How long can a sulcata tortoise live with hay ?

Bee62

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Hay comes in bales. Each bale contains 16 flakes. When I feed out the hay, I prefer to keep the flake all together and they come over and munch off of it, rather than spread it all out over the floor as substrate so they are walking and pooping in it.

In theory, they should be able to live on the grass hay only. In years past I did that for months on end with no issues. The problem is that I know of no scientific studies done that checked health, weight, blood levels, hydration, etc... during times of hay only vs. times of a more mixed diet. I think the only info you'll find is anecdotal.

I would add to the discussion that many hoof stock type animals are fed this way in captivity, with only one type of hay, for their entire lives and it seems to work for them. To counter that, I would add that in the wild, they would certainly be eating more than a single plant species for long periods of time.

The practical solution would be to use different types of hay and to add it whatever else you can when you can. The grocery store leavings work very well over here if you can make friends with the produce manager at a local store. Can you get opuntia pads over there? I like the combo of opuntia pads and grass hay. That is the main diet of my sulcatas through most of summer and fall until the winter rains bring our weeds back. I add in mulberry leaves, Mazuri, and a host of other things sporadically, but hay and opuntia is the main diet.
I had the same idea like you and I feed the hay only in one really dry corner of the enclosure. I am careful with hay and humidity because I want no mold. Mold and fungus can damage the lungs of tortoises seriously. So I don`t want the torts to poop and pee on the hay. I can get easily high quality hay in summer from my local farmers around and the hay is fresh ( made in the same year when I feed it ). I own horses for a long time in my life and they can live only with hay in winter. But tortoises are no horses ... 😟
Opuntia is expensive in Germany because it is to cold in winter for growing it outside. In summer I have a lot of gras and weeds, leafs and blossoms on my property that I can feed. Maybe I should try to dry some of the weeds for winter !
 

Bee62

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I can add one data point - I had a sulcata for 17 years that grazed wild grasses and weeds in the summer and ate nothing but hay all winter, which for me is about 7 months of the year. That tortoise now lives at a Zoo in Texas and is fed hay all year round. Doing great, but again, no internal research to back this up - just behavior and appearance.
Thank you for your answer. My winter is likewise 7 months of the year. By reading all the answers I am convinced that hay can be the main food for big tortoises during the winter. The private experiences of tort owners here are the best ones.
 
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Bee62

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Couple of thoughts...

Mazuri is a Purina Mills product that is not liscensed in Europe. In Europe Purina Mills liscensed the name NutraZu to sell the same products. So "mazuri" is available in Europe, but under the Nutrazu name.

When feeding pellets to my larger tortoises, I just throw them in dry. No need to soak and get messy. The larger tortoises eagerly eat them dry.
Thank you Mark. I have found NutraZu on amazon but it is not available currently. I think my torts will love the food because they try to get dry cat food pellets whenever they can ! I will try to get the NutraZu pellets and add them to their diet.
 

Tom

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...grab them and put them on their backs.

I find it better to have some one hold them against their body with the head pointing toward the sky. I get better pics that way than when on their backs and I think it is less stressful too. Like these:
Female Sulcata.jpg

Male Sulcata.jpg

In these two pictures you can clearly see the tails and anal scutes. The top one is a very obvious female and the bottom is very obviously male.
 

maggie3fan

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I had the same idea like you and I feed the hay only in one really dry corner of the enclosure. I am careful with hay and humidity because I want no mold. Mold and fungus can damage the lungs of tortoises seriously. So I don`t want the torts to poop and pee on the hay. I can get easily high quality hay in summer from my local farmers around and the hay is fresh ( made in the same year when I feed it ). I own horses for a long time in my life and they can live only with hay in winter. But tortoises are no horses ... 😟
Opuntia is expensive in Germany because it is to cold in winter for growing it outside. In summer I have a lot of gras and weeds, leafs and blossoms on my property that I can feed. Maybe I should try to dry some of the weeds for winter !
I'm pleased that Tom said to feed a variety of hays. That's how I have always fed Sulcata. I buy gigantic bags of the 'floor' sweepings. That gives me a variety of hays, the torts and I prefer the locally grown grass hay. Anyhow 4 bags is about a bale and it's $8.
 

nyoom

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Some of these tortoises species are pretty big, why not put their hay in a small rack? It would keep it off the ground, and their heads should be plenty small enough to fit through the bars without getting stuck.
 

Yvonne G

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Some of these tortoises species are pretty big, why not put their hay in a small rack? It would keep it off the ground, and their heads should be plenty small enough to fit through the bars without getting stuck.
This is a good idea. They make hay racks in all sizes, and a goat rack would probably be suitable.

1592148803967.png
 

maggie3fan

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I can add one data point - I had a sulcata for 17 years that grazed wild grasses and weeds in the summer and ate nothing but hay all winter, which for me is about 7 months of the year. That tortoise now lives at a Zoo in Texas and is fed hay all year round. Doing great, but again, no internal research to back this up - just behavior and appearance.
That's your experience, and mine. 7 months of rain, snow, freeze, and irritation. The difference being my local Safeway saves their 'trimmings' for my tortoises all winter. So while hay is the mainstay, they do get other stuff at times. Big Sam eats poops plays and covers himself with hay. Knobby won't touch hay. So he gets pretty hungry. lol too bad, soo sad. 100_3774.JPG
 
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