box turtle outdoor habitat

Box turtles are one of the most popular species of pet turtle. Since they don’t spend a lot of time in the water, they are also one of the easiest species to care for. While you can certainly put them in an indoor tank, they are best kept in an outdoor enclosure which mimics their natural habitat. In today’s article, I will show you how to set up a box turtle outdoor habitat and enclosure.

How to Make a Box Turtle Outdoor Habitat Enclosure

The key to making an outdoor box turtle habitat is to have a closed enclosure which protects them from predators. You also need shallow water, substrate, and hiding spots.

Below will walk you through the steps of building an outdoor box turtle habitat.

Box turtle outdoor enclosure ideas

You must have a closed enclosure for your box turtle. Not only does this prevent your turtle from escaping, but it protects it from predators.

box turtle outdoor enclosure

An easy and cheap way to set up the enclosure is to use a dog crate or any other type of animal cage. The cages are usually made from strong metal that will keep other animals from breaking in. They also provide good visibility for you to see inside your enclosure.

Cages are also great because they are durable. Other types of outdoor enclosures, such as wooden houses, are more susceptible to molding and other types of decay. Cages are also easy to move around. When choosing the location of the enclosure, make sure you choose a spot that has access to sunlight.

Also, whatever you use for the enclosure, make sure there is an easy way to reach into the enclosure to provide water and food for your box turtle.

After you choose a type of enclosure, you have to choose a substrate.

Substrate for outdoor box turtle enclosure

box turtle care outdoor

There are many types of substrate that you can use for your outdoor box turtle habitat. I suggest using either coconut fiber chips, organic soil, or types of moss. You can also mix substrates together.

The key is to get a substrate that is good at retaining both liquid and heat. Also, since box turtles love to dig, make sure it is loose enough to dig through. Lastly, you shouldn’t use hard substrate such as small rocks, as this can be dangerous if your turtle swallows it.

You can learn more about substrate in my guide on the best substrate for box turtles.

The last thing I will mention is that you should make sure there is a solid base under your enclosure that your turtle can’t penetrate. If your using a cage, it should already have a hard layer on the bottom. This is important so that your turtle doesn’t bury under the enclosure and escape.

Water bowl

water bowl for box turtles

While box turtles spend most of their life on land, it is still important that they have a water bowl that they can soak in. Below are the three main reasons why a box turtle needs access to water:

  1. It helps regulate their body temperature since they can’t regulate in on their own.
  2. Helps them release waste
  3. Keeps them hydrated

On top of these 3 reasons, it also help promote exercise for your box turtle.

When it comes to choosing your water bowl, it is important that you choose a big enough size. It needs to be big enough so that your turtle can completely turn around in it and also wade around a couple inches.

outdoor enclosure for box turtles

It is very important that the water bowl is easily accessible. An easy way to do this is to dig the bowl into the substrate so that the bowl/container is level with the ground. Then your turtle can crawl down into the water instead of trying to climb up the edge.

The water level of the bowl will depend on the size of your turtle. In general, I suggest you have around 1 to 2 inches of water. You want to make sure that your turtle is able to stand above the water so that they won’t drown.

Lastly, you should replace the water every couple of days. You might need to do it more frequently if your substrate frequently falls into it.

Hideaway spots

One of the most forgotten aspects of an outdoor box turtle enclosure is hiding spots. It is an absolute must that you provide your turtle a place to crawl into and hide. This helps regulate their body temperature and helps them rest and sleep.

There a lot of hideaway spots you can choose from. One of the most popular is this half log.

box turtle eating

Another cheap option is to just use an old flower pot or container. Just cut a little hole for a door and flip it on the side.

building an outdoor box turtle habitat

Whatever hideaway spot you use, make sure that the space if big enough for your turtle. A mistake I commonly see is that people forget to upgrade to bigger spots as your turtle grows. This can eventually lead to your turtle getting stuck. You can learn more about the size of box turtles in my article on how big do box turtles get.


Another mistake that people commonly make is that they forget to add shade spots to their outdoor box turtle enclosure. You need to add access to shade to help prevent your turtle from overheating. There are a couple ways to do this.

The easiest way to achieve this is to put a covering over a portion of the enclosure. You can use blankets, container lids, slabs of wood, etc.

diy box turtle outdoor habitat

Another creative way to add shade to your outdoor box turtle habitat is with plants. Not only does this look aesthetically pleasing, but some types of plants can also be used for food.

The amount of shade covering you need will depend on the climate of the place you live. In general, box turtles thrive in temperatures that are around 70 to 85 degrees fahrenheight. If you live in a place that is consistently warmer than 90 degrees, you should have something covering around 75% of the enclosure to keep it cool.

Now that you know how to set up your outdoor box turtle habitat, I have included some frequently asked questions. Also, if outdoor is too difficult, you can check out my article on how to set up an indoor box turtle enclosure.

How much space do you need for an outdoor box turtle habitat?

While a box turtle only needs around 6 square feet, it is always better to provide more space. I suggest you have at least 9 square feet for your box turtle.

Box turtle outdoor habitat ideas?

Some good box turtle outdoor habitats include dog cages, wooden pins with covering, or large wooden houses.


I hope this article helped walk you through how to make diy box turtle outdoor habitat. You can provide your box turtle with everything they need for around $100, which is actually much less than the cost of an indoor tank.

Outdoor enclosure are also better because they are more similar to your turtle’s natural habitat.

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