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Turtles/painted turtle eggs


Jeannie, Is it possible for a female 8 yr old painted turtle to produce an egg without contact with a male? We have raised it since birth and it has not had contact with any other turtles. An egg-like item appeared in the tank today. Thank you for your time.

Hi Denise,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.  Crazy week!  Anyway, yes, it is entirely possible for a female to lay eggs without ever having been with a male.  Reptiles and birds are similar in that they can produce eggs without breeding.  

Females wil generally dig nests to lay, but if there is no nesting area available, they will typically lay in the basking area and then the eggs end up in the water.  Obviously if no mating has taken place, the eggs are infertile in any case.  Depending on the size of your female, she may be carrying more eggs.  Generally when they are about to lay they will become very restless, sometimes irritable, lose their appetite, and sometimes make digging motions with the hind legs.  If you see this behavior, it would be a good idea to prepare a nesting box for her--this can be as simple as a plastic bin filled with soft dirt.  It needs to be at least as deep as she is long.  Set a basking light over it, and see if she lays.  If she is carrying eggs, it's important for her to lay them.  Retained eggs can become calcified and create serious health problems.  If you see her develop problems with her hind legs (be unable to walk properly), she should see a vet.

Make sure she has the proper size tank for swimming exercise (an adult female painted shoudl have about a 75 gallon tank), with a good UVB bulb, as well as a varied diet that includes pellets, various types of animal protein, and greens.  It's also a good idea to put a cuttlebone in the tank so that she can get extra calcium as needed.  She may start producing eggs every year, or sporadically, but it's important for her to have good nutrition to compensate.


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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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