How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

tortoise food

I see a lot of posts on social media about how picky their turtle is. I just wanted to share some info from my perspective. My husband and I have been doing reptile, insect, bird and small furred animal rescue for 25 years. We hand make every diet using no commercial pet store items. We see no reason to patron pet stores when they are one of the reasons we take in so many animals.  We take in animals from police departments and private people and specialize in special needs and animals with long term previous poor care, especially for turtles where we are taking in up to 100 a year.

Sulcata tortoise eating

When we take them in, we worm them, trim nails and  beaks and get them started on a proper diet in a proper setup. No glass tank where they can spend their lives trying claw out and their health can fail because of it. No gravel or bark chip bedding as turtles and tortoises need high humidity depending species and love to dig. No dried insects where the nutritional value is compromised. We use planted enclosures with humidity hides, plastic shoeboxes with a hole cut in it with wet substrate, deep water bowls like plastic shoeboxes, 6 to 12 inch deep peat moss substrate and outside enclosures as well planted with grasses such as what is found on Tortoise Supply.

tortoise eating flowers

When we make our foods, we place kale, dandelion, radish, blueberries, mushrooms, apple, carrots and other veggies and fruit in a food processor until the pieces are about the size of a pea, we then mix in calcium and a probiotic vitamin such as what is on with it. We never ever sprinkle it on top. We do however, sprinkle live mealworms on top and they wiggle down into the food forcing the turtle to dig through the food. This diet can also be frozen in baggies and thawed out when needed.

When done this way it takes a maximum of a month for even the most difficult turtles to come around to eating each and every bite.

How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

We can’t afford to allow any of the animals in our care to be picky. They need every bite of nutrition they can get.  Eventually, they will eat larger pieces of anything we put in their enclosures with no hesitation. We can place a halved Apple in there or a zucchini whole and they accept it well. I like the Tortoise Library for ideas on enrichment for feeding.   We feed the bearded dragons and turtles and tortoises this way. Too many animals are being fed daily in a bowl and have behavior issues because of it. Enclosures are clean and boring day after day. Mixing things up, enrichment, using them in classrooms for an educational presentation, switching enclosures around daily, putting rocks in there for them to climb and much much more.  When we feed new parrots we feed the same way minus the vitamin and just add sprouts. We feed the rodents the same way minus the calcium. Just wanted to share my experience and say your turtles should not be picky and there are many ways to get around that.


Kim Theurer runs the Pipe Dreams Aviary rescue in Oregon.  She is always available for questions or comments on Facebook or you can visit her rescue’s website, Pipe Dreams Aviary. Please take a look at their supplies needed page and see if you’re able to help out in some way. 

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *