Help! My Russian laid eggs!

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
I saw my girl tortoise (15ish y/o) yesterday morning before leaving for work and everything seemed normal. Then my partner calls me that evening saying she laid 4 eggs! No one was present while she was laying - they were just there when he got home. I had no idea she was pregnant at all! There is a male present (8ish y/o) and they have been in contact with each other. I was keeping them in the same enclosure til I noticed the aggression and learned better (this is my first year owning tortoises so I’m trying my best).

I’ve been madly googling (how I ended up here) trying to figure out what to do til my incubator arrives. I ordered the ZooMed Reptibator and the suggested incubation substrate. I will buy an additional hygrometer and thermometer as suggested in other incubation threads here.

This is what I’ve managed to do for the eggs so far. Trying to keep the humidity levels up but I have this open top tank situation (again, working on improving their habitat as I learn) so suggestions on what to do in the meantime for the eggs are appreciated. The bowls of water, baking sheet over the top to keep moisture inside the enclosure, and freshly re-dampened enclosure substrate are what I’ve managed so far.

My partner was the one that found the eggs and did not know about not rotating them but since they were less than 24 hours old at that point, I’m hoping they’ll be okay. According the the previous caretaker, she had one clutch prior to this but it was unviable (which I hear can be common?) so I’m thinking/hoping this second batch actually has a good chance of hatching.

Both tortoises have been separated from the eggs.

Should I be on the look out for more eggs? I read somewhere that she might produce additional clutches this season, even if no more mating occurs.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated. I’m trying my best to do this right!

IMG_0338.jpeg
 

DoubleD1996!

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2021
Messages
1,315
Location (City and/or State)
Memphis
I saw my girl tortoise (15ish y/o) yesterday morning before leaving for work and everything seemed normal. Then my partner calls me that evening saying she laid 4 eggs! No one was present while she was laying - they were just there when he got home. I had no idea she was pregnant at all! There is a male present (8ish y/o) and they have been in contact with each other. I was keeping them in the same enclosure til I noticed the aggression and learned better (this is my first year owning tortoises so I’m trying my best).

I’ve been madly googling (how I ended up here) trying to figure out what to do til my incubator arrives. I ordered the ZooMed Reptibator and the suggested incubation substrate. I will buy an additional hygrometer and thermometer as suggested in other incubation threads here.

This is what I’ve managed to do for the eggs so far. Trying to keep the humidity levels up but I have this open top tank situation (again, working on improving their habitat as I learn) so suggestions on what to do in the meantime for the eggs are appreciated. The bowls of water, baking sheet over the top to keep moisture inside the enclosure, and freshly re-dampened enclosure substrate are what I’ve managed so far.

My partner was the one that found the eggs and did not know about not rotating them but since they were less than 24 hours old at that point, I’m hoping they’ll be okay. According the the previous caretaker, she had one clutch prior to this but it was unviable (which I hear can be common?) so I’m thinking/hoping this second batch actually has a good chance of hatching.

Both tortoises have been separated from the eggs.

Should I be on the look out for more eggs? I read somewhere that she might produce additional clutches this season, even if no more mating occurs.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated. I’m trying my best to do this right!

View attachment 366988
Tortoises lay eggs seasonally. I recommend taking either some vermiculite, damping it to the point you can make a ball out of it, but when you squeeze there is no water.

Put the vermiculite or some of the substrate in the tank in a deli container, place the eggs embryo side up and incubate them. Some people have done it in a closet.

To see the embryo you could take the eggs in a dark room and look for a red dot with a flash light.Sometimes it takes a while for it to appear so incubate the eggs regardless if you see it or not.

Hope this helps.
 

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
Tortoises lay eggs seasonally. I recommend taking either some vermiculite, damping it to the point you can make a ball out of it, but when you squeeze there is no water.

Put the vermiculite or some of the substrate in the tank in a deli container, place the eggs embryo side up and incubate them. Some people have done it in a closet.

To see the embryo you could take the eggs in a dark room and look for a red dot with a flash light.Sometimes it takes a while for it to appear so incubate the eggs regardless if you see it or not.

