Below is the transcript for Episode 90 of ReptileMountain.TV on YouTube
Hey Y’all. What do you do when your skink has babies? Today I’m going to show you how I care for baby skinks from birth. Plus new baby skink owners be sure to stick around to the end when I share the 3 most important things about keeping baby skinks alive.
You are watching ReptileMountain.TV evidence-based, captive bred, and animal focused.
Welcome to ReptileMountain.TV, I’m TC Houston a former professional AZA zookeeper and small batch skink breeder and this is a channel dedicated to evidence-based reptile care where things such as opinion are not considered fact. Welcome new viewers and if you’re returning... I love you...! Don’t forget to subscribe and hit that notification bell. Also ya’ll take a look at this enclosure. Isn’t it gorgeous? If you keep skinks that need high humidity these this it the type of enclosure that will make your life so much easier. It was made by my sponsor Kages Custom Reptile Enclosures. Go check’em out? Their link is in the description.
Now,its skinker time.
So the first thing I need to do when we see baby skinks in one of my enclosures is... do a little happy dance...and then I try to determine if the momma is done giving birth or of she is still in the middle of the parturition process. Sometimes you catch momma in the act of giving birth. If that happens it is best to give her some space (and then discreetly try to get some video footage like a ninja). But in all seriousness momma skinks can get stressed during the parturition process and too much disturbance could impact her success in fully giving birth which could indeed pose an unnecessary risk to her health. Sooooo, the best option is to watch her behavior. If she is pacing, not really sitting still much she may not be finished. Also her body will naturally look a bit deflated if she is finished since what was just inside her belly are now hopefully little skinklets crawling around the enclosure. So once an hour or two has passed since momma has pushed out a baby and she is not pacing nor does she look “full” that’s when I will collect the babies.
Momma skinks can be insanely defensive of themselves and their new litter before, during, and following parturition. It is wise to first remove momma and place her gently in a separate holding bin that she cannot escape from while you collect the babies. Some females do fine and rarely pose a threat but others require some ingenuity to get out. For highly defensive females I use this rubber spatula to block any attempts at biting me or the babies. Yes, skinks look smart but are not “THAT” smart. I’ve had females in their hormonal attempt to protect their babies actually attack a baby because the movement caught their eye. Thus removing momma is best for everyone.
During collection I like to give each baby a quick visual inspection before placing them in a temporary bin. Its also easier to count them as the go in the bin. I take a quick photo for fun and then off to their individual bins.
Here is what their newborn setup looks like nowadays. They are similar to my baby skink setups video from a few years ago but now I use Vision V18 hatchling tubs which are really a great size for babies. Its enough space for thermal gradients to be established but small enough to provide that desired security they need.
So inside these tubs I place a ReptiZorb liner (I’ll put a link in the description to where I get these). They are non organic material that is highly absorbent and resistant to molding. I used to use paper towel which certainly works however paper towels don’t fit well in these tubs and they aren’t as adsorbent from what I’ve experienced. So I opt to use the reptizorp inserts. I also add a recycled paper cup cut in half as a hide and a slate coaster for a rough surface slash substrate holder in placer. I used to use toilet paper rolls as hides and still do on occasion. I just decided that these half cups work better longer. The other piece I have in the newborn tub is this plastic mason jar lid. I love these because they are shallow and don’t tip easily.
I know this looks bare and really sterile but that is actually the point. Its not for ease or to be lazy. I actually want to be able to see on this repti zorb mat how the baby is pooing and peeing. The first week to 10 days is formative and really telling of how a baby is doing. Therefore, I use this type of setup to make monitoring health more accurate. Once they’ve been doing well for a week or so after their first shed they will get a new style set up like this here with cypress mulch with a 2 ounce deli cup water bowl held by a 2in by 2 in pvc pipe coupling. The cypress or sometimes coco husk like reptichip works great to allow for spot cleaning and helps to hold humidity which is good for baby Northerns to stay hydrated. This is how they will be set up until the move to larger v-35 tubs or FB20 tubs and so on.
