For many boys and girls, when they are young they often dream of the time when they are given their first pet, something cute and cuddly they can curl up with and love.
Jordan Hamby was young and she had those dreams too, only instead of cute and cuddly, she wanted cold-blooded and spiky.
Hamby wanted a gecko.
“When I was 5 my mom said I could have a pet,” Hamby said. “I told her I wanted a reptile and so that’s what she got me.”
Hamby’s first reptile wasn’t a gecko, it was an anoles, which Hamby described as a distant relation to a gecko.
“He was a pretty little thing and a good starter reptile for someone who was young,” Hamby said. “It took a few years before I got my first crested gecko and from there I was hooked.”
Now the proud owner of more than 100 geckos, Hamby has started a business breeding the reptiles, which she sells online and at pet shops and shows in Kansas City and St. Louis.
For Hamby, breeding the animals is a matter of preservation. In 1994, geckos had become virtually extinct.
“Twenty-two years ago they imported some crested geckos to the United States and from there people have been working to make sure they do not die out,” Hamby said. “It really is fascinating to breed them to see the different color intensity and patterns that can be produced.
“It’s kind of a crap shoot because you never know what you will get when they breed,” Hamby said. “That’s why lineage is so important.”
Typically crested geckos are brown and yellow when found in the wild and many do not have a full pinstripe or pattern.
“It depends on the person and what they are looking for in the gecko,” Hamby said. “Some want bright colors like the reds and yellows, really any warm color while others are looking for the markings and patterns.
“I spend a lot of time searching the Internet looking for specific lines to breed with,” Hamby said. “It’s also a source to find out the prices that other breeders are pricing their geckos at.”
Hamby said she has bred more than 200 of the reptiles and sold one last year for $75. The average price in the state is $100 but some can sell for more than $400, Hamby said.
“I take the time to take each one of them out of their cages and spend some time with them daily,” Hamby said. “I have named all of them and they really are like my children.”
Hamby feeds the reptiles Pangea, a type of fruit mix that she supplements with dubia roaches, which are a source of protein for the animals.
“I feed them typically every other day but in the winter when they aren’t as active I go to about every three days,” Hamby said. “Just like humans they can put on too much weight so I watch that pretty carefully too.
“A healthy crested gecko should weigh around 40 grams which is the same amount of sugar that is in a can of soda,” Hamby added. “They are incredibly tiny when they are born and so every gram that is put on is a victory for me especially in the winter when they slow down.”
The geckos hatch from eggs that Hamby said are about the size of jellybeans.
“The eggs expand to accommodate the gecko and I have lost some of them because I didn’t know where the mother laid the eggs,” Hamby said. “That’s one reason I never really let them out of their cages unless I am handling them.
“They are really quick and they can jump so you always have to watch them,” she added. “They are also nocturnal which is really comforting when it is late at night and I can hear them moving about in their cages.”
Hamby said she rarely is gone from the lizards for any extended period but when she is away her friends take care of them for her.
“Crested geckos are really low maintenance, so if I do have to be away I can set them up that they can be all right for three or four days,” Hamby said. “They are probably glad when I have to be gone because it is probably like a vacation for them too,” she added with a laugh.
Hamby does not foresee a time when she will be without her “family” of geckos though.
“When I was a little girl I loved the show ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ and that’s where my mom and I found out that geckos make good pets for children who are interested in dinosaurs,” Hamby said. “I can’t imagine being without them.
“When people ask me about them I always tell them that the most important thing that I do is what makes me happy,” Hamby added. “Whenever I buy a new one I don’t look at what’s hot or trendy I look at them and make my decisions on if they make me smile because if they don’t make me happy or bring me joy then there is no point in doing it.”
To contact Hamby to find out more about her geckos, visit Facebook.com/JCCrestedGeckos.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484