Chameleon is eating dirt or chewing on sticks
Chameleon is eating the soil or sticks in the cage
Meaning: Nutrition comes from many sources and minerals such as calcium come from the Earth. The behavior of eating earth is called geophagia and is actually not uncommon across the animal kingdom, including in humans. We do not know what the chameleon’s body is looking for when ingesting dirt or bark, but the accepted message we take away is that there is a mineral they are not getting in their diet. If your chameleon eats soil or branches on a regular basis take a look at your supplementation routine and first check to verify you are giving enough calcium. The current recommendation is calcium supplemented every feeding. The deficiency may be another element so it would be worth considering another multi-mineral powder to see if you can hit the specific deficiency.
Geophagia is really not that rare for a wild chameleon as winds blow up dust which settles on the leaves that the chameleon drinks from. So getting a bite full of your potting soil is just going straight to the source. The big difference, in our case, is that our soils have fertilizers and additives which could make our chameleon sick or die.
Note that a deliberate ingestion of soil is different than getting soil when snagging a prey item. If soil or particulates come back with the food the chameleon should be able to pass them without an issue as long as the chameleon is in top health. Impaction may occur with extensive, unchecked geophagia or an animal that is kept below optimal temperatures.
Listen in as I talk with John Courteney-Smith of Arcadia Reptile about geophagia, the ingestion of earth, in reptiles. This excerpt comes from episode 129: Lights & Supplements with Arcadia’s John Courteney-Smith, MRSB of the Chameleon Breeder Podcast.