Update on the eggs: bad news...

TurtleTab

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Lets used my experience with these poor eggs as an example of what NOT to do when caring for turtle eggs. Caring for turtle eggs are not for amatuers and new breeders should be weary and highly educated on incubation and what to do and not to do.
Ill start from the beginning with my experience. I have had box turtles since I was 5, so 28 years now. Ive learned the hard way every time i learned something new about them. We wont go into those details, we will just focus on the present situation. I have a permanent outdoor enclosure that my 3toed box turtles live in, even in the winter. They have a hibernation den that has been dropped about 18 inches into the ground with composted soil and i have other rituals i do to keep them safe down there, too(not the post for details). So their living conditions were finally suitable for egg laying to say the least. In the 28 years of turtles, not once did a female turtle lay eggs that i came across. So i took this as a good sign that they were happy and healthy and their home offered all their needs. So Bedelia, my female 3toed mated with Allen, the male i had for 21 years now. I knew she was "in labor", im calling it, when she didnt go to sleep at sunset like she usually does. She began pacing, being restless and then digging in an area with her back legs. I tried to stay awake to watch because this behavior was new to me. But by 11pm, i went inside. The next evening, Bedelia was in a new spot, digging. Again, i tried to watch but she didnt want me involved so i had to leave her alone. I checked on her one last time before going to bed and she was in a different spot. So on the 3rd night i was curious if she was going to dig some more. Nope. By sunset, she had went to sleep. That told me she had laid them somewhere the night before-june 16 2014. I didnt find the eggs in any spots i saw her in. I begin to worry because i didnt want to lose the babies or have some unknown predator dig them up. My overparanoid overprotective mom instincts kicked in and i found them maybe a month(?) after they were laid. She had laid them in the spot i had last saw her at, just deeper into the ground than i had looked. It was about 4 inches down. By that time, there was one open, dried and empty egg on top of 3 white healthy eggs. The eggs were larger than i expected, about 1 inch or an inch and a half (didnt measure). The egg shell took me by surprise, too. It wasnt hard like a chicken egg, but soft and thin, as if it would smash if i pushed lightly. So i covered them back up. I kept a calendar on how old they were. And at the end of july, i printed a weather calendar that recorded the temp highs and lows of june and july in st louis. And then i went on vacation for a week. I made a small enclosure that circled the nest and placed a wired covering over top. I had read that turtle eggs can hatch anywhere from 44 days to 120 days. I was going on vacation when they were around 50 days old. So i worried until i came back. When i came back, i heard it had stormed for 3 days in a row, heavy non stop thunderstorms. My box turtles and one russian tortoise had managed to escape from their enclosures. I found Begonia, my russian, wandering in my yard but the boxies were gone from my yard. All i had left were the eggs. So i uncovered them and noticed that the soil was very saturated. I also noticed one egg had a split across the middle. I was excited at first since i had no clue when they were supposed to hatch. August 11 2014, day 56, a baby turtle was born named Lux for lucky. He was still in his egg. I panicked, thinking ants were going to eat him alive in the nest. I brought him inside and then noticed the embriotic sac was still covering his face. I panicked some more and decided to get him out of the egg shell. Very very bad decision. He was premature. He was lifeless mostly and i thought he was dead. But then he had a head and leg reflex. Both jerked. I researched what to do and decided to place him (first on wet washcloth which is bad too) then moist paper towel in a small hermit crab container. I placed the container over a reptile heating pad. I continued to keep his skin moist. The next day he had a head jerk when i put a droplet of water on his neck but that was the last movement. By august 13, i pronounced him dead because his eyes began to hollow and his yolk sac was starting to leak. By the way, his yolk sac was larger than him. Thats a sign that he was born too early. I think the thunderstorms had broke open his shell. So i panicked more about the last 2 eggs. I had seen other pictures where the eggs werent covered by soil so i uncovered my eggs to where only a half inch of dirt was over them. I wanted them to dry out a little because i also heard they can drown inside the egg. So through more research and waiting i was told to bring the eggs inside. I brought the eggs inside, careful not to tilt, shake or disturb the way the were laid in the nest because the turtle inside the egg is situated in a way where it can cause damage to the yolk sac, air sac, or turtle itself. Eggs were carefully placed in same position in a container full of peat moss. Container placed on top of reptile heating pad. I used no heat light. Not too long after, the biggest, darkest egg began to sink in on the sides. It had collapsed. Down to the very last egg. Last night, i decided to pick up the egg because it was 85 days old. I wanted to feel the weight. Well, the egg shell had opened underneath. Was there a turtle?? No. What i think had happened was that the heating pad was too warm. The egg was filled with a solid black "rock" the shape of the egg. I dont want to admit what happened...all i can say was the heating pad was not a good idea. No more eggs.
What i have learned is that egg rearing, hatchling raising....it has to be done right from day 1. No mistakes. No trying this way then that way....its best to let mother nature do her job. I should have never touched them. Never checked on them. Never intervened. Then it wouldnt be my fault.
I do not plan on doing this again. My box turtle Allen came home so i will focus on what i do know most about: adult boxies.
I wanted to share this with inexperienced turtle owners. I had no clue to what i was doing and the tortoisefurm helped a lot. Good luck to new breeders...
 

