How Many Eggs Do Turtles Lay? (Detailed Guide)

Copyright: charnsitr

Turtles are amazing creatures to keep as pets. Not only is their upkeep minimal, but they also have a long lifespan, meaning you’ll most likely be a friend for a lifetime. If you keep your turtles happy and healthy, they’re likely to reward you with new members.

So, you may ask, how many eggs do turtles lay?

The number of eggs turtles lay is dependent on several factors, including what species your turtle is, its age, diet, overall health, stress levels, and more. Generally, most turtles will lay between 2 and 30 eggs at once. And the best part is that when well taken care of and incubated, most of them hatch into lovely little turtle babies.

However, turtle eggs require a lot of care to remain intact and produce little turtle babies. Failure to which, the eggs may never hatch.

With that in mind, let’s now talk about turtle egg care and everything about turtle eggs.

How Do Turtles Mate?

Before we discuss how to take care of turtle eggs, it’s essential to understand the whole process of mating and laying eggs. 

Primarily, before turtles lay eggs, they have to get laid. How does this occur?

Like any other creatures, turtles have mating rituals, which vary by species, just like it’s the case with any other animals. In most cases, mating occurs in the summer, spring, and fall in the water, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

The courtship ritual starts when a male begins to follow the female. Once they meet facing each other, the male strokes the female’s face and neck with its frontal claws. If the female is in the mood, she returns a gesture. This ritual goes on several times until the female is stimulated enough. It then swims to the bottom of the tank or water as a way of signaling her partner that she’s ready for copulation.

For terrestrial turtles that live and mate on land, their courtship can get a bit rougher as the male turtle tries to locate the cloaca. To do this, the male turtle bites or nips the female head, limbs, and anterior carapace to render the female immobile. Copulation may involve the male bumping its shell on the female as it tries to locate the cloaca.

Once mating is successful and fertilization occurs, the female may stay for about three to six weeks before laying their eggs. Turtles will often prepare a nest on land where the female will lay the eggs.

The gravid (pregnant) female tends to spend more time on land and less time in the water during the gestation period. During this time, it will be smelling and scratching the ground as it searches for the perfect location to create a nest. Typically, turtles prefer to make a nest in a sandy spot or a spot with moist soil.

If temperatures are not ideal, especially if it gets too warm, the female may delay laying an egg for weeks until the weather is cool enough.

To dig a nest, the female turtle uses her hind legs, and when the nest is ready and the weather is cool enough, she deposits the eggs in the nest. Giant turtles will lay bigger and a higher number of eggs per clutch. Upon the female turtle laying eggs, she leaves the nest and never returns. In other words, her job as a mother is done.

Fun Fact – Female turtles, can store viable sperms in their oviduct or fallopian tube for up to three years. The sperms can fertilize up to three clutches of eggs. Many turtles lay one clutch of eggs each year, and the hatchlings may have multiple fathers.

Signs That Your Turtle Is Ready to Lay Eggs

Unlike most creatures, turtles never return to their eggs after laying them. Therefore, you’ll need to know your turtle is ready to lay its eggs if you want to reproduce more turtles.

Here are major signs a turtle that’s about to lay eggs soon will show:

  • Change of walking pattern
  • Digging multiple holes in the ground
  • Spending more time on land than in its tank
  • Exploring its habitat as it looks for the perfect spot to lay its eggs

If you notice some of these signs, know that it’s almost time for laying eggs. After finding the best spot for laying eggs, the turtle will dig a deep hole that’s close to the size of its body and lay eggs in the hole. It’ll then cover the hole and leave.

At this point, if you want to care for the eggs so they can hatch into turtle babies, there are several things you’ll need to keep in mind, and this brings us to another subtopic –caring for turtle eggs.

How to Care for Turtle Eggs

If you want to get turtle hatchlings, you’ll need to be careful with how you handle and incubate your turtle’s eggs. If you don’t want them to hatch, there is a way you can store them. Let’s discuss this and much more.

·       Handling of Turtle Eggs

As mentioned, turtle eggs are pretty delicate, and thus care must be taken when handling them. 

