You're in > TPG Members Forum > Tortoise General Questions > Tortoise General enquirys...

Tortoise General enquirys...
Posted: 06/07/2015 by johnsorg

We have a male Marginatedtortoise which was given to us approximately 5yrs ago from a friend. “Timmy” isnow approx.  8yrs we believe, although we are not too sure? The tortoisehad lived inside a flat since v.v. young inside a cardboard box before we gothim. Although the tortoise seemed relatively healthy when we took him to thevets once we got him home he did have slight calcium deficiency and reallyneeded better looking after. Over the next couple of years, with the help ofLawton and Stoakes vets we gave him a loving home, a varied diet and somecalcium supplements. We also gave him an outside pen in the summer to roamaround him, plus plenty of UV when indoors and regulated heat.


He has had regular visits tothe vets over the years and has hibernated twice since we have had him. When wefirst got him the Vets told us he was probably too young to hibernate straight away.Unfortunately, due to us moving home over winter last year we didn’t manage toprep him correctly ready for hibernation. So with advice from Lawton andStoakes we kept him awake this year feeding him instead. He has gained goodweight and seems very healthy.


Timmy seemed ok with thehouse move and has been outside in the warm over the last few months. If theweather is good we put him outside and when the weather is bad we bring himindoors. When indoors he lives in a Vivarium with good UV light and heat. Iknow a tortoise table would be a lot better for him but unfortuinately we donot have the room for this.



We do seem to be strugglingabit with him now. Whenever we put him outside he only seems to spend a veryshort period of time outside in the sun. He then finds his favourite bush,always the same area, and heads for this. He then spends all day there anddoesn’t really move much at all. In fact he probably wouldn’t move at all if wedidn’t bring him back in during the evening when the sun goes down and thetemperature drops.

We do have a converted, cutdown, Rabbit hutch which is full of straw and a ramp for him to get into thathe can use outside during the warmer evenings. If we let him go in and out onhis own he just stays in there, in the same position all the time and gets coldagain. He doesn’t seem to want to come out into the sunshine or into the openspace of the garden


To be honest, we’re not toosure what to do with him now……We have a young family so don’t get too much timeto spend with him and probably give him the real attention he needs. I suspecthe’s just not used to his new surroundings, or maybe being in a box inside aflat for the first few years of his life when he was young has given him a fear of open spaces?? Hedoesn’t want to go and explore the large area he has available to him in thegarden. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want to spend more time in the sunshine oron the grass? I don’t think there has been any attacks from other animals. Wedo not have a cat or dog and foxes only come out at night. He hasn’t had anymarks on him from an attack to I assume he’s been ok in the garden?


Anyway, I think we eitherneed some help and advice from someone with knowledge of these tortoises togive us a hand or maybe offer him to someone else who might be able to “bringhim out of his shell! to speak!”


I suppose we are slightlyworried that we are leaving him out during the day and he might not be gettingall the UV light he needs because he spends 90% of the time in the shade in a bush!We could build him a pen of some kind which stops him going into the bushes butthat might upset him even more?........I’m just not sure?


Any advice, help, tips etc.that you might be able to pass onto us would be greatly appreciated. Otherwisewe will probably look to see if there is a better home someone could offer him.




Re: Tortoise General enquirys...
Posted: 06/07/2015 by Tom

Hello Rob,

You have done very well, except (as you know) with the viv. It can be improved by opening the door about 6" at the end away from the hot spot. Or why not knock up a 'table' the same size as the viv.
  However, you only need the viv. (or table) after hibe & b4 temps rise in late Spring. 
At the moment you are 'molly coddling' it.

Try replacing the top of the hutch with twin wall polycarbonate. Also reduce the straw to a 2" layer, ( if "full" of straw the tort. will loose the benefit of the heat & uva/b light thro' the polycarb..).
If the above works for you, you can design & build a (say) 3'x2' house, with a drop-down door, during the winter. Upgrade the roof to "Plexiglass" & you will have a quality mini-greenhouse for 'next to nowt'.

Re. his behaviour outside - it will take time to adapt, as he has been 'mollycoddled'.
Also once up to an optimal temp. range, torts seek shade, they have no other way to cool down.
Further males, which usually have to live alone ( except for mating) live a boring life (sadly) & are not terribly active except when foraging for food.
Don't worry, he'll get more uv in minutes from the Sun, than from hours under even the best uvb bulb.

Let us know how you get on & pics of the new house next year would be great.

Best wishes,

ps Stroke his head & carapace a few times a day & that will help.

Re: Tortoise General enquirys...
Posted: 08/07/2015 by johnsorg

Hi Tom,

Thanks for replying to my message. I had posted this on another site as well but didn't get a reply so I really appreciated your comments.

While the weather was good I took your advice and modified my already modified rabbit hutch! Its not quite finished, and it was a quick modification last night but hopefully it will help Timmy.

I have put some water and food in the new house as well and will put food in there each day. Hopefully that will encourage him to come and go in the house as he begins to use it more often for sleeping in at night and coming out into the sunshine during the day.

I have (hopefully) attached a couple of photos of the modified hutch.....

Re: Tortoise General enquirys...
Posted: 08/07/2015 by Tom

You don't hang about Rob,

It's best to leave food & water out of the house, as you want him to get some direct sunlight, (unlike glass, polycarbonate allows some uvb through, but still filters out a high %age). 
Also open the doors if fairly sunny, as the house will soon get hot. In full persistent sun, cover the polycarbonate & he can seek shade in the house, (I know he has plenty elsewhere, but most torts love this type of house).

Thanks for the pics, it looks great. I look forward to pics of your winter project.

Best wishes,


web designer: