Some people might think that all bearded dragons do is sit on rocks all day. But, if you’ve ever been the proud owner of a bearded dragon, you know that they have plenty of interesting behaviors to observe. One of the things that bearded dragons sometimes do in their enclosures is dig.
Even though the digging can be cute, you might start to wonder:
Why is my bearded dragon digging?
Your bearded dragon might be digging to make a den or a nest to feel comfortable and safe, or because they don’t like their fake den/cave. They could be too hot in their enclosure and are trying to cool down. It’s also possible that your bearded dragon may be brumating, stressed, or bored.
Digging is instinctual, so it’s no surprise that bearded dragons turn to this behavior in captivity. Let’s talk more about why bearded dragons dig now.
7 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Digging
So many animals dig. As we know, dogs, dig holes for reasons that we sometimes don’t understand. Other reptiles like leopard geckos even dig holes in captivity. If your pet bearded dragon hasn’t started digging yet, it’s only a matter of time.
As you can see in the video below bearded dragons are determined diggers.
Reason 1: They’re Making A Den
One of the most obvious reasons why your bearded dragon is digging is that they’re trying to make a den.
In these environments, the temperatures vary greatly. The nights can be freezing cold, while the days are sweltering. With such a wide range of temperatures, bearded dragons need a place to thermoregulate. In most cases, a den is the answer to this temperature problem.
Bearded dragons still need dens in captivity to help them thermoregulate. Dens also help to keep bearded dragons hydrated by maintaining a higher humidity in the air outside of the den. Plus, dens are safe spaces for bearded dragons to retreat if they’re feeling scared.
If your bearded dragon doesn’t have a den in their enclosure, or they don’t like their den, they’re definitely going to dig and make a new one. Bearded dragons need a place to feel comfortable and safe. If your bearded dragon is digging and hiding in their hole, they’re probably making a den.
There’s not an issue with this, but you should always provide your bearded dragon with a safe hiding place in their enclosure.
Reason 2: They’re Too Hot
As we mentioned above, one explanation for digging is a den and one explanation for needing a den is that your bearded dragon is too hot.
Don’t get us wrong, bearded dragons love the heat. Typically, a bearded dragon enclosure should range from 70°F all the way up to 100°F. The important note to make about this temperature is that there should always be a gradient. That means that one side of the enclosure should be hot while the other side is cooler.
If you’ve mistakenly heated your bearded dragon’s enclosure to 100°F all over, there’s a good chance they might be overheating.
When a reptile is hot, it’ll take measures to cool down. Bearded dragons’ tails will also start to turn white when it’s too hot. Since reptiles are ectothermic, they don’t have the same adaptations to cool down that we mammals do. Reptiles often need to cool down by changing locations and getting out of the hot sun. Digging a den is one of the easiest ways to do this.
So, if your beardie is digging a lot, double-check the thermometers in their enclosure.
Reason 3: They’re Nesting
One of the most natural behaviors for a female bearded dragon is nesting. When bearded dragons prepared to lay eggs, one of the biggest signs is frantic digging. In the wild, this digging helps them create a space to lay their eggs.
You can see in the video below that even though there isn’t any dirt to dig in this female is still digging away at the ground of her enclosure.
Female, bearded dragons can lay eggs, whether or not they’ve been in contact with a male. If a female is alone, the eggs won’t be fertile. However, if they’ve been with a male recently, these might be fertile eggs. Either way, it’s very important that your female bearded dragon is able to lay her eggs.
Female, bearded dragons with eggs are called gravid. Gravid bearded dragons need extra husbandry and care. If your pet isn’t able to dig a nest and lay her eggs, health complications could arise.
Try to provide your gravid bearded dragon with a lay box. Can be as simple as a cardboard box with a moist substrate inside. The substrate will give your bearded dragon something to dig at, and the moisture will help them to lay their eggs more easily.
Reason 4: They’re Preparing To Brumate
Another reason why your bearded dragon might be digging is that they’re preparing to brumate. Brumation is the cold-blooded animal’s version of hibernation. During brumation reptiles hide away in a crevice, where they can spend the coldest part of the winter. Their heart rate and respiratory rate drop and physical movement come to a standstill.
Brumation helps them to save calories, and survive freezing weather. Bearded dragons usually brumate when temperatures drop below 50°F.
Not all captive reptiles brumate. Usually, the temperatures in their enclosures are so steady that they never enter the state. But, even the smallest change in indoor temperature can set off the instinctual reaction to brumate.
Though it’s not common, it’s also not abnormal for bearded dragons to brumate. Naturally, a key part of brumation is finding a nice den to hide away in. If your bearded dragon starts to dig during the colder months, it may be digging a den to brumate in.
If your pet is preparing for brumation, don’t panic. Call your veterinarian and let them know what’s happening, they can offer you tips to help your pet get through their reptile hibernation.
