The simple answer is yes; turtles can eat chicken. However, different species of turtles feed on other things. The structure of the turtle’s jaw determines the type of food they eat. Most turtles can eat chicken in their early life then move to become herbivorous later in life.
Here is a simple classification of turtles based on what they eat.
These species of turtles depend on meat as their primary source of nutrition. This means you can feed give them chicken.
Examples of carnivorous turtles include leatherback sea turtles, softshell turtles, and snapping turtles.
Most turtles fall under this category, and a good example is a red-eared slider. Omnivorous turtles feed on a wide variety of food, including commercial turtle food, insects, vegetables, and different plants.
Omnivorous turtles can feed eat chicken as well. It is recommended that you feed your turtle’s small pieces of boiled chicken to feed their protein needs occasionally.
Ensure that you do not feed your turtles raw chicken since it may contain dangerous parasites such as Salmonella.
However, while in the wild, turtles will rarely feed on chicken, whether cooked or raw. Their gut is not equipped to digest chicken overall.
These include species such as the green sea turtles that only eat green plants. Such turtles eat food such as marine grass, seed weed, and algae.
How Often Should I Give Chicken to Turtles?
You should feed your turtle chicken only once or twice a month. On days you decide to provide them chicken, make sure you do not offer them any other protein-rich diet.
It would be best to feed them chicken sparingly since too much protein can cause kidney problems for the turtles.
How often you feed your turtle chicken will also largely depend on their age and species. If the turtle is a carnivore, such as a snapping turtle, they will need larger chicken pieces and an omnivore more often than a red-eared slider.
It is also essential to note that 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.
How Do You Prepare Chicken for Your Turtles?
All you need to do is boil the chicken in plain water and cut it into small pieces for your turtles. Do not add any oil or salt to the chicken. Also, make sure that the chicken is perfectly cooked before giving it to your turtle.
Do not feed your turtle chicken that is meant to be fed to humans. This means that you should never feed your chicken canned chicken since they have additional preservatives that are not ideal for your pet’s gut.
Why Don’t Turtles Eat Raw Chicken?
Sometimes it can be tempting to give your turtles raw chicken because it sticks together in water, rather than flaking out like the boiled alternative. Here are some reasons why you should not feed your turtles with raw chicken.
Risk Of Salmonella
Raw chicken is dangerous to turtles since it carries hazardous bacteria such as Salmonella and campylobacter, which will cause your turtles harm and can also be transferred to humans.
It is also not rich in the essential nutrients that turtles need. It can further cause indigestion problems to the turtles and other complications.
Imbalanced Calcium-Phosphorous Ration
Raw chicken lacks the required calcium-phosphorous ratio that turtles need and is therefore not recommended. According to USDA, 100 grams of chicken contains 213 mg of phosphorous and 5mg of calcium which is not ideal for turtles.
The recommended calcium-phosphorous ratio for turtles should be 2:1, and raw chicken doesn’t cut it.
If your turtles do not get the required amount of calcium in their diet, they will be susceptible to bone diseases such as metabolic bone diseases.
Raw Chicken Has High Collagen Content
Raw chicken has a high density of connective tissues, hence the exceptionally high collagen content. Turtles’ digestive system is not well equipped to digest collagen.
Collagen is an excellent source of protein but not the best source of protein for your turtles. It has its benefits, but its disadvantages outweigh the pros.
Can Painted Turtles Eat Chicken?
Painted turtles can eat steamed chicken but in small amounts. However, it is not part of their diet while in the wild, so that it might cause some digestive problems.
It is better not to feed them chicken in the first place.
Can Box Turtles Eat Chicken?
Box turtles can eat chicken since it’s omnivorous. Their diet consists of 50% animal protein and 50% plants.
However, it is better to feed them with other meat sources such as snails, worms, krills, and shrimps.
Can Snap Turtles Eat Raw Chicken?
Snapping turtles are carnivorous, so you might be tempted to feed them any meat. It might be better not to feed them chicken since it has very many risks attached to it.
They hunt for birds, bird-like geese, and ducks while in the wild, but it is not common for them to eat birds.
Can Box Turtles Eat Chicken Liver?
It is best not to feed your turtles chicken liver. Chicken liver has large amounts of iron and Vitamin A. However, the level of concentration is too high for turtles and might cause gastrointestinal complications for them.
What Is the Best Food For Turtles?
Turtles need two staple foods to remain healthy. They need a daily supply of vegetables or plants and protein every 2 to 3 times a week. Some of the vegetables you should feed them include romaine lettuce, kale, and waterweed.
You should note that turtles are very picking eaters and might not eat some of the vegetables you provide. If this happens, you can feed them some commercially made turtle vegetable pellets.
Now you have a detailed answer to the question – can turtles eat chicken?
You can feed your turtles boiled chicken every once in a while, as a snack. Ensure that you do not add any oil or seasoning to your chicken.
Do not feed raw chicken to your turtles. It is toxic to turtles since their gut is not well equipped to digest it.
Featured Image Credit: M.E. Parker, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.