When prospective turtle breeders begin to prepare their turtles to reproduce, care will need to be taken to introduce a routine as close as possible to the turtle’s natural environment. Seasons and day-night cycles will need to be imitated. Create an environment where the turtles enjoy a fair degree of freedom and if they want to hibernate, this will need to be accommodated. Hibernation is very important, as many species mate soon after they emerge from their winter dormancy.
Do keep half an eye on the interactions of your turtles when they begin to behave amorously. Some males grow fairly aggressive in the presence of a female. Choose a promising pair of turtles that appear to be in good health. If possible they should be of the same species, but not related. In the wild, a female will often choose more than one male. When she has mated successfully, pay close attention to her general condition.
It is often easy to tell that a turtle female is preparing to nest. She will leave the water, which is obvious in itself in the more aquatic species, and may begin to burrow a hollow to drop her clutch in. Turtle eggs are pliable and easy to damage. Certain breeders will state that they should not be touched at all, while other owners may wish to be sure that the incubation process is not affected by exterior factors. If you decide to let the eggs stay in the nest, you should try to secure it from nocturnal hunters. A covering of fine wire mesh may keep the nest intact.
Removing the eggs and placing them within a hatchery for incubation could compromise the chances of their hatching. The egg has to be placed in the same position it was buried in. Within the first twenty-four hours the tiny embryo bonds to the top of the egg. If it is re-positioned upside down, no hatchling will emerge. A turtle owner who wants to manage the incubation process will need to identify the top part of the egg to replace it in the correct way. The temperature will need to be monitored. Heat lamps or direct sunlight could also compromise the eggs. The temperature of incubation determines the gender of the hatchlings. For female hatchlings a few more degrees of warmth will be required, but be careful that the heat does not exceed 95 Fahrenheit (or 35 degrees Celsius). Usually the hatchlings start breathing within the egg a few days before hatching.
Nature is cruel to turtle hatchlings. Many struggle out of their nests only to run into a vast array of predators. For captive turtles, the odds are slightly better. It varies per turtle species, but under most circumstances, hatchlings will begin to emerge after 60 to 90 days. It takes them a while to manoeuvre their way out of the egg. You can expect to wait up to two days for this magical moment. It may take some time before all the hatchlings of a clutch show themselves. Turtle breeders will know the sad reality that some eggs remain closed and some hatchlings are too weak to make it to adulthood.