandry is out there and you just have to match up the timing of your availability and their purchase window. And with the internet that is much easier than it used to be. Knowledgeable keepers tend to congregate in certain social media sites, but, then again, so do your fellow breeders who are looking for those same knowledgeable keepers. So there is a steady flow of chameleons being made available. Given enough time, you’ll find a buyer for your chameleons. But you do have to wait until there is the right intersection of demand and your supply. You can talk about your clutch on social media. In fact, the best way to prime the sales is to let people follow the clutch progress and post baby pictures. Let people know that you’ll take orders starting at 2 months of age for shipping at 3 months old. You can even offer a discount for people that pre-order up until the 3 month point. Maybe 10% or even 20%? This is not a lowering of price because the buyer is paying ahead of time. As long as the price goes up to market level at the three month point, which is fair, you have just run a pre-sales campaign. For the benefit of you receiving money ahead of time you give them a discount. That becomes a benefit to both buyer and seller. Just make sure you have a 100% refund policy if you are not able to ship for whatever reason. The point of this is to have as many sold at the three month mark as possible. Once you hit three months the price goes back to fair market value and you hold that price for a month or three. Since you are now growing out any left overs, at six months the price goes up 10% or 20%. Once they start showing their colors or horns or whatever the characteristic of your chosen species the 10% or 20% is appropriate.

Second is “Creating” quality customers.

Quality customers can be created. And this is a great use of your time as a breeder. Creating a new home for your babies is taking the raw material of enthusiasm in people new to the chameleon world and attaching sufficient knowledge to it. There are plenty of people that are entering into the hobby on a regular basis. If you become proficient at helping a newcomer along, then not only will you have a customer, you will have a customer educated enough that you will feel good passing along one of your babies. This is accomplished simply by education. Something as basic and obvious as care sheets do wonders. If you have a gift for writing consider a blog. You find the method that works with your talents and offer it up. If content creation is not your strong suit then you can refer them to this podcast. Or to the Chameleons eZine. Select out your favorite podcast episodes and eZine articles, compile them in an email and use that as a research guide. Face to face (or phone or internet or whatever) discussions should be part of the process. It is by communication that you get a feel for your potential buyer. By directing your interested party to places where they can get a solid education in the basics, whether your website or an educational website, you can create quality customer and your chameleon’s forever home.

Part 2: Selling at Reptile shows.

As a hobbyist breeder selling on the internet you really don’t get that much new-to-reptiles impulse buying. Sure, there are the water bowl, no UVB, and bath giving factions out there, but if they have found you they are usually plugged into the chameleon community at some level. So you may argue about their husbandry conditions, but at least they have husbandry conditions to argue about.

On the other hand, as we head out of Spring we are heading into reptile show season. We will be getting more families that are chameleon curious. With more exposure in recent kid films, chameleons are getting a higher profile in the general populace. This has its advantages and disadvantages. There is not much we can do when these families walk into a pet store. It is hit and usually miss as to whether the employees actually know what they are talking about. They are just repeating what hey have been told to say by the owner who is just repeating what he was told by the manufacturer’s representative that is selling nightbulbs with chameleons printed on the packaging. But when these families walk into a reptile show we have a golden opportunity to educate before they purchase.

We are on the front lines either helping them make that decision or, unfortunately, working with them after someone else has sold them a chameleon, or chameleons and sent them away with little more information than they started with. As I have a chameleon caging company, I get the customers after they have purchased their chameleons and I can tell the quality of information they get from the different chameleon suppliers at the show. Some I am impressed with and some I cringe. The worst thing that has happen to chameleons with regard to people getting them unprepared is the price of veiled chameleons. They are inexpensive to begin with, but by the end of the show some vendors, not relishing bringing home mouths to feed, will just blow them out sometimes for $25 each. This puts them squarely in the impulse buy range. And this is not theory. Inevitably, at the end of a show I will get a family show up at my booth asking for my cheapest cage. When I ask for what species they are buying for they give me a blank look and dig for their receipt to see what was written on it. Although if they are asking for the cheapest cage I have a pretty good idea what species it is and, by this time in the show, have a 90% idea of what vendors they are coming to me from. I say, no problem, just show me the chameleon and I can tell you. And they bring out two veiled chameleons. My heart sinks. They, of course, balk at cage prices because why would you pay more for the set-up then you do for the lizard? When you buy a couple of $25 – $45 lizards you certainly aren’t in the mood to spend another couple hundred dollars on the cage and lighting and watering system. Holy Moley, this cheap pet for my kids is getting pretty expensive! So I have the talk with them knowing that they should have had this talk before they purchased the chameleon, or chameleons, in this case.

