Chicken Turtle: Learn About This Unique Reptile and Its Characteristics

The chicken turtle, also known as the Eastern Chicken Turtle, is a freshwater turtle species that can be found in the southeastern United States, and is often confused with the Malayan Softshell Turtle due to their similar appearance.

What is a Chicken Turtle?

A chicken turtle is a unique species of turtle that is native to the southeastern United States. It is known for its unique shell, which is shaped like a chicken’s head. There are three regionally distinct subspecies (eastern, western and Florida).

Overview of the Two Species of Chicken Turtle

These subspecies can be distinguished by their appearance; the western chicken turtle displays dark markings along the seams of its plastron (lower shell), while the plastron of the Florida subspecies is a bright yellow or orange color.

The Florida chicken turtle is a smaller species with a carapace that can reach up to 6 inches in length. It is found in the state of Florida and is characterized by its bright yellow head and neck. These species of chicken turtles have long necks and long tails.

Key Facts Numbers
Scientific Name Deirochelys reticularia
Average Length 6-10 inches
Average Weight 3-7 pounds
Average Lifespan 20-24 years
Number of Eggs Laid 5-20 eggs

The chicken turtle is often confused with the northern snapping turtle, which can be found in the same habitats. To learn more about the northern snapping turtle, check out this informative article.

Western Chicken Turtle

Geographic Range

The Western Chicken Turtle, also known as Deirochelys reticularia miaria, is native to parts of the United States, from North Carolina in the east to Texas in the west, and north to Oklahoma and Kansas. It is also found in Mexico, in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Chihuahua.

Physical Characteristics

The Western Chicken Turtle is a medium-sized species, reaching up to 6 inches in length. It has a brown or olive-colored carapace (upper shell), which usually has some yellow or tan markings on it. The underside of the carapace is usually yellow or tan, with darker markings. The limbs are greenish, with yellow stripes. The head is usually darker, with yellow spots on the cheeks and chin.


The Western Chicken Turtle is nocturnal, and spends most of its time hiding in the water, where it can be found beneath rocks and logs. It is an omnivore, eating a variety of plant and animal matter. It will also eat carrion (dead animals).

The Western Chicken Turtle is a solitary species, though it may congregate in large groups when breeding. The breeding season is from May to August, and the females will lay between 2 and 10 eggs in a nest that she has dug in the ground.
The chicken turtle, also known as the Deirochelys reticularia, is often confused with the central american river turtle due to their similar appearance.

Eastern Chicken Turtle

The Eastern Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia reticularia)) is a species of turtle found in the Eastern United States, from Georgia to New York. It is one of the most abundant and recognizable turtles in the region.

Geographic Range

The Eastern Chicken Turtle has a large geographic range, spanning from Georgia to New York. The species is also found in some parts of the Midwest, including Michigan and Indiana. It is found in wetlands, marshes, and the edges of ponds and lakes.

Physical Characteristics

The Eastern Chicken Turtle is a medium-sized turtle, with a carapace (shell) measuring up to 10 inches in length. It has a brown or olive-colored carapace with a pattern of yellow, orange, or red spots. Its plastron (underside) is yellow or orange. The turtle’s head is small and triangular, with a yellow stripe running from the eye to the jaw. It also has a yellow or orange pattern on its neck and legs.


The Eastern Chicken Turtle is an aquatic species and spends most of its time in the water. It is a relatively slow swimmer, but can move quickly when threatened. It is an omnivore, feeding on a variety of aquatic plants, insects, and small animals. It is also known to bask in the sun on logs, rocks, and other objects near the shoreline. During the cooler months, it will burrow into the mud at the bottom of the pond or lake and hibernate until the warmer weather returns.

My Private Notes on Experiencing the Chicken Turtle

I had the great pleasure of experiencing a chicken turtle the other day and I wanted to take the time to document my experience. For starters, I must say that it was an amazing creature! I was instantly captivated by its unique appearance and was amazed at how large it was!

Before going further, I should note that the chicken turtle is a protected species and cannot be kept as a pet. It is important to be respectful of their habitat so as to not disturb them when you come across one. With that being said, there are definitely some tips that can help you observe these animals without disturbing them.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is to stay at a distance. Even if the turtle seems comfortable with your presence, it is important to remember that the turtle is still wild and may react unpredictably if you get too close. Keeping a good amount of distance allows you to observe the turtle without it feeling threatened.

The second tip I have is to remain patient. When observing the turtle, take your time. It may take some time for the turtle to emerge from its shell, but it is worth the wait! Being patient will also allow you to observe the turtle in its natural environment, which is the best way to appreciate its beauty.

