Have you ever noticed your bearded dragon digging? Know more about this behavior in the guide below.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why do bearded dragons dig?
- Should you be concerned about digging behavior?
The bearded dragon (Pogona spp) is a popular pet native to the arid deserts, woodlands, and savannas of Australia where they’ve been observed to dig as a means to cool themselves off, hide from predators, or prepare to lay eggs. In captivity, this behavior is also observed but can have other reasons.
Should You Be Concerned About Digging Behavior?
No, digging is part of a bearded dragon’s natural behavior. It helps them thermoregulate and is a part of a female bearded dragon’s reproductive cycle. However, it can be a reaction to a stressor or a sign that your dragon is feeling some discomfort.
Is It Ever Okay To Let Your Beardie Dig?
Yes, digging is normal behavior for a bearded dragon but can also be a sign of some discomfort. If you notice your beardie digging, check if there might be something off in its enclosure (e.g. temperature) that is causing it some stress or discomfort. If you have a female bearded dragon, she may be ready to lay her eggs.
If there are no obvious stressors to your dragon then it’s perfectly okay to let them be and dig.
5 Most Common Reasons Bearded Dragons Dig
1. To cool down
Bearded dragons, being cold-blooded reptiles, need external heat sources to regulate their internal body temperature. In the wild, bearded dragons dig shallow burrows they can hide in to cool down from the heat. Burrows can be up to 2-3 degrees cooler than temperatures on the surface.
In captivity, your bearded dragon may be digging to cool down as well. Smaller spaces like glass tanks or cages can heat up pretty quickly so you must have a good thermometer for your bearded dragon installed to monitor their temperature.
What should you do about an overheating bearded dragon?
If you notice your bearded dragon digging, double-check the tank’s temperature and make sure it’s not too hot (even on the cooler side). Your beardie may be digging because it cannot find a cool part in its cage.
It’s highly recommended to keep two thermometers in your beardie’s enclosure. One on the cool side and another on the hotter side near the basking area. This makes sure that the temperature ranges are met and that a gradient is kept (your tank is neither too hot nor too cold).
Bearded dragons need their body temperatures between 95-102 °F to maintain their normal body functions. The basking lamp should be installed on one end of the tank to create a temperature gradient between 84-104°F.
📚 Read More >> UVB Lights For Bearded Dragons
Providing shaded areas by using rocks, branches, plants, or other tank furniture can also provide places for your bearded dragon to cool down in. Your tank should definitely have these areas if you opt not to use loose substrate your bearded dragon can burrow in.
The occasional 20-minute soak will also help your bearded dragon cool down, especially during summer. This can also help them during shedding season.
2. Nesting or laying eggs
A sexually mature female bearded dragon (2-4 years of age) can start to lay eggs. It’s normal for females to dig “test holes” before laying. They can lay eggs in clutches of 15-30 up to 3-4 times during a breeding season. Females will lay eggs with or without fertilization from a male bearded dragon.
Once ready, they will dig a shallow burrow, deposit their eggs into it, and cover it loosely. Females may defend their nest for a few hours but will ultimately abandon it.
If you notice signs that your bearded dragon is gravid (lethargy, extended basking, frequent sleeping, and increased bowel movements) then it is probably digging as it becomes ready to lay her eggs.
What should you do about a beardie preparing to lay her eggs?
Proper nutrition is needed by a female bearded dragon long before she becomes gravid so make sure you provide your beardie with supplements such as calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins at a young age. Egg laying is quite exhausting for female bearded dragons so they need extra nutrition, especially calcium, at this time.
📚 Read More >> Calcium For Bearded Dragons
If you suspect your female beardie is gravid, you can provide her with extra hiding spots in her tank so she feels safer. Check that the proper temperatures in the tank are met as well.
Reproduction is a very taxing time for female bearded dragons so it’s important that any unnecessary stress is avoided and that proper care, nutrition, and diet is met. Keep interaction to a minimum as your beardie can be a bit territorial at this time.
3. Preparing for brumation
When temperatures in their natural habitat become low (below 50 °F in the wild) for a few days, bearded dragons will start to prepare for brumation (similar to hibernation). Brumation is a state of torpor (reduced activity) that reptiles like bearded dragons enter when it gets cold. In the wild, beardies seek shelter under rocks, in hollow logs, or dig a shallow burrow they can bury themselves in. This will usually last from 1-3 months.
