Alexander the Greek

laclone

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Hello All!

I decided to start this thread, as a central location on the forum, to where I can post status, updates, questions, and other general stuff about my adopted tortoise, Alexander the Greek.

As I mentioned in the Intro section, Alex is my niece's tortoise. She is of Greek ancestry, which influenced her choice of what breed of tortoise to acquire. Unfortunately, she is also young (21, going on 16), and as many of you who have raised young ones can attest to, their stated "I'll take care of him! You won't have to do anything at all!" is a promise that qualifies them as being able to run for public office.
Now, she's at the point of trying to leave the nest and move out on her own. This also means that she can't take her pets with her. Thus, the care of such falls on us older folk ( As if you thought that would never happen.:rolleyes:

Alex is a greek tortoise, sub-species unknown, and except for a few supervised jaunts outside over the last year, has been housed in a plastic 4' kiddy wading pool in her room.
I am now building an outdoor habitat for him.

My intentions are to build an outdoor enclosure for him.

Subject: Greek Tortoise- "Alex"- size 6"x5" shell.

Environment: Large open back yard, with perimeter fence.

Intended Enclosure: 8'x10', side construction of 2x10 PT lumber, surrounded by attached, escape-proof, wire fence to a height around 1-2 ft. Weed-Block cloth bottom for drainage.

Substrate: Approx. 50/50 topsoil-cypress mulch blend, 6" min depth.

Amenities: 2-3 flower-pot type hidey-holes, with substrate piled up over top of them for thermal insulation. Large-shallow water dish with basking stone 'island'. Various other basking stones distributed.

Neighbors: 2 rabbits & 2 guinea pigs

Lighting: Morning & afternoon sunlight. 6 foot fence at rear of enclosure provides increasing amounts of shade from late-afternoon onward. Other shade-producing objects/plants intended.

Landscaping: TBD. Shade plants, munchies, and other things. The 6" substrate allows 6" potted plants to be "plugged" into the enclosure as and where needed.

This will be an ongoing project. The first goal is to get Alex out of the house and into a safe, natural & healthier environment. Modifications and improvements will follow.

Comments and suggestions are appreciated.


Larry
 

wellington

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I don't know about Greeks. If they burrow, they will probably get through the weed block cloth you plan on using. I was told my Russian could and others have. Don't forget to post pics of your progress is always nice.
 

GBtortoises

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laclone said:
Hello All!

I decided to start this thread, as a central location on the forum, to where I can post status, updates, questions, and other general stuff about my adopted tortoise, Alexander the Greek.

As I mentioned in the Intro section, Alex is my niece's tortoise. She is of Greek ancestry, which influenced her choice of what breed of tortoise to acquire. Unfortunately, she is also young (21, going on 16), and as many of you who have raised young ones can attest to, their stated "I'll take care of him! You won't have to do anything at all!" is a promise that qualifies them as being able to run for public office.
Now, she's at the point of trying to leave the nest and move out on her own. This also means that she can't take her pets with her. Thus, the care of such falls on us older folk ( As if you thought that would never happen.:rolleyes:

Alex is a greek tortoise, sub-species unknown, and except for a few supervised jaunts outside over the last year, has been housed in a plastic 4' kiddy wading pool in her room.
I am now building an outdoor habitat for him.

My intentions are to build an outdoor enclosure for him.

Subject: Greek Tortoise- "Alex"- size 6"x5" shell.

Environment: Large open back yard, with perimeter fence.

Intended Enclosure: 8'x10', side construction of 2x10 PT lumber, surrounded by attached, escape-proof, wire fence to a height around 1-2 ft. Weed-Block cloth bottom for drainage.
The enclosure size and height is fine but rather than put a wire fence around the enclosure why not just put a 4" rim on the top of the enclosure to prevent the tortoise from being able to get over the top? A tortoise that size is not going to be able to climb walls that high anyway, unless there are objects for it to climb on that are against the sides, which there shouldn't be. No wire fence is escape proof for tortoises, unless it curls inward greatly. They are excellent climbers! With a Greek tortoise subspecies, none of which are burrowing species, you don't need much of the enclosure sides buried in the ground, 2-4 inches at the most.
Substrate: Approx. 50/50 topsoil-cypress mulch blend, 6" min depthThere should be no reason to add cypress mulch and topsoil to the existing soil where the enclosure will sit. If it packs very hard add some sand to it and till it in. Other than that it should be good. Removing about 1/4 to 1/3 of the grass to expose the bare ground is a good idea, especially where the sun hits most of the day. This will provide a dry, warm basking area. Also ensure that the area has not been treated with an insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.


