Reptiles – On My Terms!

A few years ago, my husband Wally had an interest in keeping geckos and I agreed to allow them to come into our home- as long as they were in their own room and I did not have to touch them at all. This hobby started out with just a “few” animals. I knew from previous experience that it would grow into many animals over time (you see he had kept fish about 20 years ago as a “hobby”- the hobby grew into about 130 tanks of fish). He had raised and bred fish for years and made a great business out of it as just a “hobby”.

The process started with building a small room within a room in our basement.
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It had to be lined and insulated to keep the humidity and heat in for the animals. He built a rack to house the containers that would be home for the geckos. The big day came and he made the first purchase of geckos. He was very excited with the animals he had brought home. They were pretty animals with yellow, white, and orange colors throughout their bodies. He pointed out to me how important it is for the tails to have lots of orange. This is a carrot tail leopard gecko. When it breeds, the more orange in the tail the more valuable the animal. WAIT a minute,,, reproduce!… I knew exactly where this hobby was quickly heading. Now the real plans are coming to the surface. He started breeding the animals and had success the first time around. The eggs are collected and put into an incubator for hatching.

After about 2 months the geckos started to breed, the eggs started hatching, and out came cute little babies to add to the “hobby”. Well, that is where I came into the plan. When the babies hatched they needed to be moved to another container. I would pull the small deli cup from the incubator and make it a science lesson for my daycare. I never held the leopard geckos because I’m just not comfortable with them. As long as I could move the baby from the deli cup by tipping the cup or tapping the gecko with the top I was fine.

Over time, I am sure Wally was hoping I would get over my fear of geckos. I would go into the room and watch him work with the animals and chat with him. I had it in my head that there was NO way that I would hold or help with the animals- it was his hobby and they are lizards! EWWWW- They eat live crickets and mealworms, the gecko containers had to be cleaned on a regular basis, and eggs had to be collected. In order to do these things the animal have to be moved around to get the job done. Sometimes, one of us would stop at a pet store to purchase supplies for the animals. That I could handle because all I would have to do is bring it home and leave it in the room for Wally.

Eventually, the “hobby” grew to a point that we had to start to ordering crickets (1000’s at a time) to feed the animals. You can imagine what I thought (and the UPS guy as well) when the first order of 5,000 LIVE CRICKETS arrived on my front door step! I could not imagine where they were all going to be stored. Wally came home and had to put them in large plastic containers with food and water to keep them alive for the animals to eat. I was worried that crickets would be everywhere and was very nervous whenever he asked one of our boys to help with them. The containers of crickets had to be cleaned during the week and he really doesn’t like that job. I eventually decided that was something I could do. Well, needless to say now when the cricket orders come in I take care of them. I have had crickets climb up my shirt or jump down my shirt. I still get jumpy when they start to jump or crawl when I am working with them.

Along the way I decided that maybe I could even feed the animals to save a little time for my husband. All was good, until the day I knocked over a large deli cup with about 50 crickets onto the floor while I was feeding. There I was crawling around the floor of the leopard gecko enclosed room trying to catch crickets.

Wally was successfully keeping and breeding the leopard geckos. He would move the males around to the different female containers during breeding season. I watched as he worked with them never helping, just talking to him.

Then one day when I must have experienced a lack of oxygen to my brain I thought I would surprise him and clean a few of the leopard gecko containers. Now before we get into this any further, I need to remind you that I do not like to hold these animals at all….. and would not! Not sure why I thought this was going to be a good idea but I moved forward with my surprise.

I went into the room where the animals are kept and yes the room has a door that has to stay closed for temperature control. I set up my supplies for cleaning. The cart has dishes, extra container and top, garbage can, water and food for the animals. These animals are kept on a shelved rack. Some of the shelves are higher than me and I use a small stool to work on the containers.

I had the process of cleaning the containers very well planned in order to make me feel comfortable. In other words, I do this MY way. Now just so you know I repeat these steps over and over as I work through the room.

1. Take the container off the shelf while covering as I move it.

2. Take out the food dishes and humid hide very slowly

3. Then I slowly tip the container over into another container and the animal is covered.

4. Next I wash out the container and put all clean and new dishes and hides in the container

5. I slowly tip the container with the animal back over to the clean one and let the animal climb back into its home

6. The last step is- with a cover held over the container I slide it back on the shelf.

I was confident that this system would work, if I had only followed it. However, for some reason I did not put the top back over the cleaned container with animal in it. I reached up and started to slide the container on the shelf. To my surprise the animal decided to JUMP over the lip of the container. Remember the shelf is a little higher than me and the animal landed on me. I jumped, screamed, and the animal landed on the floor. (The animal is fine) I threw a container over the top of the animal on the floor. Next thing I know my oldest son walked in to find out what all the commotion was about. He found me with tears and shaking- and yes, he tried his best not to laugh at me. He moved the animal into the container it belonged in and I was done cleaning containers for the day.

Since then I have gone back to cleaning the containers and do it slowly watching that I follow each step carefully. I still will not hold the animals and if they seem active I will feed and skip that container going back after the animal has calmed down.

I knew at some point Wally would want to expand the variety of animals he was keeping. I had no problem with it as long as snakes are not in the plan. He has added crested geckos and day geckos. The room now has multiple racks housing these animals. Day geckos are a very bright green animal and fast! He told me to always be careful when going in their tanks so that they don’t scoot out. The crested geckos are quick also. I was down in the lizard room one night talking with my husband when all of a sudden an adult (about 5 inches long) crested gecko jumped out of his hand, onto the cart, from the cart onto the cricket container, and then to the floor. It scooted right for my feet and if you know me I never have shoes on! The room is a very tight area and I had no where to go, so I just lifted one foot then the next in this little hopping motion trying to get away from the animal without stepping on it at the same time. One of the boys was in the room as well and they got a great laugh out of my “Gecko Dance”. By the time the animal was caught I had goose bumps all over and could not wait to leave the room..I was sure it was going to go right up my pant leg! Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed with this lizard either.

Over the past few months I have tolerated the small crested geckos enough to try to hold them. They are not too bad.. Wally was quite shocked when he saw me pick up the first crested gecko. The smaller they are the faster and jumpier they are. They will calm down in my hand and I do talk to them a lot (no, they don’t talk back to me). I have now learned to clean their containers, feed, and move the babies when they hatch. I have held one adult for a few seconds, but I prefer the small ones.

This “hobby” has now grown into a small business and we breed quality geckos, spend a lot of time educating customers, and sell them at shows and online (see below). It has become an interesting and fun way for us to spend time together. I have even gone to a few shows to help out. I am learning a lot about the animals and, will hold them on MY terms.

Wally Kern operates Supreme Gecko. Our focus is to produce quality leopard geckos and crested geckos at a great price but more importantly offering reputable customer service.

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