6 Interesting Reasons Box Turtles Dig Holes

Is your box turtle digging a hole?

How can you be sure whether it’s just digging a super awesome hideout or if it is trying to make the great escape?

In this article, we’ll be discussing 6 reasons why box turtles dig and whether it should concern you or not.

Key Takeaway:

Turtles dig holes when laying eggs, looking for food, and hibernating. They also dig holes when stressed, to hide from predators, and to eat rocks.

But how can you know exactly why your box turtle is digging?

Coming up next, we’ll be going into some of the details of why some box turtles keep on digging and digging and what you need to know about the holes turtles make.

box turtle on the garden

Why Is Your Box Turtle Digging Hole(s)?

Lately, your box turtle can’t seem to stop digging. He’s scratching around at and kicking up the substrate all over his enclosure.

Is it just a phase? Is there something wrong?

In this next section, we’ll be checking out 6 reasons why box turtles dig and what this might tell you about your pet.

Let’s burrow right into the first one.

#1 Pregnant Turtles Dig Holes to Lay Eggs

Is your female turtle expecting?

Then congratulations! You’re about to become a grandparent!

Before your female turtles lay their eggs, they’ll make sure they have a safe space they can hide them in that is out of the way of predators. They do this by digging a hole, or even various decoy holes to deposit eggs and protect their young.

A female box turtle that is about to lay eggs will use her hind legs for digging holes. She will back into the hole rather than entering it head first.

Who are they hiding their turtle eggs from?

The following common predators eat 90% of turtle eggs and hatchlings:

  • Fish
  • Monitor lizards
  • Dogs
  • Seabirds
  • Raccoons

Turtles are clever and have many tactics they use to protect their baby turtles from predators. Here are some examples of their most ingenious tricks.

  • They dig deep holes and hide their eggs in the bottom of them
  • They often cover the entrance of the hole with earth to disguise the hole altogether
  • Female box turtles dig decoy holes to confuse predators

So, what should you do if your box turtle is digging?

Do not disturb box turtles when they start digging. Do not tamper with their holes.

Ensure female box turtles have enough food to eat and fresh water to drink.

#2 Turtles Dig Holes to Find Food

Asides from digging a hole to lay eggs, a box turtle may dig holes to find food. However, you will not often see a captive turtle digging holes as they are getting enough of the right food from their owners and do not feel the need to go out and look.

A wild turtle that is digging a hole to look for food will be on the hunt for insects and pests. They will start digging several shallow holes in search of something yummy to snack on.

What kind of tasty grub are they looking for?

Depending on the turtle species, a box turtle may start digging holes to look for some of the following tasty morsels.

  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms
  • Caterpillars

What should you do if your pet box turtle digs?

It is not uncommon for wild box turtles to spend time digging holes to look for food. But if your pet turtle is digging, make sure that he gets enough of the right food.

The diet of every turtle species differs slightly. Ensure your pet box turtle has the right diet.

box turtle hole

#3 Turtles Dig Holes When Preparing to Hibernate

When the temperature drops a wild box turtle will dig a hole to prepare for hibernation. Some turtle species may do this as soon as the temperature begins to change and others wait for the late fall or early winter.

Hibernation helps the turtle to maintain a healthy body temperature while the weather is cold. Its breathing and metabolism slow down during this time.

There is also a summer version of hibernation called aestivation. It is not unusual to find box turtles digging holes during the hot summer days.

They will stay in these holes to regulate their body temperature and will wait in them until the weather changes.

#4 Turtles Dig Holes When Stressed

If your pet turtle is digging, it might be because he feels stressed. He will begin digging holes and hiding in them until the cause of the stress passes.

What’s got the little guy feeling anxious?

Here are some of the most common causes of stress in box turtles:

  • There is too much traffic near your box turtle’s habitat
  • There are loud noises near his indoor or outdoor enclosure
  • There is bullying going on in his terrarium making your box turtle feel threatened (one box turtle is being aggressive to another)
  • His indoor or outdoor habitat is dirty
  • A predator is present (a dog, cat, or bird)

What should you do if your box turtles tend to dig holes?

