How To Take Care Of Box Turtle Eggs? [Up To Hatchlings]

How To Take Care Of Box Turtle Eggs

It is always exciting for a turtle owner when his turtle lays eggs. It also adds some extra responsibilities to the owner’s daily schedule.

Each box turtle owner has to make sure that his box turtle and eggs are getting proper care. Taking care of box turtle’s eggs include incubation of the eggs and health care of the hatchlings.

If your box turtle is going to lay eggs for the first time, do not get nervous. You have come to the right place. In this article, I will illustrate everything about the box turtle’s breeding and eggs.

Box Turtle Mating Season

We all have heard about hibernation. It is a biological process, a box turtle may experience during severe cold or weather. Most of the time, a box turtle comes out from hibernation in March or early April. Basically, the time depends on your geographical area, and its weather.

Adult male box turtles feel an urge to find a mate right after coming out from hibernation. They may avoid food or their daily schedule but they will take the chance of reproducing.

The main mating seasons for a box turtle are summer and spring. In captivity, you may often find your box turtle engaged in mating in these seasons. Moreover, you can not force a box turtle to mate at a certain time. If you house multiple box turtle, often they will engage in mating.

Ideal Box Turtle To Breed

A scientific study indicates that not every box turtle is ideal for breeding. Again, many box turtle owners do not want their box turtles to breed. But the main question is why every box turtle is not ideal for breeding.

Improper breeding can cause genetic problems. You should not let siblings breed. This type of breeding affects the next generation of the box turtle.

Again, you can not free your box turtle in the wild to mate with another box turtle. There is a high possibility that the wild box turtles carry germs and diseases. By engaging in a mating process with them, your box turtle can get sick.

How To Find A Good Pair For Breeding?

Finding a good pair for breeding is not hard. All you have to do is to find two box turtles of the opposite gender, and the same species or subspecies. Some subspecies of the box turtle are allowed to breed together. For example, you can breed the Eastern box turtle and three toed box turtles together. But cross-breeding is always demotivated because it can result in genetic abnormalities.

Before choosing a good pair, you have to be an expert in finding the box turtle’s gender. In most cases, the male box turtle has red eyes, and they have a concave curve on the bottom of their shell. The concave curve allows them to mount the female box turtle during sex.

On the other hand, the female box turtles do not have red eyes, and their bottom shell is flat. If you find difficulty in determining the gender of the box turtle, you can take it to the vet.

Moreover, you have to make sure that the pair is healthy and does not have any diseases.

Mating can be a stressful process for the box turtles. So, make sure that both the box turtles are strong enough to go through the process.

Set Up For The Breeding Process

As a responsible turtle owner, you should make sure that your box turtle is getting everything it needs inside the enclosure. It is even more necessary if you are planning to engage them in mating.

You have to provide fresh water in the water source. The water should be deep enough for the box turtles to sink in. Set the heating lamp at the edge of the enclosure so that the box turtles can move from the warm side to the cool side if they want.

Put brush, logs, and hiding places for the turtles’ privacy. Provide soft material or soft bedding so that the box turtles can burrow into it. Make sure that the walls of the enclosure are covered with paper or anything else.

You have to build a second enclosure for the female box turtle. She will need it after breeding. Moreover, you also have to prepare a place where the female box turtle will lay eggs.

How To Take Care Of Breeding Pair?

  • Do not let the related box turtles breed together. It means no brother-sister, mother-son, or daughter-father should make the pairings. It causes genetic abnormalities in the next generation.
  • Take care of their health. Make sure the pair is getting enough Vitamins, calcium, and minerals.
  • In any case, if the female box turtle falls sick, do not let it breed. A sick female box turtle lays thin-shelled eggs or undeveloped eggs. Moreover, eggs can cause internal damages to a sick female box turtle. The box turtle can die in severe conditions.

How Would You Know That Your Box Turtle Is Going To Lay Eggs?

When a female box turtle is ready to lay eggs, you may notice some changes in its behavior.

