My name is Rachel Wintjen, and I've been a pretty small-time breeder hobbyist for about four 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, THINKahead. 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.
by Rachel Wintjen
Hedgehogs are not for everyone. They require a lot of time and attention, and like any pet, can be messy and require a lot of cleaning to keep them healthy. This list of hedgehog facts is to help you decide if a hedgehog is the right pet for you and your family.
* Hedgehogs can be temperamental. If you get a hedgehog from a quality breeder, your baby should be tame and easy to handle. However, they still are prone to moods, especially while shedding their quills! They can be huffy and ball up into pokey, sharp balls and refuse to be held. You have to be patient with them, and spend a lot of time bonding with your hedgehog. When their quills are crossed, they are not pettable, holdable, or in any way cuddly. Touching them hurts. They need to be a pet you spend a lot of time with in order for them to be a socialized, outgoing member of your family! When they are in a good mood and well-adjusted, they are cuddly, have soft bellies, and their smooth quills are easy to pet. Each has their own personality, and there is no guarantee that you will get Happy Hog over Homicidal Hog, although purchasing from a reliable breeder that focuses on socialization is a good start for sure.
* Hedgehogs poop. Yes, I realize this is a redundant "duh" fact, but the truth is, they can really make a mess. Many hedgehogs are easily litter trained, which is nice for keeping the cage clean, however, they often run miles a night on their wheels. They poop while they run. Its natural for them. Thus, they run in their poop. You will wake up to a poop caked wheel that needs to be cleaned off daily, and a poopy-footed pet that needs foot baths before you will want to play with him. Are you ready and willing to cope with this rather stinky inconvenience?
* Hedgehogs are escape artists. You will need to invest in a completely secure cage. My favorites are Ferret Nation cages. They are expensive, but they are secure, easy to clean and easy to get the wheel in and out of for daily cleaning, unlike many other cages. There are many other options for cheaper cages, but they are also not as secure and need modification to make sure your hedgie cannot escape from them. If you don't have the time or money to invest in a secure cage and safe decor, or the room for a rather large cage, a hedgehog is not the pet for you.
* Hedgehogs are nocturnal. You will not likely see your hog out and playing during the daytime hours, and they are very active at night. They run miles a night on their wheels, snuffle around, re-arrange their homes, and generally party all night long. if your hedgehog will be in a room where you are sleeping, you will need to adjust to this noise. You will need to time your hedgehog bonding and play time around their waking hours, which is evening and nighttime.
* Hedgehogs need it roomy, and they need it warm. If the room they are in is too cold, they can go into hibernation, which can be fatal. The ideal temperature is 72-80 degrees, which is warmer than many people keep their homes. If your home is too cool, you will need to invest in a ceramic heat emitter to help keep their cages warm, which are expensive bulbs that let off heat but no light. They also require a lot of floor space in order to meet their exercise needs. Are you committed to providing your hedgehog with what they need to be comfortable?
* Hedgehogs are unique pets. This is part of their appeal, however, it has its downfalls, most notably in the area of vet care. Many vets have no experience working with hedgehogs. If your hog gets sick, you may have to travel or pay more to go to a vet that specializes in exotic animals. My vet is 90 miles away. Like any pet, hedgehogs will need vet care at some time in their lives, so keep that in mind and check out your local vets before you purchase.
* Hedgehogs are expensive. Some of the more unusual morphs can be upward of $250-300. Average price is $150-200. With a lifespan of 4-6 years, this makes them expensive pets to purchase, not to mention the cost of wheels (a necessity, and the safest ones are not cheap), a secure cage and quality food. Fleece liners used for cage liners can be expensive as well. Vet care is expensive. Owning a pet is expensive. If you don't have the money to care for them properly from the start, you should consider waiting. They require a high quality cat food blend as their main diet, which costs more than the typical grocery store cat foods. They are healthiest if other foods, such an safe fruits and vegetables, can be introduced to their diet. They are also insectivores, which brings me to...
* Hedgehogs are insectivores. This means they eat worms. Mealworms to be exact. If you are not a fan of bugs or the idea of keeping said bugs around for your hedgehog to eat, you may want to consider a more vegetarian orientated pet. Or a rock. Rocks don't eat anything at all. Or at least a pet that doesn't get extreme satisfaction from biting into a wiggly worm and spraying you with worm guts. It's happened, more than I care to say.
* Hedgehogs are prone to health problems. You MUST get your hedgehog from a quality breeder, or you risk being in for years of heartbreak. Wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects hedgehogs, and quality breeders make an effort to only breed hogs that have no history of this in their lineage. Pet stores often house males and females together, and since they can breed as young as 8 weeks old, you may end up going home with more than one pet, unknown to you at the time. Take the time to research and find a breeder that can guarantee the health of their babies, even if pet store hedgehogs are more readily available.
* People are prone to health problems. Hedgehogs are not an allergy-free pet. Many people react to their quills, their saliva or their dander, just like any other pet. Be sure you are able to interact with a hedgehog before you bring one home, to see if you react to any of these things. There is no lamer excuse for getting rid of a pet than "I am allergic" when it's as simple as making an effort to spend time around one first before you buy. Hedgehogs don't like lame people.
* Hedgehogs are weird. When they encounter a new smell they like, they "anoint". What this means is they snuffle, smell, lick, gnaw and chew on the new item (a washcloth. a couch cushion. your arm.) Then their contort their bodies into positions you had no idea were possible, start foaming at the mouth, and spread that foam onto their quills. It's weird. Its a little bit disgusting. They look like rabid little gremlins when they do this. Yes, hedgehogs are weird.
So by now you've read through all that. Part of you is wondering why I'm trying to talk you out of getting a hedgehog. I'm not, I'm just a firm believer in researching your pets before you purchase, and being prepared for the reality of that pet. Pet stores don't tell you these things: they want to make a sale. As a breeder that cares about each and every animal I breed and their future homes, I want to make sure the home they go to is their FOREVER home. That means educating you, the future owner, ahead of time so you are not met with unexpected reasons to not enjoy your new pet.
Hedgehogs are lovely animals. They are fun to play with, fun to bond with, are goofy and eccentric. They are unique and adorable. I absolutely adore my own and love to connect with people that want a hedgehog in their lives. They are irresistible. Weird, but irresistible.
by Seri Dukart