Monday, May 3, 2010

Pet Turtle Care: Turtle Breeding Do's and Don'ts

Breeding turtles, of course requires a pair of sexually mature turtles: The male turtle should be about three years old, while the female turtle should be approximately five. More importantly, make sure you are breeding only healthy turtles. You will observe that they do not eat much during mating, so you must see to it that they have already taken the proper amount of food and vitamins, such as calcium and D3. As you prepare for turtle breeding, make sure that you are ready. This is one challenging task.

Normally, turtle breeding begins in the fall. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you prepare the turtles you wish to breed by "winter cooling" them in January and February. This winter cooling process, which means keeping the turtles at a temperature between 50 to 60 °F, takes about six to eight weeks. Leave them alone during this time. After this six to eight week period, bring the temperature back up to normal. Turtle breeding is best accomplished outdoors, but if you have no choice, you can still do it inside. The key here is to provide the turtles with a nesting area, which is a box or a hole that is 12 to 16 inches deep, filled with moist soil and sand.

Check the nesting area regularly, especially on grey or rainy afternoons. This is the type of weather the turtles usually prefer to lay their eggs. The eggs should be uncovered gently and marked with a felt pen on the uppermost point of the egg before removing. Place them in an incubation container, the next step after turtle breeding.

During the incubation, the eggs must be positioned in such a way that the marks you made are facing upwards. For the incubation medium, use vermiculite mixed with water (at a ratio of 1:1 by weight). Place this in an ice cream container, covered and half-filled. This mixture of vermiculite and water should be moist (with a humidity level of approximately 90%). Make sure that the incubation medium does not become too saturated or wet, because this may cause the eggs to rot. On the other hand, without sufficient moisture, the eggs will dry up. You must carefully monitor the humidity level during this very delicate incubation period.

Place the eggs slightly buried for easy monitoring. Test the moisture content of the mixture with your fingers every third day. If you feel that it is drying out, spray two to three light mist sprays over the eggs. Control yourself! Do not be tempted to turn the eggs, and be careful when removing the cover. The 'banding up' or calcifying of the eggs will start in 24 hours, normally beginning from the center and working outwards.

Do not panic when you see 'windows' or uncalcified patches on the shells, because these may be present in viable or non-viable eggs. However, if you do notice that there are eggs with a slimy or moldy appearance, immediately take them out, because they may have mold or fungus that could easily spread to other viable eggs.

If you see eggs with cracks during the beginning stages of incubation, you can try to repair them by wiping a thin amount of silicone sealant gently over the crack. Hopefully, if done correctly, this will prevent fluid leakage, as well as stopping the egg from becoming completely desiccated prior to successful incubation.