The same dynamic that I talked about with your breeding set-up applies to shows. If you are pressed to make the sale and do not want to bring the chameleons home you have lost the ability to make sure they go to a good home. When the show hours are coming to a close you just stop asking the tough questions. And then they end up at the Dragon Strand Chameleon Cage booth asking for the cheapest cage I have that will house a brother/sister pair of veiled chameleons.

By the way, I sold this couple a nice sized cage and told them to return one of the babies. I can only hope they were able to.

Kids and Chameleons

But one thing that deserves close attention is how we mix children and chameleons. Those of you who have followed my writings in the years before this podcast will know that I have spoken and written of chameleons and children before. I’d like to revisit this topic here in this podcast as it is an important component when we are considering whether a new home is ready for a chameleon and if they will take good care of the little dragon we raised up from the egg.

I have met some kids that, at 13 years old, are not yet ready to grow up and are holding on to their childhood as tightly as they can. I have also met 13 year olds that talk as though they have already lived a life. One kid came to an SBCK meeting, that’s a chameleon group meeting in Los Angeles, and had just gotten his first chameleon. He rambled off the species and subspecies and went into detail as to his husbandry practices. His father just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I have no idea…that’s all him”. This kid had it down. If you work a show, you’ll be dealing with families. So I’d like to discuss how to answer the question “are chameleons good pets for kids”.

This actually depends greatly on the parents. In the past, when I was faced with that question, I would run down a question list to determine whether the child was old or responsible enough. I now feel much better with replying with “Chameleons are great for kids, but not for teaching responsibility.” I am then able to enter into a conversation about what it takes to keep a chameleon and remove the child from the equation. The bottom line is that a chameleon, like any other pet, will enrich a child’s life and introduce that child to a world of wonder. The parent’s part in this is to take full responsibility for the care of the pet.

Teaching Kids Responsibility

I am not against using a pet to teach a child how to manage their time, schedule care, and contribute to something they value. The way it should be done, though, is for the parent to actively verify that everything is being carried out properly and be willing to step in on a daily basis to ensure proper care is given. An animal should not suffer to teach a life skill.  Each child will have a different level of maturity and responsibility.  That will change with experience, understanding, and age.  The parent can scale back their involvement as appropriate.

I engage the parent who has asked the question to measure their understanding of the commitment to the specialized care. It is wonderful to see a parent as excited as the child. If they understand the care and cost requirements I feel good that this will be a positive experience all around. But if the parent balks at taking care of the animal themselves I know that this is a situation where I should be discouraging the idea.

And a note to my listeners, If any of you are parents and have been tempted to get your kids a pet chameleon or are just wondering if you should give in to their requests, I will say that it will be a rich and rewarding experience for you both as long as you are on the same journey and you are both acting in your appropriate roles. Their role is to soak up diverse life experiences as they grow up and your role is to be by their side enjoying the world renewed through their eyes – and gently guiding them along the way. Chameleons are a demanding animal, but few other animals are so incredible. If you are right there with them in this adventure then, yes, chameleons are great pets for kids- As long as you take on full responsibility for the chameleon care.

Conclusion

So, to pull this all together. Finding the right home for each chameleon in your clutch is not always easy. But you can maintain the enjoyment of breeding chameleons and feel good about your selling the babies if you 1) set yourself up to be able to grow out a good percentage of your clutch up to 6, or better, 9 to 12 months old. And 2) restrict how many clutches you produce to one at time. That way you can concentrate on the clutch and truly enjoy watching them grow up and find new homes.

Because here is the bottom line. If you push your breeding project to the point where it is no longer fun then why do it? There is no one in the chameleon breeding world that is making a lot of money – at least not when they add up all the expenses involved. If you are going to be Joe Entrepreneur, chameleon breeding is a low ROI for your efforts. But if you keep your breeding project at a level where it is still enjoyable then you have won.