Hope this helps.
Thank you for the reply.

Am I correct in thinking that the embryo adheres to the side of the egg after a couple days? How do tortoises do this in the wild? There is no way the mama tortoise just pops them out magically right side up.

will try the dark room check and vermiculite when I get home. Incubator is supposed to arrive on Friday!

It also sounds like humidity is more important than temperature at present. I read Tom’s big post on incubation but it’s always hard to know if you’re doing it right, especially if it’s the first time 😩
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I saw my girl tortoise (15ish y/o) yesterday morning before leaving for work and everything seemed normal. Then my partner calls me that evening saying she laid 4 eggs! No one was present while she was laying - they were just there when he got home. I had no idea she was pregnant at all! There is a male present (8ish y/o) and they have been in contact with each other. I was keeping them in the same enclosure til I noticed the aggression and learned better (this is my first year owning tortoises so I’m trying my best).

I’ve been madly googling (how I ended up here) trying to figure out what to do til my incubator arrives. I ordered the ZooMed Reptibator and the suggested incubation substrate. I will buy an additional hygrometer and thermometer as suggested in other incubation threads here.

This is what I’ve managed to do for the eggs so far. Trying to keep the humidity levels up but I have this open top tank situation (again, working on improving their habitat as I learn) so suggestions on what to do in the meantime for the eggs are appreciated. The bowls of water, baking sheet over the top to keep moisture inside the enclosure, and freshly re-dampened enclosure substrate are what I’ve managed so far.

My partner was the one that found the eggs and did not know about not rotating them but since they were less than 24 hours old at that point, I’m hoping they’ll be okay. According the the previous caretaker, she had one clutch prior to this but it was unviable (which I hear can be common?) so I’m thinking/hoping this second batch actually has a good chance of hatching.

Both tortoises have been separated from the eggs.

Should I be on the look out for more eggs? I read somewhere that she might produce additional clutches this season, even if no more mating occurs.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated. I’m trying my best to do this right!

View attachment 366988
Do NOT put Russian eggs in damp substrate. They will pop. Use dry vermiculite and keep humidity high in the incubation chamber. This is different than any other species.


The eggs will be totally fine at room temp until you get your incubator and take a couple of days to get it all set up and stabilized.
 

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
Do NOT put Russian eggs in damp substrate. They will pop. Use dry vermiculite and keep humidity high in the incubation chamber. This is different than any other species.


The eggs will be totally fine at room temp until you get your incubator and take a couple of days to get it all set up and stabilized.
Okay, that’s the message I got from reading your article. Thank you for clarifying and confirming.
 

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
The eggs are officially 3 days old now and after candling, the only egg I have questions about is the first one. Does it look like it needs to be flipped?

I included photos of the other 3 for comparison.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_0352.jpeg
    IMG_0352.jpeg
    1.8 MB · Views: 2
  • IMG_0349.jpeg
    IMG_0349.jpeg
    1.4 MB · Views: 2
  • IMG_0350.jpeg
    IMG_0350.jpeg
    1.6 MB · Views: 1
  • IMG_0351.jpeg
    IMG_0351.jpeg
    1.7 MB · Views: 3

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
The eggs are officially 3 days old now and after candling, the only egg I have questions about is the first one. Does it look like it needs to be flipped?

I included photos of the other 3 for comparison.
Why are they standing up like that? Is that how you found them in the nest? They looked like they were laying flat in your previous pictures and you mentioned knowing not to rotate them...

What is the yellow stuff in the first picture? The media?
 

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
Why are they standing up like that? Is that how you found them in the nest? They looked like they were laying flat in your previous pictures and you mentioned knowing not to rotate them...

What is the yellow stuff in the first picture? The media?
They were partially buried in the sand before but I put an x on the highest point of each egg in the position my partner put them in when he found them initially. I only tilted them briefly to candle them and take these photos.

I am using an iPhone flashlight on top of a towel. The sand is the best I can do until my incubator and substrate arrive. Unless I should just use some of their substrate they live in instead? I know everyone keeps saying to use vermiculite but I haven’t been able to get any.

