How to Tell the Age of A Box Turtle?

If you’re bringing a new Box Turtle home, it’s difficult to tell its age. For people who don’t know much about Box Turtles, or any Turtles, this is nearly impossible! So what do you do?

You read an article about how to tell the age of a box turtle. And then you finally know the correct age of figuring out a box turtle’s age. This method is quite simple really. You can do various things to tell the age of a box turtle.

From counting its rings, checking its size, and comparing it with other turtles. There is, in fact, a size chart that you can also refer to for this. Determining the age of a box turtle can also depend on its gender.

Know more about this and how to tell the age of a box turtle.

How to Tell the Age of A Box Turtle

1.   Counting the Rings

A turtle’s shell has scutes that grow with age. Scutes are bony plates or scales that cover the shell of a turtle. Having said that, they don’t just increase in number because of age.

Scutes on a turtle’s body can grow because of hunger or even sickness. Interchangeably, they can also grow after having lots of food. It also affects the time of the year – which means in the winter and summer months.

Counting rings to determine the age of a box turtle is not foolproof. However, this gives you a rough estimate of how young/old a box turtle can be.

When you’re counting the rings, avoid counting the scutes. You have to look for rings within the scutes as that gives you a better estimate of their age.

For example, there are two types of rings within a scute. The first is wider rings that indicate a turtle’s good eating days. And the second is narrower rings that indicate a turtle’s scarce eating days. Both fit into the seasonal changes of summer and winter climates respectively.

Tallying Up the Numbers

Once you have an estimate of the number of rings on a turtle’s shell. Let’s assume it’s 14 rings in total. You’re supposed to subtract that by 2 considering the divide between wide and narrow rings. That should give you a likely age of 7 years.

Every 2 rings on a turtle’s shell, within the scutes, represents 1 passing year. So for 14 rings, your box turtle is likely to be 7 years old.

2.    Measuring the Size

A box turtle’s size can point out the age of the box turtle easily. It’s easier to figure out the age of a younger turtle by size than it is for an older turtle.

Measure the tip of the turtle’s tail to the top. This should give you a good estimate of how big the box turtle is. The best way to do this is to get an idea of the general turtle sizes of the species.

This should help you compare and figure out the age of a box turtle. Researching other species’ age and size, for instance, can have a huge impact.

The largest a common Southern Painted Turtle can grow is up to 6 inches. And a Western Painted Turtle can grow up to 7 inches.

It’s a known fact that turtles as pets can grow faster than those in the wild. However, this is not indicative of the turtle’s age in any way.

What You Need to Know About Box Turtles


If you want to determine aging in an adult turtle, the behavior is a good cue as well. You can examine the turtle’s shell for signs of discoloration and texture. Wild turtles have scars and dents in their shell which determines wear and tear.

These signs may not indicate age per se. But by the number of dents and scrapes, you can make out between an old and a young box turtle.

Turtle shells also darken as they get older. Younger box turtles have fresh patterning on their shells. This distinction between young and old turtles is noticeable right away. It won’t point out the exact age of the turtle. But it’s enough to give you a clear idea of how old or young the turtle is.

Shell Growth

A box turtle’s shell is remarkably strong. But it is still prone to scars, dents, and other wear and tear. This is most likely by being in the wild. This is one of the major reasons why box turtles in captivity live for longer than turtles in the wild.

This keeps them away from serious injuries and other contagious diseases.

Malnutrition and other metabolic irregularities may also cause shell diseases. Common shell disease is Irregular Shell Growth. This is brought on by a lack of proper nutrition and metabolic diseases.

In this case, a large shell does not indicate older age. If you do notice this though, you must address the underlying problem of the box turtle immediately. This means checking for mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Too much light or a stressful environment may cause such distress in box turtles. Consult with a vet to know the correct treatment for such irregular shell growth.


Lastly, Salmonella in children is caused by coming into contact with wild animals. Turtles are among them only if they, too, are infected with Salmonella. You might not see signs of Salmonella in turtles as they’re usually asymptomatic.

But this condition passes through feces. It may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms in humans.

Final Thoughts

Going to the vet should be enough to determine the age of a box turtle. In general, female turtles are bigger in size than males. And you can differentiate a young and old turtle by the color and texture and shape of the shell.

Having said that, if you want to satisfy your curiosity, this article should help you. You can determine a rough estimate with the help of the steps mentioned in this article. The age, size, and species are easier to determine and compare. All you need is a measuring tape and a turtle size chart to fall back on.

Emma Thompson

Hi, I'm Emma Thompson. Welcome to The Pet Town! I'm a Pet lovers like you and please feel free to get in touch with any questions. Enjoy your stay!

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