As we have told you in other articles, Box Turtles need to
have a nice big outdoor home. But sometimes you may need to
keep your American Box Turtle inside for a time. Maybe over
the winter if it is too young or ill to be hibernated, while
it is sick or needing an injury to be monitored, or you
might need to keep it inside at night if predators are a
danger with your outdoor pen. So here is want you will need
to do to house your pet American Box Turtle correctly and safely
1. You will need a secure box, pen, or cage, ideally 4 feet
by 4 feet per turtle, with sides at least 12 inches high.
Never use glass, it may make the pen too hot, and the Box
Turtle will be constantly trying to escape.
2. Line the box with something that can easily be changed or
cleaned, such as newspaper, paper towels, hay, or potting
soil. Never use gravel or other rough materials, it may
injure your turtle, also don't use wood shavings, cat
litter, or animal pellets, the turtle may eat them and plug
up its intestines, and some wood shavings are poisonous to
3. Set up a water dish large enough for the turtle to climb
in and soak in about 2 inches of water. (More shallow for
smaller turtles, make sure it can stick its head out.) It
needs to soak both for hydration and to aid its digestive
and elimination systems. Make sure it can easily get into
and out of the dish. Remember that Box Turtles can drown in
too much water, and if it can't get out, it can't eat. Also
make sure to wash the water dish and give it fresh water
daily. Box Turtles very often use their water dishes for a
4. Also remember that turtles are cold-blooded, like all
other reptiles, and must be able to move about from warm to
cool areas as needed. Set up a red flood light in one end or
corner of the pen, and use a thermometer to make sure that
the temperature under the lights doesn't go over 85 to 90
degrees F. or the turtle may be overheated or even burned.
You may want to cover this end of the pen with a fireproof
covering to help hold the heat.
5. If the indoor pen is only for your turtle's night time
safety, you shouldn't need any other lighting. But if you
are keeping it inside for the winter, or it is a baby turtle
or hospital pen, you will need to also set up a full
spectrum fluorescent light for UVB so that the turtle's body
can metabolize the calcium and vitamin D3 it must have to
grow properly and stay healthy.
6. Last but certainly not least, your turtle needs a hidey
hole. You can give it anything from a special homemade and
decorated wooden turtle house with its name over the door to
an empty shoebox turned upside down and a turtle-sized hole
cut in the side. This is important because Box Turtles are
shy, and in the wild they spend much of the day burrowed
down into soft soil or leaf litter. Without a place to hide
your turtle will be much stressed and may sicken.
Be sure to keep the pen as clean as possible to protect your
turtle's health and to keep both you and it from being
bothered by insects. Take out any food it doesn't eat in a
day or so for the same reason.
Put the indoor pen into a quiet part of your house, and be
sure not to let small children or pets harass your turtle,
and it should do quite well until you can put it into a nice
large outside pen.