A little crush can easily damage the softshell. In addition, you have to make sure you don’t alter the orientation of the eggs as the embryo formation doesn’t change – It’ll always develop at the top part of the egg, regardless of whether the egg is sitting or inverted. If you alter their formation, the embryo could be flipped and die.

A good way of ensuring you don’t mess with the orientation is to mark the eggs. Once you uncover them, place a small dot on the top side of each egg. This will help ensure that you place the egg in the same orientation they were in the nest.

·       Storing Turtle Eggs

This is the most critical part of caring for turtle eggs. The eggs must be stored in a cool place with the right moisture and consistent temperatures. The spot should neither be too wet nor too dry. 

A good way of storing turtle eggs is to keep them in small containers of Styrofoam or plastic filled with vermiculite. Depending on your incubator, different containers may not be applicable.

·       Incubating Turtle Eggs

Remove the eggs from your storage container and gently place them in the container you’ve prepared in your incubator. Use a large spoon to avoid crushing them. After setting up everything, the rest is waiting time.

Turtle eggs will remain in the incubator for about 2-3 months before hatching. Resist the urge to check on them before this period is over. Wait until it’s time for them to hatch.

Incubators are available in different sizes. Some can hold dozens, while others can hold just a few eggs. The good thing with turtle eggs is that any type of incubator will hatch them.

A simple plastic incubator with a plastic tray that holds eggs lifted over the vermiculite will work fine. Make sure to have an internal thermometer to make it easier for you to monitor the temperature. 

If you have an electronic incubator where you just set the humidity and temperature levels, the better as they’ll eliminate the need for you to check the conditions ideal for the eggs consistently. Sadly, this convenience comes at a cost – they are a pricier option.

Humidity levels in the incubator should remain at 80%, and thus you’ll need a hygrometer if your incubator doesn’t display humidity figures. As for the temperature, 27 degrees Celsius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for your turtle eggs to hatch. Make sure not to stray too much from these conditions.

Turtle hatchlings grow a caruncle, which can be termed as a temporary egg tooth. The turtle uses the caruncle to open the leathery eggshell. It may take about twenty minutes or more to get out of their eggshell. After they get out of their shell, you should take them to a moist place until the shell completely comes off.

How to Care for Turtle Hatchlings

Baby turtles require specialized care. The first thing you need is a habitat. Once the habitat is set up, it’s vital to pick a healthy diet composed of animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, and leafy greens. 

Remember that a baby turtle’s diet should comprise more protein (50%) and the rest a mixture of vegetation and fruits. Feed them in the mid-morning daily after they warm up. 

Place the food on a flat dish so they can easily see and access it. If they are not eating, try to move the food to a secluded place, as many baby turtles tend to be shy when eating. Chop the food into smaller pieces because large chunks can intimidate baby turtles.

Some of the food varieties to feed your hatchlings include:

  • Animal proteins: Snails, worms, nightcrawlers, and crickets. You can supplement with commercial turtle pellets
  • Vegetables: Give baby turtles green beans, pumpkin, carrots, bell peppers, squash, and okra
  • Fruits: Apples, melons, tomatoes, grapes, mangoes, berries, and figs
  • Leafy greens: Romaine, endive, and collard greens
  • Calcium supplement once a week

Make sure all the foods you give to baby turtles are free from herbicides and pesticides.

Regarding the habitat, you can keep them outdoors or indoors. If you keep them outdoor, make sure the enclosure is predator-proof. Use concrete walls or wood to create solid walls and secure the enclosure with a lid.

Ensure the enclosure is in a place that receives sunlight for basking and a shade as well. Place logs and leaf litter inside the enclosure where the hatchlings can hide and sleep.

In the case of indoor habitat, ensure you have a water tank and UV lighting that remains on for 12-14 hours, as most turtles are diurnals.

Also, have a heat bulb on the basking spot to maintain the heat of between 85 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

With proper care, baby turtles will grow to juvenile and adult turtles within a few years.

Frequently Asked Questions about Turtle Eggs

How Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

Although you don’t need to understand how a turtle lays eggs to know how to take care of eggs and produce hatchlings, it’s still something you might find fascinating to know.

Turtles have an opening on the lower side of their tail called the cloaca. The cloaca serves as a digestive, reproductive, and urinary system. When it comes to laying eggs, the turtle will squeeze the eggs out of the tiny cloaca and deposit them into the pre-dug hole. 