 

Thank you for joining me here on the podcast. If you want to continue the conversation and add your insight, join me on Facebook or Instagram. If you are in the Los Angeles, California area you could also drop by the South bay Chameleon Keepers meeting tomorrow on June 25, 2016. Information on all of these is in the show notes at chameleonbreeder.com. You can also find information on our podcast sponsor, the Dragon Strand chameleon Caging company. Dragon Strand has cages designed for keepers, Breeders, and display cages. Check out the new Large Chameleon Cage Kit that starts with a 48” cage in either screen, clearside, or Breeder series solid walls for visual isolation. All of these versions include five Dragon Ledges which are wall anchors that can support branches and potted plants. In addition the kit includes an extra floor panel that can facilitate a solid cleanliness protocol. See the website for more details.

 

That’s it for today!

 

And, for my special listener, Ann, consider this episode autographed for you!

 

You all have a great week. Now go and take a look at that incredible chameleon of yours. Spend a moment to be amazed that we can spend a part of our lives with a mini tree dragon staring back at us. I know I never fail to feel that sense of wonder when I spend time with my chameleons.

 

Until next time…that’s a wrap.

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Carpet Chameleons

Ep 14: Carpet Chameleons with Kevin Stanford

Summary: Carpet Chameleons are a small species from Madagascar that are named for the intricately beautiful patterns they show. This species has the characteristic of being one of the few where the female is more colorful than the male. Breeding these jewels was, at one time, problematic and there were only brief pockets of success in the community. Kevin Stanford has spearheaded the effort for breeding success and is now working with 6th Captive Generation specimens.


You can listen here:


Show Notes:

While forward movement is always built on the backs of those who have gone before us and is fanned by those who work with us, there is often one person whose efforts become a catalyst for the community. In carpet chameleons, that has been Kevin Stanford.  In this episode we talk with Kevin about his methods for successfully breeding carpet chameleons and his journey to get to this point.


Carpet Chameleons

Below is a selection of photos from Kevin's collection (all photos used with permission from Kevin Stanford)

colorful lat eatingshot Carpet Chameleon

Carpet Chameleon Gravid Carpet Chameleon Baby Carpet Chameleon male

Carpet Chameleon Cage Rack Carpet Chameleon Vivarium Carpet Chameleon Naturalistic Vivarium

If you are interested in keeping up with Kevin and his Carpet Chameleon availability, follow him on his Facebook page at Kevin Standford Chameleons on Facebook

He also has an Instagram account with the user name @macandcheese2

Season 1 Archive
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Reptile & Relationships

Ep 12: Reptiles & Your Relationship

Summary: Introducing the love of your life to your reptile passion is not always an easy process. Not everyone warms up to the idea of living with reptiles in the house quickly! But there are ways that you can ease a partner, who is new to this, into the idea. And maybe they can even find the same passion you have! But it may take some patience and understanding on your part to make this fly. In this episode we talk about the ten steps to introducing your partner to the world of keeping reptiles.


You can listen here:

Transcript (More or Less):

Ah, love. With Valentine’s Day around the corner our thoughts turn to crazy ultra-expensive ways that we can woo that wonderful person in our life. Well, I say have at it and enjoy. Now, there will be some of you out there who are, right now, trying to find a way to introduce your partner to the world of reptiles. And by “introduce” I mean get them to accept reptiles into their living space so you can be curator of your own Jurassic Park. Adding a pet to the family is a big thing. Adding a reptile or amphibian can be a bigger thing because of traditional fears. But now you have fallen in love with these incredibly fascinating beasts and want to include them in your life. There is just one hurdle here –that wonderful Valentine of yours! Finding a partner that embraces or even just tolerates living with modern day dragons in their home isn’t as straight forward as we would like. If you are single then it is easy to ensure that whomever you commit to will be part of your reptile interest. But if you have found your partner before you started your interest in keeping a mini-dinosaur you may have to incorporate some strategy to reconcile the two! Although this is a chameleon podcast, today I am going to talk about reptiles and amphibians in general.

