Heated night boxes and deworming animals kept outdoors

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I ask this here, rather than under the enclosure heading, because I believe some tortoises are more habitual about seeking hides and heat sources than others and it’s important for me to know about how Forstens and Elongateds behave specifically.

Lots of people incorporated heated hides and or lock boxes for their tortoises at night.
In my case, I will only need to heat them occasionally during 3 months of the year as adults and at night for the babies. From my reading, these tortoises like it warm, but are tolerant of temps briefly down to 45F and easily handle temps in 60F as adults. Our nights average in the 40sF, here in zone 10a, for about 2 months of the year.

My question is whether or not one should rely on the tortoise to but itself to bed, in its heated hide, in an outdoor enclosure. I suppose one could observe their animal and see if its habit is to always return to the hide. Also, with this species being active towards the later hours and cooler temps, might they cool off too soon to have the energy to reach the safe/warm area, in a larger enclosure?

My plan is to plant a palm or other plant on a mound bury beneath the root ball, but elevated above natural ground level for drainage, a plastic storage chest. I was going to place a flap the tortoise can come and go from, line it with Long Fibered Sphagnum moss, and install a ceramic heat emitter on a thermostat, in the hide.

I need to make plans for whether I need to be present and lock them up at night or if they will instinctively seek the warmth. The enclosure will already have a lid, so predators aren’t a concern at night.

I watched some videos where some keeper utilize a smaller enclosure within the larger one, to reduce the pen size in the colder seasons, to facilitate the tortoises making it to warmth, before they get too cool. I am brainstorming whether it would be most ideal to leave them in place for short, Florida Winters, or plan on alternate winter housing, at least until they are old enough to handle the cooler nights better.
I’m sure the tortoises are happiest with as few changes to their enclosures and living space as possible, so I’m leaning on leaving them out in the pens and either securing them each night by hand or becoming confident the tortoises do so on their own and double checking on the nights of high concern.

I wonder if any of you deworm your outdoor tortoises routinely and if there are particularly worrisome parasites or infections that may be present in Florida or in tortoises in general. I’m familiar with fecal testing and have my own scope and plenty of experience deworming chameleons, but I’m concerned about the snails, slugs, worms, and inevitable potentially parasite filled treats they will inevitably consume outdoors.
I can and will monitor their stools and check them under the scope, but some parasites don’t shed eggs in large numbers at all times and can go unnoticed. In my opinion, treating for roundworms and pinworms isn’t needed in healthy, established animals, but hook worms, flukes, and more malignant parasites should be treated and monitored for frequently. What schedules and products do you favor for deworming and stool analysis?


Thank you all so far for the guidance I’ve received to far. It’s really getting me excited and well prepared for a rewarding keeping experience.
 

wellington

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Tortoise do need night boxes and heated for those cold days and nights. I'm not sure of the temps you say they can tolerate, but I'm guessing here that you found a bad tortoise info source. Russians at 45 degrees will brumate. If they are a brumating species then that's what they will likely start to do and that should not be left up to them
They should be put in every night or at least checked that they went in and then shut in for the night. Just plastic flaps will not keep the unwanted out.
As for deworming, its not necessary to treat any animal just because. It's a poison, so if not needed don't do it.
I have had my leopards since 2011 and they have never seen a vet.
 
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Tortoise do need night boxes and heated for those cold days and nights. I'm not sure of the temps you say they can tolerate, but I'm guessing here that you found a bad tortoise info source. Russians at 45 degrees will brumate. If they are a brumating species then that's what they will likely start to do and that should not be left up to them
They should be put in every night or at least checked that they went in and then shut in for the night. Just plastic flaps will not keep the unwanted out.
As for deworming, its not necessary to treat any animal just because. It's a poison, so if not needed don't do it.
I have had my leopards since 2011 and they have never seen a vet.
The sources online, which admittedly are likely repeated here-say indicate the tortoises can endure the mid 40sF, without ill effect, perhaps because the duration is short and the cold won’t reach them in their hide. Their natural habitat doesn’t drop below about 65F and anything lower is cause for additional heating.

I’m not planning on leaving any tortoises outside to endure anything. I am planning on keeping them cozy all year round. These do not brumate.

