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Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 08/08/2011 by MDPE

Hi, Iím after some advice please.

Weíre experienced pet owners (dogs, guinea pigs etc) but completely new to the world of Tortoise keeping.  Iíve printed off and read all of the TPG care sheets and looked at many of the discussion threads on the forum but there are some questions that I have which Iíve been unable to find answers for.

(Should just say at this point that we havenít actually bought our tortoises yet Ė we are waiting till after our summer holiday.  Probably seeking one of the types suitable for beginners e.g. hermanns )

1.       The night-time indoor accommodation will an indoor rabbit/guinea pig cage (I prefer this to the open-topped wooden style table enclosures as we have two dogs) however Iím unsure how often indoor accommodation should be cleaned out?   Grateful for any advice.


2.       The day-time outdoor accommodation will be a former (large) guinea pig run which will be placed in an unused border of our garden (so an area of soil with weeds etc) which Iíll furnish with stones and an area to hide.  I'd prefer this type of enclosure (i.e. which has protection over the top because of our dogs (not that they're likely to attack but am not taking any risks) and also for the fact we live near a river so there are rats lurking (foxes also).    But my concern is when we go away and we leave them with a trusted relative, their outdoor run will probably be situated on a lawn. Is living on lawn (for a couple of weeks) okay for a tortoise?   Iíll ensure that my relative does not treat the lawn with any pesticide or feed before tortoise arrives.  


3.       I live in North Yorkshire so our winters can be chilly.  What is the lowest temperature that tortoises can be safely outside in during the day?   I want them to get as much fresh air as possible but equally balancing that with what is best for health.


4.       Do owners supplement the food in winter time (when weeds are more scarce) with additional foodstuffs such as salad (I've noted advice about avoid cucumber and lettuce due to lack of nutritional value).  


5.       Are there any specific books on tortoise keeping that anyone would recommend?


Sorry thatís quite a few questions but Iíd be really grateful for any help or advice you can give.



Re: Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 08/08/2011 by tortoise7

Hi Mike and Welcome
Sounds like you have done quite a bit of reading already, that is really good to hear.
In answer to your questions:-
1- I pick up poo & wee everyday, that is if there is any, as mine always go in their bath in the mornings. I change the whole area, substrate, stones, etc every 1-2 months depending on how it looks, with F10, as safe cleaning solution which vets use, you can buy it from most reptile shops.
2- Personally I would say that they are better being put out in the guinea pig cage, it will be safer, just need to be careful if it rains or put into direct sunlight without any shade.
3-By the size of the cage I guess it is a hatchling that you will be getting. Hatchlings need to kept at 22c cold area (apart from nights approx 15-18c) the little ones cannot hold the temps for as long as the adults. The basking area should be 32-35c, this is the temps that the torts need to keep the digestive system working.
4- you can bulk the food out with Floretti which can be brought from the supermarkets (just make sure you give it a good wash) but to be honest, when they are little they don't need so much food, there is usually still dandies around, a good site to help with the food aspect is the Tortoise table site, tells you all the weeds that available for that month.
5- Books- "practical encyclopedia of keeping and breeding tortoises and turtles" by A.C. Highfield 9781873943069
I hope this has answered your questions, please ask if there are anymore

Re: Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 09/08/2011 by DavidWYork

Agree with Jane...she knows her stuff!  Click and drag me down to the editor

Have you considered buying an older tortoise? There are a few available in our area.

David nr York

Re: Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 11/08/2011 by MDPE


Thank you for your prompt response.

Hope you dont mind but I have a couple of follow on questions :

1. In my query about when we go on holiday (and potentially leave our tortoise with a relative) you suggested it would be safer to leave the tortoise outside during the day but located in its indoor accomodation.  I wasnt quite sure from the response if that infers a warning about tortoises and grass.  Is it the risk of contact with weedkiller or lawn feed that is the concern or is plain grass not good for torts?

2. I mentioned that for indoor accommodation I was planning to purchase an indoor guinea pig cage.  That prompted you to ask if I was after hatchlings.  TBH I'm not really bothered about whether I get an adult, junior or hatchling (in fact my animals from rescue centres have always been adults) but that did make me think that you may consider a indoor guinea pig cage as being too small for an adult or two and  that made me then wonder whether there was a minimum size of indoor accomodation required for adults.

Sorry I appreciate that I'm asking a lot of questions but I never go lightly into animal adoption and am a bit of stickler for ensuring everything is right.

Thanks again,



Re: Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 12/08/2011 by tortoise7

Hi Mike
Good questions to ask, it is always best to verify answers so we know we are singing from the same hymn sheets, so to speak!!
Firstly I will answer question 2 first. Yes it is a big difference if it is a hatchling or adult, when my keya was 7 months -2 yrs old I had a guinea pig cage for her, then as she got older 2-5yrs her winter indoor pen is made from wood and is 6' x 4'. She does have an outdoor pen which leads into a shed with heating and lighting, the run is enclosed to prevent predators getting to her, birds being the worst as they just think they have found the largest snail ever.. I am hoping now she is bigger that we will not need the indoor pen (unless for emergencies) until she hibernates. I do bring her in every night, she has a wooden box that she puts herself to bed in every night and we just bring that in every night and put it in a corner of the dining room. Molly the adult only has an 5' x 5' indoor pen for when she comes out of hibernation or if I needed to get her out of hibernation for any reason, other than that, she lives in the garden has access to the shed with heat and light, Molly also has a wooden box that she puts herself to sleep in and she comes indoors overnight too, that is my Mrs belt braces reputation!!!
Questions No. 2- if it was a hatchling it would need protecting so that is why I say keep in the cage, plus it is easily transportable, so can be put in or out depending on the weather conditions, normal rule for a hatchling is if it is "T" shirt weather for us then it is OK to put the tort out. Grass as the main substrate is not ideal, it can (not necessarily) get damp and cause shell rot and respiratory problems. Yes chemicals are a consideration but if you know that has not been used then there is no threat of toxic poisoning. If it was an adult, then as long as it is an escape proof garden then that will be fine for a short while. You could buy a cloche or plastic propagator cover for shelter and warmth
Please ask away if I have not fully answered all your questions, it seems a lot to take in on the onset but once you have tweaked your set-up which you will always be doing, it all runs smoothly, I promise

Re: Planning for first tortoise
Posted: 15/08/2011 by DavidWYork

Do ask if you need help...I am about 5 miles away!

David nr York


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