Now, when two reptile hobbyists find each other, watch out! The mutual passion can create a wonderful relationship and turn the living room into a slice of Madagascar. You’ll find the Amazon in the spare bedroom and New Caledonia in the dining room! They can’t go on vacation because of all their care responsibilities, but they kind of consider coming home their vacation so where else would they want to go anyways? They have moved their celebration of Christmas to coincide with the annual reptile show and a cup of green cockroaches is considered a cool birthday present.

But, our hearts do not always find someone with the same love for reptiles, amphibians, and the invertebrates that find their way in there. This can be somewhat negotiated before a committed relationship is entered into so each party has time to adjust or decide to find a more suitable match. But what happens when you discover an interest or passion for reptiles after you are in a committed relationship? You are one of the lucky ones if your partner shares your new found interest. For many new reptile enthusiasts an established relationship is a minefield for your exploration of this fascinating world.  Your loving partner is suddenly wondering what happened to the you they used to know as you are slowly (or not so slowly) consumed with a new obsession. Your sudden interest in Bavarian cuckoo clocks was an amusing phase, but thisnew world of yours has living, slithering dinosaur-like things that bite and most of them eat other living things that are even more icky and skitterish.

How you approach this new found interest of yours can make all the difference in the world for how your partner will accept your reptilian friends. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day I am going to go over 10 steps to easing your partner into living in harmony with reptiles and amphibians.

And just a note, you may catch me referring to the non-reptile partner as “she”. This is because my partner prospects have been female. There are just as many males being exposed to reptiles through their partners so when I say “she” just know that that is my reality and that your situation may have a “he” on the other end! The steps are the same either way.

I’ll start this off with a story taken from the pages of my own life. My first real introduction to the fear of reptiles being a real thing was in college. I had adopted a leopard gecko which I named Flavia. Flavia was a mild mannered gecko and a wonderful pet. I also had a huge crush on this girl and was understandably excited when she was going to come over to the apartment before going out to see a show. My supportive roommates and I spent the day cleaning the apartment for this great event in my life. I had told her about meeting Flavia and there was no indication this would be more than just a “oh how cool!” type moment. When she got to the apartment I showed her around and told her I’d get Flavia while she talked to my roommates. I picked the cute little guy up, returned, and patiently held him in my hand waiting for a break in the discussion. Well, that break in discussion happened when she happened to look down in my hand and, in mid-sentence, screeched and literally plastered herself against the far wall wide-eyed and face pale. There was a shocked moment of silence as my roommates and I wondered what horrible thing was behind us.

Ummm, Flavia? It’s a leopard gecko. How can anyone be scared of a leopard gecko….named Flavia?!? Yes, I had a lot to learn.

So let’s get on with it. The ten steps to easing reptiles into a relationship with a reptile-unsure partner.

1) Understand your partner’s background and feelings.

Some people have had a bad experience in their past that gets in the way of rational thought. Even if there is no specific event, how many of us grew up in an environment where snakes generated panic? I remember walking along my cul-de-sac with my 2 foot long red-tailed boa and a neighbor lady screeched from the top of her driveway to keep that snake away from her. There is a general fear of snakes. If you are not going to take the time to learn all about which snakes are dangerous and which ones aren’t then it is safest to just be scared of all of them. And when venom is involved, studying head shape or running rhymes through your head may not give you the right answer. It is easiest to broad brush and be done with it. While lizards and amphibians don’t generally have a deadly venom to deal with they are just snakes with legs, right? At the very least, they are fierce looking and have teeth. The point of all this is to respect that your partner may have spent their life around people who shunned reptiles. Respecting your partner’s background means not belittling them for their fears, cautions, or just plain non-interest. It means not forcing an interaction with a reptile before they are willing. Sticking a reptile in the face of someone scared of reptiles or chasing them around the room is not acceptable. This immature action not only damages your partner’s trust in you, but is abusing the reptile who, by the way, often has an innate fear of humans and is adjusting to life with humans just as much as your partner is to reptiles.

