Burrow or house your adult Sulcata?

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My Sulcata has a 3 foot, at least 8 feet long burrow in a very good spot in the yard. But in the winter it gets cold so I cover his hole. I have him in a large round garbage can with an Osborne heating pad. He likes it in there. But since I have joined the forum I have seen all kinds of shed style homes. Do I need to build one of these?
 

Tom

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In short: YES!!!

If you live in a hot climate, like AZ, Southern TX, Southern CA, or South FL, then burrows are almost a necessity for escaping the scorching summer heat, but it is too cold in these burrows anywhere in North America for winter time. Here in SoCal, I live in the desert. I use a burrow for my adult sulcatas from May or June until late October most years. I went into November this year due to the warmer temps.

Once fall and winter really hit though, this tropical species needs to be kept warm, day and night. In the wild it is hot every day, all year long and they live underground in warm burrows that never get too hot or too cold. Here are a few examples:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/double-door-night-box.129054/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/#post-632974

Most people, myself included, try to adapt plastic sheds, deck boxes, or dog houses for this purpose. It doesn't work, it can do damage to them, and they are very inefficient while being very ineffective at the same time. I had to learn this the hard way, and my point in all these posts is to help other people figure all this out faster than I did, and save their tortoises from having to go through what mine went through all those years. My boxes are a chore to build, but they last for years, work perfectly and run very efficiently. Even with California's high electricity rates, my night boxes only use an average of .18 cents a night in the middle of winter with below freezing night temps, while maintaining an internal temp of 80-85 for the tortoises sleeping inside them.
 

wellington

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I garbage can is not a proper place at all for a tortoise who needs to be able to walk around. So yes, you need to build him either a insulated heated shed if you live where winters are long, cold and snowy or if your in an area like Tom, then you need to build something like he uses.
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2017
Messages
37
Where are you?

In short: YES!!!

If you live in a hot climate, like AZ, Southern TX, Southern CA, or South FL, then burrows are almost a necessity for escaping the scorching summer heat, but it is too cold in these burrows anywhere in North America for winter time. Here in SoCal, I live in the desert. I use a burrow for my adult sulcatas from May or June until late October most years. I went into November this year due to the warmer temps.

Once fall and winter really hit though, this tropical species needs to be kept warm, day and night. In the wild it is hot every day, all year long and they live underground in warm burrows that never get too hot or too cold. Here are a few examples:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/double-door-night-box.129054/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/#post-632974

Most people, myself included, try to adapt plastic sheds, deck boxes, or dog houses for this purpose. It doesn't work, it can do damage to them, and they are very inefficient while being very ineffective at the same time. I had to learn this the hard way, and my point in all these posts is to help other people figure all this out faster than I did, and save their tortoises from having to go through what mine went through all those years. My boxes are a chore to build, but they last for years, work perfectly and run very efficiently. Even with California's high electricity rates, my night boxes only use an average of .18 cents a night in the middle of winter with below freezing night temps, while maintaining an internal temp of 80-85 for the tortoises sleeping inside them.
Thank you Tom. We live in Las Vegas. It's very dry here but when it does rain I freak out and close his hole. He prefers to be in his burrow. But it's too cold at night in the winter. I am going to build him a home like yours. Also I've been reading on some of these forums that they need humidity? But your saying to keep them dry. I have never tried to keep him wet in the winter. But in the summers he loves the hose on him, and to soak in a mud puddle and he always has a soaking dish but outgrows them every year! He is growing so fast!
 
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I garbage can is not a proper place at all for a tortoise who needs to be able to walk around. So yes, you need to build him either a insulated heated shed if you live where winters are long, cold and snowy or if your in an area like Tom, then you need to build something like he uses.
We live in Las Vegas. He is free to roam the yard as he pleases. He has a trash can with a heating pad. And one without. But I will look in to building him a real home :). I just thought it was easier to clean out a plastic barrel than a wood shed. He of course poops everywhere lol.
 

