Double Door Night Box

tag78

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The lower the temps, the lower their metabolism, the less they move and eat. Sulcatas do not hibernate, they need temps always above 80F or they will develop health issues.
Please correct me if this is wrong but I have read a few different articles saying that sulcatas can tolerate temps slightly below 50 F.
 

Tom

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Please correct me if this is wrong but I have read a few different articles saying that sulcatas can tolerate temps slightly below 50 F.
I cannot correct you. I'm certain that you've read articles that said that. While they can tolerate and sometimes survive temperatures that cold, and even colder, it is NOT good for them, and certainly not optimal. Ground temps where they come from hover around 80-85 all year. This is what their quarters should be kept at year round. I'm not interested in providing conditions for my animals that are barely survivable. I'm interested in providing conditions that are optimal. 50 is likely to make them sick and it will certainly damage the gut flora and fauna, while drastically reducing appetite and activity. None of that is beneficial in any way for a sulcata. These are tropical animals. A cold winter day in their part of the world might only get up to 88, but most days are near 100.

In short, like most of what is written for care of this species, what you read was wrong.
 

tag78

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I cannot correct you. I'm certain that you've read articles that said that. While they can tolerate and sometimes survive temperatures that cold, and even colder, it is NOT good for them, and certainly not optimal. Ground temps where they come from hover around 80-85 all year. This is what their quarters should be kept at year round. I'm not interested in providing conditions for my animals that are barely survivable. I'm interested in providing conditions that are optimal. 50 is likely to make them sick and it will certainly damage the gut flora and fauna, while drastically reducing appetite and activity. None of that is beneficial in any way for a sulcata. These are tropical animals. A cold winter day in their part of the world might only get up to 88, but most days are near 100.

In short, like most of what is written for care of this species, what you read was wrong.
That is why I go for more than one opinion - thanks.
 

tortlover73

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I make these little portals over my doors to keep rain ou on the rare occasion that we get rain here:
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Here is the inside front and side all framed up and with insulation in place. Next I run a silicone bead put the walls up and screw them to the framing all around:
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Here the sides, front and back are all sealed and buttoned up. I've added the little walled area that will keep the torts from touching the heater and you can see the removable divider in the middle. Next summer I plan to mix the males and females. When that finally happens I will probably remove the divider and let them all move back and forth between the pens as needed. This will give me the option of separating the male if he becomes too aggressive, and I can also close one door, remove the divider and make them all live on one side while I grow stuff to graze on one side or the other. Options. This box gives me lots of options.
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I hate power cords sitting out exposed. They get weathered, tripped on, and I don't want the torts to have access to them.
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Here is what I came up with for this situation. I ran the cord through this pipe into the ground and buried the remainder.
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Same thing on the side where it plugs in:
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Here it is all done and plugged in. No cord! :) :
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One more post and we will be done...
Hey @Tom i finally got my house for Koopa outside and I’m getting heat installed. Ordered a mini oil radiator heater. Have my shelf ready to install. Have the box to put the thermostat in as well. My question is which do you plug into the thermostat? The heater , fan and rhp? And then the kane pig blanket on a separate plug? Just worried about overloading the zilla 1000 thermostat.
 

Tom

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Hey @Tom i finally got my house for Koopa outside and I’m getting heat installed. Ordered a mini oil radiator heater. Have my shelf ready to install. Have the box to put the thermostat in as well. My question is which do you plug into the thermostat? The heater , fan and rhp? And then the kane pig blanket on a separate plug? Just worried about overloading the zilla 1000 thermostat.
What you have there is an either/or type situation, not both. Either the radiant mini oil heater/fan combo, OR the Kane mat/RHP combo. If you want to run all of it anyway, you'll need a splitter of some sort since your thermostat won't have that many receptacles, and you should still be under the 1000 watt limit. Most mini heaters are 400-600 watts. The highest I've seen and used was 700 watts. The Kane mat should be 80 watts and the RHP 78 watts. The computer fan will use very little power.

If you do want to run all of it, I would do it on two separate thermostats for redundant safety. If one thermostat or heating element fails, the other will literally save your tortoise's life.
 

tortlover73

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What you have there is an either/or type situation, not both. Either the radiant mini oil heater/fan combo, OR the Kane mat/RHP combo. If you want to run all of it anyway, you'll need a splitter of some sort since your thermostat won't have that many receptacles, and you should still be under the 1000 watt limit. Most mini heaters are 400-600 watts. The highest I've seen and used was 700 watts. The Kane mat should be 80 watts and the RHP 78 watts. The computer fan will use very little power.

