How Long Does It Take For Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch? An Interesting Phenomenon

Jun 13, 2021

How Long Does It Take For Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch

Do you know painted turtles can survive for over 100 days if submerged under frozen water? Painted turtles are my favorites. I have always had one since I was 13. 

So, deriving from my experience and a fair share of mistakes, today I’m writing on how long does it take for painted turtle eggs to hatch. 

Painted turtles are a fascinating species. From the Canadian border up north to the Mexican border down south, these turtles are found everywhere. In fact, they’re one of few widely distributed turtle species in America. 

So, how is that possible? Is their fecundity period high? Or do they lay hundreds of eggs at a time?

Keep reading to know! 

How Long Does It Take For Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch? 

Painted turtle eggs take anywhere between 70-80 days to hatch in the wild. The female turtles usually lay eggs around late spring or early summer(May-Mid July), which means the eggs hatch around August or September. 

The gestation duration is the same under artificial settings if the conditions are correctly maintained. 

The young hatchlings break out of the eggs with the help of a tiny jaw projection called a baby tooth and get on with their lives. 

This is the only time in a painted turtle’s life when it has a tooth. 

Watch an eastern painted turtle laying eggs!

How Is The Egg’s Sex Determined? 

Like most turtles, painted turtles are subject to the temperature for sex determination of young hatchlings. The temperature of the eggs during a specific period of development is the main deciding factor. Cool temperatures yield males while hot weather produces females. 

Research has shown that eggs incubated at lower temperatures around 22-27° C produce males, while higher temperatures above 30°C produce females. There’s a tiny window of temperature that allows both sexes to hatch from the same brood.

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So, What Happens Next Once The Painted Turtle Eggs Hatch? 

Baby painted turtle
Baby painted turtle

Since mother turtles aren’t present during hatching, baby turtles depend on egg yolk material for survival. They’re born with a yolk sac attached to their plastron (shell’s underside), which is loaded with essential nutrients turtles need for survival and hydration. 

Over several days, the sac will eventually be absorbed back into the turtle’s body. 

Where Do Baby Painted Turtles Go After Hatching? 

Baby painted turtles get tough love. 

Painted turtle
Painted turtle

Once the mother turtle lays the eggs, she doesn’t provide any maternal care and goes her own way. So, after emerging from the shell, which usually happens at night, baby painted turtles are on their own to find the nearest water body and survive. 

But here’s the exciting bit. 

Not all hatchlings leave the nest immediately.

For example, offspring north of the line of Nebraska to northern Illinois to New Jersey tend to line themselves symmetrically in the nest throughout the winter and only come out to survive in the wild the following spring! 

Baby painted turtles are just as hardy as their parents, if not more. And this unique ability to survive harsh winters in the nest itself is why their population is distributed across the US.

Who Preys On Painted Turtle Eggs And Babies? 

Fox
Fox

Not all painted turtle eggs make it to babyhood, and not all babies grow into adults. Nests are often hunted down by birds, skunks, raccoons, snakes, foxes, and big fishes who love to snack on eggs and baby turtles. 

In the wild, it’s not uncommon at all for 90% of painted turtle eggs and babies to be lost to predation. 

So, now that the answer to how long it takes for painted turtle eggs to hatch is clear, alongside what happens to them afterward, let’s go back to the point where it all starts! 

When Do Painted Turtles Reach Sexual Maturity? 

two painted turtles
Two painted turtles

Male painted turtles reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2-4, while females take 6-10 years. However, the turtle’s size and age of maturity grow with the latitude. 

For example, in the northernmost edge of their range, a male’s sexual maturity clocks in at 7-9 years, while females reach their peak at 11-16 years!

When Are Painted Turtle Eggs Fertilized? 

Painted turtles mate during the spring season when the temperature is around 10-25° (50-77°F). A male’s body will produce sperm in early spring when they bask to maintain their internal temperature at 17°C (63°F). 

Likewise, a female starts her reproductive cycle in mid-summer, just in time to ovulate during spring. 

How Do Painted Turtles Mate?

Courtship usually involves a male following a female until he is face-to-face with her, followed by him caressing the sides of her neck and face with his front claws. The consenting female will then return the gesture. 

This goes on back and forth in different time intervals until the female swims to the bottom of the pond to copulate. And once the copulation ends, the female will store the sperm she’ll use for up to 3 years. 

When Do Painted Turtles Lay Their Eggs?

Female painted turtles lay their eggs around the end of May and mid-July. The nests, usually dug in sandy soil, are generally shaped like vases and have south-facing exposures. The female turtle returns to the same nesting site year after year to lay her eggs. 