Amenities: 2-3 flower-pot type hidey-holes, with substrate piled up over top of them for thermal insulation. Large-shallow water dish with basking stone 'island'. Various other basking stones distributed.
Flower pots are okay for temporary short term rest spots but a larger shelters need to be available for escaping the daytime heat and for overnight. Filling it with straw or leaves gives it some insulation value which will keep the bottom cool on hot days and retain some heat at night. Shallow water dishes are a necessity. They should be buried with the rim at ground level for easy access. Various flat stones are a good idea for a change in substrate consistency. They will very rarely bask on them when outdoors. They usually prefer to bask on the dirt except for the very coldest of days.

Neighbors: 2 rabbits & 2 guinea pigs

Lighting: Morning & afternoon sunlight. 6 foot fence at rear of enclosure provides increasing amounts of shade from late-afternoon onward. Other shade-producing objects/plants intended.
Greek subspecies are sun loving tortoises. They enclosure should ideally get sun all day long, around 14-16 hours. Along with that they should have adequate shelter to escape the heat and light.

Landscaping: TBD. Shade plants, munchies, and other things. The 6" substrate allows 6" potted plants to be "plugged" into the enclosure as and where needed.Ideally any plants or shrubs should be in clumps, not spread randomly, in order to provide defined sun and shade areas. The plants should be heavier on the south and west sides of the enclosure and the open areas on the north and more east sides of the enclosure.

This will be an ongoing project. The first goal is to get Alex out of the house and into a safe, natural & healthier environment. Modifications and improvements will follow.
If predators, kids and pets might be a concern you may want to consider covering the enclosure with a strong, lockable, wire top.

Comments and suggestions are appreciated.


Larry
 

laclone

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Thanks for the comments!

I wasn't sure about their tunneling abilities, and figured that a 6 inch depth of substrate would be enough. But as I haven't started it yet, I'll add some vinyl-covered fencing I have lying around across the bottom of the side boards, right on top of the weed-block, before I put in the substrate. That should prevent any determined tunneling escape attempts.

This enclosure will sit entirely on top of the existing ground. Nothing is buried into the ground at all. A Raised Garden type thing.

The fencing around it will discourage any pole-vaulting escape attempts by Alex, but it is mainly there to prevent the neighbors from getting in.
The 2 rabbits that freely roam the yard are not small, and have jumped over and onto other objects less than 1 ft. in height in the yard before.

No insecticides or herbicides have been used in this ground for the last 30-40 years. And the only fertilizer that's ever come in contact with it during all that time involved the biological waste process of some animal.

I mentioned the flower-pots just to give an idea of the style. Don't imagine they're small. He'll have plenty of secure bedroom space, as well as a nice cabana by the seashore for a quick nap.

Any plants are temp right now, as the first goal is to get him outside. However, the raised garden construction will allow a 'plug-in' type plant arrangement. Dandelions and clover are natural plants to add, and shade plants and other munchies can/will be added as needed by simply digging a hole in the substrate and setting a 6" deep potted plant in the hole.

Eventually, this will be a bi-level construct, with hills and ramps for him to exercise on/with.

Larry
 

laclone

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Building Alex's Greek Empire

I've been progressing slowly at this project. Many other things keeps me busy, but on Wednesday I started building the thing.

One of the things I've been concerned about so far is that that section of the yard is where we had a pool set-up on a bed of sand. The pool is history now, but the area has a very high sand content (maybe 80%), and from reading many postings from others, it seems that you shouldn't have a single grain of sand within 100 yards of a tortoise. Not only that, but the yard has been the home of 2 rabbits, and the resulting concentration of rabbit fecal matter in the soil is much higher than what any tortoise would encounter in the wild. This is why I want a raised garden type of enclosure to keep him from coming in prolonged contact with any of it.

The ground area where I'm building it is the highest point in the yard. The area closest to the fence is the lowest of that area, with a trough-like depression (ditch) running along the fence-line. About a foot out from the fence, it starts a rise upward to the highest point, which is about 4 feet from the fence. From there it gently slopes down to the other side of the yard.
I put down my 2x8 & 2x10 frame with the long side going away from the fence, and roughly leveled the 4 piece framework. Then tacked everything in place, with the fence-side 2x8 tacked into the 4x4 fencepost. Now I could see the all the holes I had to fix!
At the lowest corner/side of the enclosure I put down drainage rock up to the bottom level of the frame, filling-in as much of the ditch and other holes as I could as I went. Then I laid down and stapled in place weed-block cloth over the whole enclosure ground, folding over and stapling the edges to the inside of the frame. The weed-block should help prevent the fill-dirt from washing-out through the drainage rock.

