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hibernating hermanns
Posted: 30/07/2008 by shazzler

hi , i dont have any of these torts but the pet shop where twigs was fromClick and drag me down to the editor  has some tiny babies and a note saying not to hibernate them till they are 6yrs old,  he also has a few horsefields in there that are only about an inch and a half  long poor things, same tank but a glass panel to seperate them


sharon xxxxx

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 30/07/2008 by vivtpgadmin

Its so upsetting isnt it?  Could you take them one of our care sheets and 'slip' it on the vivs or counter?  If you havent done it already, could you send us the name of the pet shop using the 'contact us' heading on the left, and we can see if we have come across them before?

Thanks Vivienne

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 31/07/2008 by tortoise7


I was told by the vet that I took Keya to, that I shouldn't hibernate her until she was 5 yrs old and weighed about a pound in weight, as they have seen so many fatalities. Apparently this is also the opinion of the British Chelonian Group, and Joy from the Tortoise Garden in Cornwall. It gets so confusing I have lost a few nights sleep worrying about this and what should I do. One part of me says to hibernate her, but if I did and it went wrong I would never forgive myself. I know this is a very controversial subject and one that could cause alot of conflict, but it must be a dilemma for alot of tortoise owners.  Click and drag me down to the editor
Tortoise7- Jane


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 31/07/2008 by tpgadmin

Hi Jane

I've been in this situation too.  When I bought my first tortoises from a garden centre I was told not to hibernate them for the 1st 5 years.  I couldn't understand why as nothing would stop them hibernating in year 1 in the wild would it?  Anyway I was told not to hibernate so I didn't for the 1st 3 years as I thought the staff in the garden centre knew better than me and then in the 4th year I had occasion to visit the vet. 

My vet is a well known tortoise specialist and he spent 1 1/2 hours telling me all about the year life cycle of a horsfield tortoise and how hibernation is an important part of that cycle.  He advised that if I was too scared to hibernate them that I should only feed them on alternate days to prevent overfeeding during the winter months.  I learnt that he also kept horsfield tortoises and he took me to show me his tortoises and I was so shocked . They were 1 year older than my 3 and only 1/2 the size.  I could see for myself what my overfeeding was doing to them. Click and drag me down to the editor  I felt dreadful and really inadequate for not having researched more.  I felt I should have known all of this without the vet having to tell me. 

I was advised to use the fridge hibernation method as this was currently believed to be the safest way to hibernate tortoises and he showed me his hibernation fridge and the boxes he used to keep the sleeping tortoises in. 

Click and drag me down to the editor

Now I don't worry if on cooler days my tortoises don't venture out and don't eat.  As long as I know they are well I'm happy.  The week before last was particularly cool here and each morning when I went out to feed them I had to clear away uneaten food from the day before.  They went just about all week without eating hardly anything but this week they are back to scavenging for anything they can find again.

HTH with your thinking


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 31/07/2008 by tortoise7

Hi Helen

Just to give you  abit of Keya's history and why I have had such a dilemma.
Keya is a  Hermani Boettgeri and will be 2 yrs old this August. I was going to hibernate her last year but her weight was too low so I tried to feed her up and get a good weight, which we did but right at the end of her 3 wks wind down her weight was not enough to take any sudden drops so I did not risk hibernatation, this was  with the advice from a good source. Because of the sudden feed up,her skutes became raised, and I am still having loads of trouble trying to stop them raising any more, even though she is not overfed (I don't give her any food on Tuesdays) or has ever had any high protein foods... I had it in mind that I was going to hibernate her this year hoping that that would sort out the problem with her skutes. her weight seems to have stabilizes now although she does seem to be growing quite big, she is 9.5 cms and weighs 157 gms is that average?  it is on the jackson ratio graph, but is that right in comparison to other torts of her age. I have been told that boettgeri's are bigger then Hermani Hermani's.
The vet said she is fine but I can see for myself that the skutes are raised which makes me feel sad that this has happened. Anyway when the vet said that she would advice me not to hibernate her, I must admit I was so relieved. I decided that for this year I would not, but perhaps next year when I am more confident and keya has stabilized with her growth/weight,  I will follow what Keya's instincts tell her to do and go with that, whatever that may be either to hibernate or not.
On your last paragraph did you mean that you will help to advice me either way? I would appreciate that very much.

