Breeding Sulcata for In laws

BuenaVista

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I live in Pomona CA, my in-laws are retired and live on a large land with plenty of green area, they are bored and would like to start breed sulcata tortoise, one to have something to do, two all my niece and nephews want them, 3rd Tortoise have long lives and some believe breeding them will also bring longevity to one’s own lives, at least that is what my in laws believe, can someone recommend whom should I reach out to and start the process of breeding the sulcata tortoise I guess few fertile female ones and few male ones to start so my in-laws can started their journey with sulcata tortoise breeding.

Thank in advance
 

ZEROPILOT

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I'd recommend a lone male and several females.
Or a 3 or 4 to 1 male/female ratio.
Most of us simply don't have the yard space that this would require.
If you get different tortoises from different sources, an isolation time of several months is recommended to protect them from transferring diseases.
We have several west coast Sulcata breeders/keepers on our forum.
 

BuenaVista

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I'd recommend a lone male and several females.
Or a 3 or 4 to 1 male/female ratio.
Most of us simply don't have the yard space that this would require.
If you get different tortoises from different sources, an isolation time of several months is recommended to protect them from transferring diseases.
We have several west coast Sulcata breeders/keepers on our forum.
I'd recommend a lone male and several females.
Or a 3 or 4 to 1 male/female ratio.
Most of us simply don't have the yard space that this would require.
If you get different tortoises from different sources, an isolation time of several months is recommended to protect them from transferring diseases.
We have several west coast Sulcata breeders/keepers on our forum.

I live in Pomona CA, my in-laws are retired and live on a large land with plenty of green area, they are bored and would like to start breed sulcata tortoise, one to have something to do, two all my niece and nephews want them, 3rd Tortoise have long lives and some believe breeding them will also bring longevity to one’s own lives, at least that is what my in laws believe, can someone recommend whom should I reach out to and start the process of breeding the sulcata tortoise I guess few fertile female ones and few male ones to start so my in-laws can started their journey with sulcata tortoise breeding.

Thank in advance
Thank you Zero Pilot makes total sense, where can I locate these sulcata breeders in West coast ?
 

Tom

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I live in Pomona CA, my in-laws are retired and live on a large land with plenty of green area, they are bored and would like to start breed sulcata tortoise, one to have something to do, two all my niece and nephews want them, 3rd Tortoise have long lives and some believe breeding them will also bring longevity to one’s own lives, at least that is what my in laws believe, can someone recommend whom should I reach out to and start the process of breeding the sulcata tortoise I guess few fertile female ones and few male ones to start so my in-laws can started their journey with sulcata tortoise breeding.

Thank in advance
Sulcatas are the wrong species for almost everyone. The world doesn't need more people reproducing them. If your in-laws are retired, I'm going to guess they are 65 years old or more? Even if they can still move a 150 pound tortoises now, will they be able to in another 10-15 years? Sulcatas require huge spaces and destroy their enclosures, turning everything into a desert wasteland full of giant craters. Even if your in-laws have the space and inclination to care for them correctly, most of the people buying their babies won't. Look how many are being re-homed here on this forum constantly.

Why not work with a species that is much more practical and in need of breeding. Russians, hermanni, leopards, Burmese stars, marginated, radiata, etc... All of these will do great in your climate, and they don't have the drawbacks of the sulcatas. You aren't legally allowed to breed them, but there are lots of desert tortoises in need of homes, and they are a fantastic species that would do great out where you are. Why sulcatas? If you were to ask me what species would be the last species I'd recommend your in-laws start a breeding operation with, it would be sulcatas. No other species is even in the running. Not even the same ball park. Do the world a favor and convince them to work with a different species. Any other species.
 

BuenaVista

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Sulcatas are the wrong species for almost everyone. The world doesn't need more people reproducing them. If your in-laws are retired, I'm going to guess they are 65 years old or more? Even if they can still move a 150 pound tortoises now, will they be able to in another 10-15 years? Sulcatas require huge spaces and destroy their enclosures, turning everything into a desert wasteland full of giant craters. Even if your in-laws have the space and inclination to care for them correctly, most of the people buying their babies won't. Look how many are being re-homed here on this forum constantly.

