A Complete Guide To Build Box Turtle Outdoor Enclosure

Box Turtle Outdoor Enclosure

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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In a captive situation, a box turtle can live in an indoor habitat or an outdoor habitat. No matter where you are keeping your box turtle, it is always mandatory to decorate the pen in a proper way.

For many box turtle species, an outdoor pen is the best. I have been keeping box turtles for many years, and I have tried both outdoor and indoor habitat for them. From my experience, I know how to build an outdoor pen, what problems we can face, and how to solve them.

In this article, I will share my experience and knowledge I have gathered throughout these years. Read the article till the end to clear your confusion.

Must Have Items For A Box Turtle’s Outdoor Pen

There are many methods to build an outdoor habitat for a box turtle. Material for each technique can be slightly different from the other one. But some elements are must for an outdoor habitat no matter which way you follow.

  1. Shady area
  2. Water source
  3. Feeding area
  4. Hiding spot

Shady area:

Each outdoor habitat must have a sheltered area. You can plant low plants to provide shades or adopt other techniques, but ensure that the habitat has one.

Water source:

An independent water source is essential. You can dig a water source or put a pot as a water station. No matter what you use, ensure that it can be cleaned easily.

Feeding area:

If you do not provide a distinct feeding area, the box turtles will make the pen a mess by playing with the foods. So mark one area as a feeding station where you will provide the food.

Hiding spot:

Box turtles love to spend time by themselves. In case of stress or attack, they use a hiding spot to hide from the world. You can use hollow logs, pots, or any commercial product as a hiding spot. 

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Planning To Make An Outdoor Pen For A Box Turtle

If you want to make an outdoor habitat for your box turtle, you have to be careful about many things. You to keep in mind your geographical position, weather in your area, or design of your house. I will discuss how you can plan step by step to make an outdoor pen for your pet.

  • First of all, consider your geographical area. Is it a low land area or not? If it is a flat land area, you should avoid the plan of making an outdoor enclosure. It is because there is a high possibility that the area can be flooded. 
  • If your house is not in a low land area, then you can continue. 
  • Collect weather data in your area. Warm weather is suitable for an outdoor pen. If you live in a tropical region, it will be a plus point or you to build an outdoor habitat. You should not make one in the area where snow falls too often.
  • Make sure your pet box turtle belongs to a native species. Native box turtles can adapt best to an outdoor pen.

Pick Up The Perfect Size For The Outdoor Enclosure

When it comes to the size of an outdoor enclosure, I always sat, “The bigger, the better.” But a larger pen will cost you extra bucks and extra attention. There is no accurate size of an outdoor enclosure, but obviously, you have to make balance with your yard.

Five feet by Five feet enclosure is okay for a single box turtle. But if you are planning to house multiple box turtles, you have to increase the size. I always prefer a bigger outdoor enclosure, even if it is for a single box turtle.

Perfect Wooden Tortoise House For Outdoor & Indoor!

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To tell you the truth, I am not any good with wood working. So, making a house for my tortoise & box turtles myself was out of question. I was always on the lookout for a decent tortoise house at a cheap price.

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  • Private sleeping area, public viewing area
  • Dimension: 38.1″(L) x 22.4″(W) x 13.1″(H)
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Choose The Perfect Spot To Build An Outdoor Pen

We know that a box turtle needs both sunlight and shaded areas to lead a healthy life. It is because sunlight is full of UV rays, which is beneficial for the box turtle’s shell, and bone. On the other hand, the shaded area is crucial because it gives a box turtle the freedom to move out from a sunny area when it needs.

Many people find it suitable to build an outdoor enclosure beside their home. It gives two advantages.

  1. It works as a fourth wall for the enclosure.
  2. It works as a shady area for a portion of the day.

Now if you are planning to build the enclosure alongside your home, choose the east and south-facing walls. These are the ideal locations because they receive a sufficient amount of sunlight in the morning. Box turtles can warm up their bodies after night in the direct natural sunlight.

After picking up the spot, do not start work right away. Observe the place for one or two days. Observe how much sunlight and shade the spot can cover. If the spot does not have any shady area, you have to make a shelter for the box turtle so that it can cool off.

In the upcoming parts, I will discuss different methods of building an outdoor pen for a box turtle. All these pens are not of the same size and type. You can choose any way according to the size and number of your box turtle.

Method 1

Building The Enclosure


materials to build outdoor box turtle enclosure

 In this following method, we will build 8 feet by 8 feet outdoor enclosure. You have the freedom of enlarging the size of the pen. You can house two or three box turtles in that enclosure.

You have to use pressure-treated wood that will last longer instead of arsenic-treated wood. Ammoniacal Copper Quat treated timber is better than Chromated Copper Arsenate treated wood. Use any of these.