If you do want to run all of it, I would do it on two separate thermostats for redundant safety. If one thermostat or heating element fails, the other will literally save your tortoise's life.
Thanks @Tom so far the rhp and Kane are doing great on their own and the box stays 80 overnight even when the temps are 50 outside. I’ll cross the bridge of colder temps when I get there. Got the oil filled radiator yesterday and a second reptile thermostat from Amazon so I have what I need. I’m going to add humidity too as Denver is only in the 20s. I’ve kept her from pyramiding by providing the humidity as you taught in your raising a hatching article. You’ve been instrumental for the great health of my Koopa and I’m so grateful.
 

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tortlover73

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What you have there is an either/or type situation, not both. Either the radiant mini oil heater/fan combo, OR the Kane mat/RHP combo. If you want to run all of it anyway, you'll need a splitter of some sort since your thermostat won't have that many receptacles, and you should still be under the 1000 watt limit. Most mini heaters are 400-600 watts. The highest I've seen and used was 700 watts. The Kane mat should be 80 watts and the RHP 78 watts. The computer fan will use very little power.

If you do want to run all of it, I would do it on two separate thermostats for redundant safety. If one thermostat or heating element fails, the other will literally save your tortoise's life.
What you have there is an either/or type situation, not both. Either the radiant mini oil heater/fan combo, OR the Kane mat/RHP combo. If you want to run all of it anyway, you'll need a splitter of some sort since your thermostat won't have that many receptacles, and you should still be under the 1000 watt limit. Most mini heaters are 400-600 watts. The highest I've seen and used was 700 watts. The Kane mat should be 80 watts and the RHP 78 watts. The computer fan will use very little power.

If you do want to run all of it, I would do it on two separate thermostats for redundant safety. If one thermostat or heating element fails, the other will literally save your tortoise's life.
I’m Also having problems finding the radiant heat panels. I seem to be able to find the big one or the small 40 one. Do you know where else I can look
 

Tom

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Hi, do you use radiant heat panels in addition to an oil filled heater for these night boxes?
I use a Kane mat/RHP combo in the 4x4 boxes, and I use the mini radiant oil heaters in the 4x8 foot boxes.
 
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As the years have gone by and I build more of these boxes, I learn more and more each time. This one is the latest and I incorporated everything I've learned over the years. I also tried to take lots of pics so I can explain in more detail some of what is going on. It will take multiple posts to show all the pics.

This box will house my two 16 inch 2010 South African Leopard tortoise males. They had to be separated for aggression years ago and they cannot live together. Their enclosures are side by side and share a common wall, so this box will straddle the dividing line. Each tortoise will have its own 4x4' section with a removable divider in the middle, but I only have to run one heater.

I start by screwing the 2x4s that make the lip that keeps rain out to the top. The top is a full, uncut, 4x8' sheet of thin plywood. I started using thinner plywood because the 1.5" rigid foam insulation inside keeps the heat in and thinner plywood weighs less. Accordingly, since I have to lift the top open to clean, I want things as light as possible, so I make the frame inside the lid out of 2x2s to save weight on the lid. I use 2x3s and 2x4 everywhere else.

Here is the floor. I make it so that it fits inside the lid. I end up having to cut some off of the full 4x8' sheet of plywood to allow room for the top to fit over the bottom and keep out the rain. You can see that I have framed around the outside and middle. The insulation fits inside this frame and the floor rests on top of this framing so the weight of the tortoises doesn't squash my foam insulation. You can see the completed lid in the background. Also notice the cut outs for the doors.
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Here is the insulation cut to size:
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And dropped into place:
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I've installed the floor on top of the insulation and frame here. I seal all the way around the frame and then again between the floor and frame with plain silicone sealant:
View attachment 150097


Next I attach the sides and back and begin framing:
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Then I put the front on.
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Inside view of the front, not all framed yet. I will frame the inside, cut and fit insulation, run a bead of silicone all the way around, and then put the inside plywood wall on.:
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Too many pics for one post, so on to the next...
Before i got mine everything i read said to let them have a bunker in the ground so that is what i did with my first. With concrete walls to stabilize the sides and support the roof we put 2x6s across the top with foam board insulation then tarp then corrugated metal roofing and lots of dirt. With a heat lamp he's staying nicely warm. It's there a reason it would be better to have an above ground box for him? (Just trying to figure out the best housing options although atm i don't have the resources to change things up)
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Maybe an over-ground nightbox is just easier to build than a full fledged insulated concrete bunker. Especially, when you need more than one or two.