  • Your box turtle will start digging holes into the substrate. It will dig holes in various places to find the perfect spot for laying eggs.
  • She will walk in a different style than usual.
  • She will be restless and may show some weird behavior like jumping.
  • The female box turtle will lose her appetite.
  • Her digging pattern will be different. The most important thing to notice is that the hole will be deeper.
  • The hole will be as deep as the length of her body. After finishing digging, she will get inside the hole, lay eggs, cover the eggs with mud, dirt, and leaves, and never come back for the eggs. So, if you want to move the female box turtle to another enclosure for laying eggs, you have to move just after noticing her unusual behavior.

Nesting Box For The Box Turtle

box turtle nesting

A nesting box is designed for turtles where they can lay eggs. A captive box turtle often finds it difficult to find a perfect spot for laying eggs because the substrate is not always preferable to her. For this reason, many box turtle owners or turtle keepers provide nesting boxes to the mother turtle. If the soil of the enclosure is soft and deep enough, then you do not need to provide a nesting box.

Advantages Of A Nesting Box

  • We know that a female box turtle does not lay eggs until she finds a suitable place for laying eggs. She may keep the eggs inside her, which is risky. A nesting box assures a suitable place for laying eggs to the box turtle.
  • The eggs can be broken inside the enclosure if the box turtles are not careful enough. A nesting box is more secure for the eggs.

You can make a nesting box by yourself or you can buy one from the pet store. To make a nesting box, you would need the following things.

  1. High-quality topsoil
  2. A large container
  3. A water sprayer
  4. A lid

You have to follow the instructions given below to make a nesting box for the box turtle.

  • Pour all the soil inside the container.
  • Make sure the soil is a minimum of 4 to 5 inches deep.
  • Now spray water with the sprayer. It will make the soil moist and humid.
  • Put the box turtle inside the container.
  • After that, connect the nesting box with the main enclosure.

If you want to know more about the nesting box, feel free to click here where I talk in detail about how to make a nesting box for turtles.

Where Does A Box Turtle Lay Eggs?

I have already mentioned about nesting box. You can use this box as a temporary place for the box turtle. There are some other options too. You can also provide a second enclosure to the mother box turtle for laying eggs.

Generally, after mating in the spring season, the box female box turtle starts looking for a perfect nesting spot in June or July. You can provide a solitary outdoor enclosure to the egg-bearing female box turtle. The enclosure must face to the south and should contain several spots for laying eggs.

The new enclosure should be as decorated as the usual one. That means the new enclosure should contain hiding places, sunny and shady places. Ensure that the soil of the enclosure is soft, and at least 5 to 6 inches deep.

Sometimes, a box turtle wants to make her nest beside large tree limbs or rocks. So, provide rocks on the top of the soil.

How To Take Care Of The Eggs?

A female box turtle lays three to four eggs. The eggs are white and oval-shaped. The shells of the eggs are thin-walled, flexible, and spongy.

Generally, the female box turtle covers the eggs with dirt, mud, and leaves and comes out from the nest. She covers the hole in such a way that you will never know there was a hole.

Hatchlings inside the eggs start after an extended period. Till then, you have to protect the eggs from any accident. In most cases, hatchlings come out from the eggs without any external help, but in some cases, they need extra care. Moreover, you may have to protect the eggs so that the hatchlings cannot escape.

Do You Need To Incubate The Box Turtle’s Eggs?

You should let the turtle’s eggs hatch naturally. Sometimes the soil or the environment is not good enough for hatching. In that situation, you would need to incubate the eggs. A beginner should not take any risk of incubation.

Prepare The Incubator

You should start with cleaning and sterling the incubator. You can use a cheap bleach solution or commercial incubator disinfectant to clean the incubator. It does not matter which one you choose.

You have to clean the surface inside the incubator, as well as the buttons, handles and everything else of the incubator. After cleaning, you have to set the perfect temperature and humidity in the incubator. You should run the incubator for 24 hours before putting the eggs inside the incubator.

