Question: My Painted Turtle just laid an egg! I have had her since she was 4”. She is kept with my brother’s Juvenile Red-eared Slider. What is going on? Is she pregnant?
Answer: First, take a deep breath. All adult female turtles lay eggs. There does not have to be a male turtle around for this to happen. It is a sign that your turtle is healthy. These eggs are probably not fertilized so you should not expect baby turtles.
Next, I would like to teach you a term that new turtle owners need to learn. The term is for a female turtle who is carrying eggs. She is gravid, not pregnant. Learning this term will help you in the future when researching more about your turtle.
Female turtles must lay the eggs when they are gravid. Unlike some amphibians, they cannot reabsorb their eggs. In fact, if the turtle does not lay its eggs it can become egg bound. Now, here is another term you can learn today. If a turtle can’t expel its eggs it is suffering from dystocia. This is a serious condition that is painful for the turtle and can be life-threatening.
I am going to list some common reasons for dystocia for other turtle owners who may need more information on this subject.
Anatomical problems with a turtle are a possibility. A problem with either the external or internal reproductive organs is rare but is something to consider.
Improper diet can cause dystocia. The most common being a lack of calcium. I recommend a quality turtle pelleted food to avoid this problem.
If a turtle’s enclosure is too small and is overcrowded, stress can cause this problem. Other housing problems that cause stress would be poor water quality, improper lighting or temperature.
I think the most common problem is a lack of an oviposition site within your enclosure. This is the last term I will teach you. Oviposition is to deposit or lay eggs. Many female turtles can be very particular about the site they use to lay eggs even if they are not fertile. Research your species to learn what their requirements are.
Please remember, your turtle laid her eggs, so you have a happy, healthy turtle in a good enclosure. You’re doing a great job caring for your turtle.