Cold weather & Sulcata: inside or out and general Newbie questions

emdubz

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So, I'm a wannabe tortoise owner. I've been a wannabe for a few years. It all started when I met my friend's Leopard tortoise about 10 years ago.

I live in Northern Illinois, and I've never had a tortoise. I am well versed in the world of dogs, cats, rodents, etc., but this is my first foray into reptiles. And I would like to get a large one (leopard or sulcata) - because... well, they just fascinate me.

I am a huge fan of reading everything I can possibly find, and asking questions - and I've read a number of forum posts on cold weather housing for a sulcata from owners who already have them. In my case, I'm still researching - and I want to find the best "fit" for our family.

We have a good-sized backyard, about half an acre fully fenced. We have a good sized basement too, and are quite willing to build an inside pen for the winter. I've read 100 square feet is enough for either variety, but bigger is not an issue, either if that is recommended.

I've also read that sulcatas have a much higher cold weather tolerance, and leaving them outside for as long as possible is best. I've seen some cool designs for nighthouses, as well - which I know will be necessary for any variety of tortoise, even in good weather.

So for those with experience - how do sulcatas handle the cold? Would an inside pen be better than outside for the worst months or the entire winter? Would it be better to not even get one of the bigger tortoises as our first (though... I don't plan on adding a second, no matter the size, pretty much ever).

And lastly, is getting a baby better than rescue and adopting an adult? My husband and I adopt "old" in general. The most recent dog we adopted just a few months ago is almost 11. I'd prefer to NOT start with a baby. And we found a beautiful adult sulcata available for adoption.

Thanks for any help anyone can give. I really am open to ANY feedback - good or bad. :) If you think we'd be a crappy family - we seriously will listen to that as well. I just want to make a truly informed decision!
 

wellington

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An adult sulcata will be hard to get up from a basement. If I were you, which I did for my leopards, build a large insulated heated shed for winter months and let him go out on the sunny nicer days if he wants.
 

Big Charlie

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Keep in mind that sulcatas don't always do what is best for them. Even if you provide a heated outdoor shed, you need to make sure they use it. My sulcata has a heated night box he only uses during the winter. Sometimes he will forget to come back to it on a cold night and just huddle wherever he is. That might be okay in California most of the time, but could be a death sentence where you are. Moving a 100 pound cold tortoise is not easy.

And you are right, they are fascinating! I've had Charlie for 18 years and it doesn't get old. I still feel like I'm looking at a dinosaur.
 

emdubz

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I've thought about the whole "moving up and downstairs", and thought I might be able to resolve that by using a pet stretcher. We have a 190 pound special needs Great Dane - so we need to get one anyways! But it's true - it might not be the easiest thing to continue doing when we're 70.

Do you think a box like the one Tom detailed in this post (best night box design ever http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/) be sufficient for winter? We can't put up a shed - we are building a 3-car garage, and are only allowed one external building. Meanwhile, the fence is 6 foot high, so we could build one that high. ;) And my hubby likes building things!
 

Big Charlie

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I've thought about the whole "moving up and downstairs", and thought I might be able to resolve that by using a pet stretcher. We have a 190 pound special needs Great Dane - so we need to get one anyways! But it's true - it might not be the easiest thing to continue doing when we're 70.

Do you think a box like the one Tom detailed in this post (best night box design ever http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/) be sufficient for winter? We can't put up a shed - we are building a 3-car garage, and are only allowed one external building. Meanwhile, the fence is 6 foot high, so we could build one that high. ;) And my hubby likes building things!
The height wouldn't help. You would have to heat a larger area, the heat would rise and your tortoise would be less than a foot tall. However, you might want it tall so you can spend some time inside with him.

I have a night box like Tom's. I think that type is better for people in mild climates where the weather is good enough that the tortoise can come out nearly every day. Most people in cooler climates like to have a larger shed so the tortoise can move around a bit since he will probably have to spend a lot of time trapped in there. My night box is only big enough for my tortoise to park and turn around so he can come back out.
 

Jodie

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I am in Spokane WA. I bring my leopards in for winter, but my Sulcata stays outside. I use a modified greenhouse. We insulated the bottom 3 feet. It has a lid that opens up most of it. This gives me a smaller space to heat, the sun can help sometimes, but I can still get into it easily.
Sully will go out and walk around on very cold days, even in the snow, for short periods of time. If you can't build something at least 50 square feet outside, I would do the basement enclosure. They are trapped most of the winter inside.
Here are pics of my greenhouse and the bedroom enclosure for my leopards.
0627171815.jpg 0627171814.jpg 1231161411.jpg
 

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