Why not work with a species that is much more practical and in need of breeding. Russians, hermanni, leopards, Burmese stars, marginated, radiata, etc... All of these will do great in your climate, and they don't have the drawbacks of the sulcatas. You aren't legally allowed to breed them, but there are lots of desert tortoises in need of homes, and they are a fantastic species that would do great out where you are. Why sulcatas? If you were to ask me what species would be the last species I'd recommend your in-laws start a breeding operation with, it would be sulcatas. No other species is even in the running. Not even the same ball park. Do the world a favor and convince them to work with a different species. Any other species.
Thank you Tom for the recommendation, will inform my in-laws that there are other options. Much Appreciated !
 

TheReaIMartian

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Hey, I completely agree with Tom, however I have a slightly different solution.

Like Tom mentioned, sulcatas are unethical to keep in the vast majority of circumstances unless you can provide them /at least/ (preferably more than) half an acre of land as well as cater to their specific diet, temperature, humidity, etc requirements. They’re destructive and great escape artists (it’s usually not a matter of if they’ll escape but when) due to them being big burrowers… big burrowers as in, in the wild their burrows have been recorded getting up to and even beyond 100ft in length and 50ft in depth. If sulcatas didn’t breed so readily in captivity, they would not be nearly as widespread as they are, and it’s incredibly sad. Most people who have them shouldn’t, and hundreds of animals suffer because of human ignorance.

If your in laws still find this difficult species attractive and are ready to do what it takes to care for them properly, maybe they can go through the effort of rescuing and rehabilitating a single individual to care for themselves that they may find both challenging and rewarding. Keep in mind that this is not a species you’ll want to group together, even the females, as they are particularly aggressive and easily stressed out by each other.

If that’s not what they were looking to do, there are other species they could look at taking on that do better in groups and would love the large open space and Californian climate your in-laws would be able to provide. Russian tortoises or some of the Mediterranean species would be a great option as they’d love the climate, are readily available to rescue, and the females do well in groups.

I want to throw in here: how set on breeding are your in-laws? Because rescuing would be a much better option for a couple reasons. Most people who want tortoises can’t and don’t care for them properly, even the smaller species, so the vast majority of the offspring your in-laws would produce and sell will be condemned to a life of poor husbandry. Plus there are so many testudo horsfieldii and testudo hermanii out there that desperately need homes and are sitting on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace/this forum/in rescues/etc. Your in-laws could easily establish a group of all females on their land and enrich the lives of those animals immeasurably. When you talk to them, try to see if that would be something they’re willing to consider.
 

BuenaVista

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Hey, I completely agree with Tom, however I have a slightly different solution.

Like Tom mentioned, sulcatas are unethical to keep in the vast majority of circumstances unless you can provide them /at least/ (preferably more than) half an acre of land as well as cater to their specific diet, temperature, humidity, etc requirements. They’re destructive and great escape artists (it’s usually not a matter of if they’ll escape but when) due to them being big burrowers… big burrowers as in, in the wild their burrows have been recorded getting up to and even beyond 100ft in length and 50ft in depth. If sulcatas didn’t breed so readily in captivity, they would not be nearly as widespread as they are, and it’s incredibly sad. Most people who have them shouldn’t, and hundreds of animals suffer because of human ignorance.

If your in laws still find this difficult species attractive and are ready to do what it takes to care for them properly, maybe they can go through the effort of rescuing and rehabilitating a single individual to care for themselves that they may find both challenging and rewarding. Keep in mind that this is not a species you’ll want to group together, even the females, as they are particularly aggressive and easily stressed out by each other.

If that’s not what they were looking to do, there are other species they could look at taking on that do better in groups and would love the large open space and Californian climate your in-laws would be able to provide. Russian tortoises or some of the Mediterranean species would be a great option as they’d love the climate, are readily available to rescue, and the females do well in groups.

I want to throw in here: how set on breeding are your in-laws? Because rescuing would be a much better option for a couple reasons. Most people who want tortoises can’t and don’t care for them properly, even the smaller species, so the vast majority of the offspring your in-laws would produce and sell will be condemned to a life of poor husbandry. Plus there are so many testudo horsfieldii and testudo hermanii out there that desperately need homes and are sitting on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace/this forum/in rescues/etc. Your in-laws could easily establish a group of all females on their land and enrich the lives of those animals immeasurably. When you talk to them, try to see if that would be something they’re willing to consider.
Thank you gents will take into consideration all your recommendations
 

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Totally agree with the others. Too many Sulcatas are needing rehoming as they are so cute when little but grow to destructive giants in a short period and people buy them with little to no knowledge.
I think you and your grandparents should and need to do some research on this forum into all the different species that are not only easier to keep, but easier to sell and they don't overwhelm people with their size.
 

wellington

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Also, there really isn't a lot to do with tortoises to keep your grandparents busy. Once enclosure is properly set up, Just a few minutes a day, feeding, cleaning and freshening water and your done for the day. They aren't dogs, that want or need attention. They really are quite boring as far as entertainment goes.
 

Tom

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Also, there really isn't a lot to do with tortoises to keep your grandparents busy. Once enclosure is properly set up, Just a few minutes a day, feeding, cleaning and freshening water and your done for the day. They aren't dogs, that want or need attention. They really are quite boring as far as entertainment goes.
I beg to differ. I spend hours a day caring for mine, adjusting this or that, building things, enlarging enclosures, procuring and serving food, soaking, digging up eggs late at night and putting those egg laying females to bed in their warm houses, changing out substrate, dampening substrate, refilling water tubs in the night houses, cleaning up messes, caring for babies as they hatch and progress to their first real enclosures, checking and adjusting temperatures, replacing burnt out heat lamps, adding or removing shade seasonally, painting box tops twice a year, managing pest problems like ants and rats, weeding and tree trimming in the enclosures, scooping poop, etc... And I sit and marvel at them doing their tortoise things daily too.
 

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It's obvious your inlaws have not done their due diligence. They really need to research keeping a sulcata, not breeding, but just keeping and caring for. Once they have the husbandry down pat and feel they are able to do the tortoise justice, THEN they can consider the breeding part of the project.
 

wellington

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I beg to differ. I spend hours a day caring for mine, adjusting this or that, building things, enlarging enclosures, procuring and serving food, soaking, digging up eggs late at night and putting those egg laying females to bed in their warm houses, changing out substrate, dampening substrate, refilling water tubs in the night houses, cleaning up messes, caring for babies as they hatch and progress to their first real enclosures, checking and adjusting temperatures, replacing burnt out heat lamps, adding or removing shade seasonally, painting box tops twice a year, managing pest problems like ants and rats, weeding and tree trimming in the enclosures, scooping poop, etc... And I sit and marvel at them doing their tortoise things daily too.
A lot of this is not on a daily basis. If someone is bored, a tortoise(s) is not going to entertain them or keep them busy like other animals will! I agree that having babies to look after will take up more time, and I never had as many as you have, but it sure shouldn't take hours. Maybe you move slower than I do.
 

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I understand the gist of your post, and agree with the general sentiment, but in the interest of providing accurate info to people reading and making decisions, there a few points I disagree with.

Like Tom mentioned, sulcatas are unethical to keep in the vast majority of circumstances unless you can provide them /at least/ (preferably more than) half an acre of land...
I would not say that its unethical to keep them in the vast majority of circumstances. Stuffed into a small space for months at a time in a cold climate is unethical in my opinion, and keeping them too cold because some idiot on FB claims that they are fine down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit is unethical in my opinion, but I would not say that is the "vast majority" based on what I see around the country.

50x50 feet is a good minimum enclosure size for a small group. Half an acre would be wonderful, but that is not what I'd consider a minimum requirement. Your number was arbitrary and so is mine, someone else might feel that 20x20 feet is enough, and others might think 10 acres is too small, so this is certainly debatable. What I will say is that I've seen them kept in all manner of enclosure sizes and they usually do okay in most of them. I understand your intent in throwing this number out there, but there are 21,780 square feet in half an acre. I don't think that anyone who has kept this species for a time would agree that they can't be kept healthy and fit in 2500 square feet.

Keep in mind that this is not a species you’ll want to group together, even the females, as they are particularly aggressive and easily stressed out by each other.
I disagree. They usually do fine in groups, and groups of females are almost always completely peaceful and harmonious, and quite enjoyable too. Multiple adult males in one pen will sometimes fight to the death, but females are rarely aggressive. There are people who keep dozens of them of mixed sexes in giant pens that are more than an acre, and for the most part, they sort out a pecking order and territories. Occasionally, a big bull male will have to be separated out, but there are often a dozen or two other males left behind that get along fine. Just two adult males in one enclosure will almost never get along. A dozen males mixed in with dozens of females in a very large pen can work just fine. I've seen it myself many times.

Again, I understand your intent, but I don't want to misrepresent or over exaggerate that facts.

