Brumation post week 1: start winding down

biochemnerd808

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5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,393
Location (City and/or State)
Central Arkansas (we moved!)
For those of you who plan to fridge-brumate (hibernate) your tortoise, I'm going to post wind-down updates here for you to follow along.
You may have noticed that your tortoise has stopped eating, and spends a lot of time hiding or even digging down. Even our captive bred Russian tortoises seem to be pre programmed to do this. While it's safe to overwinter them (keep them awake) in a captive setting, I've decided to stop fighting their instinct a few years ago. If done properly, fridge brumation is very safe.

Before considering brumating your tortoise, you need to ensure they are healthy, you have had them for at least a year, they weigh at least 200g (in the wild, even tiny hatchlings brumate, but not all survive), and your tortoise is worm-free. Worm testing and treatment actually should happen in July - it's too late in the year to safely treat and then brumate now. Data shows that there is a higher rate of death during brumation right after a Panacur treatment. Mine testedworm-free, so I didn't have to worry about it.
20211018 061750

The wind-down is 3-4 weeks. Fridge brumation of RTs takes place at 38-40 degrees F (3-5 Celsius) for 3-4 months, depending on size and other factors. (Note: RTs brumate slightly colder, slightly drier than Greek and Hermanni tortoises).

During week 1, I stop giving food and soak each tortoise daily for 15-20 minutes. This will help them empty their guts and make sure they are well-hydrated. Some already stopped eating a month ago, and may have lost a little weight. After soaking, I place them under the basking light. I start reducing the time the lights are on by 30 mins a day this week, so by the end of this week, instead of lights being on 7am -7pm, lights turn off at 3:30pm. Most of the tortoises are dug into the dirt by then anyway. If temps are still above 60 outside, I have them all bask in the natural sun for 30 mins in a kiddie pool. I don't place them in their outdoor habitats now, because there are still plants growing in there, and I need them not to eat.
IMG 20210617 192841 489

Other things I do this week:
1) I double check that I have good plastic brumation bins with latching lids for each tortoise, I'll post pics in a few days. I melt or drill 6 air holes alog the top of the sides, and fill them with additive free topsoil. I also collect leaves from hardwood trees like oaks or maple. These will be spread over the dirt. The plastic containers need to be large enough for the tortoise to be able to surround itself with a few inches of dirt on all sides, but small enough it will fit into the fridge without touching any of the walls. Touching walls can cause contact freeze (like when your milk freezes).
2) I double check that my Inkbird hot/cold thermostat still works and is properly programmed to keep a temp range of 37-40 degrees, with alarms set on either end of that. I plug it into the wall and plug the fridge into the controller, with the thermometer piece in the part of the fridge the tortoise(s) will be. For us, that's the crisper drawer and first and second shelf of the garage fridge.
3) If you plan to use an aquarium air pump, make sure it works and the tubing is clean. You will need an analog timer that you can set to run the pump for 10-15 mins a day. This allows you not to have to worry about wafting the fridge daily. In my case, I won't need that this year (see note below).

Note: ideally, a brumation fridge doesn't have a freezer, and is used only for tortoises. We have a Vissani fridge without a freezer or icebox that works perfectly for this. However family living with us right now, so unfortunately the fridge will also hold some of their food, and will be opened a few times daily.

Stay tuned for further wind-down updates next week.

