Chicken Turtle, common name for a medium-sized aquatic turtle found in the southeastern United States. The turtle, which is eaten by some people, is named for its taste. Chicken turtles are distinguished by their long necks and a network of yellow lines on their tan shells. Females are usually one and a half times as large as males, and their carapaces (upper shells) reach 25 cm (10 in) in length.
Chicken turtles inhabit ponds, lakes, and marshes with ample vegetation and soft mud bottoms. Juveniles are mostly carnivorous, but adults eat water plants in addition to tadpoles, crayfish, and other aquatic invertebrates. Chicken turtles forage for food mostly in the morning, crawling or swimming slowly with necks outstretched, occasionally probing clumps of vegetation. The turtles’ well-developed hyoid apparatus (throat skeleton) allows them to suck food into their gaping mouths. They use this specialized feeding behavior to capture fast-moving prey. In the warmer parts of their range, chicken turtles nest continuously from September to March. In colder, northern regions, they lay eggs once in late fall and again in late winter. Usually 5 to 12 eggs are laid at a time, depending on the size of the female. Chicken turtles can live up to 24 years in the wild.