How Do Mother Turtles Feed Their Babies?

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

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Turtles rarely develop an intricate relationship with their offspring in the wild. Most turtles leave the eggs behind before they hatch; as such, baby turtles hardly ever get reunited with their parents, even if they survive. But how do mother turtles feed their babies if that’s the case?

Mother turtles don’t feed their babies after they hatch. Baby turtles have to learn to hunt on their own to survive. Generally, they live on aquatic plants, crustaceans, bugs, worms, etc. in the wild.

Mother turtles rarely raise or feed their offspring, even if raised in captivity. Baby turtles have to fend for themselves & only the fittest can survive the natural ordeals.

read all our guides on baby turtle feeding!

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles are oviparous, i.e., they lay eggs.
  • Turtles leave the eggs behind after laying them.
  • Turtles are independent since birth i.e. mother turtles don’t raise or feed them.
  • Baby turtles are born with swimming and hunting instincts.
  • Most baby turtles become food for seagulls, eagles, crocodiles, or other local predators.

Do Turtles Feed Their Babies?

Turtles don’t feed or care for their babies after birth.

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On the contrary, baby turtles are completely independent most of the time in the wild.

As such, they have to either fend for themselves or die to local predators.

While turtles may not actively feed the babies, they provide minimal care to the offspring. For instance –

They arrange for appropriate nesting grounds:

Before laying eggs, mother turtles conduct an intricate survey of the surrounding area to find the perfect nesting grounds. They sense the temperature, humidity, moisture levels of the soil, etc., to determine the suitability of these grounds.

They bury the eggs before leaving:

Both land and sea turtles tend to bury the eggs under the soil and the sand, respectively. They regulate the temperature so the eggs can go through the incubation period smoothly. Plus, burying the eggs keeps them safe from surrounding predators.

They help the hatchlings to find water:

Baby turtles have an innate instinct to swim to the nearby water after hatching. If the mother sticks around, she’ll sometimes help the offspring reach the water bodies. However, it’s a rare sight in the wild, as not many turtles stick around.

They protect the baby turtles from predators:

In an enclosed or semi-closed ecosystem, mother turtles can stay near baby turtles and actively protect them from predators in the area. However, they don’t do so for long, even in captivity.

Read More: Why Do Turtles Eat Their Babies?

Do All Turtles Leave Their Babies Behind?

Unfortunately, all turtles do leave their hatchlings behind at some point.

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Sea turtles traverse miles to swim to high-tide beaches to lay their eggs. Alternatively, land turtles find nesting grounds away from their usual spots to hide the eggs from conniving creatures in the wild.

Snapping turtles, softshell turtles, painted turtles, etc., build nests on muddy or sandy areas near water bodies. After laying the eggs, they don’t go too far away like loggerhead sea or leatherback turtles. But they also don’t incubate the eggs by brooding. After hatching, baby turtles live independent lives and must ensure their security.

Why Don’t Turtles Raise Their Babies?

Turtles don’t have similar maternal instincts to humans or other mammals. Most reptiles leave their babies behind, and turtles aren’t any different. Here’s why turtles don’t usually raise their babies after they hatch –


Sea turtles can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. It’s simply not possible for a mother turtle to take care of or hand-feed so many babies at a time.

Natural Selection:

Without natural selection taking its course, the turtle population would go up by a lot. Only a handful of turtles survive without the mother protecting the babies after they hatch, keeping the turtle population in check.

Lack Of Energy:

Mother turtles spend most of their energy producing eggs and building suitable nesting grounds. As such, they cannot provide aftercare to the offspring after they hatch.

Read More: What Do Baby Turtles Eat In The Wild?

Do Pet Turtles Feed Their Babies?

Pet turtles don’t express any interest in feeding their babies either. If you’re caring for baby turtles, you’ll need to meet their dietary requirements separately.

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Baby turtles have innate instincts to hunt and find food. While you won’t need to hand-feed these young reptiles, you’ll need to ensure they have access to –

Large tanks:

Baby turtles need to swim around in spacious tanks to explore the surroundings and unlock their potential. Painted turtles or red-eared sliders can thrive amazingly in 40-gallon tanks as they can use the space to explore freely.

Right Temperature:

As turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, ensure the temperature doesn’t go below 18° C at night. If it’s too cold, baby turtles can go into shock in an attempt to hibernate earlier than expected.

Keep the water temperature steady at 24-29° C and basking temperature at 32-35° C.

Read More: What Do Newborn Turtles Eat?

Before You Go

While mother turtles don’t feed their hatchlings in the traditional methods, they care for the babies in their own way. After all, swimming for miles in a pregnant state just to lay eggs on the beach is no easy feat.

Sadly, a significant amount of these hatchlings do become food for the local predators while the rest can swim away to safety. To know more about the fate of baby turtles in the wild, read up on – Do Crabs Eat Baby Turtles?

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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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