Buying and incubating tortoise eggs is an alternative to buying a hatchling. In captivity, you will have to make sure you don’t disturb the eggs, and that you have the right temperature and humidity for the duration of the incubation.
Taking care of a little tortoise is a sweet thought. Even better, buying and incubating a tortoise egg (or eggs), gives you the chance to witness the birth of your tortoise, and to then take care of them for their whole life (and probably yours!). It’s without doubt a wonderful thing.
But as nice as it sounds, buying and incubating tortoise eggs is not that simple, and it actually comes with many responsibilities. If you’re planning to buy and incubate tortoise eggs instead of buying a hatchling, this article will give you some important information to help you prepare for the whole process.
What Does the Incubation of a Tortoise Egg Involve?
Obviously, incubating tortoise eggs isn’t child’s play. You have to make sure you provide the best conditions for them, thus giving the occupants of said eggs the chance to come into this world as healthy, happy beings. If you want to avoid any problems with your tortoise, then the incubation period will be very important.
Here are some key things you will have to consider while incubating tortoise eggs:
Tortoise eggs have to be incubated at the right temperature to help the embryo develop. Without a constant, adequately high temperature, the embryo will either not develop, or it will develop way too fast, leading to complications and even death.
More often than not, tortoise eggs have to be incubated at a temperature between 77 degrees F (25 degrees Celsius) and 95 degrees F (35 degrees Celsius). This range applies to Mediterranean (Testudo) tortoise eggs, while other breeds may differ slightly.
Continuing with the example of Mediterranean tortoises, if the temperature is lower than 77 degrees, the tortoise will simply not start developing. Higher than 95, and the tortoise will develop too quickly. As a result, the moisture content will also quickly deplete, which would lead to the death of the tortoise.
If the temperature fluctuates, even by more than just a few degrees, this could also lead to malformation and even death.
Temperature also influences the sex of developing tortoise embryos. For instance, with Hermann’s tortoises, if you incubate the eggs at around 90-91 F (32 degrees C), they should develop into females. You can also keep the temperature between 89.6 and 90 F (31.5 – 32 C), as it might be safer, and still help develop healthy female tortoises. Meanwhile, a temperature lower than 87 degrees F (30 C) usually leads to the development of a male tortoise.
A consistent level of humidity level must be maintained during the incubation process. In general, the humidity should be kept between 50% and 90%. It’s too dangerous to have a dry environment, but it’s also risky for humidity levels to be over 90%.
When the humidity goes below 50%, the chances are that, as with execessive temperatures, it would cause the contents of the egg to dry out. At the same time, going anywhere over 90% will effectively drown the eggs, as they will absorb way too much water.
Ideally, you should keep the humidity around 70-75%. Adding bowls of water in the incubator will provide the humidity, while a hygrometer will allow you to monitor and adjust the humidity as required.
- Disturbing the Eggs
No matter what, the eggs should not be disturbed, especially during the early days of incubation. While it’s okay to move them before incubation due to the embryo simply floating inside the egg, once incubation starts, you should refrain from touching them. Otherwise, you risk smothering the hatchling with the yolk sack.
Once everything is setup and you’re happy with your environmental conditions, it’s a case of stepping back and letting the egg develop on its own, only monitoring as much as you need to.
Advantages of Buying and Incubating Tortoise Eggs
Buying and incubating tortoise eggs has its benefits. Here are some of them:
- Getting the Full Experience of Raising a Tortoise
What makes this so beautiful is that you have the privilege of raising a tortoise more or less from the moment it comes into this world. Once it hatches, you will be the caretaker. You’ll have to look after the tiny reptile and make sure you provide it with the best conditions.
More often than not, people get their tortoises already hatched, so not many get to incubate eggs themselves. It’s a unique thing to experience.
- You’ll Have More Control Over Them from the Get-Go
All too often, when people buy hatchlings from breeders or someone else, they end up having issues. The tortoise’s shell might be too soft, and the reptile dies after a while, or there are different health issues that will become noticeable not long after buying the pet.
Usually, this happens because the breeder who sold the tortoise did not provide them with optimal conditions during incubation and thereafter, which ends up causing health problems.
When you buy and hatch your own tortoise eggs, you will be in full control from the beginning. You can avoid hatchling failure syndrome as you will know what conditions are necessary to incubate and then raise the tortoise, with the buck effectively stopping with you.
This sort of control is better for you and the tortoise.
Disadvantages of Buying and Incubating Tortoises
Incubating tortoise eggs also has several disadvantages, as follows:
- Finding a Breeder May Be Hard
It may be difficult to find a responsible breeder, especially if you don’t know what to look for. It’s even more challenging to find a breeder who sells eggs and also has a good success rate.
- The Eggs Might Be at Risk
Transporting the eggs to your home could be risky, but there is also a risk that the eggs will fail. If you make smallest mistake, incubating the eggs may not be a successful process, and you won’t know this until some time after making your purchase.
- Possibly Pricey
The cost will depend on the breeder, and some may have higher prices than others. So, you will have to do some research work to find a breeder that is both reputable and has low prices.
Again, given the precarious nature of incubation, many breeders may be reluctant to sell eggs rather than hatchlings, and if the do they may well charge a premium for it.
- You’ll Need to Invest in (or Construct) an Incubator
Incubators are specialist pieces of kit, and they don’t come cheap. You’re looking at around $100 for a basic ‘hobbyist’ type incubator, with professional models being many hundreds of dollars.
If you’re determined enough you may be able to construct your own incubation setup, but unless you’re technically minded this may be an unrealistic task.
- You Won’t Know Who’s at Fault
If the eggs fail, you may not know whose fault it is. It could be the breeder’s for possibly not keeping the eggs in safe conditions. At the same time, it could be yours for not knowing how to keep the correct incubating conditions, or care for the hatchling. You can never know for sure, and it’s unlikely you’ll have any comeback against the breeder who sold you the egg(s).
Buying and incubating tortoise eggs can be a great experience, but it comes with specific risks and responsibilities. If you want to do it regardless of these aspects, make sure you find a trustworthy breeder. You should also maintain the best conditions for the eggs, and later for the hatchlings.