Now to fill in in with substrate.

Right off, I hit a snag. Due to it's near-endangered status, Cypress Mulch is getting increasingly had to find, and not available here at all. I've had to start with straight top soil for now, and after 50- 40 lb. bags of top soil, I've now got the 8x10 enclosure filled in to about 2-3 inches deep at the shallowest point, and roughly level in overall appearance.

Then, immediately after I got the two rabbits new sandbox semi-built ( who were watching all these efforts in eager anticipation of a new play yard , I had to disappoint them by putting up a 24" high fence around the whole thing ("No soup for you!")

Tomorrow, I'm going to attempt to add more fill/substrate to it. This time using a topsoil with a peat moss mix in it to keep a good moisture level on the surface of where he'll be. I want about 6 inches of wooden frame exposed all around on the inside, and the 24 inch wire fence above it is tightly attached to the outside of the wooden frame. I figure that Alex shouldn't be able to climb out of that.

Pics are forthcoming, as soon as I can find a teenager or politician that can help me figure-out how to get them from my cell phone and onto the web.

L.
 

laclone

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Test photo post

IMG 20130723 00015
Here's the yard where I'm building the habitat. The view is looking exactly North-East. You can see the huge, overgrown sandy area where the pool once was on the left.

IMG 20130723 00015
This is the corner where Alex's new home will be. You can see the paver stones and stuff along the fence side of the ditch where we've been trying to keep the rabbits from digging out.

IMG 20130723 00015
A reverse view of the corner.

IMG 20130723 00015
Hereeee's Alex!
 
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wellington

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Okay, are you playing tricks:D. I was all excited to see Alex and all I can see is what looks like a white doggie igloo and the rest of the yard and shed. Tease:p :D
 

laclone

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Actually, I'm trying to test the picture posting.

Everyone else gets to post big, great pics. I get thumbnails. I feel like Charlie Brown on Halloween.
On top of that, I'm trying to post multiple pics, and the @#$% format has the same pic posted several times.

I did get a pic of Alex posted on the intro page. Now if I can just figure out how to get other/multiple pics posted.

On the plus side, I just got the stupid smart phone to send pics to my computer.

L.
IMG 20130728 00055

wellington said:
Okay, are you playing tricks:D. I was all excited to see Alex and all I can see is what looks like a white doggie igloo and the rest of the yard and shed. Tease:p :D


Pic test part II.

A few of Alex as he was consulting on the construction of his new home.

L.


One concern I have is that Alex's #5 vertebral scute, and only that scute, has developed a protrusion.
IMG 20130728 00048
It sort of looks like a Hatch-back version of a car.

I first thought pyramiding, but shouldn't that also show up on other scutes?
IMG 20130728 00039
IMG 20130728 00045

L.
 

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Jlant85

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He looks fine. Beautiful tortoise. Love the shell. He shows very little to no signs of pyramiding. Can you post a picture of the bottom and tail?
 

laclone

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"It's not the heat, but the humidity!"

What is the best way, and what equipment is needed, to measure the humidity in the different areas of an outdoor enclosure?

I have one of those IR Laser thermometer shooters to read temps from a distance, but the only humidity testers I've seen yet are actually moisture content testers, with two metal studs on one end that you stick into a substance to read the H2O level.
In the micro-climate of an enclosure (either indoor or outdoor), that really doesn't measure the humidity of the air around the subject tortoise in that area.

How do you guys do it?

Larry
 

GBtortoises

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RE: "It's not the heat, but the humidity!"

laclone said:
What is the best way, and what equipment is needed, to measure the humidity in the different areas of an outdoor enclosure?
You can use a decent quality basic hygrometer to measure humidity but there is little point in doing so outdoors. You are not going to be able to control the humidity outdoors. It will vary greatly from day to night, on dry days, rainy days, etc... Make sure the enclosure is in a spot that gets full sun as much as possible during the daytime, good draining soil. Keep the grass and weed growth to no more than half the enclosure and give the tortoise a few different shelters in different locations within the enclosure and it will be fine.


I have one of those IR Laser thermometer shooters to read temps from a distance, but the only humidity testers I've seen yet are actually moisture content testers, with two metal studs on one end that you stick into a substance to read the H2O level.
In the micro-climate of an enclosure (either indoor or outdoor), that really doesn't measure the humidity of the air around the subject tortoise in that area.

How do you guys do it?

