Bearded dragons can often display a scratching or digging behaviour that can lead owners to wonder if their bearded dragon is trying to burrow?
Burrowing isn’t something that’s always associated with bearded dragons and this can cause some confusion.
In this post, we will take a closer look at if bearded dragons do actually burrow? What could be causing your bearded dragon to burrow and If you should allow burrowing to continue?
So do bearded dragons burrow? Bearded dragons can and will burrow in certain circumstances. Burrowing can be a natural behaviour brought on by brumation or a female laying eggs. It can also be a negative behaviour and a sign that something is wrong with your bearded dragon’s surroundings or tank setup.
Read On to Discover…
The 4 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Burrow:
As previously mentioned, if your bearded dragon is scratching, or digging then they could be attempting to burrow.
This is often a natural behaviour that many beardies will display at some point or other and there’s nothing to worry about.
However, sometimes burrowing can be a sign that your tank setup or something in your bearded dragon’s environment isn’t right.
If this is the case, you will need to act as these issues can potentially cause serious health issues if not rectified.
Let’s now take a look at the 4 reasons why your bearded dragon might be burrowing and see if you need to take action or not…
1. Burrowing When The Tank Is Too Hot
As an owner, you are probably well aware that your bearded dragon needs access to high temperatures on demand in order to operate vital bodily functions such as food digestion.
The caveat to this is that the temperature can’t be too high and there also needs to be a cooler side of the tank so your beardie can cool down and remain at their optimal temperature.
If the basking temperature is too high or the cool side of the tank isn’t cool enough, it can cause the tank to become what is effectively an oven and therefore and means your beardie will overheat.
Bearded dragons are extremely clever and they know that under the surface of the ground is cooler than above it.
If they are in a position where they are overheating they will often try to burrow themselves underground to escape the extreme heat and reduce their core body temperature.
We have created a new guide that answers all your basking questions and shares important insights to help your beardie bask and be healthy.
If you are worried that your beardie could be attempting to burrow due to the fact your tank is too hot or you are unsure what temperatures you need in your tank then here is a handy guide to help you…
Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide
|Bearded Dragon Temperature Guide|
|Basking Area 95°-100°F|
|Cool Spot 75°-80°F|
When you are trying to obtain the correct temperatures it’s important that you do so with a thermostat and also a digital handheld thermometer.
We recommend using a digital thermometer so that you can independently check the temperatures of different areas of the tank.
This will allow you to get the gradient from the basking area to the cool spot just right as well as giving you peace of mind that the thermostat is working correctly and can be trusted.
The thermometer we recommend is the ZooMed Repti-Temp Digital Thermometer.
You can check out the ZooMed Repti-Temp Thermometer over at amazon below…
- Great for Monitoring Basking Areas, Thermal Gradients, Incubation, and Hibernation Temperatures.
- Temperature measurement Range -28° to 230°F (-33° to 110°C)
Last update on 2022-05-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
2. Burrowing For a Safe Place to Sleep During Brumation
Brumation is a natural behaviour that bearded dragons display during winter times and is basically the reptile equivalent of hibernation.
During brumation, beardies won’t eat, bask or even move around very often.
Instead, they will find a safe place to sleep and hide and spend anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months in that spot.
In the wild, brumation can be a dangerous time for bearded dragons as when they are sleeping for many weeks on end they can expose themselves to potential predators if they aren’t properly hidden.
To combat this, beardies will burrow themselves underground to keep themselves safe and to also regulate body heat as above the ground the temperatures can fluctuate.
Captive bearded dragons still brumate and also still feel the need to burrow and protect themselves.
This is perfectly normal behaviour and not one you should be worried about.
When bearded dragons are about to go into brumation there are usually lots of other tell-tale signs to look out for.
The signs of brumation can include:
- More frequent sleep
- Going to sleep earlier
- Eating less
- Pooping less
- Hiding more often
- Slow or lethargic movement
You can find out all you need to know about brumation as an owner in our detailed and easy to follow guide here…
3. Burrowing to Escape Danger Or Stress
Sometimes bearded dragons will attempt to burrow in order to escape perceived danger or stress.
This can come in many forms and isn’t always obvious until you observe the situation closely (more on this shortly)
If your beardie feels like they are in danger or something is stressing them out, they will usually revert to their hide for safety and to further assess the situation.
If they don’t have a hide or they feel the hide they do have isn’t going to keep them safe then your bearded dragon might try and burrow to create their own hide underground.
As mentioned previously, there can be lots of different situations that can cause your beardie to feel stressed including:
- Fear of another household pet (mainly cat or dog)
- Fear of other bearded dragons in the home
- New to the home (feels uncomfortable)
- Loud noises (TV or music)
- Tank placed near a window
If you suspect that your bearded dragon is trying to burrow because they are stressed then you really need to find the source of the problem and eliminate it but you also need to try and provide your beardie with a hide they feel comfortable and safe in.
If you aren’t sure about the role that a good quality hide plays in the health and well being of your dragon then take a look at this article that shares little known but vital reasons to provide good hiding places for your bearded dragon.