#brumation #hibernation
 

Opuntia

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Joined
Feb 21, 2019
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Location (City and/or State)
uk
my Inkbird hot/cold thermostat
Hi
Please can you post pictures of your thermostat. I'm in the UK I've tried looking into this but unsure how well it would work. My fridge temps jump between 3&7. Would it bold the temperature at 5c?
 

biochemnerd808

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5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,393
Location (City and/or State)
Central Arkansas (we moved!)
Hi
Please can you post pictures of your thermostat. I'm in the UK I've tried looking into this but unsure how well it would work. My fridge temps jump between 3&7. Would it bold the temperature at 5c?
I use the Inkbird temperature controller. You'll need to google instructions for setting the parameters properly. I set it to 4 degrees Celsius for my RTs with alarms at 2 degrees C and 6 degrees. Works perfectly.
Screenshot 20211023 203114 Amazon Shopping
 

RosemaryDW

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It’s that time of year! We were hoping she’d hold out a little longer but Friday our Russian was in her night box in the morning and gone that night. We know where she goes so took the last bottle of wine out of her fridge* and hauled her out the next morning. She’s an outdoor tortoises and picks the right time much better than we do; on cue she had finally lost a few grams weight.

She is a fighter when it comes to going to sleep so last year we bought this and I love it; out like a light. Not practical for multiple tortoises but it made a huge difference. Kept a much more stable temp as well. https://www.uline.com/BL_427/Standard-Wood-Crates. She sleeps in regular dirt; I think it’s important for tortoises to be able to dig themselves up and down a bit. If I coudn’t get clean dirtmany people can’t—I’d go for topsoil just as noted above.

Fridges don’t hold a perfect seal and tortoises don’t breathe much in brumation so imo you don’t need to worry about opening the door too much. But I definitely could not have gotten through the first couple of years without doing just that along with a ton of weight checks. No harm in either.

*It’s not a wine fridge; it’s a beer chiller; wine fridges don’t get quite cold enough for a Russian. A regular fridge would also be fine but then my one-time electrician husband couldn’t have bought yet another fancy appliance for our house. He would tell you this fridge is for my peace of mind; it is not! I sent him to the hardware store with instructions for something sold “as is.” I like the chiller; it’s got an alarm and holds very stable temps but it’s overkill. When she was smaller a dorm fridge with a temp control was just fine. Edit: my husband has just stated again a dent and ding fridge wouldn’t have been “to your satisfaction.“ lol
 

lymcBoris

Active Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2019
Messages
107
Location (City and/or State)
Scotland
For those of you who plan to fridge-brumate (hibernate) your tortoise, I'm going to post wind-down updates here for you to follow along.
You may have noticed that your tortoise has stopped eating, and spends a lot of time hiding or even digging down. Even our captive bred Russian tortoises seem to be pre programmed to do this. While it's safe to overwinter them (keep them awake) in a captive setting, I've decided to stop fighting their instinct a few years ago. If done properly, fridge brumation is very safe.

Before considering brumating your tortoise, you need to ensure they are healthy, you have had them for at least a year, they weigh at least 200g (in the wild, even tiny hatchlings brumate, but not all survive), and your tortoise is worm-free. Worm testing and treatment actually should happen in July - it's too late in the year to safely treat and then brumate now. Data shows that there is a higher rate of death during brumation right after a Panacur treatment. Mine testedworm-free, so I didn't have to worry about it.
View attachment 334779

The wind-down is 3-4 weeks. Fridge brumation of RTs takes place at 38-40 degrees F (3-5 Celsius) for 3-4 months, depending on size and other factors. (Note: RTs brumate slightly colder, slightly drier than Greek and Hermanni tortoises).

During week 1, I stop giving food and soak each tortoise daily for 15-20 minutes. This will help them empty their guts and make sure they are well-hydrated. Some already stopped eating a month ago, and may have lost a little weight. After soaking, I place them under the basking light. I start reducing the time the lights are on by 30 mins a day this week, so by the end of this week, instead of lights being on 7am -7pm, lights turn off at 3:30pm. Most of the tortoises are dug into the dirt by then anyway. If temps are still above 60 outside, I have them all bask in the natural sun for 30 mins in a kiddie pool. I don't place them in their outdoor habitats now, because there are still plants growing in there, and I need them not to eat.
View attachment 334780