Now, you may be justifying that a boa is not venomous and a lizard isn’t even a snake so why should they care. That comes down to motivation to be educated. If this is an interest of yours, you are motivated to learn the difference in danger levels between the various members of Class Reptilia. You have reduced your Danger ID chart to just the venomous members. The key is that you were motivated to do so. Your partner has a Danger ID chart in their head of anything remotely close to a snake or biting animal. It will take a bit of effort for them to take creatures off that list. How do you do that? You need to provide that motivation. You can’t just remove something from someone’s life. You have to replace it with something first. Although you may be lucky to get just tolerance from your partner, let’s go for the gusto and see if we can get them as excited as you are. Give them the same excitement you have. To do this we go to the second step to Successfully introducing your reptile keeping interest to your partner …

2) Replace Fear with Wonder

You cannot tell someone to feel something or not feel something. This is a general life truth. It is your job to show your partner the beauty of reptiles. It is an incredible world. Replace their fear, or indifference, with wonder. When people think of reptiles a common first thought is of a huge constrictor, a venomous snake, an alligator, or any other large, perhaps dangerous herp. But those walls have a good chance of melting down when your partner comes face to face with dart frogs hopping through a naturalistic vivarium. Even if they are scared, it takes effort not to be enthralled when seeing an adult male panther chameleon flashing that rainbow of colors. And who can resist letting out an “awww” when seeing a baby tortoise bite into a strawberry? They’ll giggle despite themselves seeing a huge leichianus gecko sprawled out on its owners forearm while drinking fruit mix from a squirt bottle.

The best way to do this is to expose your partner to the reptile world before you bring a reptile home. Let them warm up to the idea. If you are not incessantly begging, you are giving them a chance to develop their own comfort level. This is where a reptile show is perfect. At a show you both will be able to see not only reptiles, but how humans interact with the reptiles. Seeing the reptile in another non-panicking person’s hands goes a long way to replacing the belief that reptiles are to be avoided. It is kind of hard to maintain a fear when you see a little five year old girl walking around a show with a dog tame tegu half her size draped over her shoulder. Just remember, find ways of replacing fear or indifference with wonder.

To replace fear with wonder, introduce your partner to this world slowly, outside of their living space, and preferably, with herps that can show them a different side of reptiles than they have been raised with.

3) Don’t talk about reptiles all the time.

This is true just as much before you get your first reptile as after you get your tenth.

You have entered into a new and exciting world. Whenever we do that we have the possibility of getting obsessed to where we continually think about new ways to set up the cage, new reptiles that we can collect, and the wonderful things we will do with a breeding colony of chameleons on a free range in what used to be the spare bedroom. It is all so exciting isn’t it? It is exciting to the point where we talk about it all the time when we are not actually working on the set-ups or the maintenance or online sharing on the forums about it.

If your partner does not enjoy talking about reptiles, then any time spent talking about reptiles is selfish time for you. In your partner’s eyes, you could better spend that time expounding on how gorgeous they are. But seriously, there is now something new in your life which is competing with them for your attention. And it is winning. This is just natural when we get excited about a new interest and we reptile people tend to jump in with both feet. And yes, it goes both ways. Just remember the last time they got interested in something. But we are dealing with you now. Your new softball team or boats or new dietary regimen are things which your spouse has at least a conceptual cultural familiarity with. Keeping scaley things, intentionally breeding cockroaches, and using cute, fuzzy things as food are very, very new concepts for many people and it is easy to go too fast with this. You talking incessantly about this bizarre lifestyle has not only replaced them as the attention point in your life, but has replaced it with a topic just slightly more palatable than moving the family to Greenland. Not that there is anything wrong with Greenland. But I hear WiFi is iffy there and life without WiFi may be the only thing worse than finding out that their spouse now keeps frozen rodents next to the ice cream.

We all like the new shiny thing. And you can probably have this new shiny reptile-interest thing. Just go slow. Make sure you spend quality time with your partner that does not include mentioning reptiles unless they start it! And if they do start it make sure they are the ones continuing the conversation if you keep talking about reptiles. In this you are letting them know they still have the main place in your heart and mind. And, once again, you can apply this to anything. The work you talk about, the politics you talk about, and anything else. Make sure you are listening to them and what they want to talk about. It will go a long ways towards happiness in your relationship whether reptiles are involved or not.

