All photos by Vickie Wheeler

Vickie Wheeler on Chinese Box Turtles:

I started off with two Chinese box turtles about five years ago. They were the first two I had ever purchased and they were wild caught, at a pet store, with a huge iguana walking all over them. They were scared and ill. I had to tube feed them for almost a year. I named them Shy (male) and Bold (female). Because they managed to hang on and live I grew very fond of them. I purchased three large females from a good source about three years ago. I continued to collect captive breds and long term captives, and I kept a few of the hatchlings I produced so I now have a total of 14 Flavomarginata's! I have two mature males and one immature male, the rest are females.

Living in Southern California, I am lucky to be able to keep them outdoors all year long. They have a very big yard divided into three sections. One area is heavily planted and protected by clear roof and lattice walls. This is where they spend the winter. I start in the fall with mulch and add to it all winter. They don't dig down far, just covered. I have another area that is sunny, but heavily planted, and a brick wall surrounds it. The third area has an above ground pond made from cinder blocks and sealed with marine epoxy. They use a ramp to come from the pond yard to the pond (see photo, left). This yard is very sunny. They spend a lot of time here in the summer.

I raise hatchlings a little differently from most people. When they first hatch, after the yoke sack has absorbed, I put them in about half inch of water with a small flat rock and a plastic plant. This is on a heating pad, with a basking light on them. I feed blood worms to start them eating. I increase the depth of the water as they get stronger until it is six inches. They always have a land area and hiding area. I feed them trout chow, reptomin and nutrifin turtle food. They are treated just like water turtles for the first six months of life. I slowly change their environment to have more land and less water and start feeding on the land. I get better growth and shell shape by doing it this way.

I have never had a chinese box turtle hatchling die.

Above: At 1.9 lbs., this is my largest female.

Eggs are laid from April to July here in California and I have a female that lays three clutches a year. Most lay between 2 to 3 eggs per clutch. The eggs are hard shelled. I incubate them in vermiculite and water of equal weights in a covered container at 83 degrees. It takes about 70 days for hatching. The eggs are elongated and the hatchling pops out of the end of the egg. This happens quickly. All the eggs I have had that are fertile develop a white band around the center of the egg about a week after laying. No band and it's not fertile. The Chinese female dig a hole just like a North American Box to lay her eggs in.

They have the most endearing mating habits. They make cute little kissie sounds. The male rubs the females chin with the top of his head then runs in reverse so he is looking at her all the way back. All males do this same dance and it is lovely.

I have recently epoxied small gold hearts on the chinese box turtles. When we have heavy rains I like to bring them in, but it takes so much time trying to find them. Now I can use a metal detector to locate them beneath the ground.

The chinese box turtle is not a picky eater. One of their favorites is dry trout chow. They crunch it. I feed frozen pinkies and nightcrawlers and mealworms. I also give them greens, fruits, and veggies. I keep cuttlebone in their yard at all times. I have many different size water dishes. These turtles are such eager feeders that they bang on the sliding glass door if I don't get out quick enough to feed them in the summer.

One thing I want to say about Chinese Box turtles is how very hardy they are. I have frequently read that they aren't, but my experience with them proves otherwise. They just thrive. I have never had a captive bred Chinese boxie get sick, and the wild caught adults, once healthy, stay that way. They are extremely easy to keep and a joy to behold. They have more personality than most tortoises. They're my favorite species of turtles.


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