As some of you may know, we have a few plans coming up in 2015 for breeding a few ladies. I've been a pretty small-time breeder hobbyist for about three years now. I'm ready to dig in my heels and go for the big-time. Well okay, not big time, but at least it's big-time for me. It'll be a full-time job on it's own, I suspect. Would I breed geckos as a single job, you ask?
Why yes, if I could, YES you bet your bubble I would. These animals are my passion, my relaxation after a long day, my little loves who I cuddle, talk to and hang out with more than any person in the world.
Maybe eventually it'll work into that, but for now I'm just keeping it as a hobby. (I say that pretty lightly, as it's more of a lifestyle for me than a hobby.)
Since I'm very into adding up things, counting them and sizing things out with the slight OCD I have, I started thinking about all the supplies I need for 2015. I'll just say this: it's going to be reaaaaaaally expensive. Over $2000 to keep up with all the babies that I expect, and to calculate in extra babies in case of any extra surprises that can happen. It inspired me to make a blog about the dangers, costs, demands and the little things that you don't think about when you want to get into breeding animals. It's no small task. Now, mind. This little blog is going to be fairly blunt. But, if you're serious, just keep on reading.
Money Money Money. Yes, things cost money.
Bringing geckos into the world can be easy peasy! Keeping them healthy, happy, well-fed and clean? That is the real job. So, before you breed, THINK ahead. Think about the SPACE they will take up. Think about the TIME you are willing to give to your animals. Think about the COST of keeping them. Sure, it's easy to keep two animals in a tank together. Doesn't cost much. Maybe, what? Forty dollars initially if you shop around for supplies. Food every month? Around $10-20 per month. Not too bad, right?
Imagine, now. Ten babies. Multiply costs by ten. $100 a month to feed ten geckos with live feeders and meal replacement powders and proper calcium and vitamin powder. $400 just for ten enclosures. For one six-month season that can amount to almost a thousand dollars. That's if you're doing enclosures pretty cheaply. That isn't including vet bills if you get a sick gecko, hurt gecko, or get worms in your colony. What if you get mites? Now you're running out of room to house these twelve geckos you have and money to pay for their proper care. Your sick animals start dying because you couldn't keep up with their vet costs... your trial as a breeder fails.
Of course, that's a worse-case scenario. But very real. It can happen. And it does happen. Don't be that new breeder that gets in knee-deep and realizes that it may not actually be for you. And don't sell off your entire colony to some other unsuspecting individual.
One female crested gecko can produce 10 babies in a year. If you're lucky. She can lay up to twenty if she doesn't cool properly. Then, the next year, she'll probably continue laying even if you take your male out. Retained sperm is a real thing. And females have been shown to retain sperm up to a year after coupling with a male.
So imagine, 20 geckos. You started out with two. Now you have twenty living breathing things that you need to provide care for. And you hope that you can sell them all. Which you may think is easy. All those other breeders are doing it, right?
WRONG. Big breeders aren't just selling their animals. Well yeah, they're selling them. Yeah, they may make a bit more than the average breeder at it--but it's more than just posting an ad online and someone comes along and buys it. They have had lines of gecko projects for years. Those lines have created great-quality breeder animals. Very high-end spectacular geckos that are in still in demand. Breeding geckos is breeding them to pretty much sell to other breeders. Very rarely will you actually sell a pet gecko to someone. The geckos that usually end up in pet stores are not the geckos you want to start out with. They are often times left-over from some breeders that couldn't sell them.
So, if you're really serious about getting into breeding geckos, look for lineage. Look for quality. Find animals with good lineage in them. That is the best bet you have to have a successful shot at breeding and selling your animals. Pay for a couple nice geckos that compliment each other. If you aren't willing to pay for nice animals, you probably shouldn't be breeding them in the first place.
"It's not about the money, though. I am not doing it for the money," you're thinking, right?
