How To Take Care Of A Baby Box Turtle

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how to take care of a baby box turtle

If you’ve just acquired a baby box turtle, congratulations! It’s important to know how to take care of him properly so that he can grow up healthy and happy.

Turtles make great pets, but they do require a little bit of care. In this blog post, we’ll go over the basics of taking care of a baby box turtle.

We’ll cover what to feed them, how much water to give them, and how to keep their habitat clean.

Let’s get started!

What is a Box Turtle?

Box turtles are medium-sized terrestrial turtles. They have a hinged shell that allows them to completely enclose themselves for protection. Their scientific name, Terrapene, is Latin for “land turtle.”

America is home to three species of box turtle: The Eastern box turtle, the Ornate box turtle, and the Western box turtle.

The Western box turtle is the largest of the three, with an average length of 6-8 inches. This particular species has a hinged plastron (lower shell) that allows it to completely enclose itself when threatened by predators.

Baby box turtles are usually around 3 inches in length at the time of purchase, but they will grow quickly in the first year of their lives.

RELATED READ: Can Box Turtles Swim?

The Appearance of a Box Turtle

appearance of a baby box turtle

The Eastern box turtle has a highly domed shell that is brown with yellow-green markings. They have a hinged plastron (bottom shell) that allows them to completely seal themselves inside their shells when threatened or disturbed.

The Western box turtle’s shell appears less dome-shaped and more elongated than the Eastern species.

Typical Behavior of a Box Turtle

Box turtles are often described as shy. They tend to prefer going unnoticed rather than being noticed. However, they will become more active and visible as the weather warms up.

They like to bask in the sunlight and can often be found sunning themselves on logs or rocks during the day.

What Should I Do if I Find a Baby Turtle?

If the turtle is less than four inches long and its shell hasn’t completely formed, it’s probably a baby box turtle.

You should take your new little buddy to a reptile veterinarian to have him checked out for parasites and other possible.

Make sure to tell the veterinarian that he’s a box turtle so that appropriate care can be provided.

Can I Keep Him as a Pet?

If it’s legal in your state, go ahead! If he needs special care or treatment for medical issues, ask your veterinarian about how to best take care of your little buddy.

Make sure to give him the proper environment so that he can survive and grow up healthy.

Some states don’t allow the possession of box turtles. Make sure it’s legal before you take this little guy home!

You should not feed your baby turtle anything, nor should you give him any water, until he has been examined by a reptile veterinarian.

Your new pet could have internal parasites or other health problems that would be easier to treat if caught early.

RELATED READ: How To Care For A Tortoise

How to Prepare for Your Baby Box Turtle’s Arrival?

You can find tips and advice on how to best create the proper environment for your baby box turtle here:

  • Make sure you’ve set up his habitat before bringing your new baby home
  • Keep him in a spacious enclosure or terrarium with plenty of space for movement and exploration
  • The more natural the setup, the better! Baby box turtles like to bask on logs and rocks during the day. So make sure it is someplace safe and comfortable for them to do this inside their enclosure
  • If possible, try to mimic its natural living environment as closely as possible. Some people find that adding small leafy branches will give baby box turtles something to climb around on

Clean Environment

As with any other animal in your home, you’ll want to keep the turtle’s habitat clean. The water should be changed regularly (every few days) and the substrate should be replaced monthly.

The box turtle will also need his food changed daily. The dishes for both water and food will need to be cleaned thoroughly every time they get dirty.

The Best Way to Care for a Baby Turtle!

The best way to care for a baby box turtle is to replicate his natural environment as closely as possible. Box turtles are native to very specific areas, with Eastern box turtles inhabiting the forested regions of North America and Western box turtles living in arid climates.

They also dig extensively underground, making it even more important that you provide your baby turtle with an environment that provides the same function.

Box turtles are solitary animals and do not need companionship, so the only time you should consider getting another box turtle is when your first baby reaches about

Housing your Baby Box Turtles

baby box turtle exploring the enclosure

The basic housing requirements for your new baby box turtle include an enclosure that is two times as long as his shell and one to two times as wide. The substrate should be about three feet deep so he can dig.

For a hatchling up to three inches in length, you’ll need an enclosure no smaller than 12″ by 12″.

Your new pet’s enclosure must also have a hiding spot like a hiding box or piece of bark or driftwood so that he can completely seal himself inside if he feels threatened or needs time alone.

You may want to line the bottom of the enclosure with at least three inches of substrate (gravel, dirt, etc.) which you can then fill with dirt and add some grass, moss, or other vegetation.

A space of adequate depth for him to dig in.

A shallow pan of clean water for him to drink and bathe in should be placed inside his tank at all times. You can use a small flat rock to create a ramp so that he can easily climb in and out of the water dish.

Finally, your baby turtle’s house needs a heat lamp and a UVB light. He needs both to synthesize Vitamin D3 and maintain his body temperature.

RELATED READ: The Best Heat Lamp for Tortoises

Indoor Habitat for a Box Turtle

Your little buddy needs an enclosure that is big enough for him to roam around and not feel trapped. The substrates you can use are soil, sand, and peat moss.

The substrate should be kept moist but not wet in order to avoid fungal infections.

Your baby box turtle indoor habitat also needs a heat light and a UVB light to synthesize Vitamin D3 and maintain its body temperature.