Reason 5: They’re Stressed
In the wild, digging is a natural response to stress and fear. You might be laughing at the idea of your bearded dragon being stressed, or scared in captivity. They don’t have any predators, their meals are prepared for them, and they are never in any danger. But, stress comes from other places for pet reptiles. In fact, a lot of stress in captivity comes from husbandry and handling.
Bearded dragons are one of the easiest reptiles to handle. They are docile and tolerant, but, if you rush into handling or overdo it, you might cause stress to your pet. To avoid this, try to spend some time forming a bond with your bearded dragon.
Husbandry is another big cause of stress for bearded dragons. If something is off in their enclosure, their bodies are going to be in a state of constant stress. This could be something as simple as leaving a light on overnight or something as serious as an overly humid enclosure.
Whatever the cause of your pet’s stress is, it could turn them into a digger. Digging is a way for your pet to escape, and to feel safe and secure once they’re underground. But, don’t assume that your pet is stressed if they’re digging, because remember, it is a totally natural behavior on its own.
Reason 6: It’s Instinctual
In reality, the biggest reason why your bearded dragon digs is because it’s instinctual. Instincts are sort of a blanket explanation for all of the little things your bearded dragon does above. Instincts are the reason that your bearded dragon digs to stay, cool, to feel safe, to nest, and to hibernate.
Instincts are especially strong and exotic pets that haven’t been domesticated for thousands of years. These types of pets are not very different from their wild counterparts. Even though most bearded dragons are bred in captivity, they still have incredibly strong instincts.
No matter what you do, your bearded dragon may always feel the need to dig at some point in its life.
Reason 7: They’re Bored
The last reason that can explain why your bearded dragon is digging is that they’re just bored. Bearded dragons, get bored, like any other animal. Boredom can cause them to do things, like, scratch themselves, attempt, escape, and dig. If you suspect that your pet is digging out of boredom, try, offering them some more enriching activities.
For bearded dragons, this often has to do with their food. You can try feeding your bearded dragon, live food throughout the day to keep them stimulated and hunting. You can offer new types of food, like honeysuckle or cicadas to shake things up. You can also just try to move around the items in your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
While this might cause them some alarm it will also keep them entertained and prevent boredom.
Should You Worry?
Now that do you know why your bearded dragon is digging, let’s talk about whether or not you should worry.
Most of the reasons why bearded dragons dig aren’t causes for concern. If you think your bearded dragon is digging to make a den then make sure that you’ve provided them with an appropriate hide. But, even if you give them a beautiful house, they still might choose to dig and make their own den. It’s not something to worry about.
If you think your bearded dragon is too hot, just adjust the temperature and see if that makes a change in its behavior. If your pet is digging to lay eggs or to hibernate, that’s also a natural response, and nothing to worry about.
However, if you think your pet is digging out of stress, or boredom, start to take steps to fix those issues. We suggest fixing one thing at a time and seeing if it has a positive effect on your bearded dragon’s mental and physical health.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve covered the basics of a bearded dragon’s digging, now let’s answer some more specific questions.
Why Is My Male Bearded Dragon Digging?
If your bearded dragon is a male, they’re definitely not digging to make a nest. But, all of the reasons listed above still apply. Your male bearded dragon might dig to make it then, to cool down, to feel safe, or to hibernate. Remember, digging is instinctual and it’s normal if your male bearded dragon is trying to dig in his enclosure.
Why Is My Female Bearded Dragon Digging?
If your female bearded dragon is digging, it might mean that she is gravid. Gravid, bearded dragons are animals with eggs. These eggs can’t be either fertilized or non-fertilized, but will always need to be laid. Part of the nesting process is digging into the ground and laying the eggs there. Besides, laying, eggs, female dragons can also dig for all of the same reasons listed above.
How Do You Know If Your Bearded Dragon Is Uncomfortable?
It can be hard to tell when your pet reptile is uncomfortable. They can’t really tell you and they’re not nearly as expressive as dogs and cats are. Some signs that your bearded dragon is uncomfortable, are lethargy, darkened skin on the belly and chin, and hiding.
Any number of things might make your bearded dragon uncomfortable so it’s important to pay close attention to your bearded dragon’s enclosure as well as their diet. That way, you’ll know as soon as something goes wrong.
How Do You Know If Your Bearded Dragon Wants To Brumate?
The warning signs of brumation are pretty obvious. For one, your bearded dragon will start to spend more time on the cold side of its enclosure. They’ll also lose their appetite and start sleeping for longer hours. Eventually, your bearded dragon will dig out a nice den, and stay there for their final hibernation.
Brumation only occurs when temperatures start to drop so look for these warning signs in the late fall and early winter.
Digging is an instinctual survival behavior for bearded dragons. It’s something that these reptiles will do at some point throughout their lives. Whether they’re digging to cool down or to lay eggs, it’s pretty normal behavior.
The only time you need to worry is if you think your bearded dragon is digging out of stress or boredom. But the more likely explanations are that it’s just something your bearded dragon feels that they need to do for one biological reason or another.
Hopefully, this article has given you some comfort in knowing that when your bearded dragon digs it’s probably not as big of an issue as you might think.