I find this a pretty offensive statement from someone I'm trying to give sound advice. (And I really don't get offended by much.) Especially advice that tons of other breeders say every day and have said to me when I first started. Basically you're saying I'm only in it for money. That I'm greedy. That most breeders selling geckos are only in it for money and are also greedy. Nope. It's NOT about the money. If I were in this for the money, that would be one helluva horrible business move on my part. Do I make money? Really make money? Have I made any money off of my animals in the last three years?
My answer: HECK NO!
I've put more money into my colony than I care to admit. Way more than I have got back from them. I don't care about that, though. That's not why I'm writing this blog.
It's not about the money, it's about responsibility to the species.
Don't mush your two petstore quality (without lineage) geckos together and expect to get people oohing and ahhing over the ten pet store quality (without lineage) babies that you brought into the world. Let alone be able to find a good home for those geckos. This goes for any reptile. Any species. Even any mammal. If you want to breed ANYTHING, know the family that your animal came from.
Accidents! I HAVE EGGS! Now what???
Oh my accidents do happen. That's life. Sometimes you just don't think about things, have a brain fart, and then ask for help and get bashed for making your mistake or someone elses' even. Where does that leave you? You, someone who wants to do right by your mistake or by taking on the mistake of someone else. Absolutely nowhere. Why breeders and keepers sometimes bash newbies I don't really know. It accomplishes zero and just makes them look like a jerk. Those newbies are newbies for a reason. Because newbies are LEARNING. I try to stay civil when helping newbies and give good advice. Send all you newbies, who will be the future of our hobby off with the basics and hope that you all take that information and do best by it or even find an alternative that is safe, effective and maybe even BETTER! I'd have to admit that I have had a moment or two where I lose it a little bit with someone who maybe doesn't erm... well.. seem to care about what I have told them. Or negate it and do something that could be harmful for their animal anyway. It's my job as a keeper with knowledge to spread that to everyone else. That's why I'm here. That's my passion--for the geckos that I'm equally passionate about.
So you accidentally got some eggs. Start your research now. If you are reading this, you most likely ARE already. But beware--there's a good chance you're going to be stuck with those babies for a long time. I have a baby that's been for sale for almost a year and a half. No one wants her. That's fine, I still love her, but I also keep in mind that any baby I breed--I may end up having to keep. If I find a good home for it where I trust the keeper, I sometimes will end up leaving it with them. Reptiles don't make good gifts, so please refrain from doing that. No animal should be a gift unless it's pre-meditated by all parties, and the receiver is set-up and ready for proper care.
Something else I say you should do is raise a gecko or two first. Get a feel for the species' care. Love it, feed it, do some research. It's gonna take you about two or three years to grow up a baby gecko to a breedable weight. In that amount of time you should successfully be able to build up your space, supplies, and organization and knowledge on the species in order to successfully get a breeding pair and sell some babies. Talk talk talk talk TALK! Talk to everyone! See what other breeders are doing.
If you are living at home with mom and dad, and especially if you're still in school, it's probably best to wait a few years--for when you're out of school and can be depended on by the animals you're breeding. If your mom or dad don't know what you're doing, or realize what you're getting into, it's really not fair to the animals. Get your family involved. Don't just do it or talk about it in passing to them--what if mom or dad decide you can't do it anymore? Will you just dump all your geckos that you spent forever incubating, hatching and caring for? It's not really fair to the animals, even if it's something you really want to do.
OK OK, so you're tired of me telling you what not to do, to prepare yourself for breeding and be ahead of the game.
Sorry. That's just what I do.
That is about the last bit of advice I have to give, though. Just a basic, heyyy! Wake up and smell the hummus! Breeding is NOT easy!It's not something you should jump right into. Plan it! Figure out your game plan before you toss two geckos together. It's expensive; it takes up a ton of time (I spend about 2 hours a day in my gecko room, and the whole day on cleaning days) and it's something that you should only do if you have the resources, responsibility and true desire to do it.
If you've got all of that--dependability, stability, desire, knowledge and resources.. GO FOR IT! Despite being a time-consuming, crazy, sometimes sad thing to do, breeding geckos is one of the most rewarding things that you can find yourself completely engrossed in.