Regarding plastic flaps not keeping the unwanted out, I will say, my experience has been that even window screen blocks 50% of the wind and stops light frost from settling on plants ( keep lots of sensitive things on my lanai under the screen pool enclosure ), so a buried box, under oak trees, against hedges, and surrounded by the enclosure walls would receive much less influence from any of our brief cold snaps than you may think. Obviously, I will have to make sure this plan works as intended, before relying on it.
I would love to imagine them using a self closing pet door, but I think the overlapping plastic flaps, like on freezer doors will be the most practical option for closing off the space but allowing them in and out. Temps are pretty quick to warm up and since they like dusk and dawn, I’d not want to keep them locked in any longer than needed.
 

wellington

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The unwanted I was talking about was not the cold or weather, but wildlife.
Sources online are not likely to be repeated here. Just be sure you understand that. The majority of the info online is wrong, outdated and can be dangerous.
If their natural habitat doesn't go below 65 then letting them endure less then that, specially at night, wouldn't be good.
Most tortoises have to be put into their hide at first for the first few nights or so. Then they usually catch on and will do it themselves. However, there are always some, that will follow the routine and then out of the blue, for no reason, will rebel and not go into the hide. This usually doesn't last long. However, this is why they should be checked every night to be sure they went in and are put in if they didn't. The locking them in is the safest for them. When they are sleeping is likely when varmits can injure or kill them. This also keeps them in their warm spot all night, Incase they did wake and wanted to wander outside.
My tortoises all go in by 7 p.m. so that's when I go lock them up.
You don't have to shorten their time outside. Once they learned to put themselves into the hide, you will learn what their normal time is to do so and then you can lock them in.
Of course you can trust the flaps will keep varmits out. However if they don't, the tortoise pays for the mistake.
 

Tom

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I ask this here, rather than under the enclosure heading, because I believe some tortoises are more habitual about seeking hides and heat sources than others and it’s important for me to know about how Forstens and Elongateds behave specifically.

Lots of people incorporated heated hides and or lock boxes for their tortoises at night.
In my case, I will only need to heat them occasionally during 3 months of the year as adults and at night for the babies. From my reading, these tortoises like it warm, but are tolerant of temps briefly down to 45F and easily handle temps in 60F as adults. Our nights average in the 40sF, here in zone 10a, for about 2 months of the year.

My question is whether or not one should rely on the tortoise to but itself to bed, in its heated hide, in an outdoor enclosure. I suppose one could observe their animal and see if its habit is to always return to the hide. Also, with this species being active towards the later hours and cooler temps, might they cool off too soon to have the energy to reach the safe/warm area, in a larger enclosure?

My plan is to plant a palm or other plant on a mound bury beneath the root ball, but elevated above natural ground level for drainage, a plastic storage chest. I was going to place a flap the tortoise can come and go from, line it with Long Fibered Sphagnum moss, and install a ceramic heat emitter on a thermostat, in the hide.

I need to make plans for whether I need to be present and lock them up at night or if they will instinctively seek the warmth. The enclosure will already have a lid, so predators aren’t a concern at night.

I watched some videos where some keeper utilize a smaller enclosure within the larger one, to reduce the pen size in the colder seasons, to facilitate the tortoises making it to warmth, before they get too cool. I am brainstorming whether it would be most ideal to leave them in place for short, Florida Winters, or plan on alternate winter housing, at least until they are old enough to handle the cooler nights better.
I’m sure the tortoises are happiest with as few changes to their enclosures and living space as possible, so I’m leaning on leaving them out in the pens and either securing them each night by hand or becoming confident the tortoises do so on their own and double checking on the nights of high concern.

I wonder if any of you deworm your outdoor tortoises routinely and if there are particularly worrisome parasites or infections that may be present in Florida or in tortoises in general. I’m familiar with fecal testing and have my own scope and plenty of experience deworming chameleons, but I’m concerned about the snails, slugs, worms, and inevitable potentially parasite filled treats they will inevitably consume outdoors.
I can and will monitor their stools and check them under the scope, but some parasites don’t shed eggs in large numbers at all times and can go unnoticed. In my opinion, treating for roundworms and pinworms isn’t needed in healthy, established animals, but hook worms, flukes, and more malignant parasites should be treated and monitored for frequently. What schedules and products do you favor for deworming and stool analysis?


