How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 1, 2018
How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant

If you have a female and a male pet tortoises, you will already know that the female can become pregnant. It is of great importance that you detect this as soon as possible in order to adapt your tortoise's environment to its specific needs, and to be able to go to the vet if there are any signs of problems during this process.

Being reptiles, at first it might seem more difficult to spot certain conditions such as pregnancy in tortoises. However, with the right knowledge and patience you will know exactly what is happening to your pet.

This AnimalWised article will clarify some aspects of tortoise reproduction, and we will show you how to know if your tortoise is pregnant.

You may also be interested in: How to Know if My Hamster is Pregnant

How do tortoises reproduce?

The tortoise is an oviparous vertebrate reptile, which means that it reproduces by laying eggs. There is a great diversity of species, and some of them even live under protection because they are endangered. This reproductive cycle refers specifically to the tortoise, not the turtle.

The first thing to know about tortoise reproduction and pregnancy is that these reptiles reach sexual maturity at around 7-10 years of age when healthy. From this point onward, the tortoise's reproduction process will begin by mating with a male.

  • The mating season is between April and June.
  • Female tortoises have the ability to store sperm inside themselves in order to fertilize the eggs that they lay. This sperm can be stored and still be functional for 3 years.
  • Tortoises normally lay between 2 and 12 eggs, although this varies depending on the particular species.
  • The eggs hatch between August and October.

You should also note that the incubation period is shorter when the temperature is higher, which may influence the time of hatching.

How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant - How do tortoises reproduce?

How to know if your tortoise is pregnant

In order to tell whether your tortoise is pregnant, you need to use the palpation technique to check for eggs inside. To do this you will need to feel the abdomen, so we recommend following these steps:

  • It is normal for the tortoise to resist and kick out.
  • You should take advantage of this movement and block one of its hind legs. This can be done by simply holding one of your fingers on the inside of the leg, preventing it from moving.
  • Blocking one of its legs will give you access the side of its abdomen, an area to which you must pay special attention.
  • Gently press one or two of your fingers on the side of the abdomen to palpate. If the area is soft, you are feeling its viscera; if you notice something spherical and hard, your tortoise is pregnant

While abdominal palpation is the most reliable method to verify the pregnancy of a tortoise, there are also behavioral signs that it is pregnant. When a tortoise lays eggs, it starts to dig holes in the ground, so its very important at this moment in time for your pet tortoise to have soft earth in order to do so. Otherwise it can retain the eggs, which poses a serious risk.

How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant - How to know if your tortoise is pregnant

Warning signs during pregnancy

If your pet tortoise is pregnant, you must pay special attention to certain signs that might indicate a disease; even if they're not usually a cause of worry, they take a different meaning during breeding season:

  • Red, swollen eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Lack of appetite
  • Shell problems
  • Spots on the skin
  • Head swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Edema
  • Difficulty in breathing

If you notice any of these signs it is important to go to the vet as soon as possible; they may indicate a disease, which for a pregnant tortoise would be more dangerous than normally.

To prevent any harm to your tortoise, you should always be careful with the other pets at home.

How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant - Warning signs during pregnancy

If you want to read similar articles to How to Know if your Tortoise is Pregnant, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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Yolanda A Ayala
I have a female desert turtle and we recently inherited a male turtle which also looks like a desert turtle. They mated just recently my concern is can the female be pregnant just before hibernating?
Matthew Nesbitt (AnimalWised editor)
Hi Yolanda,

A female turtle ready to lay a clutch of eggs will not likely hibernate. However, just because they mated, it doesn't necessarily mean they will lay eggs. You should be able to see what she does and act accordingly.
Hello sir/madam
Actually I wanted to know that is white slurry type of substance common after mating of a star tortoise?it is thick and odourless.....please tell me as my female star tortoise has just done mating on 22-03-2020 and today is 26-03-2020 ........she is about 13-15 yrs old... thanking you in anticipation.
Should I soak my Russian tortoise when she's about to lay eggs???
Can a female tortoise lay eggs if she hasn't been with a male tortoise?
Also, will a male Redfoot mate with a female Herman's tortoise? If the male is only 1 year old can he father hatchlings?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi again Becky!

Parthenogenesis is the term for asexual reproduction, meaning the eggs can be grown without fertilization. It occurs naturally in many reptile species such as Komodo dragons, rock lizards and boa constrictors. However, not many/any turtles have been observed doing this. It does not mean it has been ruled out, but it is unlikely.

However, something observed in many turtles is that females can store sperm from the male for long period of time (potentially up to 7 years in some reports). This means they can fertilize the eggs even if they have long since had contact with a male. It is quite an extraordinary ability which is not yet well understood, but is a fascinating topic for research.

You should not try to breed two different species of turtle together. Firstly, it is unlikely they will want to mate. Secondly, even if they did, it is unlikely the ensuing eggs will be viable and for this reason it would be a cruel practice. Also, sexual maturity in a male turtle at 1 year of age is pretty much impossible. In the wild, male tortoises can take around 10 years to reach sexual maturity. In captivity, puberty is often reached quicker, but it would still take at least 4 to 5 years. It will depend on the species of turtle, but males will reach sexual maturity faster as females such as the Blandings species of turtle take around 14 years in the wild to produce eggs.

Thanks for your questions and we hope this helps!
Becky, No she can not. and also, from what I hear, it has to be the same species of tortoise.
i wants to know that how to care my Indian star tortoise when she is pregnant
and i think she was founding calcioum things and how can i make nest for her
she lives with male tortoise it is good?
please give me suggestion
can she eat boiled eggs and it sheel?
Alice Tapiol Breeze (AnimalWised editor)
Hi there,
First of all, we'd need to know about the habitat the tortoise lives in. However, your tortoise will dig a hole to lay her eggs. Therefore the ground should not be too hard, too humid or too cold, this is if your tortoise lives in the garden. If they are inside a home, putting a box full of earth with an earth ramp so that your tortoise can climb up it. Below it, use a heating lamp.
Regarding their diet, it should be rich in calcium and fiber. Add plenty of dark leafy greens, vegetables and their usual feed. These tortoises are herbivores which is why they shouldn't eat eggs.
Hope this helps

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