Yesterday we gave the boys an early Christmas gift…
It’s a baby box turtle!
Our science curriculum, Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day, recommends raising a pet turtle as part of the science experience. I was interested in a box turtle because water turtles, such as the red eared slider (popular pet store turtle) need an aquarium with a pump and filter and all that, and they can spread salmonella. Land turtles can still spread bacteria as well (although the risk is lower), so we’ll be careful to wash our hands after handling him.
Hatchling turtles are hard to come by, so we are so happy to have the chance to raise one! This little guy (or girl?) hatched at the home of a friend from college. She and her husband have several box turtles and tortoises that they keep in their yard.
This picture shows how tiny he is!
The boys named him Patrick. I’m not sure where that came from, but it’s a cute name! We started a journal of our turtle’s progress today. We measured the length of his shell, and it is 1.25 inches long. I’m not sure how long it takes box turtles to reach their full adult size, but I think it is multiple years.
What do hatchling box turtles eat? Eventually our turtle will eat veggies, worms, and insects, but for now he is eating red wiggler worms. Yum. Now I have a carton of these in the fridge. I hope that each and every one of them stays in the carton until we’re ready to use them as food!
Patrick the turtle doesn’t do much yet, but the boys think he is fascinating! Our furry “son” had to get in on watching the turtle, too.
Tucker (the dog) is feeling a little unsure about this…
For housing, we got our turtle an Exo-Terra terrarium. It cost more than an aquarium with a screen top, but it has doors that open in the front, which means that the boys don’t have to take off the heat lamp and UV lamp every time that they want to get the turtle out. The heat lamp keeps the terrarium around 75 degrees during the day, and the UV lamp provides the light rays that the turtle would be receiving if he were living outside. We only run one of the lights at a time.
An outdoor home is ideal for an adult box turtle, but a hatchling is better off indoors. Few hatchling turtles survive to adulthood, mainly because of predators.
Looking for a pet turtle?
In our area, the pet stores do not carry turtles other than red eared sliders, but we found out from our friends that a reptile show is a good place to purchase a turtle. If you live in a large city, you might be able to find a reptile show in your area. I had no idea there were such things! Good to know!