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Can Turtles Eat Chicken? Nutrition Facts & FAQ (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Karyn Kanowski

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Written by

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As something of an unusual pet, it is often difficult to find the right information on what to feed your pet turtle, and there is rarely a turtle section in the pet food aisle! If you are wondering whether or not your turtle can eat chicken, the answer is yes.

However, your pet turtle’s species and life stage will greatly affect how much chicken (if any) you should feed them. While many species eat meat, not all of them do. So, before you decide to put chicken on the menu, you must ensure that your turtle needs meat in the first place.

turtle divider AH

Turtle or Tortoise?

All tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises, and for the purpose of this article, we will focus purely on the aquatic variety of turtles. In this article, we will be discussing the diets of freshwater turtles, plus the inclusion of the only terrestrial turtle species, the Box Turtle. The majority of tortoises are herbivores, and should never be fed meat of any kind as it can lead to kidney damage.

a turtle on a rock
Image Credit: coloursinmylife, Shutterstock

Understand Your Turtle’s Dietary Needs

When constructing a diet plan for your pet turtle, you need to take his natural dietary needs into consideration. What would your turtle’s species eat in the wild? With that information, you can create a more balanced and suitable diet for your pet.

Unlike their land-locked tortoise relatives (sometimes referred to as land turtles), almost all turtles are omnivorous, with only two exceptions: The Green Sea Turtle is the only pure herbivore, and the Loggerhead Turtle is completely carnivorous. As neither of these species are kept as pets, we can safely focus on the omnivores. Juvenile turtles will mostly be carnivorous due to their high protein requirements, with their diet expanding as they age.

What Do Aquatic Turtles Eat?

In the wild, turtles will consume a wide variety of foods, from plants and insects, to small reptiles and amphibians. By eating a variety of food types, they are able to meet their protein, fat, carbohydrate, mineral and vitamin requirements. In captivity, their diets should be similarly varied in order to meet their nutritional needs. It is also important to use a range of different foods, as captive turtles can get bored with repetition, and stop eating altogether.

Juvenile diets should consist of around two-thirds protein, while adults should be no more than 50% carnivorous. Commercial turtle pellets will provide a reliable source of balanced ingredients for your shelled companion, but due to their dislike for repetitive foods, the rest of their diet needs to be balanced as well. In addition to pellets, offer a mixture of small invertebrates (eg. insects, mealworms, shrimp) and vertebrates (eg. fish). Feeding small feeder fish like guppies can also provide mental stimulation for your turtle, but as they can sometimes carry bacterial or parasitic infections, you should ideally keep them in a separate tank for a time before feeding them to your turtle.

In terms of plants and vegetables, the ideal options are those that float; leafy greens like kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrot tops, green beans and dandelion leaves are ideal. Aquatic plants like water hyacinth, water lilies, Elodea, or duckweed provide edible shelter, but be careful not to let them become overgrown and always check that your plant selection is non-toxic. Some turtles are attracted to bright colors, so offer some sliced bell peppers from time to time, or strawberries if you really want to impress them.

Treats are a great way to bond with your pet, but they should not exceed around 5% of their overall diet. Most turtles will go crazy for cat or dog kibble, fruit (not citrus) or commercial turtle treats. Cooked chicken will also prove to be popular with your turtle.

Boiled chicken strips drained
Image Credit: mariannagraf, Pixabay

How to Prepare Chicken for Your Pet Turtle

Never feed your turtle raw chicken as it may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. To safely prepare chicken for your turtle’s consumption, chop the meat into small, bite-sized chunks to make it more manageable for your turtle. Place the chicken into a pot of boiling water and cook until the chicken is cooked all the way through.

How Much Chicken Can I Feed My Turtle?

Meat like chicken, fish or beef are perfectly safe to feed to your turtle, but on their own do not contain the necessary balance of calcium and phosphorus needed to keep your turtle healthy long-term. Inappropriate calcium/phosphorus levels can lead to a condition known as metabolic bone disease, a condition in which the bones become softened. In severe cases, it can lead to depression, seizures, and death. It is for this reason that the carnivorous aspect of your turtle’s diet should consist of pellets and a selection of small prey species that will provide the right balance. Chicken and other meats should only be used as a treat.

owner holding a diamondback terrapin turtle
Image Credit: Miiko, Shutterstock


What about crumbed or seasoned chicken? I think it’s tasty, surely my turtle will too!

Herbs, spices, batter or crumbs are not great for turtle digestion. If you are going to feed a chicken treat, keep it simple – plain boiled may seem boring to you, but they will love it.

chicken breast on a white background
Image Credit: SUNG MIN, Shutterstock

We know about the chicken, what about egg?

In the wild, turtles will certainly take advantage of an unguarded nest, so pet turtles will also enjoy some egg from time to time. Offer it hard-boiled with the shell on for an extra calcium kick! Be sure to remove any uneaten egg after 24 hours.

What other meat can I feed my turtle?

Turtles can be fed most meats, provided they are cooked simply, not smoked, seasoned or flavored. But remember to only feed meat as an occasional treat, not their primary protein source.

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Final Thoughts

Freshwater Turtles (and the land dwelling Box Turtle) are omnivorous reptiles that rely on a wide and varied diet to meet their nutritional needs, and this is particularly important for our pets. Ensuring we are providing a good balance of plant-based foods and protein is essential to their health, and changing their diet regularly helps to keep captive turtles from becoming bored.

Treats are a great way to create a bond between you and your turtle friend, but they should only form a tiny part of their diet. Fruits are a popular sweet treat, and cooked meats like chicken are another healthy snack.

When it comes to pets like the humble turtle, it is essential that you do plenty of research before you bring one home. Habitat and diet are really important, so make sure you seek the advice of your veterinarian or reptile expert to ensure you have everything you need.

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Featured Image Credit: jiaming xie, Shutterstock

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