One thing that enables turtle eggs to come out without tearing the cloaca is that they are soft and leathery and thus can change shape when coming out, unlike birds’ eggs. This makes it easier for them to come out of the tiny opening.

How Long Do Turtle Eggs Take to Hatch?

Eggs from different turtle species have different periods in which they hatch, and thus can be hard to tell the exact time you need to wait to see those little turtle babies once you incubate the eggs.

In most cases, it can take between 45 and 90 days or two to four months for different water and land turtle species’ eggs to hatch. The time frame is also determined by several factors, including outdoor temperature fluctuations, nest temperature, rainfall, humidity, and the time of season you incubate the eggs.

Here are the hatching times for common tortoise and turtle species:

Snapping Turtles: On average, it takes 80-90 days to hatch as long as the condition is ideal. In the wild, you’ll see snapping turtle hatchlings emerging from the shell in August through to October.

Sea Turtles: Green sea, loggerheads, Kemps Ridley, Olive Ridley, Flatback, and Hawksbill turtles take 40 and 60 days to hatch. Leatherback sea turtle eggs can take between 70 and 80 days to hatch.

Box Turtles: Averagely, box turtle eggs take between two and three months to hatch, more precisely from 70 to 90 days, depending on its subspecies.

Painted Turtles: Eggs take between 70 and 75 days to hatch. In the wild, you’ll see their hatchlings coming out in later summer and early fall. However, some hatchlings can remain in the nest until spring before going to the nearest water body.

What Should I Do with The Hatchlings?

It takes a lot of patience to see the hatchlings, but after they break out of the shell, another journey of taking care of them starts. Hatchlings need a lot of care to enable them to grow to juvenile and adult turtle stages.

But what should you do after the eggs hatch? The first thing to do is to transfer the baby turtles from the incubator to a new habitat. You’ll need to prepare the habitat before the eggs hatch. At this point, the hatchling should stay in a moist area, and thus you should have wet towels in your enclosure. 

Your baby turtles will remain in the moist container until the egg sacs are fully detached from their shell. This should take about a week. During this time, frequently spray the towels with water to keep the condition moist.

Make sure to handle them with care, as baby turtles’ shells are very delicate. If there are eggs that haven’t hatched, don’t touch them. Instead, give them an extra week to see if they’ll hatch. After a week, any unhatched eggs can be considered not good.

How Do Hatchlings Come Out of the Eggshell?

Most turtles have an incubation period of between 45 and 75 days, depending on the conditions in the incubator. Warmer temperatures speed up the development of an embryo, while cooler temperatures slow down the development.

New hatchlings develop an egg tooth, which they use to break the eggshell and fall out.

After it breaks the shell, the newborn turtle spreads its body to break free from the shell. You’ll still notice a small yolk sac on its plastron (underside of the shell). It is similar in function to the placenta in mammals. The yolk sac should be left intact – it’ll detach itself from the shell after a week.

Should I Breed My Turtles?

Unlike in the wild, where turtles breed by themselves, in captivity, breeding requires human intervention. For most reptile keepers, breeding and hatching turtles is a hobby. Enthusiasts who work with conservation groups also breed turtles considered endangered.

You can breed turtles in captivity, but this is better left to expert herpetologists who understand the legal and medical issues surrounding breeding different turtle species.

Where Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

Different turtle species lay eggs in different areas. Both saltwater and freshwater turtles lay eggs in nests, which they prepare on land. Some turtles migrate from their usual habitat and lay eggs in a faraway place, while others lay eggs close to where they live.

Let’s discuss where different turtle species lay their eggs:

·       Sea Turtles

There are different species of turtles living in the sea. However, they all come out of the sea to lay their eggs on the land between February and September.

Sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches. They dig a hole in the sandy beaches using hind legs (flippers) to prepare a nest. The turtles can prepare between three to seven nests. Female sea turtles lay their eggs at night and do not return to the nest after laying their legs.

·       Red-Eared Sliders

The red-eared slider species is one of the most popular pets kept in captivity. They are native to the Midwestern United States and South America. Majorly, they live in streams and freshwater rivers.

