In this article, I am going to answer some of the most asked questions about turtle eggs from the owners. By having a clear concept about this questions, you’ll be better able to hatch more successful turtle eggs. So, let’s get started!
How to tell if the turtle eggs are fertile or alive?
Generally, turtles lay their whole clutch of eggs into a single hole. After laying the eggs, the mother seals the hole completely with soil. Depending on the species, after laying the eggs, it will require roughly about 60 to 90 days for eggs to start hatching. All of the eggs will not start to hatch at a time. It may take a few days to a few weeks for all the turtle eggs to hatch.
Whether you are naturally waiting for the eggs to hatch, or incubating the eggs yourself, you may often wonder if all the turtle eggs are fertile or alive. There are no methods that can say 100% accurately if a turtle egg is fertile or not. There are many variables that are concerned, so it is not possible to get a definite answer. However, there are some techniques which can shed some light on whether a turtle egg is alive or fertile or not. Here are the techniques:
- For this method, you need to handle the eggs. Always be very sincere and careful when handling turtle eggs. The eggs are very fragile and can get broken if handled roughly. Also, if you change the orientation of the eggs, the embryo may get damaged or even killed.
- Take the egg into a dark room, and hold a flashlight under the turtle egg. If the turtle egg is fertile, you’ll be able to see the embryo. The embryo will appear as a red circle inside the egg. Don’t decide immediately that the egg is infertile if you can’t see the embryo. The turtle eggs take a lot of time to develop. If you can’t see the embryo, wait for a week and then examine again.
- the fertile turtle eggs change color as they get matured. When turtles first lay eggs, it has a pinkish white coloring. As the eggs get matured and the embryo develops, the pinkish coloring disappears and the eggs appear darker. There will be no color change if the eggs are not fertile or alive.
- You can also determine if a turtle egg is alive or not by feeling it. Fertile eggs change their texture as they get matured. As the embryo develops, the eggs will start to have a harder and rubbery texture. If the eggs are not fertile, the texture will not change.
- Turtle eggs need a lot of time to develop. The develop speed is very slow and steady. So, you need to be patient when deciding if an egg is fertile or not. Do multiple checkups at multiple timelines to be completely sure if an egg is fertile or not.
Why my turtle laid eggs without a mate?
All of us know that turtle lay eggs for reproduction after mating. But, many of us don’t know a female turtle can even lay eggs without any mating. In such a case, the eggs will be infertile and there will be no hatchlings.
Every female turtle has eggs inside it. They will lay the eggs after a certain age. It doesn’t matter if they have mated with a male turtle or not. If there has been no mating, the eggs will not be fertile and there will be no babies from them. Most female turtle species start to lay eggs at about 3 to 5 years old. Turtles need to mate for having babies, eggs can come even without mating.
When a turtle is ready to lay eggs, it will show some symptoms such as:
- They will not show interest in foods. Turtles are generally very greedy and love their foods. However, during this period, the turtle may often leave its food untouched.
- The female turtle gets reckless during this time. I have often seen many female turtles climbing on the basking area and then jumping into the water again and again.
- The turtle starts to explore. Roam around the enclosure.
- When the turtle is ready to lay eggs, it will start to dig here and there until it finds the right place for laying her eggs. When she chooses a place, she will dig up a flask-shaped hole for laying her eggs.
- You can also tell if a turtle is ready to lay eggs by feeling her belly. However, be very careful when doing this otherwise you may crush her eggs.
When a turtle starts to show the above symptoms, the owner should move their turtle’s enclosure to the outside, so that the turtle can dig and lay her eggs. Also, the owners need to care for the female turtle especially during this period.
How to make a turtle egg incubator?
To make a turtle egg incubator, you’ll need the following items:
- A plastic container (about 5-gallon size)
- Water heater (submersible)
- An aquarium (preferably 10 gallons)
- Two pieces of thermometers (digital thermometer preferable)
- Some sheets of plexiglass
A turtle egg incubator increases the hatching rate of the eggs drastically. Without an incubator, most of the eggs will die. Within an incubator, we can create a favorable environment for the eggs to hatch. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have any reptile incubator. Moreover, they are not cheap. But that doesn’t mean we can’t build our own turtle egg incubator. Fortunately for us, we can make a decent turtle egg incubator with easily found household items.
Here are the procedures to make a turtle egg incubator:
- First, fill up the container with sand. Leave 2 to 3 inches free from the top of the container. Now, pour lukewarm water into the sand to make it wet. Don’t over wet the sand. The moisture should be such that, if you squeeze the sand no water will drop out of it, but the sand will get clamped. Lastly, place one thermometer at the center of the sand, at least in one-inch depth.
