Tortoise upside down
Tortoise upside down  
QUESTION: Thanks for all the help but that is not what we put her in we usually keep her in echo earth

ANSWER: Hi Morgan,

OK, wasn't sure about the substrate.  You do definitely have a box turtle.  I don't know who told you she was a redfoot, or where you got her, but whoever had her before you didn't take very good care of her.  That's why her shell is in such bad shape.  

I would build her an outdoor pen.  Box turtles can easily live outside all year round in California, and depending on where you live, she could go outside now (if you're in S. CA).  If it's still pretty cool where you live, I'd keep her indoors until March or April, or when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s.  Once she's lived outdoors all summer, she can winter outdoors.  She'll probably hibernate, but that's fine--just make sure she has a place to dig in, and then put some leaf litter or straw over her.  Living outdoors is much, much healthier for box turtles, and since she's had poor care up to now, she really needs the sunlight and fresh air.  It'll be cheaper for you, too, because you won't have to pay for special lighting.

Box turtles can climb and dig, so make sure whatever you use for an enclosure is escape-proof.  It should have some sun and some shade.  You can plant it, and add in rocks, small logs, pieces of bark, etc.  This will encourage bugs and worms, and she can hunt for them.  I throw whatever snails I find into my box turtle pen--they love snails.  

Here's a website with more information on box turtles:  http://aboxturtle.com/

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QUESTION: hey, I was wondering aren't box turtles black and not brown or does it matter?

ANSWER: There are several species of N. American box turtle, and they can have quite a variation in shell coloring and pattern.  I'm not certain what species you have, but that olive-brown coloring is common with 3-toed box turtles.  You do definitely have a box turtle, though.  That hinge you see on the bottom shell is why they're called box turtles--it allows them to close up their shell completely, like a box.  

Here's a link to pictures of the various box turtle species:  http://chelonia.org/terrapenegallery.htm.  The pictures will also show you what a healthy shell should look like.

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QUESTION: thanks for the link, she is definitely a three toed. how big should the outdoor cage be?

Well, she might be a 3-toed.  There are taxonomic differences other than just having three toes on the hind feet--and some 3-toeds have four toes, and there can also be retrogrades (interbreeding) between Easterns and 3-toeds, for example.  Knowing the exact species isn't too terribly important, though.

A good size for one box turtle is about 10 x 10, but I'd say 6 x 6 is minimum.  It's a good idea to make it with a lip (overhang) on the rim, so she can't climb out, and it should be at least 2' high.  Box turtles climb very well.  One of mine could easily climb 2-3 feet of wire fencing.  Solid wood or cinderblock sides are good, with the overhang.


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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