However, as evolution has taught her, the mother turtle will dig several holes with her hind legs to confuse predators. 

Here’s an impressive bit. 

When digging, the female painted turtle instinctively rests her throat against the ground at different prospective sites, almost like she’s gauging the site. It’s widely believed that she’s taking measures to the ground’s smell, texture, warmth, and moisture, but we don’t yet know the science behind it. 

Females can lay up to 5 clutches a year, although the number is subject to the turtle’s size, health, and environment. 

Now Let’s Explore How To Hatch Painted Turtle Eggs! 

The egg’s mortality rate in the wild is very high for turtles – nature takes its course. In captivity, you can hatch the eggs by natural or artificial incubation. However, you have to be very careful as there’s no room for errors. 

Natural Incubation

If you’re not too keen about hatching the eggs, you can leave them to their own devices. You can leave the eggs where your turtle laid and hope for the best hatching rate. A single clutch contains around 5-15 eggs.

Suppose we were to assume the eggs were laid in a sunny, sandy spot. In that case, the incubation could take anywhere between 70-80 days – similar to the duration taken in the wild. 

But if she has deposited her eggs in the artificial egg box, you can dig them up and incubate them in a warm room that has a temperature range between 22-30°C (70-85°F).

Artificial Incubation

Hatching turtle eggs is a tricky business. If you are serious about it, you need to have a functional incubator. It’s best to buy a commercial incubator instead of creating one from scratch. The latter takes lots of time and effort. 

Here’s a great value incubator from Zoo Med if you need one. 

While incubating, make sure that you don’t shake, rotate or turn the eggs. 

This can cause the embryo to latch into the walls and effectively kill it. 

Once again, the temperature should be anywhere between 22-30°C (70-85°F). However, it can go a bit higher or lower based on your preference. 

The humidity should be around 80%. 

How To Know If My Painted Turtle Eggs Are Fertilized? 

A couple of days after the eggs are laid, take an egg to a dark room and examine it by flashing a torchlight towards the underside. If the eggs are fertile, you can see the embryo and a network of blood vessels. 

Likewise, the light coming through the fertilized egg is often pinkish, while unfertilized eggs don’t reflect any color. 

That being said, turtle eggs take their sweet time to develop. If you don’t find any sign of life in the first few tries, don’t discard the eggs yet. Keep checking for a couple of weeks. 

As the fertilized eggs develop, they become rubbery and stiff to the touch. 

Why Is My Painted Turtle Not Laying Eggs?

If the conditions are not favorable, a painted turtle will hold her eggs, which is very much a life-threatening situation for her. Inadequate diet, inappropriate nesting area, and stress can cause her to retain eggs. Likewise, physical abnormalities of the reproductive organ could also be the potential cause. 

Lack Of Calcium In Diet 

Turtles need calcium to ensure healthy skeletal and muscular functions. A calcium-deficit diet can cause a painted turtle to retain her eggs. 

Inadequate Basking Opportunities 

If a gravid painted turtle doesn’t have enough basking opportunity, she will not receive enough UV lights to absorb calcium. This could lead to dystocia, which means abnormally slow labor. 

Stress 

A stressed painted turtle will hold her eggs for as long as possible. The stress could stem from various factors like lack of nesting sites, overcrowded tanks, wrong temperatures, or threats in the environment. 

Inappropriate Nesting Area 

A gravid painted turtle will always be on the lookout for a suitable nesting area. For a captive turtle, the potential sites are significantly less – thus, the retention. 

If you have an expecting turtle at home, you must make proper arrangements for her to comfortably lay eggs. 

Physical Abnormalities 

Sometimes, physical abnormalities of the reproductive organ could cause the turtle to retain her eggs. If you suspect your turtle is gravid but hasn’t laid eggs despite favorable circumstances, you must immediately seek professional help. 

How Long Does It Take For Western Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch?

It takes anywhere between 72-80 days for western painted turtle eggs to hatch. The hatchlings usually come out of their shells in August or September.

How Long Does It Take For Eastern Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch?

Eastern painted turtle eggs hatch at around 72 days. There are about 4 to 10 eggs in each clutch. 

Conclusion: How Long Does It Take For Painted Turtle Eggs To Hatch 

The incubation period for painted turtle eggs ranges anywhere between 70-80 days in a natural setting. Sometimes, factors like the external environment and change in temperature play a defining role in the duration of hatching. 

Since the eggs are laid in late spring or early summer, they hatch around August or September. 

Keep Reading!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.