Thanks Jane(Tortoise7)

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 01/08/2008 by tpgadmin

Hi Jane

Thanks for filling us in on Keya's history.  Controlled feeding like you are aiming for should help with the pyramiding.  It won't take it away but it will be less obvious as she grows.  It's so pleasing to hear how you really do want to get things right for Keya and if you aim for her to put on no more than 2 - 3 gr. per month you won't go far wrong.Click and drag me down to the editor

As to help with hibernating you've come to the right place we all help each other out.  This year I'm going to aim to keep my 2 year old Russians awake for a little longer than last year before I let them hibernate.  I try to aim for them waking up when there is new weed growth around.  Year 1 I gave them just 8 weeks in the fridge and for their 2nd winter I gave them 10 weeks.  This will be their 3rd winter so I am going to aim for 12 weeks.  I give the adult Russians much longer than this like they would do in the wild.  My adult hermanns I only give 12 weeks to.

We all do it slightly differently but the principles of hibernation are the same and all of us will help out where we can.




Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 01/08/2008 by tortoise7

Hi Helen

That's so good to know that the lumpy shell will look less obvious with controlled feeding, my poor little Keya!! thanks for the approx. guideline on how much she should be putting on, it gives me something to be able to aim for.
I feel alot more relaxed about the hibernation, I think it is because I have been able to talk about it  and discuss it. 
I was quite happy that I was going to do the fridge hibernation when ready, until a friend said she would never use that method. For over 15yrs she had hibernated hers in the shed, but was told that the fridge method was a much better way. She took that advice and lost both of them. She is very anti Fridge hibernation. The topic of hibernation is a real head swimming experience isn't it? anyway it is nice to know that I have this site to help me when the time is right. A warning in advance I will probably be a big pain...  I was told that  because I only have the one tortoise you tend to be abit more over protective, but  knowing me it wouldn't matter how many I had it would just give me x more to whittle about, perhaps in time Keya will train me.






Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 02/08/2008 by tpgadmin

Hi Jane

So sorry to hear about your friend's experience of hibernation.  She is right that in this UK winter climate that we experience now, that fridge hibernation is the safest way, despite her losing her 2 tortoises.

Tortoises do die in hibernation (not many), despite our best preparation whether in a fridge or in a shed or allowed to hibernate naturally, but then they do die at other times of the year too.  There are many different reasons as why they die and we may never know the reason for your friend's tortoises death. However, if your tortoise is fit and well and you are properly prepared and your fridge temperatures are carefully monitored then there should be no reason why your tortoise shouldn't come through this and look all the better for it when she does.

You can of course use the box method if you have somewhere to keep the temperatures cool enough if you are  happier with this.  You need to choose the method that is the most comfortable to you and then we will help Keya get ready for her winter sleep.

Darren should be writing up the method for natural hibernation as we speak; so there will be 3 methods to choose from.



Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 02/08/2008 by tortoise7

Thanks Helen

I will look forward to reading Darren's write up. Even talking about hibernation is making it seem less scary!!

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 06/08/2008 by mich


I have 6 Hermans - the eldest is 12 - i have hibernated her once in the attic and she has hibernated herself twice in the garden.

I have 4 who are 3/4 yrs old and i also thought that they were too young to hibernate. After reading all the comments about hibernating - im sat here wanting to cry - i agree that this is a really difficult topic and im not totally confused as to what to do with mine - do i or dont i hibernate them.

I certainly dont have a fridge big enough for 6 tortoises - should i hibernated them in the attic or shed - aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh..

