Hatchling and juvenile Care


Box turtle eggs hatch at 70-140 days. depending on the incubation temperature. Frequently the hatchlings have visible yolk sacks. They may stay in the egg shell absorbing yolk for up to 5 days. Most live off the yolk for a few weeks. During this time they show no interest in food



Hatchlings are very prone to dehydration.   Because of this I keep mine as semi-aquatics (once they are out of the egg and moving around). I find this easiest in Tupperware containers with a substrate of sphagnum moss. I elevate one end and fill it 1/3 with water. When they are 4-6 months old I switch them to a substrate composed of coconut coir , sphagnum moss and play sand. I use about a half inch of this mix and keep it fairly damp. I also pile up dried leaves for them (and the pill bugs etc.) to hide in. When the weather permits they are put outside in a heavily planted container. Daytime temps should be around 85 °F under a basking light. The cool end should be around 70 °F. In small containers it can be hard to regulate the temps. Keep a close eye on them and use a digital max/min thermometer.

New Zealand Sphagnum
New Zealand Sphagnum moss


They spend the first week or so hidden in the moss. During this time the rest of the yolk sack is absorbed. At around 10 days they come out and start exploring. I keep the aquarium dimly lit.

Hatchlings begin eating in 1-4 weeks. They are strongly attracted to movement. Live bloodworms or black worms are great first foods. I feed them in a separate container.  These can be hard to get...sometimes pet shops, that primarily deal with fish, can order them for you. Frozen blood worms are good as well. When the weather is right , I put the feeding container outside for an hour or so in an area that gets dappled light.

Once they are eating well I start using the coir mix in bigger containers. I still keep one end elevated so there is a "dry" area and a "wet" section. I keep sow bugs in it at all times. Every few days I add small crickets or meal worms. I make sure they get sunlight a few times a week if the weather permits.

Most of mine hatch from June to September. The following spring I move them to outside containers that are heavily planted with plantain, clover and dandelion.  They are put where they will get about an hour of direct light

A decent food is mealworms. To grow small ones, take a 10 gallon aquarium and put a 1/2 layer of wheat germ on the bottom. Add a few slices of potato and a dozen mealworms. In a few weeks the mealworms will turn into beetles. A few more weeks there will be tiny mealworms. Place turnip greens (a leaf or two) on the substrate. The worms will eat them (high in calcium) and hang onto the underside of the leaves, making it easy to harvest.

Pill bugs can be raised in a small aquarium with dried leaves as a substrate (be sure to mist daily). Feed them greens and bits of fruit. They multiply fast. Harvest the small ones for the turtles. I have a year round supply of Pill Bugs. I keep some in their aquarium at all times.

European  night crawlers can also be raised for them. More information can be found at: http://www.carolinapetsupply.com/how_to_raise_european_night_craw.htm

Be sure to offer small amounts of greens and fruit daily. They may ignore it for a while...but eventually they will nibble. What they don't eat is eaten by the sow bugs and worms. All uneaten vegetable matter is removed after 3-4 hours.

In the wild, 60% or more of the diet is composed of animal matter. Some of the "animal" matter they eat in the wild includes: slugs, snails, worms, grubs, caterpillars, beetles, pill bugs, sow bugs, centipedes, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, flies, crawfish and carrion. Essentially, if they can catch it, they will eat it. I have 1.5" hatchlings that will attack adult crickets and worms.

This is a 8 month old Eastern box turtle
feasting on turnip greens



Calcium is important for a growing turtle. However when provided with a proper diet, and the insects fed are either wild caught or gutloaded or raised on high calcium food, dusts and supplements are not needed. I much prefer leaving a piece of cuttlebone in their pen/cage. It may go un-noticed for a long time, but when the turtles crave calcium they chow down


This piece of cuttlebone was left with the hatchling for about 4 months before they started eating it. As you can see, its well weathered. Note the chew marks along the front edge


Water is very important to health and normal growth. If its too dry, the turtles develop shell abnormalities at an early age even when diet and other conditions are just right. I find mine prefer to spend most of their time in shallow water hiding and hunting in the sphagnum moss and/or leaves. I found my first hatchling in the wild about 35 years ago in a very shallow protected area of a lake. Since that first discovery, I have found many more in similar areas hunting in the debris at the waters edge.

  These hatched on 8/6/2005

These hatched on 8/6/2005.
They were incubated for
59 days at °F

Yolk sac on a hatchling

The yolk sack is still visible.
It will be a few weeks before
this one eats.

  Eastern hatching waiting for lunch hidden in the substrate

Eastern hatching waiting for lunch
hidden in the substrate

Eastern hatching waiting for lunch hidden in the substrate
  Outdoor pen for hatchlings

Outdoor pen for hatchlings

Eating a large worm

Love worms!!! 

  Three Toed hatchling swimming

Three Toed hatchling swimming

Yellow markings on a hatchling

Yellow markings on a hatchling

  3 clutches of hatchlings getting some sun

3 clutches of hatchlings
getting some sun

1 Year old Eastern and Three-Toed box turtles

1 Year old Eastern and
Three-Toed box turtles

  Fully functional hinge at 18 months.

Fully functional hinge at 18 months.

Slug for dinner

Slug for dinner. This turtle
is smaller than a quarter


hatchling basking
  Box turtle in cement mixing tub