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Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 19/08/2011 by tortoise7

Hi Folks
As the weather at the moment is like Autumn, and our dear torts have started to slow down, it has got me thinking about preparing my set up for their hibernation, and I thought it would be nice if we all said how we do our hibernation, and help each other through it.  I do the fridge method and start all my prep about September time, I don't do the winddown (refrain from food) until Mid october , I usually try to work my dates out that they go into hibernation for 12-14wks (adult) and 6-8wks (Juvenile) so work my dates backwards to see when I should start. This will be little Keya's 2nd attempt to hibernation , I say attempt as I had to take her out early last year. I will stop here, so that we can all discuss further, or ask questions about what else we will be doing, so that we can make this an interesting thread to follow and learn. So can anyone offer any interaction?

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 19/08/2011 by DavidWYork

Hi does feel a little autumnal today. Great idea to pool our knowledge. I do hope people contribute their ideas and tips for us all to benefit from.

I am always guided by the animals' behaviour. I keep large, mature
spur-thighed, and for many years have been successful using boxes of soil. I
keep my torts outside from about 2 weeks after they wake (if weather suitable)
until they start to dig in, or cease their wanderings. They have a cloched
area, where they are lounging today, and several wooden shelters to choose from
for sleeping. I weigh the torts about every 2 weeks, so I have “reference
weights" for each of them. I will notice sometime in September/ October,
they become more sluggish and rarely eat. This is the critical time to watch
them and weigh them. The time will come when they stop feeding, and a few weeks
later begin to start digging in...This is when I bring them in and place each
in a 3 foot by 2 foot plastic stacker box of soil mixed with fibrous compost. I
used to use tea crates years ago. I keep them in good light, in a cool shed,
and bathe them, being careful to ensure they open their mouths, and I swish
them about to ensure mouth is rinsed and free from food matter. This sounds
drastic, but was recommended by an experienced keeper years ago when I had a
female wake up with stomatitis (mouth rot). She needed painful mouth scraping
and anti-biotics to cure her. Apparently left over food around the gum area had
gone rotten. I digress, but felt that was worth sharing!

So now torts are cool, not been feeding for 3-4 weeks and are free to wander
or dig as they wish in their soil boxes. The soil is just deeper than the shell
height. When ready, they dig, and are out of sight. I now transfer to plastic
boxes of soil about 20 inches by 15 inches, and bury totally. This box is
partially buried in the previous larger box and hibernation is under way. Both
inner and outer boxes are drilled with plenty of ventilation holesNow I have
months of weather watching, thermometer checking, and box moving. I have
electronic thermometers with alarms (bought on eBay last year...I reckon they
are worth having), which I set to 3 degrees Celsius. Below that, they emit a
high bleeping sound. Hard to hear, they are not really loud enough, but do
work. I also have garden max/min thermometers with each tortoise. Last winter I
had to bring the boxes into a porch/hallway to avoid the sharp temperatures.
Here I could really moderate and monitor the temperature. Last winter according
to my max/min readings, the temperature they were in ranged from 3- 8 degrees Celsius,
during that time of ice and snow. When in the shed I check twice a day if temperature
forecast looks worrying…Spring time is then awaited, when I hear the scraping of claw in plastic. When they rouse each tortoise is kept in the largwer box in shallow soil with a 60 watt reflector bulb as heat source to promote feeding. This has worked many years...and yes I do know a fridge might be easier, and I am open to persuasion.  Click and drag me down to the editor I hope this is useful to someone out there. Do please challenge or add to this, then we all learn.

Regards, David nr York

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 31/08/2011 by SylviaKantner

Hi there, I got me two greek torts in May of this year, Mo is 2yrs and Tiny 1 year old. I have contacted the breeder but have been no clear answers other than "I will e mail you" or when that did'nt work " I will post it" and to date nothing has arrived! I feel rather stupid following up on it as seeing I recieved no reply, she sounds rather dubious to say the least. Nevertheless, back to my problem. I was told that they were both hibinated but reading up....maybe not! They are both so young! What to do?

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 01/09/2011 by bubbles

Hi there I hope you can help
My tortise is a hermann and is approximately 3 years old, she is beginning to slow down a little at the moment and is spending alot of time sleeping. I was planning on trying to hibernate her using the box method in November sometime I thought. Do you think with her sleeping more I should try to think about putting her down in the near future early or try and keep her going longer. Any advise would be really appreciated. I have had her since September last year but overwintered her then but would really like to try to hibernate her this year even though I am a little nervous about it. could you also tell me how long she needs to go down for. I will check she is the right weight first using the jackson ratio before attempting this.
Sorry so many questions.
I have my polysterene outer box and I am going to either use a cardboard or hardwood box for the inner one, with I think polysterene chip things between them like from packing boxes. Please tell me if I am wrong as well anywhere as it is all new to me.

