Commonly Asked Questions about Incubating Reptiles

Hatching Lizards

1. How long is the incubation period?

The incubation period will depend on a few things.  The most obvious is what type of animal you have. The other is the temperature of the environment you are hatching in.  

Snakes: 50-65 days, depending on the species
Lizards: 1-2 months, depending on the species
Turtles: Box turtles - 9 to 10 weeks, painted turtles around 2-3 months.  Generally, 45-90 days in warmer conditions.  But can be even up to 120 days for colder temperatures.

2. How do you know your female is pregnant (gravid)?
This is tricky because it is a little different for each type of reptile.  One common sign to look for is a general change in behavior.  Eating and sleeping patters that change, seeming a bit more irritable and/or aggressive.  Sometimes they will even stop eating.  Snakes may be the easiest to tell because their bellies will bulge.  Lizards will also have bulging bellies.  
Besides visual signs, feeling the eggs is an effective way to tell.  In turtles, for example, you can feel eggs forming in the space where the back legs go into the shell (the part closest to the front of the turtle).  For lizards and snakes, you may be able to feel the small eggs where their bellies bulge. 

3. How to keep eggs from desiccating (drying out) too quickly?
The medium that you keep your eggs in should be kept moist by following the directions that will come with the medium.  Vermiculate will retain water well and keep the eggs from drying out too quickly.  Be sure to follow the directions that come with your kit.

4. What kind of medium should I use? 
One of the most common forms of reptile medium that is used is vermiculite.  This substrate retains water well and will retain air very well.  Both are important for good reptile egg incubation.

5. What temperature should I hatch my eggs at? 
The exact temperature you need will vary from species to species. But a general rule is to keep the incubator at around 80-85 degrees F (about 26-30 degrees C). 

6. How long after mating will a female take to lay eggs?
This is dependent on the reptiles you are mating because some reptiles can postpone egg laying if they do not have a suitable area to lay their eggs. Average times is 4-6 weeks after a successful mating.

7. Should I turn or move the eggs? 
No, they should not be turned and only moved if necessary, like to move them to a waiting incubator. BE CAREFUL NOT TO ROTATE OR TURN THE EGGS WHEN MOVING. Unlike bird eggs, reptile eggs are not meant to be turned or rotated to exercise the embryos. Within 3-4 days (or as soon as 24 hours) after the eggs are laid the embryo, rich nutrient yolk, amniotic fluid and airspace in the egg begin to settle. The embryo then begins to develop.

8.  What if the neonate has pipped, but just won't leave the shell? 
This is normal for some animals. Do not worry and do not help them. After the neonate has pipped, they may poke their heads out or just poke their nose out and remain in the egg as they take their first breathes. See our picture at the top of the page for a visual example. One lizard is out, one has pushed their head out and another has just stuck their nose out.

9. How long should it take for the neonate to leave the shell after pipping? 
Some animals will take only a few hours to emerge and others will remain in their egg for days after pipping. Do not rush them and they will emerge when they are ready.

10. How do you candle reptile eggs? 
Candling reptile eggs is not very difficult, but you do have to be very careful. If possible, candle the egg without pickup or handling the egg at all.  Simply put the candle against the side of the shell that is exposed to the air.  Turn out the room lights so the contents of the shell appear to glow. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

11. What are the signs that the eggs are going bad?
The egg yellowing and starting to dry out more than the other eggs. When candling after 2-3 weeks the egg is still clear with no vein development, or a very distinct blood spot with little or no veins. Another sign is mold developing on or very close to the egg. An easy comparison is the lack of development compared to the rest of the eggs in the hatch. But don’t give up on them until you are sure there are not developing. Some eggs may appear be behind, but it may just be the viewing angle or the number of other factors.

12. The neonate has what?
It is important to have an enclosure setup and ready to receive the neonates. Conditions and needs will be specific to the reptiles being hatched.

13. How is gender affected by incubation temperature?
It is still a greatly debated subject, but there is data that supports this and varies on the breed/species of reptile being incubated. For some having the eggs on the warmer side of the incubation temperature range is said to produce more females, but with other breeds/species of reptiles it is reported to be the opposite and will produce more male. Research on your specific reptile breed will be required to determine the conditions needed to better try for the result you favor.

14. Where to go for additional information?
There are many online forums dedicated to reptile enthusiasts.  Many have moved to popular community base platforms. Here are a few tips to get you started: 

  • Reddit and Facebook have many forums for specific breeds/species of reptiles
  • Try Searching for your reptile online (bearded dragons, corn snakes, painted turtles, etc.) and you will find many specific groups and sellers out there that can answer more specific questions.