CA Desert Tortoises

Cndlou0309

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Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Pasadena CA
Hi All!
New to Tortoises. I have adopted (2) 45 yo torts.
They have always free ranged. They are free ranging in my yard.
I’d like to get a suitable shelter ready for them. I’d like them to be used to it before they actually need it in the colder months.
We live in Pasadena, CA. Nice weather for the most part. Can get below 30 on occasion during winter mos, w no snow.
Any ideas for a diy shelter?
I have chickens who sleep inside of a wooden coop w a dirt floor.
I have another chicken coop, an Eglu Omlet. It is a wire enclosure w a house in the back, which has a raised floor.
Any suggestions would be appreciated
Ty!
View attachment 274168View attachment 274169

IMG_4099.jpg
 

Tom

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First step is to separate them. Tortoises should never live in pairs. Even if they have survived together in previous years, they might not get along now in a new territory, and the chronic stress of living together might be enough to make them sick when combined with the stress of being removed from their previous territory and put into this new territory.

Then you can build a heated night box. They don't need much night heat, but it might be good to extend fall and get going earlier in spring with keeping the night temps more reasonable for them since they are above ground. Here is an example, but I'd only set the temp to 60-65, and unplug it entirely in the summer: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/double-door-night-box.129054/

There is a lot of old outdated incorrect care info for this species circulating around on the web. Yes, this is an actual desert species, but they still need water and benefit from it. The two biggest killers of DTs are the family dog and dehydration related maladies.

I typed this up for sulcatas, so less grass for a DT, but the food list is still good. I have an overabundance of spineless opuntia cactus, so if you want to drive to Santa Clarita, I'd be happy to give you a whole bunch for free. Some for planting and some for feeding out.
 

Yvonne G

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My desert tortoises are also free range. There is a big mulberry tree at one end of their yard and that's where I built their shelter - it's in deep shade in summer and I use all the leaves that fell from the tree in fall to cover the shelter in winter.

desert tortoise yard 4-19-18.jpg Desert Tortoise Shelter 4-5-14.jpg Desert Tortoise Shelter 4-5-14 b.jpg

Because I didn't want them digging a burrow inside the shelter, I first put down masonry caps to cover the floor area (rectangular stepping stones). Then I used cinderblocks to make walls. I only went two-high. The top is covered with a sheet of plywood, then palm fronds, then, in winter, all the leaves I can rake up from the yard. I block the door once they're all hibernation, and continue to cover with leaves. There is no additional heating. They cool down in the fall preparing for hibernation, and that's normal and natural. When the weather starts to cool they stop eating. All the leaves help insulate the shelter to keep them from freezing.
 

Blakem

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Hello and welcome! I am glad that you found the forum to search for this information. The cinder blocks are definitely good for building an area, and you can move them! The advice above is great. Desert tortoises are one of my other favorite species.
 

Cndlou0309

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Pasadena CA
First step is to separate them. Tortoises should never live in pairs. Even if they have survived together in previous years, they might not get along now in a new territory, and the chronic stress of living together might be enough to make them sick when combined with the stress of being removed from their previous territory and put into this new territory.

Then you can build a heated night box. They don't need much night heat, but it might be good to extend fall and get going earlier in spring with keeping the night temps more reasonable for them since they are above ground. Here is an example, but I'd only set the temp to 60-65, and unplug it entirely in the summer: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/double-door-night-box.129054/

There is a lot of old outdated incorrect care info for this species circulating around on the web. Yes, this is an actual desert species, but they still need water and benefit from it. The two biggest killers of DTs are the family dog and dehydration related maladies.

I typed this up for sulcatas, so less grass for a DT, but the food list is still good. I have an overabundance of spineless opuntia cactus, so if you want to drive to Santa Clarita, I'd be happy to give you a whole bunch for free. Some for planting and some for feeding out.

Hey Tom!

Thank you for the advice! Beautiful shelter for your guys! Unfortunately, I am not so talented... I will more likely go w the cinderblock house w plywood top.

I would love some of your cacti! My kids live in Castaic, so no problem stopping by to see you! In fact, we have 2 huge beautiful Mulberry Trees in the front yard... I’d be happy to bring you some if you like!!

Can we exchange phone numbers?

Thank you!
Cindy
 

Cndlou0309

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Pasadena CA
Hello and welcome! I am glad that you found the forum to search for this information. The cinder blocks are definitely good for building an area, and you can move them! The advice above is great. Desert tortoises are one of my other favorite species.

Hi there!
Thank you!!
Yes, I’m so happy to have found this site!!!
Toms house is amazing! I think I will be doing the cinderblock house due to my lack of carpentry skills! Lol!!
[emoji171][emoji217][emoji171]
 

Cndlou0309

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Pasadena CA
My desert tortoises are also free range. There is a big mulberry tree at one end of their yard and that's where I built their shelter - it's in deep shade in summer and I use all the leaves that fell from the tree in fall to cover the shelter in winter.

View attachment 274183 View attachment 274182 View attachment 274181

Because I didn't want them digging a burrow inside the shelter, I first put down masonry caps to cover the floor area (rectangular stepping stones). Then I used cinderblocks to make walls. I only went two-high. The top is covered with a sheet of plywood, then palm fronds, then, in winter, all the leaves I can rake up from the yard. I block the door once they're all hibernation, and continue to cover with leaves. There is no additional heating. They cool down in the fall preparing for hibernation, and that's normal and natural. When the weather starts to cool they stop eating. All the leaves help insulate the shelter to keep them from freezing.

My desert tortoises are also free range. There is a big mulberry tree at one end of their yard and that's where I built their shelter - it's in deep shade in summer and I use all the leaves that fell from the tree in fall to cover the shelter in winter.

View attachment 274183 View attachment 274182 View attachment 274181

Because I didn't want them digging a burrow inside the shelter, I first put down masonry caps to cover the floor area (rectangular stepping stones). Then I used cinderblocks to make walls. I only went two-high. The top is covered with a sheet of plywood, then palm fronds, then, in winter, all the leaves I can rake up from the yard. I block the door once they're all hibernation, and continue to cover with leaves. There is no additional heating. They cool down in the fall preparing for hibernation, and that's normal and natural. When the weather starts to cool they stop eating. All the leaves help insulate the shelter to keep them from freezing.

Hi Yvonne!
Thank you for the idea!
I am going to grab some cinderblock & get it going right away! I also have access to tons of Mulberry leaves!
Loved your pix!
My yard has a nice shady area under a fig tree, next to a fence where I think it will fit perfectly!! We don’t get too cold out here so I think it will be a great spot!
Hey, I have that Eglu Omlet house... it might work. It has insulated sides & roof. It has a floor. It has a door that can close up tight. I wonder if I could just use it... what do u think? There’s a pic of it on this thread.
[emoji171][emoji217][emoji171]
 

Maggie T

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
57
Location (City and/or State)
Los Angeles
My desert tortoises are also free range. There is a big mulberry tree at one end of their yard and that's where I built their shelter - it's in deep shade in summer and I use all the leaves that fell from the tree in fall to cover the shelter in winter.

View attachment 274183 View attachment 274182 View attachment 274181

Because I didn't want them digging a burrow inside the shelter, I first put down masonry caps to cover the floor area (rectangular stepping stones). Then I used cinderblocks to make walls. I only went two-high. The top is covered with a sheet of plywood, then palm fronds, then, in winter, all the leaves I can rake up from the yard. I block the door once they're all hibernation, and continue to cover with leaves. There is no additional heating. They cool down in the fall preparing for hibernation, and that's normal and natural. When the weather starts to cool they stop eating. All the leaves help insulate the shelter to keep them from freezing.

I love Tom’s set up but don’t have his skills. This is more doable for me. Thank you for sharing
 

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