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Angulate Nesting & Eggs

Nesting process

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 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 won't 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 passed to soften the soil during nest digging.

Angulate tortoises lay eggs 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. Most of the time, each clutch contains only one, large egg.

angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) laying an egg

Pushing the egg out is hard work for angulate tortoises because the single egg is so large. The tip of the egg is already visible. Notice how wet the soil from the nest is. She urinated in the hole during digging to soften it.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata) laying an egg

It has been slow going up to this point, but once the egg is out half way, the rest will come out quickly.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata)

Slipping the egg into the nest.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata) laying an egg

Plop. There it is.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata) egg

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.

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. Their eggs are also much smaller than angulate eggs.

Egg statistics

I pulled out my old calendars and looked up the info on my adult female's first eggs. This data covers 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. At first, I didn't weigh the eggs so some of that info is missing. The ~ symbol indicates the time is approximate.

1.) Year one

Her first year as a mama she laid only two clutches. Both were laid outside.

2.) Year two

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.

3.) Year three

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.

4.) Year four

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.

5.) Year five & later

angulate tortoise nest with the egg removed

A typical depth angulate nest with a pencil for reference. I had already dug out and removed the egg.

Shell flexibility

Angulates do not have movable hinge on the plastron, but their shell seems to have some flexibility, or "stretching" ability, during egg laying process. This allows the bony opening between carapace and plastron to enlarge and allow the passage of a sizable egg.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata) after egg laying

Notice how much the bony opening between the carapace and plastron (top and bottom shells) had to widen during egg laying to allow for the passage of the large egg. She had just laid her egg and the bony opening hadn't returned to normal size yet.

Note: The red belly is a common feature in the species, not a sign of illness. See the male vs female page for another example.

angulate / bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata)

This shows how narrow the space between the carapace and plastron is normally when she's not laying eggs.

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