Big Charlie

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Thank you Tom. We live in Las Vegas. It's very dry here but when it does rain I freak out and close his hole. He prefers to be in his burrow. But it's too cold at night in the winter. I am going to build him a home like yours. Also I've been reading on some of these forums that they need humidity? But your saying to keep them dry. I have never tried to keep him wet in the winter. But in the summers he loves the hose on him, and to soak in a mud puddle and he always has a soaking dish but outgrows them every year! He is growing so fast!
You don't want him wet in the winter unless he is also warm. Wet and cold is bad. If you heat his night box with a radiator rather than heat panels, that will provide some humidity. Humidity is probably more important for hatchlings and younger tortoises. Once they are big enough to live outside full-time, it is difficult to provide it and the lack doesn't seem to affect their growth as much.

One thing to know about burrows: they never stop digging. So that burrow could collapse one day or end up under your house someday, like what happened to us. We had to fill it in to prevent our house from collapsing into the hole. Still, a burrow is wonderful for them in the summer. I hate that Charlie hasn't had one for the last 2 years. I really hope he'll get around to digging a new one this summer.
 
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You don't want him wet in the winter unless he is also warm. Wet and cold is bad. If you heat his night box with a radiator rather than heat panels, that will provide some humidity. Humidity is probably more important for hatchlings and younger tortoises. Once they are big enough to live outside full-time, it is difficult to provide it and the lack doesn't seem to affect their growth as much.

One thing to know about burrows: they never stop digging. So that burrow could collapse one day or end up under your house someday, like what happened to us. We had to fill it in to prevent our house from collapsing into the hole. Still, a burrow is wonderful for them in the summer. I hate that Charlie hasn't had one for the last 2 years. I really hope he'll get around to digging a new one this summer.
Thank you for all your help and information. I appreciate it. I did always make sure he got good soaks but I am sad to think I didn't give him proper humidity growing up. Someone did not want to take care of the tortoise anymore and I jumped at the situation. I am glad I did but I wish I had known to find a forum like this ten years ago to talk about this stuff with people who had experience and such care.

And that does scare me about his burrow. Two years ago he dug it around a corner. Before it had just been straight where I could always see him. I would climb in and clean it out with a rake, but I can't anymore, I'm too scared to go any deeper than that! It's in such a great place I don't want to block it off. But I should for his safety. It's not at all close to my house (that I know of!) Maybe if I build him an awesome house like yours he will prefer it to his burrow?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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We ALL wish we had a forum like this when we were starting out!

As a large adult, humidity is not a big factor for yours anymore. There is no harm in adding some tubs of water to his heated night box whenever you finish that, as it will help prevent dehydration and all those complications. Sprinklers, mud wallows misters and all that water stuff is great in the summer months. In the winter months, you've got to block of that burrow and put a heated night shelter where those trashcans currently reside.
 

Big Charlie

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Thank you for all your help and information. I appreciate it. I did always make sure he got good soaks but I am sad to think I didn't give him proper humidity growing up. Someone did not want to take care of the tortoise anymore and I jumped at the situation. I am glad I did but I wish I had known to find a forum like this ten years ago to talk about this stuff with people who had experience and such care.

And that does scare me about his burrow. Two years ago he dug it around a corner. Before it had just been straight where I could always see him. I would climb in and clean it out with a rake, but I can't anymore, I'm too scared to go any deeper than that! It's in such a great place I don't want to block it off. But I should for his safety. It's not at all close to my house (that I know of!) Maybe if I build him an awesome house like yours he will prefer it to his burrow?
I didn't have a forum like this 18 years ago when I got Charlie. Even if I had, a lot of the information would have been wrong. I raised Charlie dry and did many things wrong. I did soak him for the first year or so, and provided a pretty good diet by chance, but not what was recommended at the time, and he turned out fine.

Charlie dug his first burrow when he was about 5 and moved outside full-time. That one collapsed after 2 years. Then he dug another one that went under our neighbors fence. The neighbor couldn't see it from his side, and it wasn't disturbing any of his plants, but he saw Charlie enter it from our side and got mad. Our neighbor filled it in and installed a wall that goes 3 feet down below ground to thwart Charlie's efforts. Charlie's last burrow lasted several years. It went straight under our patio and then turned and went under our bedroom. It is normal for the burrows to turn like that. We had to cut a hole in the patio to fill it in. It went so far under our house that none of the repairmen we hired dared to go in. He hasn't had a burrow since but I have a spot picked out that would go under the lawn, if only he would take the hint. Unless you provide cooling in the house you build, it won't help him on hot summer days. Until Charlie builds a burrow, I have to make sure he has a mud hole when it is hot.
 
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I didn't have a forum like this 18 years ago when I got Charlie. Even if I had, a lot of the information would have been wrong. I raised Charlie dry and did many things wrong. I did soak him for the first year or so, and provided a pretty good diet by chance, but not what was recommended at the time, and he turned out fine.

Charlie dug his first burrow when he was about 5 and moved outside full-time. That one collapsed after 2 years. Then he dug another one that went under our neighbors fence. The neighbor couldn't see it from his side, and it wasn't disturbing any of his plants, but he saw Charlie enter it from our side and got mad. Our neighbor filled it in and installed a wall that goes 3 feet down below ground to thwart Charlie's efforts. Charlie's last burrow lasted several years. It went straight under our patio and then turned and went under our bedroom. It is normal for the burrows to turn like that. We had to cut a hole in the patio to fill it in. It went so far under our house that none of the repairmen we hired dared to go in. He hasn't had a burrow since but I have a spot picked out that would go under the lawn, if only he would take the hint. Unless you provide cooling in the house you build, it won't help him on hot summer days. Until Charlie builds a burrow, I have to make sure he has a mud hole when it is hot.
Thank you for that Charlie. A lot of things I read make me feel like I've been a bad dinosaur mom :( I thought I was doing great. I am making improvements now and it's been a trial and error experience. I am glad for this forum :) The last few years there have been more changes because he's huge, but I love it and him! This is his first and only burrow. He made it years ago but just two years ago it began to turn. Who knows how far it goes the turned way :( I didn't think far because when I put my head in there and flash the light and call him with food in my hand he comes out pretty quickly. I can push a few bricks down there about 6 feet but I can't go further than that because I am scared! I did put a brick in when he tried to make his burrow enterance go towards the neighbors yard, and that deterred him. It's completely cement/concrete at the two neighboring homes he decided to make his burrow by. And I have a small 8x4 concrete slab that he decided to make his burrow under but his hole headed straight for the lawn. I thought he went that way for the moisture? I have read that their burrows can go 3 feet down (we got that covered lol) and up to 30 feet long. That's the way his burrow was going straight to my house but the 30 feet would have been fine to me house if he had just kept it straight. These are the Days of Tortoise Lives.
 
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Thank you for that Charlie. A lot of things I read make me feel like I've been a bad dinosaur mom :( I thought I was doing great. I am making improvements now and it's been a trial and error experience. I am glad for this forum :) The last few years there have been more changes because he's huge, but I love it and him! This is his first and only burrow. He made it years ago but just two years ago it began to turn. Who knows how far it goes the turned way :( I didn't think far because when I put my head in there and flash the light and call him with food in my hand he comes out pretty quickly. I can push a few bricks down there about 6 feet but I can't go further than that because I am scared! I did put a brick in when he tried to make his burrow enterance go towards the neighbors yard, and that deterred him. It's completely cement/concrete at the two neighboring homes he decided to make his burrow by. And I have a small 8x4 concrete slab that he decided to make his burrow under but his hole headed straight for the lawn. I thought he went that way for the moisture? I have read that their burrows can go 3 feet down (we got that covered lol) and up to 30 feet long. That's the way his burrow was going straight to my house but the 30 feet would have been fine to me house if he had just kept it straight. These are the Days of Tortoise Lives.
And yes he loves his burrow in the summer. It gets hot here! But I make sure he has fresh cool water and he loves the hose. We bask a lot together.
We ALL wish we had a forum like this when we were starting out!

As a large adult, humidity is not a big factor for yours anymore. There is no harm in adding some tubs of water to his heated night box whenever you finish that, as it will help prevent dehydration and all those complications. Sprinklers, mud wallows misters and all that water stuff is great in the summer months. In the winter months, you've got to block of that burrow and put a heated night shelter where those trashcans currently reside.
That is my new project :) Thank you Tom.
 

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