If your turtle is digging because it is anxious, remove the sources of anxiety from it. This may mean turning off any loud music near his habitat or reducing the footfall around his home.

If there is bullying going on in his habitat, separate the turtles. Make sure his inside and outside environment are clean and keep predators away from him.

#5 Turtles Dig Holes to Hide From Predators

Now here’s a behavior that is common in both captive and wild turtles. A box turtle is digging to hide from predators.

But who are the predators of terrestrial turtles?

Here is a list of some of the animals that would like to make a meal out of a box turtle:

  • Birds
  • Snakes
  • Dogs
  • Monitor lizards
  • Raccoons
  • Coyotes

Who are the predators of aquatic turtles?

Adult sea turtles also have their fair share of predators. Here are some of the animals they need to give a wide berth.

  • Sharks
  • Dolphins
  • Whales
  • Crabs
  • Carnivorous fish

What should you do if your box turtle is digging to get away from predators?

If your box turtle is digging a hole, it may be because it feels threatened by a predator. To stop him from doing this, you need to keep predators away from his habitat.

Even in the absence of predators, your box turtle may still build a hole just to help him feel safe.

#6 Turtles Dig Holes to Eat Rocks

Here’s one strange thing you might not know about your box turtle. He likes eating rocks!

Yes, he might begin to dig several holes in his habitat to look for rocks to chew on.

Why do they chew rocks?

We’re not entirely sure yet. But some box turtles will dig a hole to look for rocks to chew on when they have a mineral deficiency like calcium or iron.

What should you do if your box turtle has begun digging holes to chew on rocks?

Make sure your pet box turtle gets enough minerals by adding calcium supplements to his meals. He needs to eat a well-balanced diet.

Why Do Turtles Dig Holes?

What are some of the reasons why these cold-blooded animals dig holes?

Box turtles dig holes for the following reasons.

  • To lay eggs
  • To look for food
  • To prepare for hibernation and regulate its body temperature
  • Because they feel stressed
  • To hide from predators
  • To look for rocks to eat

Digging holes is a common practice for box turtles that live in a terrestrial environment and those of aquatic species.

Do you have red-eared sliders, painted turtles, or other types of sea turtles in a tank at home?

Then you will find your turtle burying themselves and digging holes to lay eggs and keep away from predators.

How Can You Tell If Your Box Turtle Is Digging Her Nest?

Box turtles dig holes for many reasons like hibernating, hiding, and looking for food. But sometimes, female turtles will begin digging and make a nest to lay their eggs.

How can you tell if your box turtle is digging a hole in preparation for laying eggs?

Here are a couple of ways to find out.

Deeper Hole

Box turtles that burrow to lay eggs usually make deeper holes. They make the holes deep so they can hide their turtle eggs from predators.

Some turtles, such as red-eared sliders, will not make noticeably deeper nests to lay eggs. The average red-eared slider egg nest is just 10 to 12 centimeters deep.

box turtle hole 2

Back Legs

Box turtles that are about to lay eggs begin to dig holes with their back legs. They then slide into the holes backward instead of going head first.

Female turtles opt to slide into the holes backward to make it easier to lay eggs and to position them in the deepest part of the hole.

Decoy Hole

If you find your box turtle digging more than one hole in her habitat, she might be pregnant. Digging decoys or false holes is a common practice female turtles use to keep predators away from their nests.

Hole Cover

When they lay their eggs, box turtles cover the entrances to their nests using earth and substrate materials. This way, the nest will go unnoticed by predators.

Understanding Why Your Box turtle Is Digging Holes

Turtles only show a limited array of emotions so it is not easy to find out why they behave in certain ways. If your box turtle is digging holes all day, you might worry that he feels scared, hungry, or confused.

Thankfully, this article has helped us to see that turtles dig holes when laying eggs, looking for food, and when preparing to hibernate. They will also dig a hole when they feel stressed and when there are predators nearby.

Did you find the information on this page useful?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we love writing articles that will help you understand your box turtle’s behavior better and give him the care he needs. For more information about looking after turtles and other pets, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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