Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydidae
Genus: Deirochelys
Species: Deirochelys reticularia

Chicken Turtle...?

No, it’s not a cross between a chicken and a turtle, though the image is hilarious (imagine a sort of flat chicken with a shell). Actually, the common name comes from the taste of the turtle’s flesh. It is, obviously, edible, and was once quite popular in southern US markets. Unsurprisingly, it was thought to taste like chicken. What unidentified white meat doesn’t? A Chicken Turtle’s neck fully extended has also been compared to a chicken’s.

What’s in a name?

The genus name of a Chicken Turtle is Deirochelys, from the Greek words deire for “neck” and chelys for “tortoise”. Why “Neck Tortoise”? Because Chicken Turtles are very similar to the common Eastern Painted Turtle, except for the extremely long neck. The neck is striped, as well, which brings even more attention to it.

Appearances are everything, darling.

Along with their striped necks, Chicken Turtle’s legs are black with thin yellow stripes. Their shells are finally grooved and mostly brown to olive with a net of yellowish lines, though the shell over their stomach (the plastron) is usually plain yellow.

There are slight differences between the appearances of male and female Chicken Turtles. The average shell length is 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches), though information on this does vary. Females are larger than males, though, and can apparently grow up to 28 to 30 cm (11 to 12 inches) within five or six years. As well as being smaller, males have a longer, thicker tail.

Save the turtles!

Chicken Turtles are fairly uncommon, and live only in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina and Georgia. If you want to have one for your very own, however, they are sold as exotic pets. They are supposed to be quite easy to tame.

"Try to be like the turtle - at ease in your own shell."

Chicken Turtles can live to be about 20 to 24 in the wild, though some people think this is a conservative estimate. Males reach sexual maturity in 2-4 years, and females in 6-8. When a Chicken Turtle is prepared to lay eggs, she is able to retain them for up to 6 months if conditions are unfavourable to her young. When she does lay, she may have 2 to 15 eggs (information on this varies).

Chicken Turtles are omnivorous and eat crayfish, tadpoles, and plants, though they tend to favour animal food. Tame turtles eat aquatic plants such as water lettuce, water hyacinth and watercress (must they say “water” in front of each aquatic plant?) as well as other veggies like romaine lettuce, kale and carrot tops (other greens, too).

There are three kinds of Chicken Turtle, by the way. Eastern Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia reticularia), Florida Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea) and Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria).

One last thing...

I advise you to go check out a chicken turtle with its neck fully extended. I’m not kidding about it being long.

Ageing, longevity, and life history of Deirochelys reticularia (
Chicken Turtle (
Chicken Turtle (
Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia, Family: Emydidae (
Chicken Turtle – Encyclopaedia Britannica (
Chicken Turtle – Wikipedia (
Comprehensive Report Species – Deirochelys reticularia (
VDGIF > Wildlife > Species > chicken turtle (