Escape-Proof Your Outdoor Turtle Habitat


Your outdoor box turtle habitat needs a soft substrate and tall walls, among other things.

Overhanging top edges and low plants are two ways to minimize your box turtles’ ability to escape their outdoor pen.


Box turtles like to roam, and if you give them the slightest chance, they’ll roam right over the walls of their home and escape. So it’s important to escape-proof box turtle pens.

Don’t think that just because you’ve made the walls taller than your turtle is long that he can’t get out, either. He’ll just dig under them. Or she’ll climb up on top of her pen-mate and hoist herself over.

Really. Box turtles can be very troublesome little critters when they set their minds to it!

Make the Walls Tall

Basically the walls of your turtles’ home need to be tall enough that they cannot reach the top. Experts have different recommendations, ranging from twice the height of your longest turtle to at least 16 inches. Some experts suggest at least 20 inches.

But tall walls are still not enough. Some box turtles will brace themselves against the two walls of a corner and inch their way up and out. Prevent this by capping the corners.

Another option is to create an overhang all around the enclosure. That way, even if he can somehow reach the top of the wall, his escape is still blocked.

Stop Your Turtle From Digging Out

You have several options for convincing your box turtle that digging out is not worth the effort.

You can extend the walls 8 to 12 inches into the ground. Most turtles won’t try digging that deep. Tess Cook (author of Box Turtles) describes how she has buried aluminum flashing down to 10 inches all around pens she built.

Another option that works well involves lining the walls with bricks or pavers buried along the edge of the enclosure flush with the ground. You don’t have to dig as deep with this method, but it seems to be just as effective. As an added bonus the bricks help trim the turtles’ claws if they do try to dig and also as they walk on it.

Watch Your Landscaping

Some turtles have been known to climb plants to get out, so be careful how you plant. Keep plants low and away from the walls.

Also be careful with shelters. If you put hollowed logs or other shelters in the enclosure, make sure your turtle cannot climb on them to get over the wall. Either place them away from the wall, or make them impossible to climb.

The first few times you put your turtles in their new outdoor home, keep an eye on them. Since it’s new, they’ll be exploring a lot. If there’s a way out, it’s a good bet they’ll find it pretty quick. Then you can fix the problem.

Box turtle eating strawberryIf you make changes to the landscaping later, do the same thing to make sure you haven’t created a new way for them to escape.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *