When Do Red Eared Sliders Lay Eggs? (Age & Time of Year)

Breeding your own turtles is both exciting and rewarding. If you have a young female red eared slider, you might be curious about when you can expect her to start laying eggs.

In this article, we look at when you can expect your turtle to start laying and signs that this will happen, plus investigate how many turtles you can expect to breed, and what happens if your red eared slider is unable to lay eggs.

Quick Summary

  • They start laying eggs at about 2 years old and 5-6 inches in size
  • They lay between 30-150 eggs per year
  • The breeding season is between March and July
  • Look for signs of gravid behaviour to know when they will lay eggs

When do Red Eared Sliders start to lay eggs?

In general, it is usually at about two years of age, and around five to six inches in size. However, there are signs to watch for – known as gravid behaviour – that can indicate that a red eared slider is ready to breed.

Signs of gravid behaviour

There are a number of signs that a female red eared slider is ready to lay eggs. Owners should look out for some of these as described.

Is your turtle trying frantically to escape her habitat? She may try to climb out, dig her way out, or climb up or swim through the glass. Whichever behaviour she is demonstrating, she is determined to get out. While water quality problems can also cause this behaviour and should be ruled out, it’s a good sign that she’s ready to lay.

Another sign is a change in appetite. Many turtles will lose their appetite as they are focused on finding a nesting site, but some will find their appetite increases.

If a turtle’s basking habits change or they try to dig holes – particularly with their back feet – then these are other signs.

Should you be a veterinarian or a very experienced turtle keeper, the red eared slider’s abdomen can be palpated by gently feeling the area just in front of her rear eggs. However, this must be done with care as it can break the eggs and the female can suffer yolk peritonitis, which is usually fatal.

red eared slider eggs

How many eggs do they lay?

Red eared slider females usually lay between three and five clutches of eggs per year. These clutches are usually laid between fifteen and thirty days apart. They produce between thirty and 150 eggs per annum. Although this is a small number of eggs compared to other species, they are one of the most widespread turtle species in the world.

When do they breed?

The breeding season lasts from spring to early summer. Most courtship and mating rituals take place between March and July, and will take place in the water. However, because their environments are carefully controlled and rarely change, captive red eared sliders may breed at any time.

Where do they lay?

Turtles are known as amniotes. This means that the females will dig a nest on land for their eggs. Red eared slider eggs have soft shells and are fertilized as they are being laid and buried in the sand.

Female red eared sliders prefer soft, sandy soil with plenty of exposure to the sun for their nesting sites. This allows the eggs to incubate at temperatures of at least 22 degrees Celsius. The exact temperature dictates what gender the turtles will be. Below 27 degrees Celsius will produce males, while warmer temperatures produce females.
The nest is no deeper than ten to twelve centimetres and is usually within 200 metres of water.

When do the eggs hatch?

Eggs hatch between sixty and ninety days after being laid. Late season hatchlings may remain in the nest during the winter and only emerge when the weather improves and warms up in the spring.

Can a red eared slider lay eggs without being fertilized?

The answer is that like hens, female turtles can lay eggs without them being fertilized by a male turtle. Obviously, without being fertilized, they will not hatch.

Problems with laying

Egg binding (or dystocia) is when a turtle is unable to lay the eggs they have produced and it is very dangerous. Unlike many amphibians, turtles cannot reabsorb the unfertilised eggs, and they must be laid.

The unlaid eggs will begin to rot inside the body, leading to death. Owners should keep a close eye on potentially egg-laying red eared sliders to ensure that they don’t experience this problem.

Why do red eared sliders become egg bound?

There are a number of reasons that red eared slider turtles become egg bound.

Lack of a suitable nesting place is one reason. Turtles are very fussy about where they lay their eggs, and most simply will not lay if they cannot find a suitable nesting sport. This is the number one reason that captive red eared sliders become egg bound.

Another reason is stress. This can be due to its environment, such as being too small, overcrowded, the wrong temperature, or having poor quality water. Other pets in the home that could be considered predators in the wild, such as cats and dogs, are another reason.

Poor diet, especially one low in calcium – necessary for producing eggs – is a third reason, while anatomical problems with the reproductive organs are another.

How to encourage your red eared slider to lay

The simplest way to encourage your red eared slider to lay is to create a nesting box. You can buy commercially produced ones, but all it requires is a plastic box at least five times the size of the turtle’s carapace. This is so she doesn’t feel trapped, which can cause distress.

Fill the box with sand, deep enough for her to safely bury the eggs. You can use aquarium or play sand, as long as it’s natural in colour. Ensure that the sand isn’t too cold. Spray the top of the sand lightly with warm tap water and place the turtle in the box. As red eared sliders lay at night, you may want to cover the top to simulate darkness.

Leave your turtle for a couple of hours then put her back into her normal home. Check the sand for eggs. They will be buried in the sand. If your red eared slider hasn’t been mated, throw the eggs away. However, if there is a chance that the eggs have been fertilized be careful not to turn them over, as this will kill the baby turtle.

In conclusion

Many red eared sliders begin to lay eggs when they’re around two years old. Owners should look out for specific behaviours that can indicate that she is ready to lay.

It’s important to ensure that your turtle has a suitable environment in which to lay, as otherwise she may become egg bound, which can prove to be fatal. Setting up a suitable nest is simple to do, and will encourage your red eared slider to lay eggs.