Why Do Turtles Dig Holes? [8 Possible Reasons]

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

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Some of the peculiar behaviors of turtles are rather funny, such as spouting water and self-biting. But there is much more going on than just what first seems. The need to scratch sore flesh is one explanation for biting. And digging holes is another one of those weird hobbies turtles have.

There are a number of possible explanations for turtle digging holes, but hibernating, foraging, and getting geared up for laying eggs are the most typical. Besides hiding and hunting, eating rocks, comfort, curiosity, and amusement are all prominent causes for turtles to dig holes.

Each of the aforementioned arguments holds concern. For this reason, it is imperative that you investigate the situation thoroughly and take appropriate action. If you have a turtle and have noticed that it likes to dig holes, or if you are just curious about turtles in general, this piece of writing is for you.

In the following, we will investigate some hypotheses about the motivations for turtles’ tendency for burrowing. At your convenience, then, let’s get started.

Why Do Turtles Dig Holes?

Digging holes allows turtles to seek food and create a secure refuge. Hibernating in a hole and foraging for worms and other insects there, is ideal.

There are many more motives why turtles enjoy digging holes besides these. The precise cause, however, is sometimes hard to identify.

To be fair, however, they are the most ubiquitous explanations offered. However, the fascinating reality is that turtles’ excavating action serves a purpose beyond mere sustenance.

In addition, your turtle may enjoy leisurely hole-digging. Reviving its natural activities might be a fun way to get some exercise.

The risk of injury from digging is real. If you don’t provide enough calcium and other elements in your turtle’s meal, for instance, it may start consuming nonliving things.

The scent and sensation of micronutrients in the ground and stores drive them to dig it and consume it. Worrisome, right?

Eating, sleeping, and laying eggs are the most common reasons. However, how can you discriminate between the many causes of this turtle’s behavior?

Let’s talk about all of those things briefly.

1. Turtle Is Getting Ready To Hibernate

A turtle’s internal temperature is affected by its surroundings since it is an ectotherm. Because of this, they get ready for a lengthy slumber over the winter.

They will begin to burrow in the soil, sand, or mud as early as they sense the temperature change. It also aids in maintaining a healthy internal temperature.

Respiratory and metabolism slow down considerably in cooler conditions. When the temperature dips below 10 degrees Celsius, a turtle’s body processes slow down, increasing the requirement for a hibernating burrow.

It is quite unusual for turtles to emerge from this state of dormancy. Animals that live in water, like the red-eared slider, often spend extended periods of time underneath, only emerging to breathe every so often.

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A turtle that begins excavating a burrow in the late autumn or earlier winter is likely preparing for a protracted hibernation.

2. Turtle Is Out Hunting

In order to satisfy its hunger, your pet turtle may dig a hole to uncover some insects or pests. But here, the abysses are far less deep. While this is not often seen in captive turtles, it is rather prevalent in the wild.

This might be an indication that your turtle isn’t getting sufficient amounts of the right foods in its meals, which could be why it’s happening so often.

A healthy turtle has no need to go out and get food. Always include vitamin and mineral-rich greens and vegetables in your diet.

3. Turtle Is Getting Ready To Lay Eggs

One possible explanation for why turtles excavate nesting sites is to be ready to deposit eggs. Sea turtles nesting in the wild often excavate a hole on the beach.

This may be the case if your companion is repeating the same behavior in the container as it does in the yard. While pregnant, turtles may create many holes to throw off potential predators.

It doesn’t take much smelling for rats and foxes to figure out when turtles are delivering. It is possible to mislead them by digging many holes, giving the eggs adequate opportunities to develop.

Pay attention to the manner in which your female turtle is excavating if you are unsure whether she is doing it to lay eggs or for some other purpose.

This is the most obvious hint. Rather than using its front limbs, as it would normally do, an expectant turtle is using its rear limbs to dig a hole.  In their natural habitat, turtles will dig with their forelimbs and dive in head first.

The size of the hole is also an indicator. The greater the depth of the hole, the more likely eggs will be laid there.

For the purpose of creating a nice, even chamber in which to lay their eggs, females tend to dig longer holes.

The next step is for your turtle to recompress the earth around the entrance hole to give the impression that no hole was excavated at all.

All of these indicators of digging might not be apparent if your pet is contained in an aquarium or terrarium. In any case, as was said above, you’ll want to double-check your digging technique.

4. Turtle Is Stressed Out

Despite their limited emotional range, turtles are susceptible to stress. This is why you’ll often see them trying to dig themselves a hole.

Creating holes might help your turtle release pent-up sentiments and anxiety. There’s obviously a wide variety of explanations for this.

The turtle could get anxious when there is a lot of traffic or other sounds going on close to its tank.

Other possible causes include aggression from aquarium peers and a dirty habitat. This is why some turtles find solace by excavating burrows and sheltering underground.

5. Turtle Is About To Go Into Aestivation

It’s possible that this information may be completely new to you, but aestivation is essentially simply the hibernating stage that takes place throughout the summer.

They do really hibernate throughout the summer months. When the weather becomes too heated, turtles will attempt to find a cool place to hide by digging a hole.

If you have a pet turtle and you notice that it is excavating holes outside on a notably bright day, you now know the reason behind it.

6. Turtle Is Trying To Avoid Predators

While several predators may target turtle nests in search of eggs, not all predators have a taste for turtle babies. Birds, canines, felines, and foxes are just a few examples.

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It is for this reason that turtles often dig themselves into a secure den to retreat to when threatened.

