Desert Tortoise Size Enclosure

SinLA

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Asking for a friend who is not online... I've read the FAQs and the history of posts, but I can't quite find a definitive recommendation, unless its right in front of me somewhere and I missed it.

For example, Russians are advised a minimum of 4 x 8'. For Desert Tortoises I see "bigger is better" but I'm not really seeing a suggested size, like "they need a minimum of A x B feet"...

Any input would be appreciated...
 

Yvonne G

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In my opinion a full grown desert tortoise does nicely in the backyard. I wouldn't put it in an 'enclosure.' If your friend has a decent sized side yard it would be easy to fence that off, plant a few shrubs and decorate it including a shelter or burrow, waterer, feeding station, etc.

It would be a mistake to keep it in the house (in my opinion). Let's say the side yard is about five or six feet wide by thirty or thirty five feet long. A bit smaller would be ok, but bigger is better.
 

OliveW

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I'd really like to know this, too. We are going to build our permeant enclosure next spring Feb/March and wanted to do an acre initially. However, with the materials we plan to use, that's just cost prohibitive.

So then we decided 1/4 acre will have to suffice. We have 8 fenced acres and he gets daily supervised walks outside his enclosure for about an hour each in the morning and evening.

Then, this past Saturday, we found out that we may be adopting another Sully that is quite large. I'll be super happy if we are able to, but she will need a separate enclosure that will take money from the first one.

Thankfully, we have no plans on ever adopting any more of them.

The one we might adopt we have known for a decade or so. Her family moved to Australia and they've recently decided to put their home here on the market. If the new owners have no wishes to have a large tortoise living in their backyard, I will gladly take her. That offer has been on the table for years, way before our current boy came along. I just really thought it would never happen.

It would be great if someone would just come out and say THIS is how big an enclosure needs to be minimally, for a DT to have a happy, fulfilling life.

I want to give them each enclosures larger than our home because they live so long, and will be there for a very long time! I also have grown children and grandchildren living on this property that will take over the care of him/them after we're gone.

We had to have that discussion before even deciding to take on a tortoise at all. My grown kids just love Tortimer so much! They never realized a tortoise could have such an amazing personality. Frankly, neither did I!
 

KarenSoCal

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In 2017 I had friends who moved out of state, and they had 2 DT's. I told them I would take one of them, knowing absolutely nothing about torts.

So I started researching, since I had about 6 weeks til I would take the tort. I was so fortunate to find this forum early on, and only followed advice given here. So somewhere there is a post recommending a 30 x 20ft enclosure, and that's what I made mine.

Chug used every sq ft of it, too. He walked his perimeter, had 2 burrows (I dug one, he dug the other), and just moved from favorite spot to favorite spot all day long.

I really miss Chug. Unfortunately I lost him during brumation in Spring of 2020. I have a Burmese Star now and love him dearly, but I still miss Chug.
 

Yvonne G

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My answer to SinLA was regarding Gopherus agazzisii not sulcata or any other species.
 

Tom

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Asking for a friend who is not online... I've read the FAQs and the history of posts, but I can't quite find a definitive recommendation, unless its right in front of me somewhere and I missed it.

For example, Russians are advised a minimum of 4 x 8'. For Desert Tortoises I see "bigger is better" but I'm not really seeing a suggested size, like "they need a minimum of A x B feet"...

Any input would be appreciated...
There are no "scientific studies" that have tested the pros and cons of different sized enclosure for all the different species. My recommendations are based on my "feelings" and upon lots of anecdotal evidence collected over decades.

4x8 feet for a Russian was my initial assertion years ago and that was in reference to indoor housing, not an outdoor enclosure.An outdoor Russian tortoise enclosure should be much larger than that. Mine were 8 x 32.

Given the size of DT, I would not be comfortable with less than 1000 sq. feet, and that would feel small and cramped to me. This would be 20x50 or 33x33 approximately. They can certainly survive in smaller quarters than that, but as Yvonne and Karen both noted, they do well in the whole yard and they will use as much space as you give them.
 

OliveW

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My answer to SinLA was regarding Gopherus agazzisii not sulcata or any other species.

Of course. :):tort:

I was not replying to your reply, just to general frustration from a newbie as to any kind of size recommendations for any of the larger tortoises.

Our temporary enclosure is 12' x24' but we only want to build the permanent one once. Newbies like numbers because we second guess everything.
 
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When I was adopting mine the SDTTS careguide said 15x15' minimum for adoption. I think mine turned out something like 18-20' x 15ish feet. Now that I have her I keep looking at it thinking, "I need more space in there/it's not big enough." I will more than likely expand mine once she goes into brumation.

If you want to build a big cinderblock burrow, and then plant it well (whether a tree a few bushes, a patch of clover or Testudo mix/Native DT seed mix etc.), suddenly it seems like there is no room at all.

I think once you look at the adult size tortoise placed in the enclosure it puts it into perspective quite a bit. It has even changed my mind about what an adult size enclosure will need to be for my Greek tortoises down the line. Thinking more 30'x30' for them, and ideally that or more for my DT too. Bigger is always better. The DTs especially have my heart, humans ruin so much, but I can provide a safe space here for them to call theirs They deserve to have a big open space as much as we can provide.
 

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