A really confused Michelle x

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 06/08/2008 by tpgNina

Hi Michelle,

Don't worry -- you're not alone. Even the most experienced keepers get nervous around hibernation time. The thing about hibernating in an attic is that if it is not well insulated then heat from the house rises and it gets too warm, especially as we are now having milder winters (you want the temperature ideally to be between 5C - 7C and not to go below 2C or 3C and not above 9C or 10C. With a fridge you can keep the temperature constant. The same goes for the garden. If we get a really warm spell in the middle of the winter, your tortoise could wake up. If you are not hibernating in a fridge, then the best place is a frost-free solid outbuilding, like a brick built free-standing garage.
Regarding the age to hibernate -- if you think about it, in the wild the tortoises would hibernate from year 1 -- they have no choice. Have a good read of the sheets on hibernation, and here's an account of someone's first hibernation:
(you might have to cut and paste the link, as my browser won't let me add live links to this forum).
When it comes time to hibernate, we will happily talk you through every step. And you can easily fit six hermanns in a larder fridge (but it would be all tortoises in the fridge and nothing else). The other thing you could do is maybe find someone else who lives near you and is hibernating their tortoises in a fridge and they might be willing to add yours (I hibernate my horsfield in a friend's fridge, along with her two tortoises). Hope this all helps, and as I said at the beginning -- don't worry, you will have lots of support and advice when the time comes, and your tortoises will emerge from hibernation full of energy and ready for the new year!


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 06/08/2008 by tpgadmin

I'm just picking up the point Nina made about hibernating the tortoises in a larder fridge.  If you have a look at our fridge hibernation document there is a picture on page 1 and 2 of a larder fridge and that is my fridge in which I hibernate my Russian tortoises.  The boxes are plastic with air holes drilled in as Russians tend to dig out of cardboard boxes. Like everyone else I also have a dilemma this year as I have more tortoises and not enough fridge space.  Do I use the brick outhouse for the Hermanns or do I buy another fridge? 

There's always something to worry about.  I also keep leopard tortoises and I don't have to worry about them hibernating as they don't.  I just worry about the soaring costs of my leccy bills with them Click and drag me down to the editor.


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 12/08/2008 by Tangerine

Unless one has a garden which could flood in the winter why not leave the torts outside in a special hibernating “box”. 


Where I live in the south of France the temperature goes down to -10°/-12° each winter.  Each winter I put thermometers into the ground to check the temperature and each winter the temperature is stable at around 5°.  There is nothing better than the earth to protect them.


My adults vanish and half the time I do not know where they are.  For the babies, including the new borns some as light as 6g, I put them in a box built for that purpose – safe from the rats since it has wire mesh underground too.  I have never lost one single baby because of hibernation and all my babies are very smooth.


You can see pictures of my box here:

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 12/08/2008 by tpgNina

Thanks, Tangerine, that's an excellent hibernation box. My French is not great, but I think you said that the bottom of the box is a wire grill, which would be good for us, as we get a lot of rain in the winter and this would allow drainage. What substrate do you use in the box? It looks like hay, but doesn't that go mouldy with the rain? Presumably a sand/soil mix could be used.

I think the problem we have been having over the last four or five years here is not the danger of freezing (our temperatures in the South of England never get down to -10C - -12C), but getting too warm. Many people still hibernate their tortoises successfully in the garden here, but recently we have been getting weeks during the winter when the temperature is between 12C and 15C, and some people are finding that their tortoises are waking up early. Have you found that the temperatures in the South of France during the winter have changed at all?


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 12/08/2008 by tpgadmin

My concern with using this natural method is that we get an awful lot of rain here and the ground is constantly damp.  Most people who successfully hibernate their torts naturally in England that I know of let them bury down inside their greenhouse.  It is a method I have been thinking of using though in my greenhouse.

One of our mods had to dig all hers up last winter because her ground became waterlogged.


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 12/08/2008 by tpgNina

We do have wet winters -- but I think our summers are getting wetter too -- look out of your windows this morning everyone :-(
I just found this interesting summary of the British climate, and there are links at the bottom to rainfall charts (sorry, but you'll have to cut and paste it, as I can't post live links):
And here is a link to an article on the BBC that says there is proof that our winters are really getting wetter:


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 13/08/2008 by unhindered

hello everyone, i need a bit of advice on hibernating as i found my tort a few weeks ago and no one has claimed him as of yet so i want to be prepared! is it a good idea to hibernate him? as i dont know where hes come from or what hes been through, he has pyramiding, i dont know if that affects their state of health? our vet said he seems healthy but they arent tortoise experts or anything so i dont really know what to do, and i'd be horrified if he died during hibernation as i've grown rather attached to him already! a garden centre nearby (which is very good with tortoises) say he's roughly 7 years old. ive been looking into the different methods of hibernation and i think fridge sounds the safest, but the only fridge i could really use would be a beer fridge (glass fronted) is this suitable?!