Larry
As described above, for nearly 30 years with Testudo (including various Greek subspecies) and several other species. Please don't take this personally but you seem to be way over analyzing the requirements of keeping a tortoise outdoors! Give the tortoise the basic requirements that it needs, make it safe and secure, let it settle in to the environment, feed it, water it, watch it. They're a very simple animal and so are their needs.
 

laclone

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RE: "It's not the heat, but the humidity!"

Hi GB,

After a week or so off due to an injury, I'm back.
No offense taken. In fact, thanks for reminding me of something. An age old military slogan. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). With being inundated with all this tortoise care information in a short time, it's easy to get so overwhelmed and worried that you're doing something wrong, that you get afraid to do anything at all.

If you simply provide the basic requirements needed, the tortoise will do well. Pay attention to the advice from others more experienced than you to keep from making mistakes along the way.

Pics and updates to follow.

Larry

GBtortoises said:
laclone said:
What is the best way, and what equipment is needed, to measure the humidity in the different areas of an outdoor enclosure?
You can use a decent quality basic hygrometer to measure humidity but there is little point in doing so outdoors. You are not going to be able to control the humidity outdoors. It will vary greatly from day to night, on dry days, rainy days, etc... Make sure the enclosure is in a spot that gets full sun as much as possible during the daytime, good draining soil. Keep the grass and weed growth to no more than half the enclosure and give the tortoise a few different shelters in different locations within the enclosure and it will be fine.


I have one of those IR Laser thermometer shooters to read temps from a distance, but the only humidity testers I've seen yet are actually moisture content testers, with two metal studs on one end that you stick into a substance to read the H2O level.
In the micro-climate of an enclosure (either indoor or outdoor), that really doesn't measure the humidity of the air around the subject tortoise in that area.

How do you guys do it?
As described above, for nearly 30 years with Testudo (including various Greek subspecies) and several other species. Please don't take this personally but you seem to be way over analyzing the requirements of keeping a tortoise outdoors! Give the tortoise the basic requirements that it needs, make it safe and secure, let it settle in to the environment, feed it, water it, watch it. They're a very simple animal and so are their needs.

Larry
 

laclone

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Hi,
Alex's nether regions.

I'm curious. What are some of the things one can tell by looking at the bottom?

L.

Jlant85 said:
He looks fine. Beautiful tortoise. Love the shell. He shows very little to no signs of pyramiding. Can you post a picture of the bottom and tail?
 

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laclone

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Alex's Enclosure

Except for putting in some more sod-covered areas (with clover, dandelions, and such), Alex's enclosure is pretty much done now.

I'll try and post some photos again (see above "test photo" screw-up posting).

IMG 20130728 00030
Here's where Alex has lived since my niece got him. Plastic wadding pool in her room.

IMG 20130723 00014
The few times they've put him outside this summer, this is where they've put him.

IMG 20130723 00012
The new location. The board along the short fence is all that's left of the retaining wall from when this was where the Pool was here. Notice the abundant amount of sand.
IMG 20130723 00013
And you can see the water drainage effects along the fence.

IMG 20130724 00020 IMG 20130724 00018
This is the test lay-out of the new enclosure. I incorporated the old board from the retaining wall into it, and leveled out the entire frame.
You can see the rabbits testing out what they thought was to be a new playground for them in the second pic.

IMG 20130724 00019 IMG 20130724 00021
Alex's neighbors, and the main reason for having a 2 ft. fence around his place.

IMG 20130728 00035
After filling in the gaps and holes along the bottom edge of the frame with drainage rock, laying weed-block, and dumping in 50+ 40 lb. bags of topsoil, this is the basic foundation.
IMG 20130728 00037
...and the main water drain point corner on the lower right side.

BTW, I did finally find some Cypress mulch, and blended it in with the topsoil.

IMG 20130725 00023 IMG 20130725 00024
I can not thank Kameya enough for his inspirational ideas and designs, which are posted elsewhere on the forum. Besides the basic concept, his use of paver stones and cement blocks to build a main 'Hide', gave me the idea to make a central 'Cave' for Alex.

IMG 20130731 00058
Here's the rough finish. Alex playing in here is where most of my first photos were taken.
IMG 20130731 00062
and the Tortoise Cave concept.

IMG 20130802 00068 IMG 20130802 00069 IMG 20130802 00072

Add a little window dressings, some duct tape, and it looks like home.

Notice that I had to increase the height of the lower walls by adding 2x4's. Alex could get his claws on the top edge of the lower boards and pull himself up, see what's outside, only to then fall backwards. Blocking his line-of-sight to other places to go seems to have calmed him down a lot.