I assumed it was okay to move the eggs around for the purposes of inspection as long as they were returned to their proper position. I’ve watched some videos on tortoise egg incubation and everyone seems to handle them like that. Maybe that’s wrong?

Like I said, it’s my first time doing any of this and I’m just trying to figure it out as best I can. Patience and guidance are more than appreciated.
 

MaNaAk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2021
Messages
1,447
Location (City and/or State)
Southend
I saw my girl tortoise (15ish y/o) yesterday morning before leaving for work and everything seemed normal. Then my partner calls me that evening saying she laid 4 eggs! No one was present while she was laying - they were just there when he got home. I had no idea she was pregnant at all! There is a male present (8ish y/o) and they have been in contact with each other. I was keeping them in the same enclosure til I noticed the aggression and learned better (this is my first year owning tortoises so I’m trying my best).

I’ve been madly googling (how I ended up here) trying to figure out what to do til my incubator arrives. I ordered the ZooMed Reptibator and the suggested incubation substrate. I will buy an additional hygrometer and thermometer as suggested in other incubation threads here.

This is what I’ve managed to do for the eggs so far. Trying to keep the humidity levels up but I have this open top tank situation (again, working on improving their habitat as I learn) so suggestions on what to do in the meantime for the eggs are appreciated. The bowls of water, baking sheet over the top to keep moisture inside the enclosure, and freshly re-dampened enclosure substrate are what I’ve managed so far.

My partner was the one that found the eggs and did not know about not rotating them but since they were less than 24 hours old at that point, I’m hoping they’ll be okay. According the the previous caretaker, she had one clutch prior to this but it was unviable (which I hear can be common?) so I’m thinking/hoping this second batch actually has a good chance of hatching.

Both tortoises have been separated from the eggs.

Should I be on the look out for more eggs? I read somewhere that she might produce additional clutches this season, even if no more mating occurs.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated. I’m trying my best to do this right!

View attachment 366988
Congratulations!

MaNaAk
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
They were partially buried in the sand before but I put an x on the highest point of each egg in the position my partner put them in when he found them initially. I only tilted them briefly to candle them and take these photos.

I am using an iPhone flashlight on top of a towel. The sand is the best I can do until my incubator and substrate arrive. Unless I should just use some of their substrate they live in instead? I know everyone keeps saying to use vermiculite but I haven’t been able to get any.

I assumed it was okay to move the eggs around for the purposes of inspection as long as they were returned to their proper position. I’ve watched some videos on tortoise egg incubation and everyone seems to handle them like that. Maybe that’s wrong?

Like I said, it’s my first time doing any of this and I’m just trying to figure it out as best I can. Patience and guidance are more than appreciated.
After that initial period of a few hours, or a couple of days, whatever the magic amount of time is that no one seems to know for sure, the eggs should NEVER be rotated or turned. What that does is cause the embryo to detach from the wall of the egg and die. That is why people say to mark the top of the egg on collection and then ALWAYS keep that mark up at top dead center. It is not okay to just rotate for a few seconds while examining or candling. They need to be candled in place, or if lifted out of the media, their exact position needs to be maintained while candling.

About the incubation media, you have to be careful what you use. What have you ordered? Vermiculite can be found at Home Depot in big bags for less than $20. Or you can oder it from Amazon too. I'm using this one. Its 4 cu.ft. because I go through a lot of it every year, but they have lots of 10 quart bags for $7 here and there. Just do a search for vermiculite. You should be able to find it at any local garden center too.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085G5P27M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Perlite and mixes with perlite in it are commonly used by reptile keepers. This may work for snakes or lizards that don't eat for days or weeks after hatching, but it is literally DEADLY to tortoises that eat the incubation media as soon as they stick their head out of the egg before they are even done hatching. Never use perlite or sand. You can use either before hatching is imminent, but you don't want the tortoise to pop its head out and take a bite of either when they begin to hatch. For other tortoise species the dirt they were in outside, coco coir, and a few other things can be used, but this is difficult to do with Russians because of the need for dryness. So if that yellow stuff is sand, it is fine for now until your incubator and media arrive and get set up. Just don't let the eggs begin to pip while in sand. And remember that there is no rush to get the incubator set up. Those eggs can sit at room temp for weeks with no problem. Really let the incubator stabilize and make your adjustments and fine tuning BEFORE the eggs go in. Sitting at room temp for weeks won't hurt anything. Sitting in the incubator and having the temperature spike just a little too high while you are making adjustments can kill the embryos.
 

