The process of gradually getting rid of old skin and replacing it with a new one is called shedding in the bearded dragon’s world.
Since bearded dragons exhibit many wired behavioral characteristics, eating their shed is one of them. Though it may feel a bit odd or bizarre, but yes, bearded dragons eat their own shed. Seeing your bearded dragon eating his skin (shed) can make you anxious or worried, especially if you have not observed this thing before. If you have recently noticed your bearded friend eating his skin for the first time and looking to find the cause, you have clicked on the correct link.
In this post, we have comprehensively answered questions like “why do bearded dragon eat their shed or skin” “Should I allow my bearded dragon to eat his shed or skin” and “Is it normal for a bearded dragon to eat his skin or shed” “Is it safe for my bearded dragon to eat its owns shed or skin,” and much more.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Eat Their Skin?
As mentioned above, bearded dragons are creatures of strange habits and behavior; there is nothing to be concerned about if you see your beardie eating his skin or shed; it’s perfectly normal in the beardie’s world. Now let’s have a look at why they have to eat their shed. Generally, three reasons are cited by reptile experts, which are
- To remove the evidence of their presence (to avoid potential predators)
- To get some extra nutrients
- To overcome calcium deficiency
Let’s discuss these points deeply.
1. To Remove The Evidence Of Their Presence (To Avoid Potential Predators)
There has been a continuous war between the prey and predator in the wild for centuries. Smaller animals like bearded dragons have to struggle hard for their survival, so every prey animal has developed its defense mechanisms to deceive the predators and protect itself. As far as bearded dragon’s habit of eating their shed is concerned, it is also a part of their defense mechanism. By eating their shed skin patches, beardies actually try to remove the evidence of their presence and deceive potential predators (like snacks, birds, etc.). Obviously, the presence of skin flaps can attract predators and give them a clue that the prey is nearby.
Now the question arises, why do beardies eat their shed in captivity? Well, since it’s their instinct to eat their skin to protect themselves, the instinct expresses itself, irrespective of whether they are in the wild or captivity. Second, bearded dragons may also express this behavior because they may not feel safe in the habitat you provide. This sense of insecurity can be due to many reasons, like the presence of other larger pets (e.g., dogs, cats, birds) in the home, etc. Whatever the reason may be, whenever they feel insecure, the instinct-driven defense mechanism will make bearded dragons take protective steps, and eating shed particles is one of them.
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2. To Get Some Extra Nutrients
Since bearded dragons come from deserts, where food is not as readily available as in other types of habitats, they have evolved to use their resources wisely. Though eating their skin seems a little odd, it is actually their way to recycle the nutrients found in the skin. Yes, a beardie’s skin contains vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and these nutrients help beardies to survive during times when feed resources are scarce. In addition, keratin protein and other minerals present in the shed help in the formation of new healthy skin.
3. To Overcome Calcium Deficiency
We know that bearded dragons need a lot of calcium in their diet, which is necessary for different body functions, including the growth and maintenance of muscles and bones. So, if a bearded dragon in captivity is eating his shed, it could be because you are not providing enough calcium in his diet; and he is trying to overcome his calcium deficiency by utilizing the calcium present in the shed.
So if you suspect calcium deficiency is the reason behind this behavior, you should immediately consult your vet and ask him to recommend a calcium supplement for your beardie; because, if the condition continues for a long, it can lead to many complications.
Is It Safe For My Bearded Dragon To Eat His Shed (Skin)?
Now we know that it’s perfectly normal for a bearded dragon to eat his shed. But the question is it safe for a bearded dragon to eat their shed, or should we allow our beardies to eat their shed? As far as the shed (skin) is concerned, it is nutritious (as mentioned earlier) and highly digestible; you should not be concerned about indigestion, impaction, or other digestive issues. So we can say that shed particles are safe for bearded dragons to eat. However, it doesn’t mean that you should feed shed skin to your bearded friends; all you can do is not remove the shed skin immediately and give your beardie time to eat it if he wants to.
However, if you know (from previous experience) that your beardie likes to eat his shed, you should ensure to thoroughly clean the tank just before the shedding begins. In addition, you should also choose the right type of substrate. Though the skin itself is not harmful, if the floor of the tank is dirty (with poo, pee, dead insects, rotten vegetable or fruit leftovers, etc.), the shed particles contaminated with these things can cause serious digestive infection. In addition, if you are using sand or other loose substrates, your bearded friend can easily ingest the substrate along with the shed particles, and it can lead to impaction that can be fatal.
Do All Bearded Dragons Eat Their Skin?
No, though it’s natural and safe for a bearded dragon, it’s not compulsory for every beardie. Mostly it depends on the personal liking or disliking of every bearded dragon. In addition, it also depends on the reasons we have mentioned above. So in captivity, if your beardie is not feeling scared in his tank and getting sufficient nutrition, he may not eat his shed.
Eating their shed is perfectly normal and safe for bearded dragons. In the wild, beardies usually eat shed to remove the evidence of their presence as a protective strategy against predators. In addition, the shed is a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein, and calcium, so if your beardie feels a deficiency of any of such nutrients, he may feel the urge to eat the shed. However, every beardie will not necessarily eat the shed, so there is nothing to worry about if your beardie doesn’t eat the shed. Because, whether in the wild or captivity, beardies eat shed only when they consider it necessary for their survival or better health.