In fact, turtles often dig passageways beneath their dwellings. In this manner, they may rest easy knowing that no nearby animals will be able to consume them.

Even though this tendency is more common in wild turtles, it has been seen in captive turtles as well.

7. Turtle Has A Craving For Rocks

Geophagy, or the habit of eating rocks, has been observed in several reptiles. It’s not entirely understood why turtles chew rocks, although it’s speculated that they do it to satisfy a need for minerals.

In cases when they are deficient in calcium or iron, turtles will choose to eat stones or gravel. A few pebbles here and there probably won’t hurt your turtle, but a large rock might suffocate it or become stuck in its digestive tract and kill it.

When that happens again, keep an eye out for your turtle if it seems to be excavating holes in an attempt to locate stones.

You may avoid this by giving your pet a balanced diet and proper dietary supplementation. The SunGrow calcium supplement balls might be the answer to your issue. The fact that these pellets may be mistaken for stones is awesome.

8. Turtle Is Getting Bored

Despite popular belief, turtles may experience boredom just like the rest of us. Therefore, it is crucial to provide a fascinating setting for their amusement.

Diggers are more likely to appear in an environment when space is limited. In such a scenario, it would be smart to update.

However, there is no certain method to determine whether or not the digging is boredom-driven.

After eliminating pregnancy, sleep, food hunting, rock-eating, and stress as possible causes, the only remaining explanation is that your turtle is bored and wants to dig holes.

Give your turtle several safe toys to play with if there’s room in the enclosure.

All you need to know about why turtles build holes are in the preceding seven points. As you can see, however, not all explanations are bad. This behavior is quite natural for turtles.

We may as well discuss the value of a solid foundation while we’re here. It’s crucial to select a substrate that allows for this normal activity.

Why Do Turtles Dig Holes With Their Back Legs?

Turtles have several motivations for their passion for excavating and burrowing. You’d better have good hearing and eyesight to tell if a digger turtle is indeed an expectant turtle excavating a nest.

The reason is that a pregnant turtle would use its rear legs to dig holes. An indication of pregnancy is if she uses her hind legs to dig instead of her forelimbs and if she backs into the hole rather than plunging forward.

Since the claws on her front legs are sharper than those on her hind legs, she utilizes them to firmly hold herself to the ground and prevent herself from sliding backward.

As soon as she’s settled down, she’ll start digging with her rear legs, making wide, sweeping motions to the side.

Female turtles will relax for a little time after they have finished laying their eggs, and then they will begin to restock the nest.

She’ll use her rear legs again, this time digging inwards in a circular manner to replace the dirt she dug up.

Why Is My Male Turtle Digging?

Males who take the time to dig nests have a better chance of finding a mate, according to the research.

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It’s possible that male turtles are attempting to woo females by making nests in holes they dig.

One potential explanation is that the males are attempting to establish a zone from which they can protect themselves. Alternately, they may be building a home for the females.

To be fair, turtles are like all other turtles and want to dig holes whenever they have the chance. If it doesn’t become too bad, there’s no need to worry.

Why Is My Turtle Burying Itself?

The same factors that motivate your turtle to dig holes also motivate it to bury itself.

Again, the causes may vary ranging from anything as simple as hibernating or aestivation to as complex as laying eggs, stress, or geophagy. Just simple boredom might be a factor at times.

How Deep Do Turtles Dig?

Digging is a skill that is more suited to land turtles such as the box turtle than it is to marine turtles.

As a result, they create larger holes. Nevertheless, turtles can often dig as deep as two (2) feet. Sometimes they can dive as far as three (3) or four (4) feet. However, this is not typical for pets.

Why Do Red-eared Sliders Dig Holes?

If you keep a close eye on your red-eared slider, you could catch it in the act of excavating the tank’s soil or gravel.

Similar to other reptiles, red-eared sliders reproduce by laying eggs. They, like most animals, have a propensity to take special care that their eggs are kept in the best possible conditions.

In order to ensure that the egg is in a safe and secure environment, the tank is arranged to meet their needs.

In order to lay their eggs, red-eared sliders will excavate a nest in the gravel of the aquarium. If you see this, it may mean that your turtle has just deposited eggs or that she plans to do so soon.

Like other turtles, this behavior may also indicate that it is looking for food or attempting to conceal itself from its surroundings.

Why Do Snapping Turtles Dig Holes?

Snapping turtles deposit an average of 20-40 eggs in a nest they dig themselves in sandy, arid locations.

Sometimes they’ll even lay as many as a hundred eggs in a single nest! The nesting season for snapping turtles is the spring and summer, often commencing in April, and that’s when they usually dig holes.

After laying their eggs, female turtles will return to their aquatic habitat and bury them with sand. There is little evidence that snapping turtles exhibit maternal behavior.


In short turtles have an innate tendency to excavate underground burrows. In most situations, preparing for dormancy (hibernation or aestivation) may be the driving force.

Alternatively, they may be on the lookout for sustenance or a safe spot to nest. After eliminating the aforementioned possibilities, it’s possible that anxiety and monotony are behind the conduct.

All turtles, even aquatic ones, sometimes dig holes and hide, although land ones, like box turtles, do it more often.

The depth of the pit drilled might range from 1 to 2 feet. There have been reports of them reaching lengths of 3 to 4 feet.

In order to properly protect their young, mother turtles may often dig larger, more numerous nesting burrows.

In sum, realize that turtles’ penchant for digging burrows is purely instinctive. Finding the root of the problem will enable you to more effectively assist this practice.

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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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