RELATED READ: How to Set Up an Indoor Box Turtle Enclosure

Outdoor Habitat for a Box Turtle

During the warmer months, you should allow your baby box turtle some time outside in a secure area on warm, sunny days with plenty of access to freshwater.

He will need sturdy and safe shelter with good ventilation while you bring out your turtle outdoors.

Handling a Baby Box Turtle

It’s important to remember that your little box turtle is a wild animal. He will not be as tame as a dog or cat.

Baby box turtles are very shy, so it’s best to let them come out of their own accord.

When he is ready to be handled, approach slowly and let him smell your hand. Don’t try to pick him up just yet, as he will be very frightened if you do so with too much force or tightness.

Wait until he is relaxed before ever picking up a baby turtle. Then bring your hand closer slowly until you are able to pick him up and let him sniff you again. Be patient – the more relaxed he is, the faster he will get used to you.

If possible, hold him in a slightly upright position so that his legs and head are not crushed against your chest or lap as this can be very distressing for your little buddy.

Don’t let children under the age of 5 play with a baby box turtle unsupervised. Box turtles become defensive and may scratch and bite when they feel threatened.

Box turtles can carry salmonella, so it’s important to wash your hands after every time you handle them and before touching any other animals or people.

Cleaning the Baby Box Turtle

The first thing to learn about how to take care of a baby box turtle should be that he must not be put into water that is too deep. Their legs are much weaker than those of other turtles and can easily become entangled in anything underwater.

To prevent this from happening, only submerge your little buddy in water that is just above his shell.

Be careful when you give your baby box turtle a bath because he will not feel safe in a human’s hands or arms, and may try to bite anything within reach. It’s wise to always have a cup of clean water available so you can put him back inside it if he panics.

After he has been bathed, allow him to drip dry for a short while before placing him back in his enclosure. This will help prevent him from catching a cold or pneumonia.

RELATED READ: Top 3 Best Tortoise Water Dishes

Growing up Box Turtles

adult box turtle

Once your baby box turtle is settled into his new home, you should not feed him anything for one to two weeks.

This will allow the reptile veterinarian time to examine your little buddy and check for any parasites or other health problems that would be easier to treat if caught early.

You should also remember to take things slow when handling him. Your baby box turtle will not be used to being handled and may accidentally scratch you while trying to get away.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever take him out of his enclosure though! Just make sure he’s secure before placing him on the ground or picking him up.

If you want to give your new baby box turtle a nice warm bath, only do it every couple of weeks. If you give him a bath too often, he will begin to dry out and his skin will become flaky and stiff.

You should also keep in mind that some baby box turtles can be quick little buggers. They have been known to escape from their enclosures or even push undersized or ill-fitting lids off of their tanks. If this happens, they are most likely to wander aimlessly around your home because it will be unfamiliar to them.

You’ll want to make sure that your baby box turtle has a secure enclosure and a tank with a lid on it before you decide to take him out for some one-on-one time.

What do Baby Box Turtles Eat?

Box turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants.

You can feed your baby box turtle meat, insects, meal worms, turtle pellets, fruits, and vegetables.

Vegetables (blend several kinds for his benefit), earthworms, meat, crickets, grasshoppers, and even pinkie mice are all good foods to feed him. This is a more natural baby box turtle diet and will help to keep him healthy.

Avoid feeding him lettuce, as this is very low in protein and calcium.

Make sure you wash off the food before giving it to your little one.

Box turtles are solitary animals and do not need companionship, so the only time you should consider getting another box turtle is when your first baby reaches about

RELATED READ: How to Buy the Best Foods for Tortoise

Feeding a Baby Box Turtle

juvenile box turtle eating fruits

A baby box turtle will eat almost anything you give him. He needs one or two small feedings per day of about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of food total.

Give him just enough food to eat in one sitting. He may look like he’s very hungry, but it’s better for his health if you don’t overfeed him.

If he’s not hungry when you get to his enclosure, don’t bother putting the food in there. You’ll want to wait until he wants it before feeding him. If your little one won’t eat, though, consult a reptile veterinarian to make sure he’s healthy.

Don’t feed your baby box turtle anything you wouldn’t consider putting in your own body. It is not necessary to give him any sort of supplements or vitamins at this age either.

Doing so could actually be harmful to his health.

Quick Tips When Getting a Baby Box turtle as a Pet Turtle

  1. Although baby box turtles are small, they can still bite. For this reason, it is best not to hold them. Instead, let them crawl around on their own. This will help them get used to their new surroundings and also allow you to keep an eye on them.
  2. Be careful when near water. Baby box turtles can easily drown, so it is important to keep an eye on them when they are near any body of water.
  3. Make sure the baby box turtle is kept warm. They can be kept in a warm environment by placing them next to a heat lamp or in an incubator.
  4. The baby box turtle should be fed a varied diet that includes insects, worms, fruits, and vegetables.
  5. Do not handle the turtle for a few days after it has eaten
  6. Feed the turtle a diet of small insects, such as crickets and mealworms. You can also give it earthworms, but avoid giving it raw meat or poultry.


Now you know how to take care of a baby box turtle. Make sure he has a safe, comfortable home with plenty of food and water. He will also need some time outside in the sun during warm weather.

When handling your little turtle, be careful not to scare him – he may scratch you.

And remember that it’s important to take things slow when introducing him to his new surroundings.