How to take care of your baby land turtles
In your garden there is something new: from the ground, the nose of a baby turtle appears. Wow! The birth of new specimens is an exciting moment for those who breed turtles. The newborn land Turtles, however, are very delicate.
Infant mortality, in fact, is very high among the land turtles, easy morsels for a large number of predators. Their organism, in the first months of life, is very fragile: common environmental situations can be fatal for a baby turtle, needing special attention.
Firsts things first, some premises about the birth:
- Leave the baby turtle in the egg. The turtle, after breaking the egg, must not be touched. For a couple of days, immediately after birth, the baby turtle will still be in the egg to completely absorb the yolk sac.
- Pay attention to other eggs. The time of birth depends on innumerable factors and land turtles of the same brood can be born weeks later. Never overturn the turtle eggs, as this gesture would kill the embryo inside.
- Protect the area. You can put an upside down cage at the place of deposition. In this way you will be sure that no other animal annoys your baby turtles and you will not risk losing it. I suggest a metal cage to make sure that sunlight can reach it safely.
1 – Make your baby turtle take a bath
Once your baby turtle has moved away from the egg, take her gently and put her in warm water. To do this, I usually use a simple saucer and fill it with a thickness of a few millimeters of water, so as to avert the danger of drowning. The purpose of this bath? Make it drink. In fact, land turtles are completely immersed in water and aspirate water from the nose. You can let it soak for a quarter of an hour. You can repeat this operation once a week for the first months.
2 – Keep your baby turtle away from adult specimen
Remember that the loving attentions of a turtle mother end at the time of spawning. There is no parental care: the adult turtles do not care for the little ones, they do not protect them and do not look for them. In nature the land turtle, after having laid its eggs, goes its own way and is unlikely to meet their sons. The adult specimens, in reality, represent a great danger for newborns: they can attack, hurt and overwhelm them. Very competitive and territorial, they can prevent your baby turtles from eating safely. For these reasons, always keep the baby turtles away from the adult specimens.
3 – Put your baby turtle in the sunlight
Land turtles need warmth and sunlight. In the earliest times, you can place baby turtles in a small protected space. Some experts recommend arranging them in an indoor mini-terrarium, heated by a UV lamp. Dr. Marta Avanzi, veterinarian and author of beautiful publications on turtles, recommends creating a kind of “terrarium-nursery” with a lamp, so as to ensure a protected environment.
In this case, the sheets of newspaper form an appropriate background, because they are easily replaceable, allowing a constant cleaning. To sum up, you should provide your baby turtle with a shelter, some water, a warm area and a cool one.
4 – Give your baby turtle the same food of adult ones
Baby turtles are not helped in any way by their parents. In fact, nature has designed them in such a way as to make them autonomous and independent from the moment of birth. After a few days since hatching, in fact, your baby turtle will be able to eat like adults, eating the same foods of the venerable turtles, fifty and sixty years old.
A tip: chop up the herbs in small portions. Remember that proper nutrition is essential: if your baby turtle eat good food from the beginning, you will avoid big problems and make her grow better.
5 – Protect your baby turtle from predators
The most extraordinary defense of the turtle is the shell, but when it so young, the carapace is soft and flexible. This will become solid only after the first year of life; meanwhile, your baby turtle is a tasty snack for a lot of predators. Dogs, cats, hedgehogs, rats, snakes, weasels and birds of prey are just some of the animals that could make your turtle disappear and that’s why I recommend some precautions to protect it.
Keep the little turtle in an enclosure to prevent access even to the smallest of rodents. In the first few weeks the newborn turtle will be able to stay in a small terrarium-nursery, but after some time it will be necessary to give it a bigger space, outdoors. In the early years, the danger can come from the sky: always put a net above the space of your land turtles, to prevent owls and crows to kill them.
For further information, I wrote an article about that: Land Tortoise safety: the 7 hazards.
6 – Hibernation
Many people wonder if the baby turtles are able to face hibernation. In nature, even the newborn must face the winter and their body is absolutely adequate from the first year of life. Hibernation, however, is a very delicate step and debilitated, undernourished or sick turtles should not face it, because they could easily die.
Newborn land turtles can follow the same precautions: if they are healthy, they can pass the pre-lethargy fasting phase and then fall asleep, just like the adult specimens. A pre-hibernation veterinary visit is the best way to make the right choice: if the doctor will assess that the baby turtle is healthy, she can face it, otherwise you will arrange a nice inner terrarium with the UV lamp.