4) Pick a good intro animal

Presumably, you are discussing this with your partner before going out and getting said animal. If you have surprised your partner by bringing a reptile home then you have taken the accelerated class schedule. (You like a challenge, don’t you) But let’s assume you are communicating before hand at this point. If you have a number of possible reptiles you’d like to start with then there are number of selection items you can consider that will make the whole reptile-at-home experience much smoother.

The first is, What does it eat? Most reptiles either eat insects, rodents, or vegetable matter. Which is most acceptable to your partner? My wife is just fine with anything that eats insects, but, having worked a rat race booth where there rats were highly affectionate and intelligent, has a real problem with rodents being used for food.

Insects may be more palatable to your partner, but this could mean chirping noise at night. You will need a variety of feeders to provide good nutrition so you will be tempted by cockroaches. And arboreals always love flies. If there are difficulties with these main food items there are alternative reptiles that may be a good start for you. Tortoises eat vegetable matter and dart frogs eat flightless fruit flies. The Day geckos and New Caledonia geckos (crested, gargoyle, chewies, and leachies) will have a diet that can include yogurt or a powdered mix – so less on the insect side than a bearded dragon.

The second is, Does it stink? Try to avoid individuals whose husbandry conditions will be prone to stinking. A pretty accurate rule is that if the reptile eats birds, mammals, or reptiles it’s poop will stink. Insect eaters have much less odor.

The third is visual appeal. A pet that is visually attractive is much more likely to be the source of showing off. A Bumble Bee dart frog (dendrobates leucamelas) jumping around a mossy bank flashing its yellow and black bands can actually be a source of peace.

The fourth is personality. There are some reptiles that are just not fun to interact with. They can be fascinating, but if they have sour dispositions, you are going to have an uphill battle with your partner. You’ll have an easier road if you save the nile monitor or anaconda for later. A sweet leopard gecko or mild-mannered bearded dragon would be a great first experience. If your mind is set on a certain species that is known for having a miserable personality then that is the one you should look at, but if you are selecting from a wide range of choices that interest you consider one with a good personality.

I’ll give you a non-exhaustive list of good first reptiles.

Dart Frogs. These little guys are the epitome of cute. You’ll have bright colors jumping around a naturalistic setting with periodic jungle noises if you get the ones with the louder calls. They eat flightless fruitflies so escapees are not that big of a deal on the annoyance scale. I remember a phyllobates terriblis (or Golden poison dart frog) we had which would call during different times of the day. Whenever the family would hear him across the house we would all stop to listen. That was a wonderful family experience!

Tortoises. Tortoises have their own appeal. They are considered cute and move slow. They eat vegetable matter so, of all these choices, their food is the least likely to escape.

Chameleons. They have bright colors and awesome ornamentation whether horns or awesome casques. Most intriguing about the chameleons is their ability to change color. They do not change color for camouflage, but instead it is based on temperature and mood. This means you have a reptile that can communicate its feelings. It literally wears its heart on its sleeve! This appeals to us humans that need these communication cues and we build relationships with things we can communicate with. Unfortunately, they are a challenge for the first time keeper because of their arboreal lifestyle, need to drink water rained down on them, and daily husbandry requirements. There are many good resources on their care and kits available to make set-up easy.   Chameleons are definitely an investment of money and time. I include them on this list only because of all the reptiles, chameleons are the most communicative of their emotions in a way that we humans can understand. So they rank high in being a gateway to the reptile world.

Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, Crested Geckos, Ball Pythons…these all have tame personalities and qualify as good first reptiles. Choose one depending on what you have determined your partner will be most open to. Rate your choices by what they eat, do they stink, personality, and visual appeal. It doesn’t hurt to stack the odds in your favor.

5) Be realistic with budget and stick with it

If you have a shared financial account with your partner then the one thing that will sink their acceptance of this new interest of yours is to see their account dwindle unexpectedly.   Honestly, this applies to everything in life when you live with someone else! But especially something where you are trying to get them to focus on the excitement and wonder that you already have. Don’t add the complication of “wait, we can’t pay the electricity bill why?” to the mix. Just make sure you can afford to get the equipment necessary to start off the right way for your animal of choice.

