How To Hatch Box Turtles From Eggs?

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

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Box turtles are undoubtedly one of the best pet turtles you can get. With good care, they can be your pet for a lifetime. Eventually, your box turtles will mature and want to reproduce. So, you may end up with some box turtle eggs. If you want baby box turtles, you may wonder how to hatch box turtles from eggs.

In this article, I will tell you how you can hatch box turtle eggs. You can hatch turtle’s eggs naturally or in an incubator. Before that, let us know more about box turtle eggs.

How Many Eggs Do A Box Turtle Lay?

Now, how many eggs are you need to take care of? You may find it challenging to hatch too many turtle eggs if you are doing this for the first time. Do not worry. Box turtles lay only one clutch per year, and the number of eggs is between two to nine.

However, some box turtles can lay about 10 eggs. The number of eggs can vary based on the type of box turtles. For example, a female eastern box turtle typically lays 4 to 5 eggs. On the other hand, an ornate box turtle lays 2 to 4 eggs. Also, some of these eggs can get infertile. So, you do not have to deal with too many eggs and hatchlings.

When Do Box Turtles Lay Eggs?

Keep an eye on your mature female box turtle from May to July as they lay eggs during these months. The pregnant box turtle will search desperately for a nesting area. So, you must provide them with a secure nesting area.

Box turtles hibernate from late October to April when they find the temperature too low. After they come out of hibernation, they become sexually active. The mating season for box turtles is from April to October. The male turtles will find a female turtle to reproduce.

A female box turtle can carry fertile eggs for 3 to 4 years. Then they lay the eggs when they find a suitable nesting place.

How Long Does It Take To Hatch Box Turtle Eggs?

Box turtle hatchlings take 70 to 90 days to come out of their eggs. During this time, the eggs should not be moved. Changing the rotation of the eggs can harm them. How long the eggs need to hatch depends on the soil and air temperature.

In some rare cases, box turtle eggs can take 100 days to hatch. Therefore, wait for your box turtle eggs to hatch for two to three months. In the meantime, some eggs can become infertile.

Where Do Box Turtles Lay Their Eggs?

In the wild, a pregnant box turtle looks for soft soil that gets plenty of sunlight. They usually lay their eggs on the slopes of riverbanks facing south. They choose a nesting site 8 to 12 inches deep.

The soil has to be moist, but not too wet. Box turtles build their nests far from the water. They choose an area where rainwater does not get stuck. They make sure the eggs do not get submerged in water.

Your pet box turtle needs similar conditions to lay eggs. You can provide a nesting area or nesting box for your pregnant turtle. You can let the eggs hatch naturally in the nest, or hatch them in an artificial incubator.

Can You Hatch Box Turtle Eggs Without An Incubator?

Hatching box turtles in an incubator is a great idea to make sure most of the eggs hatch safely. But what if you do not have an incubator? Can you hatch box turtle eggs without an incubator?

Yes, you can take the chance of hatching eggs without incubators, but you have to build a proper enclosure for your box turtles. The enclosure should have enough space for the box turtles to burrow and make nests.

To build an ideal enclosure for box turtles, you should understand they are semi-aquatic terrapins, but they prefer to spend more time on land than on the water. A lot of the time, they keep themselves burrowed under moist soil mixed with dead leaves and grass. Female box turtles also prefer the same type of substrates to make their nests.

Hence, you need to arrange similar nesting conditions for your female box turtles to lay eggs. Not only that, the temperature of the nesting area should have the right amount of heat and humidity essential for hatching the turtle eggs.

How Can You Hatch Box Turtle Eggs Without an Incubator?

So, you want to hatch your pet box turtle’s eggs without an incubator. If you have an outdoor enclosure, you should have dedicated an area for your pet box turtles to burrow. For indoor box turtles, arrange a nesting box for them to lay eggs or transfer the eggs to the nesting box.

Hatching Box Turtle Eggs Indoors

Since most turtle owners prefer to keep turtles indoors, let us start with hatching box turtles indoors. When your sexually mature female box turtle gets pregnant. It becomes restless and relentlessly looks for a safe nesting spot.

You may see your female box turtle scratching on the substrates in the enclosure. It is one sign showing your turtle is ready to lay eggs.

Here is how you can help it:

Step 1: Build a Nesting Box

First, build a nesting box for the box turtle eggs. You can use a box with an airtight lid or a simple shoe box. A clear plastic box is a better option as you can see through it to see the condition of the eggs without taking off the lid.

The box should be large for the turtles to move around. A 20-gallon plastic container or box can be a good choice. There should be some air flowing into the box. So, you better make some holes in the box lid for ventilation.

Step 2: Fill in the Box with Substrates

Next, fill the nesting box with substrates. You can buy reptile substrate or soil from a pet store. You can also prepare a substrate by yourself. For that, you need dry soil and Sphagnum Peat Moss. Coconut fibre is also great for mixing with soil. The mixture of the soil and other substrates should be 50:50.

After mixing the substrate, pour them into the box evenly. The depth of the substrate should be at least 5 inches deep for the box turtle to dig in. Humidity is crucial for turtle eggs. So, dump the substrate using a spray. Be careful not to get the substrate wet too much. Keep it slightly moist.

Step 3: Put the Box Turtle in the Nesting Box

As mentioned before, you have two options. You can either lead the pregnant turtle into the nesting box or transfer the eggs from the turtle enclosure to the nesting box.

If you choose the first option, place the pregnant box turtle inside the nesting box. Then close the lid. When the turtle feels safe in the box, it will lay eggs.

After one or two hours, your turtle should finish laying eggs. You can then put the box turtle back in the enclosure. If the turtle does not lay eggs, try putting the turtle back in the box two to three times a day.