Thank you all so far for the guidance I’ve received to far. It’s really getting me excited and well prepared for a rewarding keeping experience.
Optimal vs. survivable. This is often the debate had about reptile care. I'm sure you've experienced this with your other reptiles. I have no doubt they can survive colder temperatures. My question is: Are those low temperatures "good" for them? We hear this all the time with sulcatas. "My sulcata lives outside with no heat and he's fine..." I've kept them both ways, and I can tell you unequivocally, tropical species do MUCH better when kept warmer at night. It affects their GI flora and fauna, which is not outwardly noticeable the next day, but takes a toll one the long term.

If I were to acquire any of the Testudo species, they would be in a night box set to 80 degrees every night. In your climate, the thermostat would keep the heat off most of every year, but it will keep the tortoises healthy and safe to be in there year round over night. My insulated boxes also serve as a cool retreat on hot summer days. On 100 degree days, the inside of their boxes will only climb into the high 80s. As Wellington explained, sometimes for a variety of reasons, they choose not to put themselves away at night. I go around and count all of my tortoises every single night, make sure they are in their boxes, and latch them in. Anybody who is not in their box gets put in their box.This keeps them in the correct temperature for the species, but also protects them from ants, rodents, raccoons, mosquitos and any other nocturnal predators or pests. On cold winter mornings, I leave them locked in until the sun is up and things have warmed a bit. On hot summer days, I open the boxes first thing in the morning for them. The point is: Don't leave it up to the tortoise. Their instincts don't serve them well in a small artificial pen in a foreign land.

Long fibered moss should never be used with any tortoise. They all eat it and it can cause impaction. So many sources say to use it, so I kept trying and trying. Every single time, my tortoises would eventually try to eat it, so I learned to not use it in spite of what "they" all kept saying. That was many years ago, and it was one of the first instances that taught me how wrong most of the "conventional wisdom" is.

It sounds like you already understand the worming thing perfectly. I used to run annual fecals to make sure all was good. Year after year there was never any issue, so I stopped doing it. I would not do a fecal unless there was a problem. I would not worm a tortoise unless there was a high level of infestation and symptoms present.
 
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Sounds like we are agreement. Sounds like planning on shutting them in at night and at least checking in to make sure they go to the hide is important.

I want to restate that I don’t plan to let the tortoises get any colder than they should and only reference online information and lowest tolerated temps as the baseline. The fact is, online is about the only place to find information on this species and even here, on a more expert forum, we have lots of keepers, but relatively few working with this genus. That’s why I come here….to cross reference and see where opinions differ.
Its a comfort that the tortoises are unlikely to be harmed by a cold event, in case of any number of reasons, but not because I expect to keep them or expose them to the lowest tolerances of their accurate or inaccurate preference, but it is a reference point.

I also want to restate that the heated hides I have planned would be enclosed within a predator proof enclosure, with a secured lid. Varmits would not be an issue in the hide, but locking them in seems best to ensure they stay in the needed warmth.

Good to know that LFS seems to be oddly attractive and ingested by torts. I guess I assumed they’d be less likely to eat it, if it were confined to the darkness of the hide.
I’m sure you tried it for the same reasons I wanted to…..humidty and moisture retention, without being soaked, and anti microbial. I have more live oak leaves then I know what to do with. Perhaps these would be a good substitute for moss.
 

Tom

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Sounds like we are agreement. Sounds like planning on shutting them in at night and at least checking in to make sure they go to the hide is important.

I want to restate that I don’t plan to let the tortoises get any colder than they should and only reference online information and lowest tolerated temps as the baseline. The fact is, online is about the only place to find information on this species and even here, on a more expert forum, we have lots of keepers, but relatively few working with this genus. That’s why I come here….to cross reference and see where opinions differ.
Its a comfort that the tortoises are unlikely to be harmed by a cold event, in case of any number of reasons, but not because I expect to keep them or expose them to the lowest tolerances of their accurate or inaccurate preference, but it is a reference point.

I also want to restate that the heated hides I have planned would be enclosed within a predator proof enclosure, with a secured lid. Varmits would not be an issue in the hide, but locking them in seems best to ensure they stay in the needed warmth.