… big burrowers as in, in the wild their burrows have been recorded getting up to and even beyond 100ft in length and 50ft in depth.
While this may be true in the wild, many of them don't burrow at all in captivity, and when they do, the burrows rarely exceed 20 feet long and 10 feet deep. Most of the burrows I have been down into are significantly less than that. Most burrows are 10-12 feet for large adults, and smaller for juveniles. And they don't dig out or escape form their burrows. Its just one tunnel with one opening at the surface inside their enclosure. I encourage them to burrow in my hot summers here, where the daily high is usually 100 or more all summer long. They use heated night shelters the rest of the year.

I want to throw in here: how set on breeding are your in-laws? Because rescuing would be a much better option for a couple reasons. Most people who want tortoises can’t and don’t care for them properly, even the smaller species, so the vast majority of the offspring your in-laws would produce and sell will be condemned to a life of poor husbandry. Plus there are so many testudo horsfieldii and testudo hermanii out there that desperately need homes and are sitting on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace/this forum/in rescues/etc. Your in-laws could easily establish a group of all females on their land and enrich the lives of those animals immeasurably. When you talk to them, try to see if that would be something they’re willing to consider.
I like this suggestion, but I think its a gross exaggeration to say :
"so the vast majority of the offspring your in-laws would produce and sell will be condemned to a life of poor husbandry"
Most breeders, especially small time breeders, take care to make sure their buyers have the right info and are going to take care of their babies. There are certainly bad apples out in the world, and we've all seen that, but I think most people try to do a good job caring for their beloved pets. I think the picture in your mind is too bleak. I base my opinion on what I see in tortoise collections around the country.

I hope this info adds some clarity to the discussion and will help people make good decisions.
 

Tom

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A lot of this is not on a daily basis. If someone is bored, a tortoise(s) is not going to entertain them or keep them busy like other animals will! I agree that having babies to look after will take up more time, and I never had as many as you have, but it sure shouldn't take hours. Maybe you move slower than I do.
Bring the hubby and come visit for a few days. I'll put you to work on the daily maintenance. After a few days, you can let me know how many hours it takes and how exhausted you are at the end. Talk to my mom. She comes to help out and spend time with the tortoises when I'm busy working. She has to go home and take a shower and a nap after a day at the ranch.
 

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Everything about this seems like a very bad idea. I don't know your grandparents, so I don't know what kind of people they are if they find down road they made a mistake and now have animals involved. Some people wouldn't care, some would agonize over what they've done.

Look on craigslist in SoCal you will see people constantly selling sulcata (and other) babies, and you also will see a lot of people needing to home their older sulcatas because they are too hard to take care of, OR they are listed as "healthy" but anyone with eyes can see they are near death with MBD because they lived in a tiny space without proper heat, light, or food.

There are tortoise species that are being bred to help combat other issues - like Russians and others to try to decrease the amount of wild poaching. At LEAST if they did that there is some "good" to come out of the process besides brining more lives into the world that are going to die pretty miserable deaths. But in general as a hobby to keep grandparents from being "bored", breeding long lived species where most of them are not kept well and live horrible lives is not a good thing to do. There are lots of other hobbies out there that don't cause suffering of creatures.
 

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I have one redfoot and even I am constantly monitoring everything. Then relaying information back to my wife to make changes. I work out of town a lot. I can watch my little tort on a wyze cam pan v3 camera and monitor temp and humidity with multiple sensor push sensors.
 

wellington

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I have one redfoot and even I am constantly monitoring everything. Then relaying information back to my wife to make changes. I work out of town a lot. I can watch my little tort on a wyze cam pan v3 camera and monitor temp and humidity with multiple sensor push sensors.
I think that's more you than what is needed. I've had mine since 2011. Once they got big enough to live outside, the nervous watching them all the time finally settled. Everything runs on timers, except the over head light. A camera tells me the temp, it's not facing anything to look at. I check on them morning, feeding, night, that's it. Don't need eyes on them all the time if you have things set up for convenience. Oh and my tortoises are all very human friendly.
 

mojo_1

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I think that's more you than what is needed. I've had mine since 2011. Once they got big enough to live outside, the nervous watching them all the time finally settled. Everything runs on timers, except the over head light. A camera tells me the temp, it's not facing anything to look at. I check on them morning, feeding, night, that's it. Don't need eyes on them all the time if you have things set up for convenience. Oh and my tortoises are all very human friendly.
I have the camera mostly so I can see the tort when I'm out of town for work months at a time. Everything else is good. Most work is maintaining humidity at exceptable levels.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I never gave a lot of consideration to keeping and or breeding any of the very large or giant species. Or the difficulty or expense, etc.
I just know that doing any part of that is beyond my abilities.
Thank you for the information
 

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I understand the gist of your post, and agree with the general sentiment, but in the interest of providing accurate info to people reading and making decisions, there a few points I disagree with.


