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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11508
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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do female turtles lay eggs even if they have not been with

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do female turtles lay eggs even if they have not been with a male turtle? thought both my red sliders were the same sex until i found eggs in the tank last week. neither one of mine has the really long front claws, like a male. any other way to tell their sex? their tails look the same too. i am able to tell which one laid the eggs, since i read up after the fact and it told me why one had stopped eating, and i had noticed some digging motions while sitting on basking eating like mad, and i was told to expect another clutch in abt a month. ill be on the look out for behavior and plan to give the opportunity to bury eggs although i dont plan to incubate them.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.

I'm sorry to see that no one has responded to your question earlier. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online and saw your question.

Yes, female turtles do lay eggs even if no male is present. While it may be better to wait for an older age to breed turtles, they will lay eggs when they're ready, regardless of age. Egg-laying can be a dangerous event for captive turtles. Your turtle almost certainly has more eggs inside her. She will probably retain them as long as possible while she seeks an appropriate nesting site. This retention can cause infection, organ damage, and even death. Symptoms of a problem may include not laying eggs, laying only a few eggs, lethargy, pacing, lack of appetite, prolapse, digging motions, and kicking of the back legs.

You'll need to provide her with a nesting site as soon as possible. For a slider, that would be a 50/50 mix of sand and organic compost, about 12 inches deep. The bigger the area you can give her, the better. You may have to move her to a preformed pond or a child's wading pool to make room for everything she needs. Be sure that you continue to provide UVB light and a basking light no matter where you put her. This site has very detailed instructions for making nesting sites, including photos:

At this one, you can read more about egg-laying and egg retention:

Be sure to provide plenty of calcium. You can do that by placing a cuttlebone (sold in bird departments of pet stores) in her water.

If your turtle does not lay more eggs (she may have as many as twenty), that is an indication that she needs help. You'll need to take her to a reptile vet. X-rays will help determine the nature of the problem. The vet will decide whether it's appropriate to try an injection of a hormone that will induce egg-laying, or if surgery is necessary. Here is a directory of reptile vets:

This is a serious situation, so be sure to build a nesting site as soon as possible. If you have further questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope the egg-laying will be uneventful.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on ACCEPT. Thank you.)
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

someone told me it would be 3/4 weeks before i might see this again, so i was going to be on the look out for behavior indicating she was ready again.sounds like a need a tank with both land and water in it. i am in the northeast so i cant do this outside this time of year.can i anticipate this for many years going forward?

got 1 turtle as birthday present 2 yrs ago. after babysitting one for the summer.

evidently family did not do enough research. then the one i was babysitting was given to me, so i hv 2 in the tank now.

Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.
It might be 3 or 4 weeks or it might not happen again until next year. The problem is that your turtle didn't have a proper nest site when she laid those first eggs, so there's a good possibility she retained some. Because the consequences of that are so serious, it's important to not take a chance and provide the nesting site. Yes, you can anticipate this for the turtle's lifespan, which can be 30 years or more. what many people do fro a nesting site is buy one of those rigid plastic children's wading pools and set it up in the basement with the proper lighting.

It sounds like perhaps your family didn't take into consideration all the responsibilities of turtle ownership, and now you're paying the price. If dealing with the turtles sounds like more than you're prepared to do, you may want to consider placing them with a rescue organization that will find them a new home. If you do, give me your state, and I'll try to find a group for you. Sometimes it can be hard to place sliders because there are so many needing homes, but I'll do my best. Just let me know.

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