Learn About Being a Professional Reptile Breeder

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Reptile breeders produce and sell a wide variety of reptile species (including turtles, snakes, and lizards) to pet or commercial markets.

The Duties of a Reptile Breeder

The usual duties for reptile breeders include cleaning and maintaining habitats, providing food, monitoring animal behavior, administering supplements or medications, treating minor injuries, and keeping detailed health and breeding records.

In egg laying species, breeders may hatch eggs in an incubator and closely monitor the young reptiles once they emerge.

Reptile breeders must be familiar with the specific needs of the species that they are producing (such as ideal temperature and humidity levels, nutritional needs, and proper husbandry techniques). A thorough knowledge of genetics can prove particularly useful if a breeder is seeking to produce certain desirable color variations.

Breeders should also be able to differentiate between young male and female animals so that they can provide the desired gender to their customers (if buyers should have a preference for their pet, or if they are seeking to use their purchases as breeding stock when they reach adulthood).

Reptile breeders must operate their breeding operations in accordance with any applicable state or local regulations, and these rules can vary from one place to the next.

Some states completely restrict breeding or owning certain reptile species, or they may require special permits before any breeding is allowed. It is wise to investigate the rules in your area before starting a reptile breeding business.

Career Options

Reptile breeders can specialize by focusing on a single species of interest.

Popular areas of specialization include breeding varieties of turtles and tortoises, snakes, or lizards.

Many breeders narrow their focus even further by becoming experts at producing one specific breed within their species of choice. For example, a chameleon breeder may choose to specialize in producing veiled chameleons, panther chameleons, or Jackson’s chameleons.

Reptile breeders can operate a small pet breeding operation or breed for national commercial level production. Some breeders use web pages to advertise their animals to a large audience and offer cross-country shipping. It is also possible to market animals to museums, zoos, and animal parks.

Education & Training

While no formal education is required, most successful breeders are well versed in all aspects of reptile care and husbandry. Many reptile breeders do hold a degree in a field such as animal science, animal reproduction, or biology. Coursework for such degrees generally includes the study of subjects such as anatomy, physiology, reproduction, genetics, nutrition, and behavior.

Some reptile breeders learn through practical experience with the animals they keep as pets. Others, such as professional herpetologists or animal researchers, breed reptiles either as a hobby or as part of their research projects.

The Typical Annual Salary

The total yearly compensation for a reptile breeder can vary widely based on the rarity of the species they produce, the number of offspring that are produced per litter, and the retail value of each surviving offspring. Reptiles can be sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars if they are of an uncommon or highly prized variety. Animals with rare body color variations are particularly sought after by collectors and breeders.

Reptile breeders must factor in the costs of doing business, especially the costs of maintaining breeding stock and appropriate habitats when calculating their yearly income. Reptile breeders may spend a considerable amount of money on items such as UV lights, heated rocks, humidifiers, terrariums, lighting, food, supplements, and veterinary care.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not separate out reptile breeder earnings from the category of animal breeders, the 2010 BLS salary survey reported that animal breeders earned a median wage of $35,620 (reflecting a mean hourly wage of $17.13). SimplyHired.com cited an average salary of $39,000 for animal farming & breeding careers in January of 2012.

Many part-time or hobbyist reptile breeders maintain a full-time job in another field while supplementing their income with the profits earned from selling reptiles. Part time breeders generally earn a smaller salary for their reptile breeding endeavors than full-time participants in the industry.

Job Outlook

Reptiles have become extremely popular pets in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The market for reptiles has shown continued strength, with collectors and breeders demonstrating a willingness to spend top dollar for quality specimens despite downturns in the economy.

Breeders who take the time to establish a reputation for producing quality reptiles should continue to find demand for their animals as pets and replacement breeding stock.