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Hibernating Hermanns
Posted: 07/11/2015 by George Norman

I am hibernating my five year old Hermanns Tortoise for the first time this year. I have followed the four week wind down process and George was very slow and sleepy when I put him in the fridge yesterday. 

I set up the fridge a couple of weeks ago and put bottles of water and his hibernating box with substrate inside. The temperature inside the fridge has fluctuated between 3.5 and 7.9 since he has been in there. Is this ok? He seemed to settle really quickly and was asleep last night and today when I checked him.
This is his first hibernation and I'm so worried, it just seems so wrong to put a living animal in the fridge! How long should I hibernate him for? His weight and everything is ok. If the whole hibernation is this stressful I'm not sure I can take it! 

Re: Hibernating Hermanns
Posted: 07/11/2015 by Tom

Hello George,

I'm assuming that you are following the hibe. advice on this site.
They can be hibe'd for a month or 2 even in their 1st winter.

I assume that there is no freezer box in the fridge, & that there is no fruit or veg in it.
That is a big fluctuation, I guess that the upper temp. is when you've been opening the door a lot to check. 4C is ideal.

If you have kept careful weight records, it can have 5 months. But as you are worried, perhaps just  give it 3 months this 1st time.

Next year I suggest that you leave it outside to empty out, (provided that it has a decent house). It will be ready to hibe between mid to the end of Oct. If it buries itself, consider leaving it in situ having read up on the method in advance.

Next year you will be confident, it's a natural process, thus beneficial.


Re: Hibernating Hermanns
Posted: 07/11/2015 by George Norman

Thank you, Tom. 

There is no ice box in the fridge and nothing in it except bottles of water and tort in box. 
I did want to leave him out to empty and hibe naturally this year, but he started to wind down in early September and I thought it was perhaps a bit too early, so I bought him in under a lamp and kept feeding him. Also, being relatively new to tortoise ownership, I was concerned about fluctuating temperatures outside. I would prefer him to hibernate naturally so if all goes well this year and he is a good weight next summer, I will give it a go. My neighbours tortoise has always just dug himself down in October and emerges again in March with no trouble, is this too long for a hibernation? He has always come up again fine and starts eating and drinking well but again, I was worried about that length of time being new to this, so I thought I would have more control with the fridge method this year. 
Thanks again :-) 

Re: Hibernating Hermanns
Posted: 07/11/2015 by Tom

Good - you are well prepared.

I can understand why you brought him in, the weather during most of September was awful. The natural method is fine, but certain precautions are necessary, to be totally safe. Your neighbours are probably aware of this.
With either method tortoises need help on emergence, since it can be many weeks after hibe. before consistent periods  of warm weather. The availability of a greenhouse or mini poly-tunnel is ideal, or a UVB bulb with a dome reflector indoors in a temporary enclosure.
There is a big difference between a tortoise surviving the period between hibe. & good weather or with proper 'support' they thrive. So it's thrive Vs survive. 

October to March is slightly longer than in most countries in which they originate, but for a healthy tortoise, with good weight records, it's absolutely fine.

You are right to be cautious, when set up properly, the fridge method is excellent.

Best wishes, 

Re: Hibernating Hermanns
Posted: 08/11/2015 by George Norman

Thanks for all your help. 

They do have a greenhouse, so we need to invest in one for next year! 
The temps in my fridge are still fluctuating, but presumably as long as they stay between 3 and 8 degrees he's safe in there? 


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