Box turtles can be excellent pets if you’re willing to take the time to learn how to properly care for them.They have specific needs in regard to diet, housing and climate. They do much better when kept in large outdoor pens. I will limit this section to the types I am most familiar.
Eastern Box Turtle:
Easterns vary greatly in appearance but are generally brown to black with yellow and orange markings on the carapace (top of the shell) that range from lines and smudges to almost looking like flower petals. They have bright markings on the head and legs, the most predominant being yellow.I keep my group in a 12 x 8 ft. pen with a cypress mulch/potting soil substrate that’s heavily planted with ground cover and has lots of caves and a log for them to burrow under.
The pen has a large shallow pond for soaking, drinking and defecating in.The latter requires regular changes of water! I had a misting system, but the misters were always clogging up so now I just put a sprinkler in the pen for an hour or so daily.This is done around feeding time…in the wild they forage for food after rain so it made sense to me to duplicate this habit.They know where the food is placed and congregate there at feeding time.I feed in the evening before dusk and you can set your watch by them!
I feed them a variety of fruits and vegetables including cherry tomato,squash,apples,bananas,grapes,honeydew and cantaloupe melon,carrot and carrot tops and occaisionally lettuce (lettuce is useless as a source of nutrition but has an astringent value). I mix it all together and serve it up on paper plates. They get this every other day and in between I give them live food in the form of crickets and night crawlers.I occaisionally dust the food with calcium.
Ornate Box Turtle:
Lauded to be the most difficult box turtle to keep, they are smaller than thier eastern cousins but are also lauded to be the most beautiful of the order terrapene ( I disagree with this notion…my vote goes to the easterns, but …you say tomato…). They are harder to husband initially, if purchased from a pet store for a couple of reasons.
One, they are most generally wild caught and come with a multitude of deficits…dehydration,parasites, injuries. Two, they don’t take kindly to living in captivity and the adjustment period is protracted when compared to other members of the terrapene family. If you want an Ornate…adopt one from a legit organization (turtle homes) or get one that has been captive bred. Once acclimated they are amazing! They are more carnivorous than other members of the terrapene family (mine are anyway) but still enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Three toed Box Turtle:
From my experience, these are the hardiest of the species represented here. Of all the 3 toeds I’ve dealt with, they have either come to me healthy or respond to treatment (mostly dehydration and eye problems) quickly. One of my herd had been seriously mauled by a dog and had a lingering abcess from a fang hole in the plastron. She never stopped eating and through the intensive hands on treatment (daily irrigations of the wound with novalsin) sprayed out of a giant syringe much like a pressure washer, never acted stressed.
Diet considerations are similar to ornates as are climatic considerations. The carapace is generally drab green, sometimes you see black markings similar to ornates. Some people contend that when these markings are present it is a hybrid between 3 toed and ornate (The ranges overlap). Named because they have only 3 toes on the rear legs, sometimes you find them with 4, but not always in conjunction with the hybrid markings…so go figure. Skin coloration varies greatly and includes whites and yellows.
This great info was brought to you from Turtopia.org (Turtle Rescue).