The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.
I was eager to give my pet turtle the best diet possible to keep his shell strong and healthy. So I thought a bit of added calcium from egg shells could really help him. But can turtles eat egg shells safely? Let me walk you through what I’ve learned.
In a nutshell, turtles can indeed eat egg shells in moderation as an occasional calcium supplement. But egg shells lack complete nutrition, so should not make up the bulk of a turtle’s diet. Small amounts of thoroughly washed, dried, and crushed egg shells can be fed a couple times a week.
Intrigued to learn more? Read on for an in-depth look at the benefits, risks, dosage of feeding egg shells to turtles. Let’s crack this issue open!
Turtles can eat egg shells as an occasional calcium supplement, but not as a staple food. Egg shells provide a good source of calcium carbonate, which helps build strong bones and shells. But they lack balanced nutrition on their own.
In the wild, some aquatic turtles will snack on bird eggs or fragments of broken shells washed into the water. Land turtles may also nibble an egg or bit of shell encountered in their habitat.
But egg shells do not make up a major part of their diet. Turtles eat a wide variety of plants, insects, fish, and other prey to get complete nutrition. Therefore, in captivity, it’s fine to offer domestic turtles limited amounts of thoroughly cleaned, dried, and crushed egg shells occasionally.
Whole shells can pose a choking risk and are difficult to digest. So, a couple times a week is sufficient in most cases.
Egg shell powder can be sprinkled on food. But the bulk of a pet turtle’s diet should come from a quality commercial pellet formula, plus vegetables, fruits, live feeders, or other items depending on species.
Over-relying on egg shells risks nutritional imbalance and health problems. In contrast, with proper preparation and dosage, egg shells can provide a calcium boost.
What Are The Nutritional Benefits Of Egg Shells For Turtles?
As I already mentioned, egg shells are a good source of calcium for turtles. As supported by a 2015 peer-reviewed study published in the British medical journal(BMJ), calcium is essential for building strong shells and bones, contracting muscles, blood clotting, and many other vital functions.
According to another 2018 study, calcium makes up over 97% of an egg shell’s nutritional composition by weight. So, egg chills stand to provide huge nutritional boost to the bone and shell growth of turtles.
For better clarification, here is the nutritional breakdown of egg shells:
- Calcium carbonate: 97%
- Magnesium: 0.9%
- Phosphorus: 0.9%
- Organic matter: 1%
Beyond calcium, egg shells contain small amounts of other minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. For turtles, magnesium and phosphorus plays roles in bone development, immune function, muscle and nerve transmission, blood glucose control, and more.
Therefore, the bottom line is egg shells are a great supplemental source of calcium, plus tiny amounts of other minerals. So, for turtles, an occasional egg shell boosts calcium intake.
Simply put, most species of aquatic and land turtles can consume egg shells safely in moderation. Exceptions are:
- Soft-shell turtles: Their unique shell structure and composition makes additional calcium unnecessary. Their diet should focus on protein-rich live foods.
- Snapping turtles: They get ample calcium from their natural carnivorous diet. Too much supplemental calcium can cause shell deformities.
- Sea turtles: Their bodies are specially adapted to absorb calcium from seawater and marine prey. Additional calcium is not needed.
Aside from those three groups, most turtles can benefit from occasional egg shell supplements as part of a balanced diet. Their shells contain calcium carbonate just as egg shells do. But the amounts need to be adjusted appropriately for species size and age.
Half an eggshell may provide enough calcium to meet the daily requirements for adults, which is 1,000 mg per day! (Source: Healthline)
Egg shells are safe and can be fed to baby and juvenile turtles. But just as we suggested earlier, only in tiny amounts at first. Here are some tips for safe feeding eggshells to your baby turtles:
- Start with just a pinch of powder once weekly after 1 month old. Their calcium needs are minimal when small.
- Slowly increase to 1/8 teaspoon powder 1-2 times weekly in the 1-4 year range as the turtle grows.