I would not say that its unethical to keep them in the vast majority of circumstances. Stuffed into a small space for months at a time in a cold climate is unethical in my opinion, and keeping them too cold because some idiot on FB claims that they are fine down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit is unethical in my opinion, but I would not say that is the "vast majority" based on what I see around the country.

50x50 feet is a good minimum enclosure size for a small group. Half an acre would be wonderful, but that is not what I'd consider a minimum requirement. Your number was arbitrary and so is mine, someone else might feel that 20x20 feet is enough, and others might think 10 acres is too small, so this is certainly debatable. What I will say is that I've seen them kept in all manner of enclosure sizes and they usually do okay in most of them. I understand your intent in throwing this number out there, but there are 21,780 square feet in half an acre. I don't think that anyone who has kept this species for a time would agree that they can't be kept healthy and fit in 2500 square feet.


I disagree. They usually do fine in groups, and groups of females are almost always completely peaceful and harmonious, and quite enjoyable too. Multiple adult males in one pen will sometimes fight to the death, but females are rarely aggressive. There are people who keep dozens of them of mixed sexes in giant pens that are more than an acre, and for the most part, they sort out a pecking order and territories. Occasionally, a big bull male will have to be separated out, but there are often a dozen or two other males left behind that get along fine. Just two adult males in one enclosure will almost never get along. A dozen males mixed in with dozens of females in a very large pen can work just fine. I've seen it myself many times.

Again, I understand your intent, but I don't want to misrepresent or over exaggerate that facts.


While this may be true in the wild, many of them don't burrow at all in captivity, and when they do, the burrows rarely exceed 20 feet long and 10 feet deep. Most of the burrows I have been down into are significantly less than that. Most burrows are 10-12 feet for large adults, and smaller for juveniles. And they don't dig out or escape form their burrows. Its just one tunnel with one opening at the surface inside their enclosure. I encourage them to burrow in my hot summers here, where the daily high is usually 100 or more all summer long. They use heated night shelters the rest of the year.


I like this suggestion, but I think its a gross exaggeration to say :

Most breeders, especially small time breeders, take care to make sure their buyers have the right info and are going to take care of their babies. There are certainly bad apples out in the world, and we've all seen that, but I think most people try to do a good job caring for their beloved pets. I think the picture in your mind is too bleak. I base my opinion on what I see in tortoise collections around the country.

I hope this info adds some clarity to the discussion and will help people make good decisions.
Thanks for this. I've had my sulcata for 24 years and he has never tried to escape. Once he dug a burrow that went under the fence into my neighbor's yard but they never dig with the goal of coming up the other side. The burrow is for shelter. The biggest burrow Charlie dug was about 6 feet deep and probably 20 feet long but it bent at a right angle. At the bend there was a lower place where poop accumulated, keeping it out of the main burrow. When he had this burrow it seemed he never stopped digging. Once we filled it in and provided him with a heated house and a shaded summer house, he never dug a burrow again.

We have a fairly large backyard but it isn't 1/2 acre. The entire lot, including the house, is a bit more than 1/4 acre, so he has access to less than 1/8 acre. Besides the size, I think the terrain and variety of landscaping makes the environment stimulating for him. He can't see the entire area without walking around structures. I think he has a good life.

I can attest to how difficult it is to move a large sulcata, especially when you are older. Even with 3 or 4 people, it can sometimes be nearly impossible if he doesn't want to go. We built a sled with sides that fold up to keep him from moving off of it until we get him where we want him. It is really hard to pull when he is on it but more manageable than anything else we tried. Luckily we only have to use it a few times every year when he doesn't realize it isn't a good idea to spend the night outside.

Besides the cost for his shelters, Charlie has damaged many things we have had to pay to get repaired. Lots of broken sprinklers and filling in the burrow when it went under our house and we thought the house might collapse. He has knocked the stucco off the house at his level. We have a contractor coming over next week to give an estimate on repairing that. Once we repair it, we'll have to put up some kind of barrier so he can't run into the stucco anymore.

The backyard belongs to him. The rose bushes survived until they were cut back too much and he could reach the tops. Now he keeps them eaten down to the ground.
 
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