Night boxes should simulate a burrow for sulcatas - and "bunker" fits just fine if you can keep the right temperatures inside. A risk of flooding is another thing to consider.
 

SinLA

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Before i got mine everything i read said to let them have a bunker in the ground so that is what i did with my first. With concrete walls to stabilize the sides and support the roof we put 2x6s across the top with foam board insulation then tarp then corrugated metal roofing and lots of dirt. With a heat lamp he's staying nicely warm. It's there a reason it would be better to have an above ground box for him? (Just trying to figure out the best housing options although atm i don't have the resources to change things up)

Underground you need to worry about flooding...
 

Maggie3fan

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Maybe an over-ground nightbox is just easier to build than a full fledged insulated concrete bunker. Especially, when you need more than one or two.

Night boxes should simulate a burrow for sulcatas - and "bunker" fits just fine if you can keep the right temperatures inside. A risk of flooding is another thing to consider.
I keep large tortoises in there...I used to have a large 100+pounds Sulcata named Bob. He was a very different tortoise...he was intelligent, easy to train and he lived in the shed I posted earlier. I feel very lucky that the Sulcatas I have kept would get in a corner and dig and dig then after they adjust the 'blanket' in the bare corner they go to sleep. I have kept more than a few Sulcata and none ever dug in an outside pen...they dig at the plywood corner...their burrow...lol
 

Tom

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Before i got mine everything i read said to let them have a bunker in the ground so that is what i did with my first. With concrete walls to stabilize the sides and support the roof we put 2x6s across the top with foam board insulation then tarp then corrugated metal roofing and lots of dirt. With a heat lamp he's staying nicely warm. It's there a reason it would be better to have an above ground box for him? (Just trying to figure out the best housing options although atm i don't have the resources to change things up)
I dabbled with underground shelters a bunch. Has some successes and some failures. My main one was 4x4x2 feet tall and that was buried in a 3 foot deep hole. There was an eight foot long sloped and covered entrance tunnel, and an access hatch with two insulated doors/covers. Here are some of the high points of what I learned:
1. I built them very carefully to prevent flooding. Entrances facing downhill and with covers to keep rain out. I had one that lasted seven years, but it eventually flooded and then rotted and caved in within the next year. It was great for those first seven years though. If I didi it again, I would build it with expanded PVC sheets for the walls.
2. I first built it with no floor so the sulcatas could be on natural earth down in their "burrow". Then my sulcatas did what sulcatas do and started digging to China. Filled the entire box and blocked the entrance with dirt from the subterranean tunnel. Digging that out and retro fitting in a plywood floor through the small access hatch was not a fun day
3. The earth is a great insulator when it is hot outside. The earth is also a terrible heat sink, and when the ground wants to be 50 degrees in winter, it was not cheap or easy to keep it 80 underground. It took bout 300 watts of CHEs, and RHPs running all the time to keep it 80ish. The ground just sucked the heat right out of it, even with 3/4 inch plywood sides, top, and bottom.
4. Its much easier and much less problematic to just make it above ground. If the box is sealed and insulated, it works just as well as burying it in the ground.
 

Tom

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I have a question, would 1 inch insulation foam thickness work or would it be too thin?
Never tried it. I frame my boxes with flat 2x4s, so 1.5 inch rigid foam made the most sense. Using 1 inch insulation would leave an air gap.

1.5 rigid foam keeps my box temps around 80 when the nights are dropping into the low 30s in winter. Its also the caulking, weather stripping around the top where it meets the lid, and the correct heating devices.

I also like efficiency since electricity isn't cheap here. With enough heat inside, a cardboard house would stay warm enough. I try to make it so my heaters don't have to run all that much.

The only way to answer your question would be to build it and stick a thermometer in it.
 

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