The inner box I aren't sure do I use soil at the bottom with shredded paper as well or just shredded paper and air holes made at the top of the inner box and the top of the outer box. Question mark if I need them at sides of box as well.
Also do I need to take her to vets first to check she is fit enough prior to hibernation.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 02/09/2011 by SylviaKantner

Hi Rach
We are both in the same boat here and I am sure wth a little help from the more experienced members we will be just fine. I am worring my butt off at the moment as well as what to do. Mine have slowed down a lot as well but I think it is just too early to hibinate just yet. Daily baths before feeding to activate them, make sure their basking spots are warm enough and hope for a warm Autumn. From what I was able to gather through reading up, air holes all round except the base of the box and the substrate I am not sure of. Some prefer to use schredded newspaper because if a tort has a pee it means he has lost much needed hydration which is dangerous. You wont be able to see this if you have a soil substrate. Dont forget the thermometer, two is better than one, just in case one fails. I am a newbi myself so am hoping a more experienced member will be along shortly to help us both.

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 02/09/2011 by bubbles

Hi Sylvia and everyone
Thank you very much for the lovely reply its nice to know I aren't the only one getting worried churned up about it. My mother in law had a tortoise when she was younger and just keeps telling me to put her in some straw in two boxes and she would be fine because thats what she used to do. But yet again they used to feed there's dog food as well poor thing and also feed it right up till hibernation. I didn't like to tell her that was probably the reason she died. Poor thing. I am going by the book listening and following everything on this site because everyone seems to know what they are talking about. I will purchase another thermometer possibly one with an alarm because I will be putting mine in the outbuilding and with the cold winters we have been getting just recently I feel that would be a good idea.
Thanks again

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 08/09/2011 by amylaurapowell

Hello all,

this is my first message on here.  My tort was hatched August 2009 and so I didn't hibernate last year but thinking of doing it this year, is 2 years old too young?  I did the Jackson Ratio and it states well under low which is got me worried as the tort is 77mm and 95 grams, I was told the tortoise was a dwarf hermann.  I am starting to prepare my fridge with the alarm, thermometer and box with shredded paper so just waiting for the weather to get colder.  This is my first attempt at hibernation.  ANy advice would be appreciated as I do not know anybody with a tortoise.

Thank you in advance.

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 10/09/2011 by SylviaKantner

Hi, I am also new to keeping torts and as far as I know you should not hibernate if the tort is underweight. It WILL die. Please feel free to start a new thread (post) with your questions as it seems like they are not getting replies on this one. Your preperations seem to be on the right track though. I have two torts, one and two years old and although they are good weights will not be hibernating them as I just dont feel confident enough. I hope I have helped a little.

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 16/09/2011 by amylaurapowell

Hello, thank you for replying Slyvia...I am thinking of not hibernating mine now as I think it is too young / too light in weight....will keep checking on here as I still have time!  Good luck when you decide to hibernate yours in the future :) x

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 16/09/2011 by SylviaKantner

you're welcome, I am having diffculty at the moment with Mosy, he seems really lethargic compared to Tiny, Mosy being a whole year older and Tiny only 1 year old. Mo would sleep all day if I let him I think! Just now I got the fright of my life, I thought Mo was trying to drown himself, face down in the water bowl! Is this how they drink? With their whole face submerged? I counted about six or seven seconds before I hurled him out of there! Needless to say he is ok but is this normal? Not sure to be honest. Can they hold their breath? Any idea?

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 25/09/2011 by amylaurapowell

Hello, that seems very strange, I don't know to be honest, I have never seen mine do that and I think I can drown quite easily to be honest.  Not 100% sure though.  Hope you manage to find some answers x

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 25/09/2011 by DavidWYork

Hello there, yes I know what you mean about drinking. I keep mature spur-thighed over  25 cm long. In  high summer they can drink for several minutes non stop until their tanks are full, never stopping for a breath. Trust your beastie, it will know how much it needs...and adjust itself to what you feed it. In the wild, access to water 24/7 is very unusual. They fill up when they can. There is so much to keep your interest with tortoises. Soon mine will be in hibernation and then is the long wait for spring. I still check mine at least once a day to ensure temp stays between 2 to 7 degree celsius range. Mine are as I said in deep soil which does stabilise the temperature pretty well. Good luck with hibernation. whichever method you choose, fridge or shed, I do recommend soil. Using a dampish substrate minimises dehydration risks. Have fun and don't be afraid to ask for help!

Regards, David nr York

Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 25/09/2011 by TPGDarren

Hi Amy,


Your tortoise comes out fine on the Jackson RatioClick and drag me down to the editor


If you follow this link:-


Click on Jackson Ratio Calculator and enter 95 for the weight and 7.7 for the length, you'll see the jackson ratio comes out absolutely fine



Re: Getting ready for hibernation time
Posted: 03/10/2011 by bubbles

Hi Can anyone give me some advice I am now wondering if i need to wind my hermann tortoise bubbles down now and start on the 4 week count down. She is not eating very much at all now and although is still lively for short spells is sleeping more than usual. It is my first time hibernating and I am going to use the box method. I have my polysterene box that I got from the local fish shop that they use for transporting fish and my inner box. I have read the hibernation sheets on the site and am clued up there I think, but am really nervous about it really. When do you think I should start my first week. If your able to help I would very much appreciate it. Bubbles was hatched in 2008 it says on my cetificate so how long would I need to keep her down for. Rachel


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