I am giving a list of the materials below:

  • landscaping timbers ( 8 feet long )
  • 8 feet by 4 feet by 2 feet timbers
  • Tall stakes ( 3 feet long )
  • Lumber (two feet long two by two )
  • A box of nails 
  • A hammer
  • A measuring tape
  • A shovel
  • Wire mesh ( 8 foot by 8 foot )

Area Cleaning

Do proper cleaning on the area. Remove anything that could hurt your box turtle. Now mark the size of the enclosure on the field. It would make the works more accessible. The pen will be a perfect square. 

Trench Digging

Now dig a trench with a minimum depth of 1 foot around the marked area. You can dig deeper if you want. This trench will support the walls of the enclosure. If the channel is not deep enough, your turtle can escape by digging a deeper hole.

The Layout Of The Enclosure

Now you have to plan the base timbers by attaching these with corner supports. You have to put one 8 feet long landscaping timber into every eight feet long trench. You will observe a square shape. It is the first part of the support wall.

Now to attach the walls at each corner. Use the 2 feet long two-by-two pieces of lumber. Use the nails to fasten the corners. Each corner should meet with another, and there shouldn’t be any space between the edges.

Build The Walls

After completing the layout, you have to build the walls. You have to make the walls high so that your pet box turtles can not escape. Now add two by four along each side to the two by two stakes by using the 8 feet long two by four lumber base to increase the height of the wall. Use nails to attach them to the layout. 

You can make the walls as high as you want. But the least height of the walls should be twice the size of the box turtle. It means, if your box turtle can reach 5 inches, the walls must be 10 inches high. This way the box turtle will be unable to escape the enclosure.

Now, remember that the height is significant here. If the box turtle can see the outside world, it will try to get out from the enclosure. It will continuously push the barrier and will come up with new escaping plans. That is why I suggest you provide a high wall.

Cover The Enclosure

You can not keep the upper surface of the pen open. Any types of predators can attack your pet box turtle if they get any chance. So you have to covet the enclosure with something.

Mesh wire is the perfect choice as a cover. It allows sunlight to the pen and does not let any predators enter into the pen. It also allows rain to fall inside the enclosure while keeping the pet safe.

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Make a cover using mesh wire. Attach it with the enclosure in such a way that it stays detachable. You will need to remove the cover to clean the pen and provide food to the box turtle. So do not fix it with the pen.

There are other options for making a cover. You can follow them too, or you can buy a commercial cover. But make sure the cover allows sufficient sunlight and rain to the box turtle.

Decorate The Enclosure

Replicate The Native Place

An ideal outdoor habitat should be the replica of the wild environment the box turtle lives in. Though it is impossible to mimic each detail, you can try to provide as many resources as you can. So, you have to research on the native places of your box turtle species. (We will discuss that later)

Plant Plants

Box turtles love plants. In the wild, most of the box turtles live in the grass or the low-level plants. Plants allow them to hide from the outside world. Also, planting small plants will help you to replicate the box turtle’s native natural area.

You have to choose the plants according to the climate and geographical area. And also, make sure that the plants are non-toxic, and safe for the box turtles.

You can add ground grass or mulch for the substrate. You can plant edible plants in the enclosure. It includes hibiscus, roses, geraniums, dandelions, mulberry trees, and pansies. Do not plant many plants or it would be a mess, again, avoid the trees that need pesticides.

Rocks And Logs

An outdoor enclosure must have some socks and trunks. The box turtle uses these as its hiding spot and basking area.

A box turtle love challenges. They love climbing these rocks, and it makes their day more exciting and cheerful. You can use a variety of logs and stones to build the enclosure more comfortable and natural to the box turtle.


You have to put some accessories and attractive toys inside the enclosure. Toys make the box turtles happy and cheerful. The box turtles stay busy and active all days. You have to change the toys from time to time so that the box turtle does not get bored.

You can put a rubber ball or turtle toy inside the pen. But you should not put small toys that the box turtle may shallow. Moreover, if the box turtle does not like a particular toy, remove it from the pen.

Water Station

I have mentioned earlier that a water source is a must inside an outdoor enclosure. We have built almost everything without the water station. It is essential because a box turtle soaks its body from time to time, and drink water from the source.

We can make a water station by following six easy steps:

1. Determining The Size Of The Water Source

You have to determine the size of the water source first. The size of the source will depend on the box turtle’s size. The water source must be large and spacious enough for the box turtles to do exercise.

The easy way to measure the source’s depth is to multiply the box turtle’s size by 2.5. It means the water source will be 2.5 times deeper than the box turtle’s size.

Now, remember, it is the maximum depth you can make. In length, you have to multiply the box turtle’s length five times. You can make it larger if you want. But make sure, the source is comfortable for the box turtle.

2. Choosing The Area

Now choose the perfect area for building a water station for the box turtle. Semi shaded area is the ideal spot for a water station. If you make the water source in an open place, direct sunlight may increase the temperature of the water, which is harmful to the box turtle. 

A semi-shaded area is perfect. You can build a water station alongside the wall. It will provide a sufficient amount of shade the water source need.

