Monitors are great animals to work with, and I would say the vast majority of folks get into various monitor projects with plans of breeding them at some later date.
With the right strategy, the right animals, and the right amount of patience, this is an achievable goal. However, it helps tremendously to have the right attitude going in, and realistic expectations.
One of the most common mistakes new keepers make is trying to take a shortcut into the breeding groups. Instead of buying a group of hatchling animals to raise up, from a reputable breeder, many first time keepers try and put together an older group of one male and multiple female adult animals, some from here, some from there, this guy has a male, this guy has a female. And ideally, these are all "proven breeders". There are a couple of problems with this strategy.
First of all is the "proven breeder" adults. This is a fantasy. Think about it
With a single adult female Red Ackie, raised from a hatchling from our own stock at Pro Exotics, we can expect quite a healthy amount of production in a single year. Nearly all of our adults have exceptional egg production, but for the sake of this discussion, let's imagine that we are talking about a very average, but solid, adult female.
In a single season (year), we can expect at least 6 clutches from the female. Egg counts would average around 10 eggs per clutch. That is 60 eggs per year, for this one single female. Now, consider that the price on Red Ackies has "dropped" this year to $350 each. Taking into further consideration that Ackie hatchlings have been sold out in advance for 2 years now, you now have $21,000 worth of production from this single, very average female.
Now you tell me, why on earth would I sell you this animal for $500, or even $1000? Those prices are certainly in the range that I have seen advertised for these so called "proven breeders". It just doesn't add up.
At Pro Exotics, we have too much integrity to sell bad animals. We have a reputation for excellence that we have worked very hard for over many years. We are not about to throw that away or jeopardize it for a quick sale or a quick buck. Unfortunately, there are plenty of others in the industry that don't have the same standards.
You don't have to look hard to locate adult monitors that are available for sale on the reptile market. But after considering the above economical unlikelyhood of the animals being healthy and genuine, think about the other reasons that are much more likely to apply:
-burnt out females- these are adult female monitors (or snakes, or geckos, etc.) that have been bred for a number of seasons, and their egg production is now ceased or significantly decreased. What you often find in this class are females that throw infertile or dead eggs (or no eggs at all). This continued attempt at productive breeding only leaches calcium and other valuable resources from the female, and contributes to their overall poor health. Once an animal is too old to breed, or has thrown their natural maximum of eggs, there is no amount of TLC that you can give to turn that female around.
-aggressive males- whoa, watch out for these guys : ) we have had a number of male monitors in the past that are simply too aggressive to put with our females. They bite too hard, and too deeply, and inflict multiple deep lacerations on any other animal in the cage. They might breed great, but they will kill your females in the process. These do much better in a single and lone environment, in a pet type situation. Unknowingly putting this type of male in with an established group of females, even overnight, can result in the death of your other animals.
-non compatible or anti social animals- these are animals, males and females, that for whatever reason, are simply not compatible with other animals. They may in fact do fine with one particular group, but then be incompatible with another group. This most frequently happens with adult monitors. You may buck the odds and gather a group of 2.3 perfectly healthy young adults, but then you are faced with the fact that none of these animals get along in a group situation. You may be facing fighting animals, stressed out animals, non eating animals, and most significantly, non breeding animals. This only works against your breeding efforts. Conversely, when starting with a hatchling group of monitors, typically you will find that the group will socially stratify itself, and will thrive in the group setting.
-genetically weak animals- you may find young females that are not burned out, or perhaps young males that seem quite robust, but either one may have a hidden genetic secret. Simply put, not all captive hatched monitors are ideally suited for breeding, some females are simply not capable of breeding, or not capable of breeding repeatedly and reliably. Males, on the other hand, can sometimes be firing blanks. This type of reptile is more familiar in the snake world, where you have male boids that simply aren't capable of impregnating the females, but yes, it exists in the monitor world as well. These monitors are a terrific choice, for a pet.
