By Sherri Coner
When Hailey Hickman met Toothless, it was love at first sight.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Hickman said of her 3-year-old bearded dragon. “She loves to cuddle and look out windows. I fell in love with reptiles.”
Of course, Hickman also loves horses, birds, dogs and cats.
But for some reason, reptiles pulled extra hard on the heart strings of this Southport High School senior.
A year after Toothless moved into Hickman’s bedroom, she brought home Pongo, a crested gecko who keeps a completely different schedule than hers.
“That one is awake all night,” said Hickman, the daughter of Steve and Kelly Hickman.
When reptile mania struck again a year later, Hickman added another little creature to her bedroom. This time it was an axolotl named Gizmo, a descendent of the tiger salamander. Nearly extinct in his native Mexico, Gizmo has gills and is completely aquatic.
Then Hickman adopted Diablo, a second crested gecko in need of a new home.
All of her rather unusual buddies reside in separate glass tanks on wall shelving.
“I have part of the world,” Hickman said with a laugh. “I have a desert environment, a tropical one and then water, too.”
Describing herself as an overachiever, Hickman explained that she is a percussionist in the school band. She has a passion for cooking and also makes time for a part-time job.
Last summer, she added entrepreneur to her busy schedule.
Using the nickname her parents gave her as a child, she launched Bean’s Biologic Exotics.
“I ship Dubia roaches alive, all over the country,” Hickman said. “I add either heat packs or cold packs, depending on where they are going.
Because this type of roach provides seven times the nutrition for reptiles, demand is high among reptile fans.
“Some people also collect them as pets,” she said. “And some people feed them to their reptiles. You can sell them for a really pretty penny.”
Along with pet sitting for mammals, Hickman also provides care for reptiles while their families are away on vacation.
“I love caring for them and seeing their personalities,” she said.
For more information, contact Hickman via email: firstname.lastname@example.org