How to Care for Turtle Eggs

The most important part of breeding your pet turtles is caring for the eggs from the time that they are laid until the time that they hatch, which requires equal parts care and patience.

Items you will need

  • A deli container or other food storage container

  • A food or postal scale

  • Nonchlorinated water in a spray bottle

  • Permanent marker

  • Incubator with thermometer

Prepare an incubation container. Take a deli meat or other food storage container and fill halfway with vermiculite. Use a food or postal scale to determine the weight of vermiculite and use an equal amount of water, by weight, sprayed onto the vermiculite to moisten it. Poke holes into the lid of the container.

Mark the tops of the eggs with a permanent marker where you find them. They must not be rotated from this position, and marking the top helps you keep the orientation correct.

Move the eggs gently into the incubation container. If they are stuck to each other, do not try to pull them apart, as you may rip the shells. Put the lid on.

Place the container into an incubator. Use an incubator with a built-in thermometer or put one of your own inside to make sure that the temperature stays constant. Open the container once a week to ventilate and look for signs of mold or baby turtles and spray to keep moist, as needed.

Tips

    • The exact temperature for egg incubation will depend on the type of turtles that produced the eggs. Turtles native to temperate parts of North America, for instance, will not need to be incubated at as high of temperatures as turtles from tropical parts of the world. Consult a herpetologist -- a reptile scientist -- for exact requirements for your turtle.
    • The temperature at which you incubate turtle eggs will determine gender. Lower temperatures yield more males, while higher temperatures produce more females.

Prepare habitats for your hatchlings early, while the eggs are incubating. Do not place them back into the same habitat with the adults once they hatch, as they will get bullied out of food or possibly eaten by bigger turtles.

Wait for the eggs to hatch. Turtle eggs are not like bird eggs -- they should not be candled or help up to a light to look for signs of life, as the shells of many turtle eggs are soft and moving them can cause damage. Unless mold, decay or discoloration occur, the eggs are likely healthy and growing just fine. A trained herpetologist or veterinarian may be able to help you tell you if your turtle's eggs are alive. When you ventilate the eggs, look carefully for discoloration, any signs of mold or cracked shells. If any of these appear, move the eggs to a separate incubation container to avoid contaminating the other eggs. Incubation periods for turtles can vary widely with species and temperature, with box turtles beginning to hatch after 45 days.