6) Make the cage a thing of beauty

Utilitarian may be the minimum necessary for the animal and may have saved the budget, but it does not give any points as far as appeal. Can you set up a naturalistic vivarium that is just as much a joy to look at as is the animal? The dartfrog community leads in how to pull this off effectively. You could look at one of their cages and feel immediate peace, serenity, and wonder. And that is all before you notice the frogs. Take a page out of their book and make a cage or vivarium that makes non-reptile people stop and appreciate. Your guide? Make this cage something that your partner would be proud to show their friends. Your enjoyment aside, if your partner is showing off your reptile and their friends are impressed, you have achieved your goal. It is amazing how achieving this level of presentation will give you breathing room in almost all other areas that you may not have earned full points! In fact, presentation is so important for your new herp to be accepted into the household that it is worth allocating budget specifically for presentation. This really is not the area to be saving money because the satisfaction from a professional and visually pleasing cage presentation will last years where the satisfaction of having saved $20 or even $100 will fade quickly.

7) Start slow with NO surprises

If you get the go ahead for a nice panther chameleon then don’t come home with a pair. If you have agreed upon using the space on the dresser, don’t take the nightstand too.

The guy at the show may be offering a deal you can’t refuse on a pair, but if you have only discussed a single animal with your partner then come home with a single animal!

When given an inch take an inch at most and a three quarters inch if possible! You are building a trust here. That trust will carry you far in the months and years ahead. Don’t treat it lightly! Consider that you may wish to add another reptile in the future. The way that discussion goes is highly dependent on how you treat this initial “agreement”.

If we have gotten to this point and you are bringing a reptile home then you are doing pretty good. Our steps now are focused on building the good feelings associated with your reptile. Bringing home your new friend is just the first step. Now it is time to show your partner that this will be a positive experience for you both! You have made a beautiful cage environment and the first impression was hopefully good.

So let’s keep it going with…

8) Keep the cage spotless

Never make your partner feel sorry for the creature in the cage!

This is the brother to making the cage beautiful. If the cage is not maintained to the highest standards of cleanliness or the animal is not in the top health there is no way to impress anyone. Your partner will be looking to the opinions of friends (regardless of what they know) and other experts as to how well your care stacks up. Make sure you are at the top of your game. This especially means two months after you have set everything up and things are not as “fun” any more! Keeping any sort of pet is a long term commitment and you need to maintain a top level for the entire time. Realize that a non-herp spouse will be challenged if their friends are not impressed with your set-up. It will just be your stupid hobby. A basic fact of human social interaction is that your spouse will be judged by your actions. If one of their non-herp friends comes over and is amazed by the little slice of nature you created and asks all kinds of questions then your spouse will be able to take pride in this hobby of yours. Think of impressing your spouse as only the first step. Your ultimate goal is to impress their friends. See how that works. You’ll be surprised how quickly your partner comes around when they unexpectedly find themselves bragging about your hobby to their friends instead of explaining it away.

9) Contain your feeders

If you have an animal that eats live food whether insects, rodents, or lizards, make sure those feeders stay where they are supposed to be. That means no escapees. Nothing ruins a day more than finding mice running around the house, cockroaches in the corners, flies buzzing the dinner table, or that male cricket singing the song of his people….. behind the clothes dresser…..at 2AM in the morning. Although you can just assume that there will always be an escapee every now and then, do your best to make sure this is few and very far between. Laxness in this area will raise stress levels sky high.

Anything that needs to be in the refrigerator or freezer like bloodworms or rodents. Have an agreed upon plainly marked container that is to be opened by you alone. Avoid any emotional scarring that comes from a person just barely accepting of this new hobby opening up the wrong bag.

10) Community

Eventually, your spouse will run into members of the reptile community. Either directly at shows or indirectly through what you say about your experiences online. I would caution you to stick with sharing the positive things about the community. Surround yourself with positive elements and avoid the negative. Unfortunately, you can’t totally get away from conflict because human nature is to fight and whatever you post there is always someone who has to show how knowledgeable they are by annoyingly inserting themselves in to get attention…under the guise of “just being helpful”, of course. Now don’t write off anyone giving you help as causing trouble for self-glorification. You might be “that guy” that is doing things so wrong that it is painful to watch and the community cannot responsibly stay silent. But when you inevitably run into friction online, your fault or not, be careful how you paint the community to your partner who knows it only from what you say. Make friends of good people. You can start by getting to know the breeder of your chosen animal in person at a show and develop a friendship. Having show vendors know you by name (and not avoid you) is a good way for your spouse to feel like there is a safe, respectable group that they are joining vicariously through you.