Other things I do this week:
1) I double check that I have good plastic brumation bins with latching lids for each tortoise, I'll post pics in a few days. I melt or drill 6 air holes alog the top of the sides, and fill them with additive free topsoil. I also collect leaves from hardwood trees like oaks or maple. These will be spread over the dirt. The plastic containers need to be large enough for the tortoise to be able to surround itself with a few inches of dirt on all sides, but small enough it will fit into the fridge without touching any of the walls. Touching walls can cause contact freeze (like when your milk freezes).
2) I double check that my Inkbird hot/cold thermostat still works and is properly programmed to keep a temp range of 37-40 degrees, with alarms set on either end of that. I plug it into the wall and plug the fridge into the controller, with the thermometer piece in the part of the fridge the tortoise(s) will be. For us, that's the crisper drawer and first and second shelf of the garage fridge.
3) If you plan to use an aquarium air pump, make sure it works and the tubing is clean. You will need an analog timer that you can set to run the pump for 10-15 mins a day. This allows you not to have to worry about wafting the fridge daily. In my case, I won't need that this year (see note below).

Note: ideally, a brumation fridge doesn't have a freezer, and is used only for tortoises. We have a Vissani fridge without a freezer or icebox that works perfectly for this. However family living with us right now, so unfortunately the fridge will also hold some of their food, and will be opened a few times daily.

Stay tuned for further wind-down updates next week.

#brumation #hibernation
This is fantastic, thank you!
My Russian is three years old and over 200g. We've had him for two years and never brumated. He started really slowing down at beginning of October and so I thought I would def brumate him for the first time using a small fridge. I realise now that I left it far too late. He got very sleepy, stopped eating etc., in early October. As soon as the fridge arrived mid-December, he suddenly started to eat and was stomping about his enclosure very energetically after two months of sleepiness! He's still stomping about and is eating furiously every day. In fact he's making so much noise that he wakes everyone up at 7.30am and doesn't stop until about 5pm. He lives in our bedroom at the moment and we can hear him stomping from downstairs. I feel bad for him, It's like he's desperate to get out of his enclosure. As soon as I walk into the room he immediately looks up and stomps over to me to get out! I don't take him out though, as I read not to. It's the midst of winter here in Scotland, with snow today. I'll get it right this year and hopefully Boris will get a good first brumation. I would love to make him a larger enclosure. The one he has just now is 6ft by almost 3ft. Could be bigger. We have an outdoor enclosure in the garden, which is massive, but obviously he can only go out a couple of weeks in the summer.
Thank goodness for this forum and so many experts.
 

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biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,393
Location (City and/or State)
Central Arkansas (we moved!)
This is fantastic, thank you!
My Russian is three years old and over 200g. We've had him for two years and never brumated. He started really slowing down at beginning of October and so I thought I would def brumate him for the first time using a small fridge. I realise now that I left it far too late. He got very sleepy, stopped eating etc., in early October. As soon as the fridge arrived mid-December, he suddenly started to eat and was stomping about his enclosure very energetically after two months of sleepiness! He's still stomping about and is eating furiously every day. In fact he's making so much noise that he wakes everyone up at 7.30am and doesn't stop until about 5pm. He lives in our bedroom at the moment and we can hear him stomping from downstairs. I feel bad for him, It's like he's desperate to get out of his enclosure. As soon as I walk into the room he immediately looks up and stomps over to me to get out! I don't take him out though, as I read not to. It's the midst of winter here in Scotland, with snow today. I'll get it right this year and hopefully Boris will get a good first brumation. I would love to make him a larger enclosure. The one he has just now is 6ft by almost 3ft. Could be bigger. We have an outdoor enclosure in the garden, which is massive, but obviously he can only go out a couple of weeks in the summer.
Thank goodness for this forum and so many experts.
Yeah, sounds like you missed the window for brumation this winter. But, no worries, next winter you will have the supplies and know what to do. :) You can search for my other posts about brumation for further information. :) Glad your little guy is active and eating now.
 

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