In captivity, bearded dragons can still feel the need to go into brumation especially when the ambient temperature becomes low. If you notice your bearded dragon appears sluggish, has lost its appetite, and is digging, with no other signs of illness, then it may be preparing for brumation.
What should you do about a beardie about to go into brumation?
If it’s winter or colder where you live and you notice your dragon sleeping more, hiding more, eating less, moving slower, and staying away from its basking spot, then it may be entering a state of brumation. It’s a natural occurrence for reptiles and there’s no additional care other than the usual care they should be getting.
You can try to feed them a bit of extra food but they will most likely refuse to eat more. You can make sure they have a lot of spaces to hide and “sleep” in during this time so they can feel safer during brumation. Other owners dim the lights in their enclosure and lower the heat a bit.
Bearded dragons that undergo brumation will not be in a deep sleep for the entire duration. Sometimes, your dragon may just become lethargic at this time. If your bearded dragon comes out of its hiding place to eat, make sure you turn on its basking lights to help it with digestion.
4. To hide
Beardies have been observed to dig small burrows they can hide in to protect themselves. They have adopted hiding as their primary means of defense from predators in the wild and will usually hiss or puff up their beards only as a last resort. In captivity, without any predators, digging to hide can signify that your bearded dragon is feeling uncomfortable or stressed.
What should you do about a bearded dragon who is excessively hiding?
Hiding could be due to different stressors. Excessive handling may be stressing your beardie out, so try to lessen interaction with them for a while. A tank that is too hot can also prompt your beardie to dig and hide, so adjust the temperature accordingly. It may also signal the start of brumation for your bearded dragon. You should also check for any signs of illness.
5. Other stressors
Other stressors could cause your bearded dragon to dig. It could be feeling a bit cramped inside its enclosure so make sure it has enough space and that its tank is big enough. It could also be hearing loud noises outside its enclosure that it feels is threatening, causing it to dig and hide.
Perhaps it is also “glass surfing” which can be mistaken for digging. Sometimes, your bearded dragon can mistake its own reflection on the walls of its glass tank for another dragon and start waving frantically at it to exert dominance. You can avoid this by attaching a background to one side of your tank or adjusting your lighting so that it doesn’t cause a reflection.
What should you do about other stressors that could be causing your dragon to dig?
To avoid stressors to your bearded dragon, make sure that all its enclosure requirements in terms of size, temperature, humidity, lighting, and cleanliness are met. Also, ensure that your dragon is getting a good diet with proper nutrition.
Almost all of the health problems that captive beardies develop are due to a lapse in their care. A good understanding of their specific needs (temperature, humidity, diet, UVB light, etc.) is key to keeping them successfully in captivity.
Digging is a natural behavior that bearded dragons have. It is mainly to self-regulate their temperature and is part of a female’s reproductive behavior. However, your bearded dragon may also be digging because of some discomfort it is experiencing. If you see it digging excessively, double-check for other signs of illness and make sure your dragon’s tank has the correct parameters.
Why is my bearded dragon scratching stuff?
Your bearded dragon might look like it is scratching stuff when it is actually digging to hide, cool off, or nest. It may also be “glass surfing” and is trying to escape its tank or is frantic because of seeing its reflection on the glass, thinking it’s another bearded dragon.
Is it normal for bearded dragons to burrow?
Yes, it’s normal for bearded dragons to dig shallow burrows and hide in them. They usually do this to cool off, hide, or when females start to lay eggs.
Why do bearded dragons bury themselves?
Bearded dragons bury themselves to hide or cool off. They may also be doing this as a result of brumation.
Short but informative manual on bearded dragon care:
CARING FOR THE BEARDED DRAGON
Quick care sheet for a bearded dragon (PDF):
Bearded dragon husbandry
Very detailed husbandry manual for bearded dragons (PDF):
Husbandry Guidelines for Bearded Dragons
Explaining common myths and facts about bearded dragon care:
Myths and Facts about Bearded Dragon Care
Introduction to bearded dragons:
Bearded dragons: facts and photos