How to Feed a Chameleon (in Dragon Strand cages!)
There are three main feeding strategies.
Hand Feeding. This is where you perform some variation on you holding the feeder and the chameleon shoots it from your hand. You simply open the door, present the food and wait. If there is hesitation then try closing the door enough that you can put it between you and your chameleon so there appears to be barrier between the two of you. Chameleons learn that a closed cage means they are safe. This can help them feel safe around your hand.
Controlled Release. To produce a hunting response, feeder insects are released in the cage for the chameleon to hunt down. Usually this takes the form of releasing the insects to climb a wall that is near the chameleon. To do this I place my feeders in a deli cup that has the appropriate mineral/vitamin powder, gently shake to get a coating of powder, and then tip the cup up against the screen side of the cage. I sometimes give a tap to get the feeders to go to the cup opening. The feeders will generally start climbing the screen and you just let them climb up. I do this in tongue range of the chameleon, but as far away from him as possible. Ideally this is done below him and the feeders are allowed to crawl up the screen. Doing it below him will make the activity less stressful as chameleons have a security when they are looking down on things. The main challenge with this method is the stubborn feeders that decide they want to climb down. Dubia roaches can have this tendency. Adjust you application as needed.
Cup Feeding. Using a cup keeps the feeders contained in one place. This has the huge advantage that it keeps the feeders from running and hiding. The disadvantage is that feeders tend to stop moving once they figure out they are trapped. The Feeder Run Cup construction (see how to make one here) solves this by giving a climbing wall to give them somewhere to move. This, of course, attracts the chameleon’s attention. Feeding cups have had two complaints. The first is the idea that chameleons should hunt to exercise. While a fine idea, chameleons are meant to stay still for long periods of time and the calories burned by moving 12 inches are probably not the basis of a fitness program. The second issue is that chameleons may get bored with food in a bowl. What is really happening here is that the chameleon is probably over fed and is just not hungry. Quick movements of free range feeders can tap into the automatic eating response and elicit a feeding, but this kind of feeding is for our peace of mind, not their health. If a chameleon gets bored of eating the solution is to stop feeding so much, not to find bigger and better ways to overcome their full feeling.
Feeding in Dragon Strand Cages
(Hand feeding is the same for any cage type.)
There is always a screen wall available for controlled release. In the Keeper series, all walls are screen so you just take your pick! In the Clearside series you will find that the one screen wall is the side closest to where the door opens. This was done specifically to allow for easy controlled release. By having the screen where the door opens you are able to open the door just enough to stick your hand and cup inside to access the screen wall. Breeder style cages have all PVC walls so controlled release must be done with on the front main door. This can be done simply by opening the door, letting the feeders crawl onto the door and closing it. This can be tricky if you are feeding crickets that are not dusted with supplement as they may instinctively jump when there is any movement with the cage door (unless you remove the jumping legs). But any other feeder, and dusted crickets, tend to stay hanging on the screen door and climbing.
With cup feeding you will need to find a way to mount the cup up with the chameleon. How you do this depends greatly with what you are using for a cup. If you are using a Feeder Run Cup with a hanging hook then it gets very easy to hang it off of any of the Dragon Ledges that come standard in all but the smallest of cages or from branches in the cage. If you are using a feeder run cup that affixes with a magnet you will have to bring the cup and holding magnet together to sandwich the cage side. People using commercially available feeder run cups have been confused that the holding magnets do not stick to Dragon Strand screen walls. This is because our sides are made from aluminum. Anything a magnet sticks to will rust and Dragon Strand cages are rust proof!
The PVC walls of the Breeder series may be too thick for the magnets to have a solid hold so mount the feeder run cup on the top face panel. If you have a Medium Tall/Wide Breeder you will not have that Top Face Panel. You can mount them to the main door, but please do so close to the hinges where there is the most strength.
I, personally, hand feed or control release the first two feeders and then cup feed the rest. This gives me the opportunity to observe eating each time to verify that the chameleon is looking and acting healthy. The rest of the meal can be eaten from the feeder cup at the leisure of the chameleon.
If you are interested in how to make your own Feeder Run Cup click this button for an online guide or watch the video below.
Make Your Own Feeder Run Cup Video
This Chameleon Breeder Podcast episode may be of interest as it goes over feeding and nutrition for Veiled Chameleons. But, except for the section on eating vegetation, this can be applied to any chameleon species