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Can Turtles, Tortoises, And Terrapins Eat Chicken? What You Need To Know

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Turtles, tortoises, and other reptiles are often confused with amphibians. They are very similar in appearance, but they are not closely related.

Turtle sticks its head out the water tryint to catch the food

Amphibians live in water, whereas reptiles live on land.

Reptiles include lizards, snakes, crocodilians, turtles, tortoises, iguanas, chameleons, geckos, and monitor lizards.

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals. They don’t have sweat glands and their skin is covered with scales.

Reptiles are either carnivorous animals or omnivores. They feed mostly on insects, worms, fish, frogs, birds, and mammals but some reptile species also eat plants as part of their diet.

But can turtles, tortoises, and terrapins eat chicken? Keep reading to find out more about these reptiles and their diets.

What Is The Difference Between Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins?

Turtles and Tortoises are closely related. However, turtles are mostly semi-aquatic and spend a lot of time swimming in the water.

They tend to have an omnivorous diet which is a combination of meat and plants. Tortoises live mostly on land and are herbivores, which means they don’t eat meat.

Terrapins are a type of small turtle. They live in brackish water and tend to have an omnivorous diet.

There are many similarities between turtles and tortoises, but their diets can vary depending on which species of turtle or tortoise you are looking at.

Different Types Of Turtles

There are many different species of turtle, but they can be categorized into three groups based on their diet- carnivorous turtles, omnivorous turtles, and herbivorous turtles.

The jaw structure and the power of their bite is closely linked to their diet and lifestyle, which causes some visual differences between the different types.

Carnivorous Turtles

Carnivorous turtles get most of their nutrition from meat. In the wild they eat both live and dead food, catching their prey and eating the leftovers that other animals have disregarded.

As you would expect, carnivorous turtles have the strongest jaws and most powerful bite out of all of the turtle species.

Snapping turtles and loggerhead sea turtles are both examples of carnivorous turtles.

Whilst these turtles eat mostly meat, they will occasionally eat plants. If you have a carnivorous turtle as a pet then you will be able to feed it chicken, but only in small portions.

As chicken does not make up part of their natural diet in the wild due to their habitat, they are likely to have issues digesting it in large amounts.

Omnivorous Turtles

Most turtles are omnivorous and eat quite a wide range of food. In the wild, they will eat the vegetation in the habitat, as well as preying on live fish, worms, insects, and even smaller reptiles.

There are many species of omnivorous turtles, such as the red-eared slider, the bog turtle, and the Arakan forest turtle.

If you keep an omnivorous turtle as a pet then they are quite easy to feed- they enjoy shop-bought turtle food as well as various vegetables and insects.

If you decide to give your turtle chicken, it should only be fed in small amounts as with the carnivorous turtle. You should make sure the chicken is cooked, as raw chicken could contain harmful parasites.

Herbivorous Turtles

Some species of turtle eat no meat at all, like the green sea turtle.

In their natural habitat, these turtles will eat vegetation such as algae, seaweed, and marine grass.

Tortoise eating green lettuce

This species of turtle is endangered and should not be kept as a pet. If you ever come across a herbivorous species of the turtle then do not feed it chicken.

This could make it very ill, as its digestive system is not equipped to process meat.


There are lots of different species of tortoise, but unlike turtles, all of the species tend to be herbivorous.

There are the odd occasions where a tortoise has experimented with eating an insect or a smaller animal, but on the whole, they stick to plant-based foods.

This means that you should never feed chicken to a tortoise. You could risk making it very poorly or even killing it.

When Should You Feed Chicken To Your Turtle?

If you have a pet turtle then you don’t need to feed it chicken at all. However, you might want to provide some variation to their diet.

If you decide to feed chicken to your pet turtle then you should do so no more than twice a month.

On those days, the chicken should be fed instead of their usual source of protein, not as well. Otherwise, their diet will become imbalanced.

Too much chicken can cause problems for your turtle, like digestive issues and kidney complications.

This means you should only feed them a very small amount of chicken.

The size of the portion will depend on the species of turtle, the age and size of the turtle, and whether they are carnivorous or omnivorous.

The older a turtle gets, the more it will shy away from meat and turn towards a more plant-based diet.

Plants are easier to digest than meat. If your turtle is older, they are unlikely to show much interest in the chicken at all.

Whatever the age or species of your turtle, do not make chicken part of their regular diet. It should be an occasional treat only.

How Should You Prepare Chicken To Feed A Turtle?

If you want to give your turtle the occasional portion of chicken, it should always be cooked. Raw chicken contains parasites and bacteria that could be very harmful to your turtle.

Turtle eating food

Turtles may eat raw meat in the wild, but their body will be accustomed to dealing with the parasites within the meat.

A domestic turtle will not be used to it, and chickens don’t live in the same habitat as turtles so they won’t have come across it before in any event.

The best way to prepare chicken for a turtle is to boil it in plain water. Do not use salt or pepper to season the chicken or add any oil to the water.

Make sure that the chicken is cooked through and that you chop it up into small enough pieces, as turtles aren’t used to eating meats like chicken.

Do not feed your turtle processed or canned chicken that is designed for human consumption, as this will likely contain preservatives and other ingredients which could be very harmful to them.

You should also never feed dog or cat food to your turtle, as this could also contain dangerous ingredients.

If your turtle reacts badly to the chicken then do not feed it to them again. There are plenty of other things you can feed your turtle to get protein into their diet.


Turtles and tortoises are related and share some similarities, but they have different lifestyles and diets.

Tortoises live on land and are herbivores, which means that they should never eat chicken.

Turtles live mostly in the water and are often omnivores, but chicken should not form a large part of their diet either.

It is okay to feed your turtle the occasional piece of chicken as long as it is fully cooked, boiled with no additional ingredients, and chopped up into small pieces.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.