- Carefully monitor growth. Reduce or take a break if the shell starts growing too rapidly or deforms.
- Ensure the diet is 10%+ protein from pellets, insects and meat for healthy growth. Egg shells don’t provide this.
- Offer a variety of calcium sources, not just egg shells. Dark leafy greens, yogurt and bone-in prey also add calcium.
With a measured approach, egg shells are safe for young turtles after 1 month old. But again, they should not make up most of the diet. A balanced meal plan with diverse calcium sources in moderation is key for babies.
Egg shells should be washed, dried, and crushed into a fine powder before feeding to turtles. Here are some preparation steps that can help you do this.
- Eggshells (washed and dried)
- Coffee grinder or food processor
- Storage containers
Steps to follow:
- Pick only undyed, undecorated egg shells. You may also occasionally use goose, duck, quail eggs as well.
- Thoroughly wash shells in soap and hot water to remove any bacterial residue.
- Dry shells completely in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. This further reduces any bacteria.
- Grind the shells into a fine powder using a clean coffee grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle.
- Sift to remove any large pieces. Shell particles should be as fine as possible for easier digestion.
- Finally, store the grinded powder in an airtight container out of sunlight. It will keep for several months.
Remember, feeding whole egg shells is dangerous, as sharp edges can cut a turtle’s mouth or throat. And large pieces are hard to digest. Grinding into a fine powder prevents these risks.
The thumb rule is to start slowly when first introducing egg shell powder. Mix just a pinch with regular food and then gradually increase dosage if well tolerated.
Now, the ideal egg shell dosage for a turtle depends on age and size. In terms of quantity, here are some general guidelines from experts:
- Hatchlings under 1 year: Just a tiny pinch of powder once or twice weekly. Their calcium needs are not high yet.
- Juveniles 1-4 years: Up to 1/8 teaspoon powder 2-3 times per week. Monitor growth to avoid excess.
- Small adult turtles under 6 inches: Up to 1⁄4 teaspoon 2-3 times per week.
- Medium turtles 6-10 inches: Up to 1⁄2 teaspoon 2-4 times per week.
- Large turtles over 10 inches: Up to 3⁄4 teaspoon 3-4 times per week.
- Tortoises: Up to 1 teaspoon 2-3 times per week.
Point to be noted here, these are maximum amounts that should not be exceeded. If your turtle eats a varied diet with calcium-rich foods like kale or shrimp, they may need less than these doses.
Excess calcium can cause shell deformities, kidney/bladder stones, and other problems. So, watch for signs of excess such as losing appetite, lethargy, or changes in the shell, skin, or eyes.
Then reduce or take a break from egg shell supplements.
What Are The Risks Of Feeding Egg Shells To Turtles?
While egg shells are a beneficial source of calcium for turtles in moderation, there are some risks to watch out for. Hear the potential risk that you face if you overfeed egg shells to your turtles:
- Shell Impaction: Eating large pieces of shell can obstruct the digestive tract. Grinding shells into fine powder prevents this.
- Excess Calcium: Too much calcium can inhibit absorption of other essential nutrients.
It can also cause kidney/bladder stones. Additionally, it can also cause shell malformations, bone and shell overgrowth issues, organ damage, and possibly death if severe.
- Nutritional Imbalance: Relying too heavily on egg shells means inadequate protein, vitamins, and well-rounded nutrition. This can lead to malnutrition, poor growth, and health problems.
- Bacteria Contamination: if not prepared in the right way, raw grocery store eggs may contain the bacteria salmonella. So, always cook shells thoroughly first to eliminate risks.
NOTE: These dangers mainly come from overdoing it on egg shell intake. When fed in moderation alongside a balanced diet, most healthy turtles can benefit from some supplemental calcium from egg shells.
