When planning an outdoor turtle pen there are many things to consider. It is important to research the specific needs of the species that you own so that you can give it all it needs for a long, healthy life.
These are some of the questions to ask yourself:
Does the turtle need a dry environment or more humidit?
Does it burrow? If so, does it dig in dirt, sand or leaves?
Does it climb? Many turtles can easily climb a fence.
What kinds of plants would be non-toxic and edible for my turtle pen?
Is there a hide place for my turtle?
Is there plenty of room for my turtle?
Is there access to fresh water at all times?
Does my turtle prefer shade, and if so, how much?
If using fencing, are the spaces between the wire small enough so a turtle cannot get through?
Is the fencing safe so that a turtle cannot get caught in it and injure itself?
Is there a lip on the top of the fencing to avoid my turtle from escaping?
Is the pen safe from predators?
Is there a lid?
Box turtles, as we know, are land dwelling turtles, but each subspecies has different habitat requirements. It is helpful to know what area of North America they are native to. Having that information enables you to know what climate they are accustomed to. This is necessary in order to have healthy box turtles in captivity.
Because habitats are not uniform and changes occur constantly, it is not safe to say there is a set standard. Different habitats are used by box turtles at different seasons of the year. Some species, in the spring, are in open grassland areas, while others are still enjoying the shade of a damp forest. In the summer, some enjoy sitting in a shallow pond and others bury under leaves and dirt. When nearing hibernation, some turtles prefer slopes and others select flat areas. Old stumps with deep depressions filled with leaf litter are ideal for some sub species for hibernation.
Box turtles body temperature is controlled by its environment. They can raise their body temperature by basking in the morning sun. When they are too warm, they will look for cooler temperatures such as under a bush or shaded leaf piles.
Below are photos and descriptions of the box turtle areas at Indiana Turtle Care..
We do our best to give the turtles the kind of environment and habitat they would have if they were in their natural areas.
The box-type pens are for smaller turtles or quarantined turtles. These box pens are lidded and have wired bottoms to keep the turtles inside and well protected. Mulch is added for substrate. Adding logs and compost invites bugs and worms for the box turtles to hunt and enjoy.
Our main pens are fenced securely with overhangs on the top edges to keep turtles from climbing out. The fencing is also buried to prevent digging. The inside fence dividers are mobile which allows different sizing of the pens depending on the need of the turtles. Non-toxic plants are planted in the pens to allow for hiding and snacking.
The Indiana DNR has specific regulations regarding box turtle ownership in the state. Even though ITC is a licensed rehabilitation and rescue facility and works closely with the DNR, it is not exempt from the regulations. It is not permissible for male and female box turtles to be in the same pen. ITC now has a Fraternity (left photo) and a Sorority (right photo) for the box turtles. The Sorority has a stream where the ladies often like to take a leisure bath.
Here is the Fraternity and the Sorority in the winter. Box turtles are hibenating in these areas.
Click on turtle to return to Box Turtle Page.
Box turtles, as well as other species of turtles and tortoises, are great climbers. When making an outdoor habitat make sure that they are not able to climb over the top of their pens.