Turtles make fascinating pets and are a seemingly consistent feature in every reptile enthusiast’s home. If you’ve just discovered the allure of pet turtles and are getting to explore them from a nutritional standpoint, you might be surprised to see that many foods we consume are also compatible with their diets.
Chicken is one of the most common meat sources found in kitchens just about everywhere. You might be wondering if your pet can eat chicken.
The simple answer is yes; most healthy aquatic pet turtles can eat chicken in moderation.
As there are many species of pet turtles out there, we’ll be focusing on aquatic pet turtles, and the North American box turtles (of the genus Terrapene). Read on to discover more about chicken and its place in your pet’s diet.
Turtle & Chickens
Broadly speaking, aquatic turtles and box turtles are considered to be omnivores. However, their dietary requirements tend to sway to either that of a carnivore (when they’re young) or more of a herbivore (when they are adults). This is particularly true in the case of aquatic turtles. Box turtles seem to have less of a shift and, as adults, tend to do best on a diet that’s around 50% plant-based and 50% animal-based.
With that said, chicken is definitely safe for pet turtles. The best way to offer your pet chicken is to serve a small portion of lean, raw chicken. It is especially important to ensure that juveniles get sufficient protein in their diet. Chicken can definitely help with this. However, overfeeding a pet turtle is not healthy for them. An overfed turtle may end up with health issues, such as a pyramiding shell or obesity. These conditions can, in turn, lead to other health issues down the road.
Important: Both turtles and raw chicken are possible sources of Salmonella, so hygiene is of utmost importance when handling raw foods and when keeping turtles as pets.
How Often Should I Give Chicken to Turtles?
How often you feed your turtle chicken will largely depend on their age and species. That being said, chicken should always be offered very sparingly, as it is not considered the healthiest type of protein for pet turtles. This is because they’re better off being offered prey (such as insects) that can be gut-loaded to offer additional health benefits, such as more dietary calcium.
It is also essential to note that, as mentioned earlier, older turtles are more inclined to eat leaves and greens while younger turtles prefer more meat in their diet. However, regardless of your turtle’s age, you should not make chicken a regular part of their diet.
As a general rule, chicken should be considered a minority of your pet’s diet and should only be offered sparingly. For a precise meal plan, you would have to consult your reptile veterinarian or nutritionist. As a guideline, feeding a small piece of chicken (about the size of your turtle’s head) once a week should be acceptable.
How Do You Prepare Chicken for Your Turtles?
The best form of chicken for pet turtles is lean, raw chicken. This has the nutritional profile that’s most similar to (but not identical to) that of their natural prey. It is best to offer them raw meat that is pasteurized or that has been subjected to several quality and health checks to guarantee its safety for human consumption.
Simply cut a small piece of chicken and offer it to your pet unseasoned. The chicken should not be frozen (if it is, you should thaw it first), and should not be seasoned.
Other Meats Safe for Pet Turtles
Pet turtles are able to enjoy other meats you have in your pantry or fridge. These include the following.
Please note that most of these meats should only be offered in moderation and should only be incorporated into your pet’s diet after consulting your veterinarian. They are more readily accepted by carnivorous turtles; however, the exact ratio of meat in such a turtle’s diet cannot be determined without knowing additional information about your pet.
Chicken is considered safe in moderation for most healthy omnivorous pet turtles. However, it isn’t the best form of meat for them, and they are better off being offered something more appropriate, such as live insect prey that has been gut-loaded.
Nonetheless, a small piece of raw chicken offered sparingly should not be cause for concern for most healthy pets. As always, you should consult your veterinarian if you have more doubts or questions about your pet turtle’s diet and nutritional requirements.