We always recommend providing a hide that is natural looking and allows your dragon to fit their whole body inside.
These two factors will make a huge difference to how safe and secure your bearded dragon feels in the hide and with situations that make them feel stressed in the first place.
If you’re looking for a great hide then check out the one below. It ticks all the boxes and gives your bearded dragon a large safe place to hide and mimics their natural habitat.
- Provides secure hiding place
- Natural look integrates in any type of terrarium
Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
4. Burrowing to Lay Eggs
Female bearded dragons are also known to burrow when they are ready to lay their eggs.
Again, this is a totally natural behaviour and one that can be quite stressful for the female if they can’t find a good place to burrow.
If you have a female then she could be ‘gravid’ which basically means she will begin to lay eggs without the presence of a male.
Female beardies don’t have to be impregnated to lay eggs and can lay clutches of infertile eggs from as early as 10 months old.
The main thing is not to stop her from doing this, but to support her and allow her best substrate and surroundings to make the process feel as natural as possible (more on this shortly)
What Does It Look Like When a Bearded Dragon Is Trying to Burrow?
Depending on what substrate you are using the way your bearded dragon will attempt to burrow may look completely different.
We don’t recommend using loose particle-based substrates as they can cause lots of issues with impaction, however, the caveat to this is that they are much easier for your beardie to burrow in (we will share our preferred burrowing substrate shortly)
If you are using a firm substrate such as tiles, reptile carpet or similar then you may notice your beardie scratching at the substrate with their arm.
They will often do this in a long waving motion that gives the appearance of a one-armed breaststroke as opposed to a short two-handed digging motion you would expect from a dog.
To better illustrate the point, here’s a video on Youtube that shows a bearded dragon burrowing…
Should I Allow My Bearded Dragon to Burrow?
There are certain circumstances when burrowing is a natural behaviour for bearded dragons that you should encourage and there are other times when it’s a sign of a potential issue.
If you notice your bearded dragon burrowing because their tank is too hot or they are stressed then you need to fix the route cause of these problems as burrowing isn’t a long term solution.
On the other hand, if your beardie is burrowing because they are about to go into brumation or they are laying eggs then this is perfectly fine and a behaviour you should support.
For example, dystocia or egg binding is caused when a female beardie can’t lay her eggs.
There are a number of reasons why this can happen including not being able to find a suitable nest site.
Dystocia can be life-threatening in bearded dragons and is clarification as to why you should help your female and provide them with a substrate that they burrow their eggs in easily while still being safe for your female’s health.
Sometimes you may notice that your bearded dragon is only digging or scratching at night.
We have written a full article on this behaviour that will help you discover the reasons why your beardie is only digging at night…
What Substrate Should I Use If My Bearded Dragon Wants to Burrow?
If your beardie is either going into brumation or attempting to lay eggs, it can be tempting to provide them with sand or other loose particle-based substrates.
However, you really need to proceed with caution before you do this as these types of substrates can cause many issues such as impaction which is basically the reptile version of constipation.
If you have a burrowing bearded dragon then we recommend ‘excavator clay’.
This can be hard work to use as a substrate all year round but for short periods it really is the best and possibly the only substrate that allows your beardie to burrow and is safe at the same time.
Excavator clay is a mound of clay that you can wet and mould to whatever shape you like. Your beardie can then dig and burrow where they like and the clay will stay firm without becoming like dried out sand.
You can check out Excavator Clay over at Amazon below…
- Holds its shape so tunnels won't collapse
- All natural, no dyes or chemicals
Last update on 2022-05-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Do All Bearded Dragons Burrow?
Even though burrowing is a natural behaviour for bearded dragons, not all beardies will display this behaviour.
Not all beardies burrow when they are beginning to brumate and some will simply sleep in a hide or tunnel etc.
In addition to this, not all females lay eggs. Some females can go their entire life without laying a single egg and therefore may not express the desire to burrow.
All bearded dragons have their own personalities and unique situations and this will ultimately decide if they burrow or not.
As an owner, the best thing you can do is to observe the behaviour of your dragon and provide them with what they need to play out their natural behaviour when it’s relevant.
Do Bearded Dragons Burrow In The Wild?
Burrowing is a natural behaviour for wild bearded dragons and one that can often save their lives.
For example, if you look at brumation, if wild bearded dragons didn’t burrow in through those lean winter months then they would likely be eaten by predators as well as exposed to harsh temperatures that would inevitably kill them.
The same can be said for escaping the hot midday sun. In Australia where beardies are native to, the sun is extremely hot and one a bearded dragon reaches the optimal temperature they need to escape that heat for a little while.
They will usually find refuge under a rock or anywhere in the shade but if that’s not possible then burrowing underground could actually be the only option to keep themselves cool.
The same goes for egg-laying as females need to burrow and hide their eggs well away from predators that may eat them if spotted.
Overall, burrowing is a vital part of a wild bearded dragons survival behavioural instinct and a tool that they have used to keep them safe for generations.
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