Bearded dragons may be one of the easiest exotic pets to care for, but they still have specific needs and requirements to stay healthy. As omnivores, Bearded Dragons must eat animal-based foods, but can they eat chicken? Unfortunately, chicken is not a good protein option for Bearded Dragons.
In this article, you’ll learn why Bearded Dragons shouldn’t eat chicken and which animal proteins you can feed them. We’ll also cover the basics of Bearded Dragon nutrition, including how much of their diet should come from animal vs. plant sources.
Why Can’t Bearded Dragons Eat Chicken?
The best diet for any exotic pet closely resembles what they would eat in the wild. Bearded dragons are native to the Australian deserts. While all pet Bearded Dragons are captive-bred, they have the same nutritional needs as their wild relatives.
Wild Bearded Dragons are excellent hunters but not large enough to capture chickens. Because chicken is not a natural food for Bearded Dragons, they may be unable to digest and utilize the nutrients properly. In addition, chicken may not contain the right balance of nutrition that a Bearded Dragon needs.
For example, chicken is high in phosphorous, a mineral that can impact the calcium levels in the body. Bearded dragons need more calcium than phosphorous, and eating foods like chicken may throw off the correct ratio of these two minerals.
What Animal Foods Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
The best animal foods for Bearded Dragons are a variety of worms and insects, just like they would hunt in the wild. Some options include:
- Dubia roaches
Fireflies are toxic and should not be fed to a Bearded Dragon, but non-toxic live prey offers the most nutritional value. You should also gut-load (feed) the insects about 12 hours before giving them to your Bearded Dragon. You can rotate the type of live prey you feed your Bearded Dragon to maximize the available nutrition.
You can purchase live prey from pet stores, reptile breeders, or bait shops. Another option is to raise them yourself. However, don’t capture worms or insects from outside as they may have absorbed chemicals that are toxic to a Bearded Dragon.
How Much Animal Food vs. Plant Food Should a Bearded Dragon Eat?
As we mentioned, Bearded Dragons are omnivores that need to eat plant and animal foods. However, the exact ratio of these two food sources varies based on the Bearded Dragon’s species and their age. Typically, young Bearded Dragons eat more animal foods than mature adults.
For example, growing Beardies can eat 80% live prey and 20% plants. Adults can eat 80% plants and 20% insects. Again, these are just estimates, and you should discuss your Bearded Dragon’s diet with your reptile veterinarian to determine the exact breakdown.
What Plant Foods Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Bearded dragons can eat many vegetables, fruit, and flowers. As a rule, about 80%–90% of the plants they eat should be vegetables and flowers, with the remaining 10%–20% being fruit. You can serve several plants at each meal and rotate the available options regularly.
Flowers such as roses, dandelions, and geraniums can also be fed. Only offer flowers that haven’t been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. Because of its sweet flavor, Bearded Dragons may prefer to eat fruit, but it doesn’t offer the same nutritional value as other plant foods. Safe fruits for your beardie include:
In addition to their food, Bearded Dragons generally need regular vitamin and mineral supplements. You can talk to your veterinarian about the best products to use.
How Often and How Much Should Bearded Dragons Eat?
When newly hatched, Bearded Dragons eat 2–3 times per day to kickstart their growth. Young Bearded Dragons will eventually eat once a day until they reach maturity. Adult Bearded Dragons may only eat every 1–2 days, depending on their appetite.
Bearded dragons can easily overeat and become overweight. To prevent this, try limiting the amount of time food is available to them. For example, give them 10 minutes to hunt and eat live prey and 30 minutes to eat fruits and vegetables.
Remove any uneaten food after the prescribed length of time, and ensure your Bearded Dragon always has access to fresh water.
Even though it may seem like a convenient protein to feed your Bearded Dragon, chicken is not a natural or appropriate food for your pet. Stick to feeding the types of animal foods the Beardie would normally eat in the wild, like insects and worms. Hunting live prey also provides enrichment and exercise for pet Bearded Dragons. As always, consult your reptile veterinarian about the best diet and supplements for your Bearded Dragon. If you’re unsure if food is safe for your pet, always ask the vet first.