And that is ten things to try. You know your situation best. In my case, I am incredibly lucky to be married to a lady that has been a real trooper. And I am bringing her on to meet you all. Welcome, Yvette Strand to the Chameleon Breeder Podcast!

And it is time we bring this episode to a close. I wish you the best as you introduce your partner to your love for reptiles! Respect for your partner’s background is the first step in a long, but doable list of things to keep in mind.

You can find this episode and its show notes online at the website Chameleon Academy. Here you will find appropriate links and a transcript. Just look for Episode 12: Reptiles & Your Relationships and you’ll get what you need.

This episode is sponsored by the Dragon Strand caging company. Check out the new Large Atrium Enclosure.   At 44” tall and 45” wide it is the best commercially available enclosure for panther or veiled chameleons. It comes standard with eight dragon ledges and is available in both screen and clearside versions. Check this cage out at dragonstrand.com or just find the link in the episode show notes.

Thank you for joining me, and my special cameo appearance guest, Yvette, my wife and chameleon wrangling partner, for this special Valentine’s Day relationship episode! Go and get your roses and/or cards for your special someone. Of if your special someone is that reptile enthusiast well then you may still may be able to get that cup of green banana roaches overnighted just in time. So, until next episode – that’s a wrap.

Giant Green Banana Roach vs. Green Banana Roach

Green Banana Roach Comparison
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Interview with Bill Strand

Ep 8: Interview with Host Bill Strand

Summary: Get to know the host of the Chameleon Breeder Podcast, Bill Strand. Briana Kammer returns, but this time she is in the host seat!  Inbetween talking about Bill’s story, these two discuss the current chameleon community and weave in a vision for the chameleon community going forward.  Listen in to a free flowing talk about past adventures that led to this point, podcast philosophies, and future directions.


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Briana Kammer

Ep 4: Briana Kammer Interview

Summary: Briana is the customer and social media interface for the most successful and long running chameleon breeding operation, Kammerflage Kreations. Of all the people in the chameleon world, she is likely the one that has the most experience helping first time chameleon keepers get started. In this episode we talk about the challenges and questions first time chameleon keepers are asking.                                                 .


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Show Notes

If you call Kammerflage Kreations with a question Briana is the one mostly likely to be taking your call.  Kammerflage is a family run business that has been dedicated to chameleons in general and Panther Chameleons in particular for over 20 years.  The refined bloodlines from Kammerflage have launched many of the panther breeders in the industry today.  If you are interested in a top quality panther chameleon and great customer service this is it.  I have known the Kammers for decades and can personally recommend them.  They earn their happy customers.

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If you would like to join in Briana's very active Instagram page click here!

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Or check out Facebook!

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Interested in joining some of the digital community hang outs that Briana spoke about?  The Chameleon Forums can be found at the link below.  This is an established chameleon community that anyone can join.

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It even has a number of threads dedicated to Kammerflage chameleons!

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On Facebook you just type "Chameleon" into the search bar and you'll have numerous results.  There are a large number of Facebook groups regarding chameleons.  You have many choices to check out and find one that matches your personality.  The one I recommend is the Chameleon Enthusiasts which is a rare blend of beginner guidance with very experienced keepers/breeders and scientists on the moderator team. Both Briana and I frequent the group.  It is a great place to start making friends and learn more!

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The product talked about at the end from our sponsor are the patent pending Dragon Ledges which are supports that can be added to most of the commercially available cages.  They transfer the weight of what you have on the inside to the frame and the screen has no stress.  They allow you to mount plants up high and firmly anchor horizontal branches.  They are the reason why this picture is possible.  See the horizontal bands on the screen panels?  Those are the Dragon Ledges holding up that large potted plant, the accent plants, and the branches!

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Check out the Dragon Ledges at the following link:

Dragon Strand Dragon Ledges

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