Use vermiculite, perlite, or another type of substrate to bury the eggs partially. You should avoid sand as it does not allow passing oxygen.

Prepare Box Turtle Eggs For Incubation

Removing eggs from the nest can be a hard task because the eggs are very delicate at the primary stage.

  • First, remove the eggs from the nest very carefully.
  • Clean the eggs using a paintbrush.
  • Do not turn the eggs during incubation.
  • You can mark the top of the eggs with something so that you can make sure the position of the eggs.

The Temperature Of The Incubation

The ideal temperature for incubation is 85 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can vary from subspecies to subspecies. You can also apply a lower temperature but the process will go for a long time.

The Humidity Of The Incubation

Hardshell eggs require 70% humidity, and soft shell eggs need 90% humidity for incubation. American box turtles lay soft shell eggs. So, they need 90% humidity.

Duration Of Incubation

Most subspecies or species of box turtles need 8 to 11 weeks to hatch. In some cases, they may need one or two extra weeks.

You have to moist the substrate regularly. If you provide proper temperature and humidity, the eggs will hatch properly.

You have to be patient during this process. Do not toss any eggs just because you think it is infertile.

There are various methods for incubation. But most people follow two basic methods for incubation.

  1. Low humidity method
  2. High humidity method

You can follow any method you want. While choosing an incubator, buy a good one. The better the incubator, the better you can control different factors.

Hatchlings Of The Box Turtle

box turtle hatchlings

The baby box turtle hatchlings emerge within 70 to 90 days. It depends on the development of the embryos and the temperature of the incubator.

How To Take Care Of The Newly Born Box Turtle Hatchlings

To take care of the newly born box turtle hatchlings, you have to make sure it is properly housed, and getting enough food. I am sharing some tips with you, which will help you to look after the hatchlings.

Housing

Keep the hatchlings indoor for 10 to 12 months. You can place them in a large tank with a deep substrate of moist terrarium moss. Clean the substrate before placing the hatchlings inside it.

Keep the humidity level high in the substrate. Set up a lamp and provide heat for a minimum of 12 hours a day. 

You can use a thermostat to control the temperature of the tank.

Maintain 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during nighttime. You have to provide fresh water into the water source. You can place the babies inside the water source to make sure that the babies are drinking water.

You have to set up a UV light on one side of the tank. UV lights ensure a healthy life of a box turtle. It is also important for the shell and bone development of the box turtle.

How To Maintain The Baby Hatchlings’ Enclosure

  • You have to clean the tank at least once a month.
  • You can reuse the beddings if there is no sign of fungus or bacteria.
  • You have to clean the water source daily.
  • Clean the tank using commercial cleaning products.

Can You Put The Hatchlings Outside?

You can raise the hatchlings in an outdoor enclosure. But in that case, you have to cover the enclosure with something to protect them from any predators. Make sure the box turtles will get enough sun and shades.

Fire ants can kill baby box turtles. You have to have actions to avoid this kind of situation. You can place an ant bait to avoid the problem.

Feeding The Hatchlings

Baby box turtles do not need food every day. But they do need water. you have to provide fresh water to them every day.

The following items are good for the baby box turtle.

  • Worms
  • Dog kibble
  • Vitamin
  • Mineral supplements

Box turtles are omnivorous, but baby hatchlings are carnivorous. So you should not provide any fruits or vegetables to it. Rather make sure it is getting enough Vitamin D, calcium and protein. These will make its bone and shell strong and well-shaped.

Hatchlings need constant medical care. You can not provide proper medical care from home. So I would suggest taking the hatchlings to any vet.

The vet can suggest different vitamin supplements and medicines. You have to take great care of the hatchlings at an early age.

Conclusion

In this article, I have explained each stage from breeding to the hatchling. If you want to breed your box turtle, do not worry much. You can follow the steps or advice I have given.

I always recommend visiting a vet for taking advice. It is safer and more secure.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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