-animals that are improperly sexed- this is a very common problem. Monitors, by nature, are very difficult to sex, especially visually. A single animal can be nearly impossible to sex without a number of other animals, same species and similar size, to closely compare to. Too many times I have seen folks buy a group of 1.3, or a "guaranteed pair", only to eventually find all males, or at best 3.1. That nice looking breeder "probable" female at the great price may very well turn out to be a little too masculine for your breeding expectations. Once again, why sell a truly proven "breeder female" adult for a ridiculous price? It's either because your source is too dim to recognize a mis-sexed animal, or sadly, and too frequently, you are dealing with a crook that could care less about your troubles after the sale is made and the animal shipped.
-animals for sale in poor health- At Pro Exotics, when we say that an animal is in perfect shape, or "polished", we mean that the animal will blow your socks off, and we stand behind and guarantee that. I have seen plenty of other animals that have been labeled by others as "really nice" or "great" or "super", and a majority of the time, they have been less than impressive. Now, there are a number of breeders and dealers that truly work with great animals, and I can recommend them to you, but for every one of those, there are dozens of sellers whose definitions of "perfect shape" fall woefully short of the standard. Animals labeled "robust" come in downright scrawny. Animals that are "eating great" come in with hip bones showing. Animals described as "functionally perfect" arrive not with missing toes or tails, but missing eyes or half limbs. Don't rely on customer service or returns from such hustlers, for much of the time, that AOL email account has since been closed, phone calls aren't returned, and you are simply up the creek, out a good deal of money, and instead of further in the game, you are looking in from the outside, at step negative one.
-surplus males- You actually stand a fair chance of finding these animals. In the process of putting together a group of animals, smart keepers will start with a decent sized group, raise them up, and see what sex ratios are available. Seeing that you can breed a good size group of females with just one or two males, the keeper will then look to move on the extra, and truly healthy, males, at a decent price. Moving out these males does not affect the productivity of the group. If you are looking for a pet monitor, and just can't wait to have an adult, then these males might be for you. But if you are looking to start your own breeding colony, having a single male is not going to get you much closer to your goal. You still need those females, and for the very reasons that we are covering here, healthy, viable, and affordable adult females are going to be extremely hard to come by. A better strategy is to find your females first, and if that comes together, finish your group with easier to locate males. An even better strategy......is to start with your own group of babies, and go through the whole process.
-the last important consideration for your monitor breeding future is time, and how much you think you have. To start with a group of unfamiliar, but otherwise healthy adults, you are typically looking at at least two years before seeing some success. It takes time to acclimate the animals, it takes time to socialize the animals, it takes time to cycle the animals, and most importantly, since starting with helter skelter adults is more commonly a strategy of novice keepers, it takes time to know your animals. The subtle aspects of breeding monitors are not something that can be communicated through this paper, or even a detailed care sheet. You learn how to breed monitors, by keeping monitors.
When you start with a group of hatchling animals, you learn about each animal from the jump. You learn their individual personalities, you learn the hierarchy of your group. You learn who eats what foods more enthusiastically, and you learn which animals need particular attention. You learn to recognize weight cycles, and you know what each animal normally looks like, which comes in very handy when trying to determine which of your females are carrying eggs, and how far along they are.
Best of all, when you know your animals inside and out, and have an intimate familiarity with them, your success rates are bound to go through the roof. It is not uncommon for us at Pro Exotics to breed our Ackie monitors before the first calendar year of age. Of course, if you are on your first group of monitors, or a new species of monitor, you may not have the same immediate success. But you certainly stand a terrific chance, a very likely chance, of breeding your healthy group of hatchling monitors before the guy down the street gets any kind of positive progress out of his thrown together group of adults, even though they were "proven breeders".
It takes time to successfully start a breeding
project with monitors, and the great "secret" is that all things
being equal, you will achieve your success fastest starting from scratch
than you will starting with animals that someone has already failed with.
There are no shortcuts to monitor breeding, but it is not as difficult as you may think. The real key is time, patience, and the right group of animals. If you start with those three things, you will be well on your way to success. Good luck!
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