Eggshells are roughly 40% calcium, with each gram providing 381-401 mg. (source: Healthline)
While egg shells are a good calcium source, there are other options for your turtle as well. Let’s check out a few of these so you can diversify your pet’s diet:
- Leafy greens like kale, collard or turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli leaves
- Legumes including beans and lentils
- Unsweetened yogurt in small amounts
- Calcium-fortified pellets or treats
- Cuttlebones, which can be nibbled on by turtles
- Whole prey like shrimp or feeder fish with edible bones
- Calcium supplements from pet stores, used sparingly
Don’t forget that variety of food sources is vital, as different foods contain different ratios of calcium to phosphorus. So, rotate through several calcium sources to ensure an ideal absorption of nutrients for your turtle.
Additionally, a reptile multivitamin containing calcium is also good to use 1-2 times a week.
Can I Give My Turtle Raw Egg Shells?
Raw, uncooked egg shells are not recommended for turtles due to the risk of salmonella contamination. Salmonella bacteria are commonly found both on the outer shell and insider eggs.
So, what to do? Good news for you!
Heating the shells kills salmonella and makes them safe. Boiling for 5 minutes or baking at 350°F for 30 minutes are effective enough to kill all bacteria. However, the shells still need to be washed, dried, and powdered before feeding.
The shell powdering process also helps remove any lingering bacteria. Just be sure to use very clean utensils and storage containers, and don’t introduce any raw egg residue.
Additionally, for best safety, always cook egg shells thoroughly before feeding them to turtles. A salmonella infection can be extremely dangerous for them if their immune system is compromised. Avoid the risk with heat treatment first.
Do Turtles Naturally Consume Egg Shells in the Wild?
Turtles typically don’t seek out egg shells as a major food source in wild settings. But they may occasionally ingest small amounts opportunistically.
In a nutshell, while not a staple, egg shell consumption does happen sporadically in the wild. This supports the practice of offering limited amounts of powdered shell to captive turtles as well.
Here are some examples of turtles eating egg shells in the wild:
- Aquatic turtles like sliders or mud turtles might snack on bird egg remnants that wash into the water. These fragments provide supplemental calcium.
- Land tortoises may nibble bits of shattered eggshell they come across while foraging. But eggs are not a dietary focus.
- Hatchling turtles still inside nesting sites might ingest egg fragments from their own clutch as they emerge. But they consume the yolk first for initial nutrition.
- Some turtles raid bird nests for whole eggs, getting both shell and yolk in one package. But again, eggs are not a primary food item.
Most experts recommend offering egg shells no more than 2-4 times per week at appropriate amounts based on species, size, and age.
Here are some more specific tips on frequency:
- Hatchlings under 1 year just need a pinch once or twice weekly due to small calcium needs.
- Juvenile and adult turtles can eat egg shell powder 2-3 times per week. Daily is not necessary or recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some queries you might have in your mind.
Turtles can indeed safely consume raw eggs. Their digestive system is equipped to break down and absorb nutrients from raw eggs. The protein, fat, and vitamins in raw eggs make a nutritious supplemental food.
Egg yolks are perfectly fine for turtles to eat. The high fat and protein content of egg yolks makes them an ideal turtle food. Their digestive system can handle the cholesterol too. Just feed yolks in moderation along with varied foods.
Boiled eggs are safe and healthy for turtles to eat. Cooking denatures proteins slightly but the eggs retain nutritional value. The firm texture of boiled eggs may require more chewing but presents no issues for digestion for turtles.
Scrambled eggs are absolutely safe for turtles to consume. Cooking coagulates the egg proteins, making them easier to digest. Scrambling also incorporates air pockets for a softer texture. So, scrambled eggs are an excellent source of protein for turtles.
In most cases, turtles will not intentionally eat their own eggs. Some species exhibit egg guarding behaviors indicating they recognize their genetic investment. So, consuming their own eggs is not typical behavior for turtles.
But, egg shells are high in calcium but lack complete nutrition. They should not comprise the bulk of any turtle’s diet. Therefore, you should offer a varied mix of quality pellets, vegetables, fruits, proteins, and other components for balanced nutrition.
I hope these “egg-cellent” insights helped you decide whether to serve egg shells to your turtle.