Step 4: Preparing the Eggs to Transfer in The Nesting Box

Your box turtles may have already laid their eggs in the substrates of the enclosure. If you think the substrate is not suitable for the eggs to hatch, you can manually transfer the eggs to the nesting box.

After preparing the nesting box, make shallow impressions on the substrates for the eggs. Then you have to prepare the eggs to put in the box.

It is extremely important to keep the rotation of the eggs the same in the natural nest. So, gently remove the soil from the eggs without changing their rotation.

Before transferring to the nesting box, mark the top of each egg with a marker. This way, you can know which side of the eggs should be up in the nesting box.

Step 5: Transfer the Eggs to the Nesting Box

It is time to put the eggs in the nesting box. Take the eggs one by one and put them gently in the box. Make sure not to rotate the eggs. Keep the marked side of the egg upward.

Maintaining the egg orientation is crucial because changing it can kill the embryos. Hence, the eggs will not hatch. When you are done putting the eggs in the box, seal the lid.

Step 6: Place the Box in A Warm Place

Keep the nesting box in a warm and dark place. The temperature of the room should not fluctuate too much. It should be between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit for box turtle eggs to remain fertile.

You can keep the box in a room where you can regulate the temperature. A garage, basement, or kitchen is an excellent choice to keep the nesting box safe.

Finally, be patient until the baby box turtles hatch. Hatchlings should come out within 70 to 90 days. So, be patient.

Hatching Box Turtle Eggs in an Outdoor Enclosure

Outdoor enclosures for box turtles are usually spacious. So, you have plenty of places for making a nesting spot for your female box turtle. The same goes for a spacious indoor enclosure.

You can create multiple nesting areas in a large enclosure. Hence, it is better to have the nesting areas within the enclosure if you have more than one female box turtle.

Here is how you can prepare the nesting spots in the enclosure:

Step 1: Choose a Nesting Area

First, choose a proper nesting area for your box turtle. The nesting spout should have access to light as the eggs will need warmth.

Step 2: Prepare the Nesting Substrate

The substrate for nesting has to be soft and moist for the turtles to dig in. So, prepare the substrates for the nesting area. You can mix topsoil and sand to provide the right texture and humidity. The topsoil and sand ratios should be 3:1.

After that, add some water to moisten the mixture. Again, do not get it dripping wet.

Step 3: Pour the mixture onto the Nesting Area

Next, you have to pour the mixture onto the chosen area for nesting. Before that, remove the previous substrates and other dirt and debris from the nesting area.

The depth of the substrate mixture should be at least 8 inches so that turtles can dig their nests.

Step 4: Add Some Leaves, Plants, Rocks, and Logs

When box turtles get pregnant, they can get quite stressed. They get scared easily and retreat to hide spots. Therefore, provide some shelter in the nesting area.

You can add some dead leaves and barks to cover the substrate. The turtles can burrow themselves under the leaves. Also, it helps the substrate to keep moisture.

Decorate the area with plants, natural rocks and logs. Design the nesting area resembling the natural habitat as much as possible. Your turtle will have more privacy to lay its eggs.

Step 5: Wait for the Eggs to Hatch

Do not check on your box turtle when it inspects the nesting area. It may take time to choose a spot. The female turtles use their hind claws to dig into the soil. Once your box turtle lays the eggs, they will cover the nesting area and leave the spot.

Then, you have to wait for 70 to 90 days for the eggs to hatch. Remember that some box turtle eggs may get infertile when you choose to hatch naturally.

How to Hatch Box Turtle Eggs in an Incubator?

If you have the budget to buy an artificial incubator, get one to hatch your box turtle eggs. You can keep the temperature and humidity stable in an incubator. Using an incubator gives you a better chance of hatching more baby turtles.

As mentioned above, use a container or nesting box. Collect the eggs and put them in the special box filled with substrates. Then Place the box inside the incubator.

You must keep these factors in mind:

  • Mark the top of each of the eggs with a marker. Do not shake or rotate the natural orientation of the eggs.
  • Set the incubator temperature at about 77 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Set the humidity at about 80%.

When you use an artificial incubator to hatch box turtles, it may take 50 to 90 days for them to hatch. To make sure the substrate remains damp, you can moisten them whenever necessary.

Box Turtle Egg Incubation Temperature

Box turtles are land turtles. They spend more time on the land. They need a slightly higher temperature than the aquatic turtles for hatching eggs. So, it is important to keep the incubation temperature 77 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, box turtle eggs should be kept at a high temperature.

When you keep the temperature lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you will get male box turtles. When you set the temperature to 82 and above, the turtles will be female.

Box Turtle Laying Eggs In Yard

Wild box turtles can travel a long way from their natural habitat in search of a proper resting spot. If your house is near box turtle habitats, one of the box turtles might find its way to your yard. You may be at a loss thinking about what to do when they lay eggs in your yard.

When you see a box turtle laying eggs in the yard, do not bother them. Let them finish laying eggs. After laying eggs, the mother turtle leaves the spot. Now, you might get concerned about the safety of the eggs.

There are two options for you. Once you find a box turtle nest in your yard, you can call the local animal control and let them deal with the nest. The second option is to keep the turtle nest safe.

For that, you can set up a net cage or wired mash around the nest. It will prevent people from stepping on the eggs and the wild animals from eating them. When the hatching time is closed, you can put a bowl of shallow water for the baby turtles to soak in. Eventually, they will find their way into the wild.


Hopefully, you have got a clear idea about how to hatch box turtles from eggs by now. You can breed your box turtles and hatch the eggs without much trouble. Follow the steps mentioned in this article, and you will be able to get mini versions of your favourite pet.

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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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