3. Digging

Now, dig the pond. You know the depth of the water station for your species. You can give any shape to the water source. 

4. Using A Pool Liner

You can not pour water directly inside the water station. You have to put a pool liner on the source first. Pool liners are available in any local shop. Liners restrict water to touch the ground and keep the water clean. You can use a tub or pot as a water source too. That would be much easier.

5. Filling With Water

Now pour water inside the water source. Make sure the water is clean, and the temperature of the water is comfortable for the pet box turtle. 

6. Setting Up A Basking Place

Place some logs or rocks beside the water station. It will work as a basking spot for the box turtles. Each box turtle tends to bask in the sun after taking a bath, soaking its body or drinking water. 

Method 2

You can make a unique quarter for your box turtle too. Follow the instructions below.

  • This will be 4 feet by 8 feet in size, and its wall will be 3 feet high. In meters, the dimension will be 1.2m x 2.4mx 1m.
  • The cover of the pen will be divided into two equal parts. The covers are made of the wood framework, and ripply vinyl greenhouse roofing is nailed with it. The cover is very protective, and sunlight can pass through it.
  • This unique pen has wheels. If you live in an area where the weather is unpredictable, this is for you. You can move the pen anywhere you want.
  • You have to put the substrate inside the pen. The layer of the substrate must be at least 4 inches. To keep the substrate moist, you have to spray water from time to time. To know more about the substrate, click the link.
  • The temperature inside the pen should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is similar to the one we use in an indoor habitat. To know about proper temperature, click the link.
  • The humidity should be around 60%. To know more about proper humidity, click the link.
  • You have to set up heating lights and UV lights inside the pen to make it more comfortable to the box turtle. To know more about proper lighting for a box turtle’s enclosure, click the link.
  • Now put some accessories, like hiding spots and toys.
  • You have to provide a water source of freshwater inside the pen.
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This outdoor pen is much similar to an indoor pen. The advantage of this enclosure is that it is readymade. So you do not have to put much effort to build an outdoor habitat, and also you can move it anywhere, anytime.

Specific Plants For The Box Turtle

plants for Box Turtle Outdoor Enclosure

In a section, I have mentioned that each species of box turtle prefers a different environment. So, we have to replicate the enclosure according to their choice. I am going to illustrate the specifics of each species of the box turtle.

Eastern Box Turtle 

In an enclosure for an Eastern box turtle, you can use plants like collard greens, strawberry plants, parsley, and clover. If your area is native for the Eastern box turtle, you can use any other non-toxic native plants. Add a compost area so that the turtle can find worms there.

Ornate Box Turtle

In the wild, an ornate box turtle lives in a dry, open and grassy area. It can be prairies, undisturbed fields, scrub regions or deserts. These areas are hotter than other areas. So the ornate box turtles spend their day burying hole in the ground to stay calm and moist. 

It means ornate box turtles are diggers and prefer high humid areas. So make sure the soil is deep and suitable enough for digging.

Ornate box turtles eat grubs, dung beetles, grasshoppers, worms, bugs. So, provide them with a compost area, where they can find these things. You can plant prairie grass, groundcovers, and wildflowers in pen.

Asian Box Turtle 

Most of the Asian countries are hot and humid. So most of the box turtle species live near a freshwater source. Their favorite foods are worms, fish, frogs, insects, and plant material. 

If you are planning an outdoor habitat for an Asian box turtle, you have to plant a lot of trees. And the water source has to be larger because Asian box turtles love to spend time inside the pool.

Box Turtle Outdoor Habitat Ideas

I have dedicated a separate page where I showcased different box turtle outdoor habitat ideas. You’ll get to see a gallery of images collected from the box turtle owners themselves!

If you are interested about creating an outdoor box turtle habitat, you MUST check out this page for inspiration!

Tips To Make An Outdoor Pen For A Box Turtle

  1. The enclosure must be predator-proof. Generally, an outdoor habitat is more vulnerable to predators like dogs, raccoons, foxes, etc. You have covered the pen correctly, and if you live in a wild area, I will discourage you from making an open outdoor pen. Instead, use the unique outdoor cage, which is safe.
  2. The fencing has to be tough. If the wall is not high enough or not strong enough, any wild animals can break through it. Box turtles are smaller than many other species, so they can not fight back. 
  3. You have to follow the size rule for both the water station and the enclosure. This way, your box turtles will be comfortable around the pen.
  4. The water source must be hygienic and clean. 
  5. Use proper woods or timbers to make the pen. Artificial or low-quality woods can harm the box turtle.
  6. Place both artificial and natural hiding spots inside the enclosure. You can provide multiple hiding spots. 
  7. Plant vegetation. Spiderwort, strawberry, squash, sunflower, dandelion, globe mallow, bindweed, grass are some of the best options. 


I have said that there are many ways of building an outdoor pen for a box turtle. I have discussed the two most efficient and most accessible methods. You do not have to struggle much if you follow these techniques. 

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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