- nesting & eggs p.1 -
Angulate / Bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata) digging her nest outdoors.
Prior to laying her egg, the Angulate mama is restless and may dig several test holes. She can be anxious for only a few days or as long as a couple of weeks.
The whole nesting sequence takes several hours from the beginning to the end. Minimum time is about two hours, and that's on a warm day after a rain when the soil is very soft and easy to dig.
With dry, hard soil, just digging of the nest hole can go on for a few hours. The egg pushing phase (labor) can last 15-50 minutes, or even longer if the egg is larger than usual and/or the surrounding temperature is low. Filling and covering the nest afterwards takes up to an hour. Even though mama's legs are tired and somewhat wobbly by then, she wont' leave the nest site until it's well covered and camouflaged with its surroundings.
After nesting, I give the mama a relaxing warm bath (soak) and a nutritious meal. She usually drinks a lot of water to replace the urine she used to soften the soil during nest digging.
Angulate tortoises lay clutches 1-7 times a year. Young females may only lay a clutch or two, but mature females can lay eggs up to 6-7 times a year. Each clutch contains only one, large egg.
Angulates vs Goldens
Compared to my Greek tortoises, laying an egg is very hard work for Angulate tortoises. Their nesting process is long and slow. My Greeks, on the other hand, are very efficient egg layers. They dig their shallow nests and plop in the eggs quickly and easily. Unlike the Angulates, Greeks have a slightly flexible hinge on their plastrons. This makes it easy to pass the eggs. The eggs are also much smaller than Angulate eggs.
The Angulate eggs are much larger (2 on the right) than Golden Greek tortoise eggs. Weight of my Angulate eggs varies from 24 g to 33 g. Notice how the older Angulate egg is all white. The newer egg is still pink and hasn't chalked yet. The Greek eggs are also new and still pink.
Note: I removed the incubator cover to take the photo. The humidity plummeted immediately. This one is a Juragon standard incubator.
I pulled out my old calendars and looked up the info on my adult female's first eggs. These tables show her first four years of egg laying. Weight of her eggs ranges from 24 g (0.85 oz) to 33 g (1.16 oz), but is typically around 30-33 g. Her average egg is about 40-45 mm (1.57-1.77 in) long and 30-35 mm (1.18-1.38 in) wide.
The ~ symbol in the tables means the time is approximate. At first, I didn't weigh the eggs so some of that info is missing from the tables.
Her first year as a mama she laid only two clutches. Both were laid outside.
|Jun 21||n/a||start pushing ~ 6:25 pm, restless & test nesting for 11 days prior|
|Sep 1||n/a||digging 12:15, pushing 2:15, done 3:15 pm, 63 °F (17.2 °C)|
Her second year she laid four clutches. All were laid outside. The still somewhat inexperienced mother accidentally broke two of her eggs with her back legs during the nesting process.
|Mar 13||broke||2:30-7:30 pm, sunny 62 °F (16.7 °C)|
|Apr 17||n/a||digging by 5:00 pm, covering ~ 6-7 pm|
|Jun 18||broke||laid 5:30 pm, on top of a thick tree root|
|Sep 25||24 g||pushing ~ 5:40-6:00 pm|
Her third year she laid seven clutches. All were laid outside. I broke one of the eggs when digging it up, and she accidentally broke another one with her legs.
|Jan 18||33 g||pushing 3:50-4:50 pm, done ~ 5:40 pm, 75°F (23.9 °C)|
|Apr 9||broke||done by 6:10 pm|
|Jul 3||27 g||done by 5:00 pm, cool & cloudy|
|Aug 5||broke||noticed digging 2:00 pm, laid ~ 2:30 pm|
|Oct 8||27 g||pushing ~ 12:45-1:05 pm, done 1:25 pm, sunny 68 °F (20 °C)|
|Nov 5||33 g||pushing 1:40-2:30 pm, done 3:05 pm, 70 °F (21.1 °C)|
|Dec 12||30 g||pushing 2:55-4:20 pm, 55 °F (12.8 °C)|
Her fourth year she also laid seven clutches. All were laid outside. I didn't always have the time or chance to record the weights, etc.
|Jan 6||30 g||~ 12:30 pm, 74 °F (23.3 °C), test nesting for 3 days prior|
|Feb 3||n/a||laid 1:45 pm, sunny & cool 59 °F (15 °C)|
|Mar 4||n/a||cloudy 66 °F (18.9 °C)|
|Apr 27||28 g||laid 3:50 pm|
|Aug 7||32 g||laid ~ 1:00 pm, sunny 78 °F (25.6 °C)|
|Oct 18||31 g||laid 3:15 pm, 2nd hole of the day|
|Dec 20||33 g||laid 2:40 pm, done 3:30 pm, 63 °F (17.2 °C)|
Year 5 and later
The records are incomplete because I wasn't always able to witness her nesting and egg laying.
Photos of nesting process
Mama Angulate has almost finished digging the nest hole. Then, she will start to push.
Pushing the egg out is hard work because the single egg is so large. The tip of the egg is already visible. Notice how wet the soil dug out from the nest is. She urinated in the hole during digging to soften the earth.
A bit more progress.
It has been slow going up to this point, but once the egg is out half way, the rest will come out quickly.
Slipping the egg into the nest.
Plop! There it is.
Angulates lay only ONE egg at a time, but it's large. I removed the egg quickly and carefully out of the nest, disturbing the mama as little as possible. In the background, you can see her starting the nest covering process.
She stretches her right back leg as far to the side as possible and then pushed soil with it into the nest. She makes a few sweeps with one leg and then switches to the other one.
Time to swap legs.
Now, she stretches the left leg and sweeps soil towards the center of the nest. She alternates legs and repeats the process until the whole nest is covered.
End result = a darling Angulate baby.