Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

Yes, all turtles lay eggs. Turtles prefer to lay their eggs in sand or sandy, moist soil. Egg laying season stretches from Spring to early Fall every year. With most turtles laying eggs in the summer months.

Turtles can clutch more than once a season. Each clutch can hold anywhere from ten eggs to almost two hundred eggs.

Green Sea Turtle Laying Eggs | Photo 152278807 © Anne Ly Thai Bach | Dreamstime.com

Turtles Do Lay Eggs

All species of turtle lay eggs. However, when and how often they lay eggs can vary depending on species. 

Here are some examples.

Type of TurtleWhen is Mating SeasonHow Often Eggs Laid
Sea TurtlesEvery 3-4 YearsEvery 2 Weeks
Red Eared SlidersMay – July3-5x Per Season
Diamondback TerrapinApril – July3-5x Per Season
Mojave Desert TortoiseAugust – October2-3x Per Season
Galapagos Giant TortoiseJanuary – August1-4x Per Season

Turtles will usually mate before laying their eggs. Mating isn’t necessary for a turtle to lay eggs, however.

Some pet turtles have been known to lay unfertilized eggs. These eggs will not hatch. 

It is important to keep an eye on your pet turtle if it is female as there are medical problems that can come from having unfertilized eggs that need to be laid. 

If your turtle shows signs of a lack of appetite, loss of energy, or trouble swimming, take them to the vet immediately. 

How Many Eggs Do Turtles Lay?

The number of eggs laid by a turtle ranges both from species to species as well as within species. A general rule is that bigger turtles lay fewer eggs.

On average most turtles clutch more than once in a season. Some sea turtles clutch up to twelve times in a season. 

Some turtles only clutch once a year. There are even a few species that clutch once every two years. Each clutch will have about 80-180 eggs, depending on species. Some species clutch as few as ten eggs.

SpeciesHow Many Eggs Per Clutch
Green Sea Turtles110 Eggs (on Average)
Red Eared Sliders2 – 30 Eggs
Diamondback Terrapin5 – 12 Eggs
Mojave Desert Tortoise1 – 14 Eggs
Galapagos Giant Tortoise2-7 (Saddleback) 20-25 (Domed)

Sea turtles for instance will go into season once every three to four years, however, they will lay eggs multiple times during their season.

Where Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

Something they all have in common is that they lay their eggs in sandy, moist soil or on sandy beaches. Most turtles will dig nests for their eggs.

Sea Turtles will lay eggs along beaches. River dwelling turtles lay eggs along riverbeds. 

Turtles and tortoises cannot lay eggs in water or in areas that may flood while the eggs are incubating. The embryos need air to survive and will die if covered with water for too long.

Female turtles will often go far up onto a beach so that they are above the tide line to lay their eggs. 

The one exception to the rule is the long-necked turtle. It is the only species that lays its eggs in the water. 

Turtle Nests

After mating the male turtle leaves and the female carries the eggs for three to six weeks. Once she is ready, she will pull herself up onto the beach or shore and find a good egg spot. 

It can take a female turtle about five to six hours to dig a nest and lay eggs. During this time the female turtle is vulnerable. This is one reason they either lay eggs at night or under the cover of bushes and trees.

When Do Turtles Lay Eggs?

The age at which a turtle is able to reproduce varies greatly. Generally, the smaller the turtle the earlier they will reach maturity and be able to lay eggs.

Age of maturity ranges from just a few years for smaller turtles to up to forty years or more for larger sea turtles. 

Here are some examples per species:

SpeciesAge of Maturity
Green Sea Turtle25 – 35 Years
Red Eared Sliders5 – 6 Years
Diamondback TerrapinMale: 2 – 3 Years; Female: 4-5 Years
Mojave Desert Tortoise15 – 20 Years
Galapagos Giant Tortoise20 – 25 Years

Once mating is complete it will take three to six weeks on average before the female turtle is ready to lay her eggs.

The egg laying season also changes amongst species. There are two main seasons. Turtles living in temperate climates will lay eggs in the spring. Turtles living in tropical regions and sea turtles lay their eggs in the summer months June and July. 

Overall, Egg laying seasons can stretch from February to September in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere egg laying can happen from November to February.  Essentially each species is laying their eggs during the spring and summer times of their hemisphere.

Turtle egg laying is triggered by the change in weather from winter to spring to summer. The ideal temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The eggs are laid at a time that will cause the baby turtles to hatch during a season of abundance. This gives them the best chance of survival.