It's summer, warm and sunny, and you want to let your iguana have the entire back yard to explore and run around in. This can be a good thing, both physically and psychologically. However, there are many things that are potentially dangerous when your iguana free roams outdoors. You need to be very careful and do everything possible to minimize the dangers.
Before you make the outdoors safe, consider your iguana's personality. Is it generally calm outside, mostly walking around, tongue flicking, and allowing you to pick it up easily? Or does it run about, trying to avoid you and everything else? If your iguana is not calm and tame, then it should not be allowed to free roam outside. For an unpredictable iguana, you should build a basking cage and use that outside for the iguana's safety. Visit our Outdoor Sunning Cages page for more information on basking cages.
The biggest concern that you have with outdoor free roaming is that the iguana is going to run off. If your iguana is free roaming outside, you never, ever leave it unattended. The risks of something happening are just far too great.
Some owners prefer to use a leash on their iguana, which gives them a few extra seconds to grab the iguana if it takes off. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding leash usage in iguanas. Visit our Pros and Cons of Iguana Leashes page to learn more about properly using a leash with an iguana. The one thing that is agreed on regarding leashes is that you cannot use it on an iguana that is not tame and accepting of the leash. If you do, you could seriously injure the iguana.
The absolute best thing to do to prevent your iguana from running off outside is to have a very secure fence surrounding the yard. The fence should be tall, and should not have any gaps with the ground at all. By the time the iguana is able to start climbing up the fence, you are there to pluck it to safety. Of course, this means that taking your iguana to a field someplace to roam is not a good idea.
In the absence of a fence, you need to make sure that you are within a few feet of the iguana at all times. Follow them around as they explore if you have to. This is risky without a fence, and it is dependant on having a calm iguana that won't run off at the slightest breeze.
If you have any trees at all, you should invest in a ladder that will reach very high into the tree. If your iguana manages to go up a tree, then you will need to work hard to get it down, and that is where the ladder comes in handy. If you do not have access to a ladder or the trees in your yard are extremely tall, use extreme caution when letting your iguana anywhere near trees.
The second biggest worry about iguanas that are free roaming outdoors is that they can get into something that is poisonous or unsafe. Do not leave the iguana unsupervised near a pool or a pond. Iguanas can swim, but just because they can get into the water doesn't mean that they can get out, especially if they get tired from the swimming.
Many plants are poisonous to animals. If you are not absolutely sure what plants you have in your yard, keep your iguana away from anything other than grass. If you know what plants you have, but you don't know if they are poisonous, then keep your iguana away. Visit our Toxic Plants page to find out about poisonous plants, but the plants listed may not include what is in your yard, so play it safe and don't let your iguana wander into those areas.
Also poisonous to iguanas are pesticides and herbicides. If you are not certain that your yard is free of these chemicals, then do not let your iguana free roam. Some chemicals will have residual action for six months or more. If the yard has been treated with chemicals, then you need to wait at least six months before you can allow your iguana to safely explore that area, and even then, use extreme caution.
Thirdly, be aware that your iguana is vulnerable to predators and stray animals when it is outside, particularly if your iguana is small. Predatory birds have been known to carry off young iguanas, and neighborhood cats and dogs will find this quick green lizard very enticing. You must always be aware of your iguana's surroundings when it is outside, and be alert for signs of trouble. Never leave your iguana outside unattended.
Finally, you need to be careful of what your iguana eats and tries to eat while it is free roaming outside. Iguanas will try to eat dog feces, rabbit feces, dirt, bits of wood, pebbles, anything that crosses their path and looks edible. Your iguana can pick up parasites from eating animal feces, as well as from soil or vegetation that has been contaminated in some way. Something that can't be digested like pieces of wood or rocks can cause impactions.
Outdoor free-roaming can be made to work with the right iguana and the right owner. If the iguana is calm and the owner is diligent, it can be a rewarding experience for both of them.