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 13/08/2008 by ElaineTPG

Hi, I think this is wonderful that you are planning so far ahead with this tortoise. Personally I would never hibernate a tortoise the first year of having him/her. Having said that some tortoises will just go into hibernation mode no matter how much good quality heat and light you provide. Plan A: keeping the tortoise up. You will need to provide the correct tempretures for your tortoise to continue to thrive, think electricity bill here and you may want to accomodate him/her indoors or segregate an area in an outbuilding to maintain the heat in a smaller area.

Plan B. Hibernation: if you buy 2 fridge thermometers (just incase one fails), place them in your fridge for about 24hrs and gain a reading. Your are aiming for 5c. If the fridge is to high place some bottles of water in there, leave for another 24hrs, take the reading again. Keep doing this until the correct tempretures are gained. Placing a film of brown paper over the door will ensure no light gets into the fridge and lightens the hibernation status. I hope this has helped and not confused you even more. Any further questions just ask away.


Click and drag me down to the editor Elaine

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 14/08/2008 by unhindered

thankyou for the advice! i think id rather keep him awake just incase, but if he doesn begin to hibernate himself how will i notice and what would i do in that circumstance? would he stop eating etc?

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 14/08/2008 by ElaineTPG

By then you will know this little tort quite well, his routine will be like second nature to you. If he is determined to go into hibernation mode he will SLOW right down, get up later, if atall, go to bed earlier and eat less. We have a good section on hibernation and don't worry, we will all be in the same boat: rather tentative. BUT, they do have a spark about them when the come out the other side as do the owners (relief I think it is called). What ever happens we'll be here to help. It is really good that you are asking away, we all have to and keep on learning from these little creatures.


ElaineClick and drag me down to the editor

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 14/08/2008 by TPGDarren

Hi Tangerine,

Love the box:-) I've always been a bit scepticle regarding "natural" hibernation as, in a garden, a tortoise's choice of hibernation spot is a limited (compared with hibernating in the wild) and may be forced into hibernating in an area where it may not be ideal (high water table). Also attacks from animals is always a risk, but you seem to have eliminated that risk with your box.

How far down do the tortoises hibernate Tangerine please? Is it below the normal ground level?
Sorry for so many questions:-)
I'd be really interested in finding out more about your method if you don't mind please?


Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 17/11/2008 by


I'm currently into my second week of wind-down for my Hermans.

I'm using the TPG guide and sticking to it word for word.

However, when I walk into the spare-room to turn on their lights, their little faces look up in hope that im going to feed them. It's bloody awful and really hard not to give in. (I keep thinking that - what if their are starving !!!!).

I currently have four 3/4 yr olds in a large tortoise table and have noticed that they for some reason - instead of borrowing into their box, they are trying to hide by just sitting in the corner of the table. (looks like the final scene in The Blair Witch). I also have two older Hermans also in a tortoise table - again still quite active and both not in their box but sitting in the corner of their table.

I'm assuming that as I shorten the length of the lights they will naturally assume their hibernation tact !!!!!!! This will take place during week 3 when the lights will be on for only four hrs !!!!!

The small Hermans I havent hibernated before so its all new to me and them.

Your valuable advice would be appreciated,

A worried mother of 7,

Michelle xxxxxxx

Re: hibernating hermanns
Posted: 17/11/2008 by ElaineTPG

Michelle, Hand on my heart I hate this wind down period. My lights go on with the timer, I bathe them fist thing when they are just a little sleepy so as they haven't quite clicked onto the fact that they are hungry and I clean them at night. But all said and done once you get your head around this and see just how much they seam to 'spark' once out of hibernation youwill realise that you  were right to do the tuff love bit. HANG IN THERE!Click and drag me down to the editor



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