atirzero

New Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Seattle, WA
After that initial period of a few hours, or a couple of days, whatever the magic amount of time is that no one seems to know for sure, the eggs should NEVER be rotated or turned. What that does is cause the embryo to detach from the wall of the egg and die. That is why people say to mark the top of the egg on collection and then ALWAYS keep that mark up at top dead center. It is not okay to just rotate for a few seconds while examining or candling. They need to be candled in place, or if lifted out of the media, their exact position needs to be maintained while candling.

About the incubation media, you have to be careful what you use. What have you ordered? Vermiculite can be found at Home Depot in big bags for less than $20. Or you can oder it from Amazon too. I'm using this one. Its 4 cu.ft. because I go through a lot of it every year, but they have lots of 10 quart bags for $7 here and there. Just do a search for vermiculite. You should be able to find it at any local garden center too.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085G5P27M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Perlite and mixes with perlite in it are commonly used by reptile keepers. This may work for snakes or lizards that don't eat for days or weeks after hatching, but it is literally DEADLY to tortoises that eat the incubation media as soon as they stick their head out of the egg before they are even done hatching. Never use perlite or sand. You can use either before hatching is imminent, but you don't want the tortoise to pop its head out and take a bite of either when they begin to hatch. For other tortoise species the dirt they were in outside, coco coir, and a few other things can be used, but this is difficult to do with Russians because of the need for dryness. So if that yellow stuff is sand, it is fine for now until your incubator and media arrive and get set up. Just don't let the eggs begin to pip while in sand. And remember that there is no rush to get the incubator set up. Those eggs can sit at room temp for weeks with no problem. Really let the incubator stabilize and make your adjustments and fine tuning BEFORE the eggs go in. Sitting at room temp for weeks won't hurt anything. Sitting in the incubator and having the temperature spike just a little too high while you are making adjustments can kill the embryos.
Thank you! I appreciate the information. I didn’t realize that you aren’t supposed to even really move the eggs AT ALL. Lesson learned.

I ordered the incubation medium in a panic the night the eggs were laid so the stuff that is on the way is 100% natural clay based little rock chips from ExotiCare. It was what was automatically recommended with the incubator so I just bought it. But I will go out and buy some vermiculite today instead.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
...the stuff that is on the way is 100% natural clay based little rock chips from ExotiCare.
What people in pet shops don't seem to realize is that unlike some other reptiles, tortoises naturally eat some of their substrate/incubation media upon hatching. It is presumed that this is to inoculate their GI tract with the necessary flora and fauna to digest the high cellulose foods they will begin eating. Female tortoises typically drop feces in their nests just for this reason. I've seen footage of a baby tortoise emerging from the underground nest for the first time and immediately walking over to an old dry turd nearby and chowing down on it. In some species, like sulcatas or Galapagos, the females actually leave feces inside the nest chamber with the eggs and the babies eat it underground before they emerge. I've seen this first hand when digging up eggs.

The lesson here is to use something that is safe and won't cause impaction or hamper their digestion later on. Vermiculite is safe. I've hatched over a thousand eggs on it. Baby tortoise typically have their first bowel movements 7-10 days after hatching, and I always find little flecks of vermiculite that have safely passed in those first few movements. It is my policy to remove the new hatchling from the incubation tub and their media as soon as they leave their egg under their own power. When they begin pipping, I begin checking the incubator every few hours for any babies that have hatched and are ready to be moved to their brooder box set ups. Even when they've only spent minutes or a few hours on the media, some of it is ingested. By contrast, snakes don't take their first meal until long after they hatch and then have their first shed a week or two later. That is one reason why there seems to be so much confusion and wrong info on this subject.

I hope YOU get to see pips around 60 days from now! :)
 

New Posts

Top