Good to know that LFS seems to be oddly attractive and ingested by torts. I guess I assumed they’d be less likely to eat it, if it were confined to the darkness of the hide.
I’m sure you tried it for the same reasons I wanted to…..humidty and moisture retention, without being soaked, and anti microbial. I have more live oak leaves then I know what to do with. Perhaps these would be a good substitute for moss.
I have never tried oak leaves with tortoises. I used to use them with some of my roach species.
 
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I have never tried oak leaves with tortoises. I used to use them with some of my roach species.
I used to raise roaches! I had like 13 species at one point in time. I don’t have interest in dealing with insectivorous diets with my present responsibilities and Florida has made keeping many roach species illegal. If I couldn’t grow so much forage year round, tortoises wouldn’t be for me either. Having the ability to have outdoor pens or giant, misted, planted, enclosures in a basement really is the only way I like to keep arboreal and larger terrestrial herps. If I kept something to feed insects to again, it would be arachnids. I love the creepy crawly side of life.
 

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Tom

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I used to raise roaches! I had like 13 species at one point in time. I don’t have interest in dealing with insectivorous diets with my present responsibilities and Florida has made keeping many roach species illegal. If I couldn’t grow so much forage year round, tortoises wouldn’t be for me either. Having the ability to have outdoor pens or giant, misted, planted, enclosures in a basement really is the only way I like to keep arboreal and larger terrestrial herps. If I kept something to feed insects to again, it would be arachnids. I love the creepy crawly side of life.
A lot of us here share common interests. I keep about 2 dozen tarantulas. I kept chameleons years ago, but I too don't have the time to dedicate to them. I keep simple easy species. Prehensile tail skinks, blue tongue skinks, snakes, and my tortoises.

At one time I was up to 18 species of roaches in 44 bins. I made a shelf all the way around my reptile room. I kept most of the Blaberus, and lots of others that interested me. I ended up giving most of them away to other roach keepers after a few years. It became a lot of work and time to maintain them all. I still have a colony of hissers that were wild caught and started with three individuals purchased at the San Diego reptile show in 1992.

A few years back my mother started coming to the ranch and helping me with all the tortoise chores. She was amazed at how "self-contained" everything was in that I grew most of their food for them right there in their enclosures or near by. I use their soaking water to water their mulberry trees and cactus stands. Leftover tortoise food was fed to the roaches. Everything is set up for maximum efficiency and ease of care.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Southwest Florida
A lot of us here share common interests. I keep about 2 dozen tarantulas. I kept chameleons years ago, but I too don't have the time to dedicate to them. I keep simple easy species. Prehensile tail skinks, blue tongue skinks, snakes, and my tortoises.

At one time I was up to 18 species of roaches in 44 bins. I made a shelf all the way around my reptile room. I kept most of the Blaberus, and lots of others that interested me. I ended up giving most of them away to other roach keepers after a few years. It became a lot of work and time to maintain them all. I still have a colony of hissers that were wild caught and started with three individuals purchased at the San Diego reptile show in 1992.

A few years back my mother started coming to the ranch and helping me with all the tortoise chores. She was amazed at how "self-contained" everything was in that I grew most of their food for them right there in their enclosures or near by. I use their soaking water to water their mulberry trees and cactus stands. Leftover tortoise food was fed to the roaches. Everything is set up for maximum efficiency and ease of care.
We DO have a lot in common! I used to spend like $300 every 3 months to make roach chow to feed the insects, which would feed the chameleons. I kept arachnids and chameleons about 20 years apart, but twice in my life. The first time, I had around 30 tarantulas, the second time I had over 150 scorpions, spiders, and other arachnids.
Chameleons and insects are a lot of work. It all depends on where you live and your resources. Outdoor keeping is game changing and keeping chameleons would be much easier, except for montane species, but I’m moving more towards plants, aquariums, and of course tortoises…..relaxing, slow paced, set it up right and enjoy it, sort of stuff. I’m over raising insects in the house. Lol

I did enjoy all the roaches. I also kept mostly Blaberus. I loved the Balberis gigantea and how the babies look like trilobites. I like orange heads most as feeders. Halloween hissers as a second. They just seemed to offer more “meat” to shell than the others. The roaches were their own hobby in and of themselves.
 
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