- Now, place the 5-gallon container inside the aquarium. Also, put the submersible heater inside the aquarium. Set the temperature to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not turn on the heater yet.
- Now, start to pour lukewarm water into the aquarium. Don’t stop until the water line is half an inch above the sand line on the container. Now, put the other thermometer in the outer tank. Lastly, turn on the heater.
- Now, take the plexiglass sheet and drill 5 to 6 holes in it for ventilation. After drilling the holes put the plexiglass sheet above the aquarium as a cover.
- For a few days, monitor the temperature in both the container and the aquarium. We are looking for 82 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. It is better if you can read the temperature every few hours and chart them for several days.
- When you are ready to move the turtle eggs in your incubator, make some indentations on the sand with your finger. Place the eggs in the tank without changing the orientation. The eggs should be covered only halfway. After placing the eggs, don’t touch those unnecessary. Check the incubator twice a week to see if the egg needs any special attention or not. Also, monitor the temperature and humidity every day to keep everything in the ideal range.
How to protect turtle egg nest?
A recent study showed that about 90% of the turtle nests get destroyed due to predators, weather conditions, accidents and other facts. So, by protecting a turtle nest, we can increase the hatchling rate from the nest.
Here are some of the ways by which a predator can spot a turtle nest easily:
- Most of the turtle egg nests are discovered by smell. When the turtle lays the eggs, the eggs are coated with one type of fluid. Some species of turtles like the painted turtle urinate on the eggs to make lumps of soil. Some eggs also spoil and give off a bad smell. These scents help a predator to track down the egg nest.
- Some predators find the nest with their sight. The predator may see the turtle digging up holes. This a clear sign of the turtle nesting.
You need to take protective measures as soon as the turtle lays the eggs. Here are some of the protections you can take:
- Sprinkle water above the nesting area. It will clear any fluid or smell from the eggs. So, the predators will have a hard time locating it. It is better to mark the nesting area with something and water it later.
- You can use something made of wire to put over the nesting area. It will keep most the predators off from the egg nest. Don’t cover the area with anything solid, such as aquarium or box. Keep the wire a few inches’ higher so that the baby turtles do not get trapped inside it.
- Many turtle owners advise making a nest protector with a wooden frame and hardware cloth or poultry wire. Put the frame around the nesting are to secure it from potential predators.
- If the nesting area is in a public place, you can make a warning sign to let others know that there is a turtle nesting area.
- If you wish to observe the newly hatched baby turtles, then you need to keep an eye on the nesting area every day. Early fall or the spring is the most common time when baby turtles hatch from their eggs. A warm day, after immediate rain, will be a good time for the eggs to hatch.
How do baby turtles hatch?
Whether the turtle is from freshwater or ocean, it will lay eggs on the land. The female turtles dig holes and lay their eggs inside it. After laying the eggs, they cover the hole with soil, sand etc. and leave the nesting area. The female turtles never come back. The baby turtles are on their own as soon as they hatch from the eggs.
Baby turtles carry a temporary egg tooth which is known as the caruncle. The turtle hatchlings use this caruncle to break the leathery egg shell and come out of it. Breaking the eggshell and coming out of it can take at least 20 minutes. A recent study performed by the University of Western Sydney revealed that, within some turtle species, the embryos can communicate with each other within a nest.
Depending on the species, it takes roughly about 60 to 90 days for the turtle eggs to start hatching. All the eggs do not hatch at a time. It can take about a week to hatch all the eggs. The baby turtles need a few days to come out of the shell. When they come out of the shell completely, you can relocate them to a new container, or in nature (river, lake, pond etc).
Be careful when moving the babies, as they have an egg sac attached to the underbelly. The egg sac will provide them the essential nutrition to survive for the first couple of weeks. Once the egg sac is absorbed completely, you can start feeding the baby turtles. Baby turtles need a protein-rich diet every day for growing perfectly.
Once the hatchlings reach the water in nature, they survive on algae, plants, small water insects, crustaceans, and fishes. At this stage, their life is largely at risk because their shell is not hard enough, so many predators seek them out.
For the sea turtle hatchlings, as soon as they get out of the water, they rush for the ocean. Sadly, most of them can’t make it due to the many predators waiting for them (mostly seabirds). Recently a geographic report from Australia showed that only one out of 1000 sea turtle hatchlings make it to the maturity. Newborn hatchlings that can make it to sea spend their time on floating seaweeds. These seaweeds act as a perfect camouflage for them to find food and protection against potential predators.