So back to the first day, I used to put a big scoop of wet cat food in the big collection bin for the group to chow on as their first booster meal because some babies will not get to eat their own yoke sac as I’ve observed siblings swooping in to eat their freshly born brother or sister’s yolk while they are still breaking out of their birth sac and orienting to the world. Shadly little buggers. Thus I still give a first booster meal on day one but not in a big group as I had some overzealous babies try to nibble their siblings legs, tails, etc. So each lil bub will be put in their individual setup and then given a serving the size of their head as a first meal.
They will get wet cat food everyday until they are sent to new homes or stop finishing their portions then they go to every other day. The foods I feed are listed on my website under the care sheet section, there is a link in the description in case you are curious. I’ve also done a video on feeding baby skinks you can check that out here.
So that is basically the gust of baby care here at Reptile Mountain. I should add that I do take each baby out and handle them as often as possible to get an idea of their behavioral indocincracies aka personality as well as for wellness checks.
Now for the three most important MUST DOs for baby skink care.
Number 3 is correct diet. Plain and simple… a baby skink will thrive on wet cat food. This isn’t an opinion but rather a fact based on decades of thriving animals fed cat food in their first few months to a year in age. Most failures to thrive involve incorrect aka insufficient diets like banana, strawberry, other fruits, berries and vegetation. These animals are born during a season of an abundance of invertebrate availability in the wild. They eat a large amount of animal not plant but animal protein as young omnivores. Feeding bananas and strawberries or grapes and leafy greens to a baby is a recipe for disaster over the long run. Would you feed a baby human full meals consisting of cake and icecream? Hopefully not. The sugars although natural in fruits are not highly beneficial to baby skinks. I recommend feeding wet cat food only or if you have access to Omni Gold or Repashy you can feed that however, I still recommend a primary food of wet cat food. Now you may have seen a recent video of an another awesome Youtuber talking about blue tongues in the wild and how they are living and how it applies to us. Keep in mind that the animals overserved and discussed in that video were adult animals not babies. As adults, blueys do begin to add more plant material, including berries, flowers, etc into their diet. Even then they will choose to eat animal protein sources over plant material in the wild. For more on blue tongue diets check out this video here.
Number 2. Security. In the wild a baby skink is very close to the bottom of the food chain. Nearly everything that breathes could eat or kill it. They have evolved to survive this stage in life and part of the result in they tend to hide….a lot. A large enclosure is great but it truly needs to be full of areas for concealment whereby the baby can move about the enclosure without feeling exposed. They can be very shy animals. Placing the enclosure in a high traffic area with many transparent sides with little or sparse ground cover will certainly not help a baby skink feel secure. They tend to choose security over eating, over thermoregulation, even over hydration. So be sure that you go out of your way to provide security to your baby. As they adapt to “planet your house” they will become more bold. As they get more bold you can if you desire slowly remove concealment items as you see fit. When we were making display enclosures for shy animals at the zoo we found that animals that had a plethora of hiding and concealment opportunities were actually more inclined to be out than those that had fewer. We believed that the animal felt secure knowing they had options.
Number 1. Heat. These animals are born and grow during the hottest part of the year in many cases. They often spend most of their day hiding or rooting for food under the cover of vegetation where even the cool areas get into the 80’s in the day time. The number one reason a baby skink doesn’t eat is they are too cold or sometimes although more rarely too hot. Having a good temperature range is essential. I keep my baby Northerns at 78-80 on the cool side and 96-102 on the hot side these days. I have found that when the hot side is below 95 they will not eat or drink well but when the temps on the hot side are in the high 90’s or around 100F they eat really well and stay hydrated. This of course means a thermal gradient from the hottest side to the coolest side must be provided so they can move back and forth to obtain the temperature that suits them in the moment.
So there you have it ya’ll if you provide those three items for your baby skink the chances of it doing well go up exponentially. There are of course several other factors however these 3 will absolutely make or break your animal’s success.
Well ya’ll if you liked this video and want to give a one time monetary “tip” then please buy me a $3 coffee (the link is in the description).
I hope this has been helpful for you and I wish you the best experience possible. Thank you for watching. Go check out another video right there! Thank you patrons! You are awesomely awesomeness.. As always remember opinion is not fact!