Which Turtle Makes a Better Pet - A Male or a Female?
Here at the Ornate Bird Garden, you may wonder which turtle makes a better pet: a male or a female? It depends on whether you want one turtle in your backyard or a group of turtles. If you want only one turtle, I don't think it makes a difference if it's a male or a female. If you want a group, I'd recommend keeping only females. If you must have a male, let him be the only one in a group of females. Males can cause a lot of trouble for the following reasons.
Male Osiris lurks, hoping for sex!
Male turtles have an overwhelming sex drive. Male turtles want sex all the time! Various books claim that the mating season is restricted to spring. However, the male turtles I've observed relentlessly pursue sex all through the summer and fall.
So I urge you to consider the ratio of males to females that you plan to keep. Do not let the males outnumber the females! That would be a disaster for the females who would be harassed to the point of deteriorating health. Also the males will fight each other, resulting in constant injuries and stress for them.
I tried a group of two turtles: one male (Osiris) plus one female (Horus), which you would think would be the perfect one-to-one ratio. But Osiris wanted sex all the time! When I saw Horus trying to hide from him on a daily basis, I put her in a different enclosure to give her a break.
A male can track a female by scent, and find her every time. Plus, a male isn't going to care if the female is a different turtle species from him. I've seen Osiris (the male ornate) hustling hopefully up to Potscrubber (the female three-toed) even though she's a different turtle species and twice his size! So you can't put different species together and hope the male won't be interested.
If you must have a male in a group of turtles, let him be the only male with several females. Then, at least he won't be either battling another male or harassing one female all the time. One male with more than one female will make everyone happier. (Especially the male!)
Male turtles usually want to fight each other. Male turtles tend to be more aggressive than female turtles. This isn't always true: I had a very belligerent ornate female who would pursue and mount the males until she drove them all into hiding while she roamed freely about, terrorizing anyone who stuck his head out! But in general I've noticed that the females tend to live in peaceful groups whereas even two males put together will battle each other for supremacy.
Females tend to live in peaceful groups.
So I'll admit to a bias for females. I find a small group of turtles more interesting than just one, and I've found that the females make for better groups.
My Turtle Group. I have two females in an enclosure that measures 3-feet by 37-feet. They live peaceably together even though one is an ornate and one is a three-toed box turtle. Mostly they politely ignore each other. Their enclosure is big enough that there are plenty of sunny spots in which everyone can bask without feeling crowded, and plenty of hiding places. I’ve also provided three water dishes set far apart.
The male Osiris is by himself in an enclosure measuring 4-feet by 20-feet. I know the poor little guy is not entirely happy because he can smell the females nearby in their enclosure, and he wants to get to them. So he is always pacing his enclosure, hoping to escape.
I don’t want a population explosion, and the females themselves don’t seem interested in sex (they’re not trying to escape and get to him!). So I keep him by himself. I’ve thought about finding him a new home. But I know him well enough now to predict what kind of trouble he might get into if relocated to a new yard: he’s a very small male with a very aggressive personality. (See My Turtles for his story.) So I think I’d always worry about him if I gave him away. For this reason, I wish I had stuck to keeping only female turtles.
Small turtle groups are best. One last thing to consider: keep your turtle groupings small. The bigger your turtle population grows, the more stressed out they will be stuck in the same enclosure. Either limit your population by keeping your male (ideally, he will be your only male) separate from your two or three females. Or break down your population into two or more enclosures that each has only two to four turtles. See Build an Outdoor Turtle Habitat.
Note: I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s available through Amazon through this link: