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Posted: 10/09/2011 by hazel.harris

I have 2 3 yer old spur thighs and 1 big marginated (kept seperately) they have half a greenhouse each and a run outside. I bought them all in the other day as it was cold and they are going mad being back indoors, is it safe to still keep them out? The weather forcast for the next few days says about 14 at night so that seems ok, they dont have lights in the greenhouse. Any advice would be great.

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 10/09/2011 by DavidWYork

Hi there. What an unusual season this has proved to be. My mature T. ibera are still outside day and night. Last Sunday 2 half buried themselves in the soft soil area under the cloche, another refused to come out of the sleeping box and merely watched the weather from the box entrance. On Thursday they all emerged and wandered around, but with no feeding. I usually leave them out until there is a frost warning or the weather is really cold and wet. Then they come in to spend around 3 weeks in large soil boxes at temp around 18-20 degrees, under heat lamps. Then I bathe every couple of days and after 3 weeks I reduce the temperature to actual daytime temperature. By now they are half buried in their soil boxes, so I place each in a deep box of soil and they dig in fully. Generally this is happening in October/ this  earlier than is usual. Read postings in Hibernation section for additional info. I hope this season either warms up, or cools down smartly...I dread protracted autumns!!!!!

Regards from David in York

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 13/09/2011 by tortoise7

Hi Hazel
The greenhouse should be warm enough for them to come in and have a warm up when they need it. What sort of outdoor temps are you having?

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 18/09/2011 by hazel.harris


Thanks Guys, the weather down here is getting chilly now, about 7-8 in the evening. I bought them back in in the end as my friends tort got caught in frost and died last year. The weather in Plymouth can be very irratic!


Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 23/09/2011 by Doug Keen

Why do some people leave tortoises out at night 'until there is a frost forecast'?

Weather forecast can be inaccurate, do not take this risk, frost blinded tortoises are sadly quite common.

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 24/09/2011 by DavidWYork

Regarding frost forecasts Doug: I have used this method for over 40 years now. The tortoises are always in their wooden shelters at night, either voluntarily, or if not then placed in by me, and these have thick insulating double door flaps of clear celluloid (like the ones in shops leading to cold stores). I used to use hessian flaps years ago. I use mercury max/min plus digital thermometers , and I can assure you the torts are never at a temperature low enough to harm their eyes. Even last winter they were hibernated in boxes of soil, and the temperature in the soil never  went below 2 deg C or above 7 deg C, even when outdoors it was below  0 deg C for some time. I do agree that eyes are prone at lower temperatures, and I am mindful of that fact. I think the problem tortoises are those that dig in and "go missing" around this time of year,then succumbing to frosts,  which is why twice daily checks are necessary for free roaming torts. Mine are kept in 15 by 8 foot pens, well planted, with a choice of 3 sleeping boxes, a cloched area and large grass tussocks to dig in to. Eye damage is also caused by torts hibernated in unheated, un-checked sheds. I am pleased you made the point Doug, which did require qualification. Incidentally I registered a reminder on "Pre-Loved" this morning reminding folk to prepare for early wintry weather. It is still awaiting editor approval, but I now see TPG are ahead of the game. Let's keep tortoise debates going...not many members seem to respond to questions lately, there must be loads of readers with info to share!

Regards, David nr York

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 24/09/2011 by Doug Keen

David - you obviously take adequate steps to ensure your pets are not exposed to sub-zero temperatures and therefore my comment about taking a risk with unpredicted weather forecast clearly does not apply to you.

I would have thought though David, that allowing temperatures to drop to 2 degrees is pushing it a bit during hibernation, especially if for a prolonged period - at that temperature altough it is frost free, there is a danger of the heart stopping altogether. Better to aim at a minimum of 4 degrees.

However back to frost blinding, I have heard of keepers who leave their torts outside without adequate protection. They rely on weather forecasters warning them when the first frost will arrive, only then will they be placed in a definate forst free location.

There is absolutely no need to take this risk, however small or insignificant the risk may seem. Even a very slight frost, if it is long enough, can blind a tortoise. Frost blinding is a very distressing condition, sometimes some eyesight will return but often it will not.

Regards - Doug

Re: Help!!!!
Posted: 25/09/2011 by TPGDarren

Hi David,

I'm glad you brought up hibernating in soil.
In the last couple of years, many people who have hibernated their tortoises outside in straw, hay or paper have had problems due to the extreme cold weather we've been experiencing in recent years. Frost very rarely permeates more than an inch or two into soil, and so has extremely good properties when it comes to protecting a tortoise from extreme cold. Please, if anyone is looking to hibernate their tortoise outside (many thousands are undoubtedly still hibernated in sheds & outhouses without the use of back-up heaters, thermometers etc) - consider using soil - it really can make a huge difference.

Best Regards


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