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Painted Turtle Eggs: Appearance & What to Do With Them

Painted turtle eggs are white with a soft leathery shell. They are about 1 inch long by 0.75 inches wide and are laid in clutches of 4-10 eggs. They’re incubated for 72-80 days before hatching, emerging as painted turtle hatchlings.

When most people think of turtles, they think of the adults with their hard shells. 

What many people don’t know is that turtles start life as little hatchlings, and the process of hatching from the egg is a miraculous one.

This article explores what painted turtle eggs look like, what to do if you find them, and the full lifecycle of the painted turtle-from egg to adult.

Painted Turtle Eggs

Painted turtle eggs are small and round, about the size of a jellybean. They are white with a soft, leathery shell. The egg protects and nourishes the growing embryos.

Inside the egg, the embryo is attached to the shell by a web of veins that deliver nutrients around the egg from the egg yolk.

As the embryo grows, it uses up the oxygen in the egg and produces carbon dioxide. This gas is released through pores in the shell.

Egg Trait Description
Size 1 inch long by 0.75 inches wide
Color White
Shape Elliptical
Incubation period 72-80 days
Bury depth 2-4 inches
Clutch size 4-10 eggs per clutch

What Do Painted Turtle Eggs Look Like?

The average painted turtle egg is around 1 inch long and 0.75 inches wide. They are elliptical in shape and have a soft, leathery shell. The eggs are usually a light brown or cream color but can sometimes be a bit darker.

What Do Painted Turtle Eggs Look Like
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How Deep Are Painted Turtle Eggs Buried?

Painted turtles bury their eggs about two to four inches deep in the sand or mud. The female often builds a false nest on top of the real one to fool predators.

Painted turtles lay their eggs in nests on land, usually close to water. The nest is a simple hole that the female digs with her back legs.

She then lays 4-10 eggs in the hole and covers them with dirt and vegetation. The vegetation helps to camouflage the nest and keep the eggs warm.

How Long Does It Take for Painted Turtle Eggs to Hatch?

It takes 72-80 days for painted turtle eggs to hatch. The incubation temperature determines the sex of the turtle-warmer temperatures produce females and cooler temperatures produce males.[1]

The temperature also affects the hatching time. Warmer temperatures cause the eggs to hatch sooner, while cooler temperatures delay hatching.

What Do You Do With Painted Turtle Eggs?

If you find eggs in your pet-painted turtle tank, you can remove them if you wish. Some people choose to incubate the eggs themselves, while others simply dispose of them.

What Do You Do If You Find Wild Painted Turtle Eggs?

If you find painted turtle eggs in the wild, it’s best to leave them where they are[2]. The mother turtle has carefully buried them in the sand or mud, and moving them can disrupt the incubation process.

Be sure to move them carefully and put them back exactly as you found them.

What Do You Do If You Find Wild Painted Turtle Eggs
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Incubating Painted Turtle Eggs

You need to create a suitable environment if you decide to incubate painted turtle eggs. Temperature and humidity must be carefully controlled, as too much or too little of either can cause the eggs to die.

You also need to keep the eggs in a clean environment, as bacteria can easily kill developing turtle embryos.

Once the eggs have hatched, you need to care for the baby turtles until they are big enough to fend for themselves. This can be a lot of work, but it’s also rewarding.

Life Cycle of Painted Turtle

Painted turtles begin life when they hatch from their eggs. For the first few weeks, they stay on land and absorb their yolk sac. From 3 weeks on, they can swim, forage, and hunt well. They grow rapidly in their first year, which slows in subsequent years.

Stage Age
Incubation 72–80 days
Hatching  0-3 weeks
Juvenile 3 weeks–4 years
Adult  4+ years

Eggs & Incubation

Painted Turtle Eggs and Incubation
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The egglaying season for painted turtles is generally between mid-April to late June.

A female lays between four and eight eggs per clutch. Larger females tend to lay larger clutches because they have the space to carry them. The average clutch size is six.

The eggs are incubated for 60 to 80 days, depending on the temperature. Warmer temperatures cause them to hatch faster.

Hatchling

Painted Turtle Hatchling

Painted turtle eggs hatch in late summer to early fall[3]. The Northern painted turtle subspecies often overwinter in the nest and hatch the following spring as temperatures increase.

If the temperatures are too low when the turtles hatch, they may stay in the nest and brumate through their first winter, emerging in the spring.

If the temperature is mild, they leave the nest a few days after hatching. They continue to be nourished by the remaining egg sac connected to their abdomen. Once the yolk dries up, it leaves a small wound that needs to heal before exposure to water.

Hatchlings take their first swim at approximately three weeks old.

Juvenile

Can You Keep a Baby Painted Turtle as a Pet

Young turtles grow quickly in their first year, reaching 3-4 inches. After the first year, they grow steadily at a rate of 1 inch per year until they reach sexual maturity.

Juvenile painted turtles eat small insects, fish, and aquatic plants. Their diet shifts to include more plants and less meat as they mature.

Adult

Painted Turtle Appearance and Size

Painted turtles reach sexual maturity between five and ten years of age. The males are typically smaller than the females. 

Males have long, thick tails with concave undersides. They also have front claws that are slightly longer and less curved than the females. The females have shorter, thinner tails and more convex or flat undersides to their shells. 

Painted turtles mate in the spring and summer.[4] After mating, the female travels to a suitable nesting site on land, often returning to the same spot yearly. After laying eggs, the female returns to the water and resumes her usual activities.

Painted turtles can live for many years in the wild, often exceeding 50 years.

What Does a Painted Turtle Look Like?

Painted turtles are small to medium-sized turtles. They get their name from the brightly colored patterns on their shells and skin. The top of their shell, or carapace, is dark green or black. The bottom of their shell, or plastron, is yellow or orange. The patterns on their shells are made up of red, yellow, and orange stripes.

Painted turtles have webbed feet and long necks. Their eyes are on the top of their head, allowing them to see above the water while swimming.

Eastern painted turtle

Painted Turtle Size

Painted turtles range in size from 4 to 10 inches long. The females are typically larger than the males.

Size ranges across subspecies, with the eastern painted turtle averaging slightly smaller than the midland and western subspecies.

FAQs

Where Do Painted Turtles Lay Eggs?

Painted turtles lay their eggs on land, usually in a sunny spot near the water. The female digs a small hole with her back legs and lays her eggs in it.

What Happens After a Painted Turtle Lays Eggs?

After a painted turtle lays her eggs, she covers them with dirt and leaves. Then she goes back into the water and doesn’t return to the nest.

How Old Are Painted Turtles When They Lay Eggs?

Painted turtles are usually about 4-5 years old when they lay eggs for the first time.

How Many Eggs Does a Painted Turtle Lay?

Painted turtles usually lay 4-8 eggs at a time.

Where Do Baby Painted Turtles Go After Hatching?

After hatching, baby painted turtles spend a few days to weeks in the nest. Then they go into the water. They live in freshwater ponds and lakes.

How Much Does A Painted Turtle Weigh?

A painted turtle hatchling weighs about 2-3 grams. An adult painted turtle weighs 11-18oz.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.