After the mating season, which occurs between March and July, red-eared sliders start to find a suitable spot away from predators to lay their eggs. This turtle species don’t have a specific spot for laying eggs.

They dig holes in the sand to prepare nests, where they’ll later lay eggs and cover the nest to keep them safe. The red-eared slider can lay between two and thirty eggs in a clutch.

Red-eared sliders, too, do not have motherly instincts and thus won’t care for their eggs or hatchlings. Once they lay eggs, they return to the water and live the eggs to hatch independently.

·       Eastern Box

Eastern box turtles are known to live on land for most of their time. Native to the Eastern United States, Eastern box turtles live in moist marshlands and forests that receive frequent rain.

They lay their eggs between May and July. Female turtles dig holes and make nests in moist soil where there’s direct sunlight. Digging holes take a lot of time. The female lay several clutches of eggs, with each clutch having five to ten eggs. These eggs take between 70 and 120 days to hatch.

·       Loggerhead Sea Turtles

This turtle species lay their eggs on the beach between June and July. They make their nest close to the sea, and thus their hatchlings quickly return to the sea.

How Long Do Female Turtles Take to Lay Eggs?

We’ve discussed where different turtle species lay eggs, and one thing has been consistent – they lay eggs on land. Female turtles lay eggs in one or several clutches, and this happens three to six weeks after the mating has occurred.

After digging holes and making nests, the female turtle lays its eggs and covers the hole. The nest preparation and egg-laying process take between one and three hours. However, the Eastern box turtle takes longer to dig and lay eggs as it takes five to six hours.

Are There Turtles That Lay Eggs in The Water?

Most animals reproduce where they live, and thus it’s easy to think that turtles lay eggs in the water. However, turtles are different and only lay eggs in moist land – not in the water. Their eggs cannot hatch in the water since the embryo needs to breathe. Embryos breathe through a membrane in the eggs. If covered with water, embryos won’t survive.

However, there is one exception – the long-necked turtle native to the Australian tropics. This is the only turtle species that lays its eggs in the water.

When Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

Turtle eggs need warmth for them to hatch, which is why they lay eggs during warm months of the year. Mating occurs during these warmer months of the year and is followed by the female turtle coming out of the water to make a nest for laying eggs.

Most of the females lay eggs at night when there’re high tides. In the northern hemisphere, mating and the egg-laying period is mainly from May through to August when it’s summertime. In the southern hemisphere, the mating and egg-laying season happens between November and February.

However, the leatherback turtle is quite different as it lays its eggs during winter. All the other turtle species lay eggs in the summer.

Can A Female Turtle Lay Eggs Without Mating?

Female turtles can still lay eggs without mating with a male turtle. This is because every female turtle has eggs in their bodies and thus doesn’t need a male so as to lay them. However, eggs laid without the mating process are infertile and thus won’t hatch. A male turtle fertilizes the eggs.

However, it’s important to note the turtles that lay eggs in captivity without fertilization can have significant health issues such as eggs rapturing in the oviduct or getting impacted eggs. Symptoms of egg-related conditions include lack of energy, loss of appetite, bulging eyes, and struggling to swim.

Keep in mind that female turtles can suffer from calcium deficiency when they produce eggs, and thus it’s good to give them mineral and vitamin supplements.

Why Do Turtles Lay Many Eggs?

We’ve already mentioned that turtles lack motherly instinct and leave the eggs to hatch on their own after laying them. Also, the hatchlings have to grow and survive on their own. Therefore, it lays many eggs to increase the chances of many surviving.

In addition, the eggs have a lot of enemies. Many predators lookout for turtle eggs and will eat them before the hatchlings are born. Also, hatchlings have to hide in the water since there are many predators.

All these risk factors mean not many turtle hatchlings survive and grow into adults. That’s why the female turtles lay many eggs to ensure a good percentage survive to adulthood.


All known turtle species reproduce through eggs, but the number of eggs they lay and where they lay them differs. Some of them lay tens of eggs at once, while others only lay a few.

All turtle species lack motherly instinct, meaning they don’t take care of eggs or hatchlings – once they lay eggs, they never return. For this reason, they lay many eggs to increase the chances of hatchlings surviving.

We hope our guide was an eye-opener for those who would like to produce hatchlings and those who want to figure out more about the whole process.

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