wellington

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Sorry about all this. Glad you got your Russian and male boxie back, hope the female and any others that may still be missing are found. As for the eggs, you did what you thought best. I'm sure when things go bad, and they do, even with the experienced sometimes (not me, I have never had any breeding turtles or tortoises yet) everyone does the shoulda, coulda, woulda. If you would have known different then, you would have done different. If it helps, I have read that many first time layers don't produce viable eggs. It may have just been the way it was going to be, whether intervened or not.
 

TurtleTab

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Sorry about all this. Glad you got your Russian and male boxie back, hope the female and any others that may still be missing are found. As for the eggs, you did what you thought best. I'm sure when things go bad, and they do, even with the experienced sometimes (not me, I have never had any breeding turtles or tortoises yet) everyone does the shoulda, coulda, woulda. If you would have known different then, you would have done different. If it helps, I have read that many first time layers don't produce viable eggs. It may have just been the way it was going to be, whether intervened or not.
Thank you;)
 

TurtleTab

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I
Sorry about all this. Glad you got your Russian and male boxie back, hope the female and any others that may still be missing are found. As for the eggs, you did what you thought best. I'm sure when things go bad, and they do, even with the experienced sometimes (not me, I have never had any breeding turtles or tortoises yet) everyone does the shoulda, coulda, woulda. If you would have known different then, you would have done different. If it helps, I have read that many first time layers don't produce viable eggs. It may have just been the way it was going to be, whether intervened or not.

I've tried all i could to locate the missing turtles as well. Ive placed flyers on all the houses in my neighborhood. Ive placed ads on craigslist in lost and found. Ive dug in neighbor yards on my hands and knees through their weeds and bushes. All i can do now is hope they find suitable soil for winter hibernation. I pray they are not in peoples basements or aquariums by now. I even posted a flyer at the local park. I mentioned how they need sunlight to digest food etc. I worry that Bedelia, the mother that laid the eggs, does not lay more eggs somewhere. I may have started a whole turtle community in my neighborhood...which puts them all in danger because of the streets and uneducated people who grab them for pets. Im trying to imagine them in a woodsy section on my block that have no people in it and full of bugs and shady cover. Its the only peace of mind i have when it comes to them being lost in this cruel world...
 

Jodie

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A sad story. Sorry for your struggles. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you find your missing friends.
 

kimber_lee_314

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So sorry - don't give up hope yet. I have "lost" turtles up to six months that have just appeared one day. I don't know if this is helpful for you, but when I leave my box turtle eggs in the ground, it usually takes 100 days before they come up. One the 100th day I water the ground well and they usually come up. When humidity is too high the eggs split open - that's probably why he hatched prematurely after the rain. The other eggs may not have been good to begin with, Often, the eggs aren't good when they lay their first clutch. We have all made regretful mistakes and can feel your pain. Don't be too hard on yourself.
 

TurtleTab

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Thank you for advice kimber. Knowing what to expect is very helpful! If ever, god forbid, this happens again...i will know more how to handle this situation. Thank you!!
 
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