I'll post some more pics of Alex soon.

L.
 
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wiccan_chicken

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This tort is in heaven. My girl only gets to go outside during the evening during my day since that's when it's not blistering hot, and her enclosure is no way as nice as yours! This guy is loved, I bed he's glad to get out of that pool.
 

laclone

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Some more pics of Alex.

IMG 20130802 00077 IMG 20130802 00078 IMG 20130802 00079 IMG 20130802 00080 IMG 20130802 00081 IMG 20130802 00082 IMG 20130802 00084 IMG 20130802 00085 IMG 20130802 00086 IMG 20130802 00086 IMG 20130802 00087 IMG 20130802 00091 IMG 20130810 00103

Last week we had some serious rain, and I noticed that the water draining through the soil from the hill around the cave was making the floor inside of the cave very damp ( just a bare ground floor).
So a couple of days ago, I tore the hill and cave apart and re-built it. The 2 8x16 paver stones that were the roof now make the floor of the cave, and that floor level is slightly higher than the floor of the block that is the opening. I also slanted the floor about .3 degrees toward the opening, and replaced the walls on top edges of the floor (now 2 inches higher). A one-piece 16x16 paver stone is now the roof. That left an open gap above the doorway block. I filled it in by stuffing 2 of those 4x4x2 stones I had in the hillside, and throwing down some substrate in the cracks to hold the warmer air inside the cave.
IMG 20130814 00109 IMG 20130814 00108

It seems to have worked. Yesterday we had about 1-2 inches of rain, and the inside of the cave stayed dry. These pics are a few hours old.

IMG 20130814 00107
Today, the outside air temp is 76 and sunny. Inside the cave though, Alex's shell is a comfortable 84, the ceiling is 104, and the walls and substrate are around 83 & dry.

L.
 

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laclone

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Sub Species ID Question

Now that I've figured out how to post pics, I was wondering if anyone could help me identify Alex's greek sub-species. When my niece got him, the pet store simply said he was a greek tortoise and never bothered to identify (or even knew existed, more likely!) what sub-species of greek he was.

From other pics on the forum, I think he's an Iberian, but I really don't know what identifying features to look for.

Thanks,

L.
 

Jlant85

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I was wondering what type of fern that is? You probably want to remove that. Ferns are toxic to tortoises. There are some that are not but I can't seem to remember. But over all, I'm jelly! Nice enclosure!


And he does looks like an Ibera. =D


Here is a website to use on what's good to place on a pen.
Thetortoisetable.org.uk
 

laclone

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McAfee keeps telling me not to go to that website for some reason.

The fern is a Kimberly Queen. He climbs into it, over it, through it, but doesn't seem to try to eat it. Yvonne mentioned that she uses ferns, so I thought I'd try it. NBD, as all the big plants are just plug-in holes and still in their own pots (Modular Foliage). It's late in the season here, but I'll try to find a small Hibiscus for him.

"And now for something completely different..."
As it is late in the warmer season here, the daytime sunny days are warm enough for Alex to be outside, and his little Bat Cave holds the heat well into the evenings, but by the high 50's & low 60's mornings lately, the internal temps are not much different than the outside temps. I was thinking of trying to prolong his overnight-outdoor season by adding one of those Exo Terra Heat Wave rocks inside the cave to keep it in the 80's in there for a while longer.

Has anyone had any experience with those things? The concept seems ok, and they only draw about 8-10 watts of power, but I thought to ask about what others think about it first.

L.

Jlant85 said:
I was wondering what type of fern that is? You probably want to remove that. Ferns are toxic to tortoises. There are some that are not but I can't seem to remember. But over all, I'm jelly! Nice enclosure!


And he does looks like an Ibera. =D


Here is a website to use on what's good to place on a pen.
Thetortoisetable.org.uk


 

laclone

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Almost in reach

It seems I may have to re-work the cave again.

My dearly-loved sister-in-law, Karen, who is of less than standard height (vertically challenged) , and is a blend of Mother Teresa and Saint Francis, had to bring Alex in for the night the other evening while I was at work. It seems that the depth of Alex's cave (almost 24") is a somewhat challenge for her arm length to reach in there and bring him out. He was almost out-of-reach for her.

I am either going to add handles on the top-stone so it can be easily moved aside, or shorten the over-all depth of the cave.
I'm more inclined to add the handles, as every inch of horizontal depth of the cave increases it's thermal retention.

Stay tuned for more episodes of "As the Alex Tort's".

L.
 

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