Lastly, I would suggest bringing a camera. I was so grateful to have brought mine so that I could capture the moment and share it with others. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to observe the chicken turtle in its natural habitat, and taking some pictures allowed me to share that experience with others.

Overall, I was so blessed to have had the opportunity to observe a chicken turtle in the wild and I am so grateful for the tips that I learned. I highly recommend taking the time to observe them if you ever have the chance – it is an experience like no other!

Chicken Turtle Care


Chicken turtles need spacious, well-ventilated tanks with a secure lids. A 20-gallon-long aquarium or terrarium is suitable for one adult turtle. A larger enclosure is required for multiple adults. They need plenty of room to move around and be able to turn around comfortably. The substrate is not necessary, but if used, ensure it is shallow enough to prevent potential ingestion.

Chicken turtles are excellent climbers, so the lid should be secure and escape-proof.

Temperature and Humidity

Chicken turtles require a temperature of 75-85°F (24-29°C). A basking spot of 85-90°F (29-32°C) should be provided. Humidity should be kept between 60-80%.

Humidity can be maintained by misting the enclosure with water several times a day.


Chicken turtles are omnivorous and should be fed a variety of foods including commercial turtle pellets, chopped vegetables, fruits, and small insects. Feeding once or twice a day is recommended.

Be sure to provide a dietary supplement such as calcium powder to ensure your turtle is getting the proper nutrients.


Chicken turtles are generally hardy and are not prone to many health issues. However, they can be susceptible to respiratory infections, which can be prevented by providing a proper environment with the correct temperature and humidity levels.

It is also important to regularly inspect your turtle for signs of infection or injury, such as swelling of the eyes, mouth, or limbs. If any of these signs are present, consult a veterinarian for treatment.

Chicken Turtle Diet

What Do Chicken Turtles Eat?

The Chicken Turtle is an omnivore, meaning it will eat both plant and animal-based food. Its diet consists of fruits, vegetables, insects and other invertebrates, carrion, and small fish and amphibians. Captive chicken turtles can be fed commercial turtle food, but they should also be given a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as apples, squash, and leafy greens. Most importantly, they should be fed a variety of proteins, such as mealworms, crickets, and pinky mice.

Nutritional Requirements

Since the Chicken Turtle is an omnivore, it needs a balanced diet that includes both plant and animal-based food sources. It is important to ensure that the diet consists of a variety of foods to provide the turtle with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals. The diet should consist of approximately 30% protein and 70% plant matter. It is also important that the diet is supplemented with a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that the turtle gets all of the nutrients it needs.

Chicken Turtle Habitat

Natural Habitat

Chicken turtles are native to the southeastern United States, mainly in the states of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. They live in wetland areas, slow-moving streams, rivers, and lakes. Chicken turtles are aquatic and need access to water to survive. They can often be found in shallow waters, with their long necks and heads poking out of the water, looking for food. Wild chicken turtles need plenty of vegetation and hiding places to stay safe from predators.

Captive Environments

Although chicken turtles can make great pets, they need to be kept in the proper environment to thrive. Captive chicken turtles should be kept in an enclosure that is at least four feet long, two feet deep, and two feet wide. The enclosure should be kept at a temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The enclosure should also have a water area that is at least two feet deep and a basking area on the side of the enclosure.

Creating a Suitable Habitat

To create a suitable habitat for your chicken turtle, you will need to provide plenty of cover and hiding places. You can use rocks, driftwood, and plants to create an interesting environment. You should also provide enough hiding places so that the turtle feels secure and can retreat when it needs to. Be sure to also provide a heating lamp and a UVA/UVB lamp to keep your turtle healthy. In addition, you should set up a filter system to keep the enclosure clean and provide a diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, and insects for your turtle to eat.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Chicken turtles reach sexual maturity between 4-7 years of age. They typically lay 1-2 clutches of eggs each year, with each clutch containing 4-12 eggs. The eggs take between 55-75 days to hatch. The lifespan of the chicken turtle is approximately 20 years in the wild.

Conservation Status

The chicken turtle is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as over-collection for the pet trade. The species is protected in some parts of its range, and efforts are being made to protect and restore its habitats.


The chicken turtle is a unique species of turtle that is native to the southeastern United States. It is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as over-collection for the pet trade, and is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With proper protection and habitat restoration, the population of chicken turtles can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

People Also Ask

Are chicken turtles dangerous?

No, chicken turtles are not dangerous. They are generally shy and can be easily handled with care.

What do chicken turtles eat?

Chicken turtles are omnivores and will feed on a variety of foods including plants, insects, and small aquatic animals.

How long do chicken turtles live?

Chicken turtles can live up to 24 years if they are properly cared for in captivity.

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