In hot humid climates, is additional outside time appropriate/beneficial for young sulcata tortoises?

kraigsf

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So after a discussion with my vet I decided to make an extra effort to get my tortoise outside more. In the vet's opinion, benefits are a greater variety of food, incidental ingestion of some insects to match natural protein consumption without needing to supplement, all the vitamin D they could want, and additional room to roam. Being in the Houston area, I came to the conclusion that the ambient humidity and temperature are roughly the same as his enclosure anyway (I also spray down the outdoor enclosure once every hour or two while he's out there since I work from home and it's convenient). For these reasons, I felt it appropriate and beneficial for the young sulcata to spend the bulk of the late morning and early afternoon outside rather than in a humid indoor enclosure.

Would love to hear opinions on those with more experience, particularly raising tortoises in hot/humid environments like mine, as to weighing risks and benefits in deciding how much time young sulcatas can spend outside.
 

wellington

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Depends on location and age of the sully. Places like AZ, a young one would do better being inside with short time outside until the size it should be to live outside 24/7.
Places with average humidity also would be better with more inside time then out unless the humidity can be bumped up.
Always better outside even if for short times a day.
 

Tom

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So after a discussion with my vet I decided to make an extra effort to get my tortoise outside more. In the vet's opinion, benefits are a greater variety of food, incidental ingestion of some insects to match natural protein consumption without needing to supplement, all the vitamin D they could want, and additional room to roam. Being in the Houston area, I came to the conclusion that the ambient humidity and temperature are roughly the same as his enclosure anyway (I also spray down the outdoor enclosure once every hour or two while he's out there since I work from home and it's convenient). For these reasons, I felt it appropriate and beneficial for the young sulcata to spend the bulk of the late morning and early afternoon outside rather than in a humid indoor enclosure.

Would love to hear opinions on those with more experience, particularly raising tortoises in hot/humid environments like mine, as to weighing risks and benefits in deciding how much time young sulcatas can spend outside.
Before I can comment, I need to know what size and age sulcata we are talking about.

Vets don't know much about tortoise care. Even some of the ones who keep their own tortoises. They are just people. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school. Having said that, it is good for your tortoise to have a large space to roam, grass and weeds to graze on, and access to direct sunshine (but heavy shade too). Your sulcata is not going to eat insects outside. They don't do that. I know of one adult that would catch and eat gophers, but I also know of thousands of them that never do that.

I've done side by side comparison experiments with groups of sulcata clutch mates, and they unanimously do better in side. Better growth, more vigorous, smoother growth, etc... with all other variable being the same. Because of these experiments, I've reached the general recommendation of one hour of outside time per inch of tortoise per day. Once your tortoise reached 5-6 inches, outside most of the day in favorable weather ir great. Once the tortoise reaches 8-10 inches, living outside full time with a heated shelter works great. With these exceptions in mind, I can tell you that smaller babies do best when kept moistly indoors, and climate doesn't matter. This is true even in their native range. Babies hide most of the time in the wild and "exposure" to the elements does not help or benefit them.

Check this out:
 

kraigsf

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Before I can comment, I need to know what size and age sulcata we are talking about.

Vets don't know much about tortoise care. Even some of the ones who keep their own tortoises. They are just people. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school. Having said that, it is good for your tortoise to have a large space to roam, grass and weeds to graze on, and access to direct sunshine (but heavy shade too). Your sulcata is not going to eat insects outside. They don't do that. I know of one adult that would catch and eat gophers, but I also know of thousands of them that never do that.

I've done side by side comparison experiments with groups of sulcata clutch mates, and they unanimously do better in side. Better growth, more vigorous, smoother growth, etc... with all other variable being the same. Because of these experiments, I've reached the general recommendation of one hour of outside time per inch of tortoise per day. Once your tortoise reached 5-6 inches, outside most of the day in favorable weather ir great. Once the tortoise reaches 8-10 inches, living outside full time with a heated shelter works great. With these exceptions in mind, I can tell you that smaller babies do best when kept moistly indoors, and climate doesn't matter. This is true even in their native range. Babies hide most of the time in the wild and "exposure" to the elements does not help or benefit them.

Check this out:
Very young still, about 60 grams. tbh I wouldn't make the argument at all for another climate but we average 75% humidity here and it gets higher because I spray it down regularly while he's out there, higher still inside a hide. Really the difference if I continue this protocol would be between 2 hours a day of outside time in the more conservative approach you've outlined and 4-5ish hours under a higher outside time schedule.

When it comes to the comment on insects and protein, the vet was making the argument that a natural part of their protein intake comes from insects that happen to be sitting on vegetation they eat, not that they will intentionally eat insects. The reasoning is that spending more time outside will result in a more natural protein composition to their diet that is closer to what they evolved for. Obviously there is a fair amount of speculation involved with that though and not likely the most important benefit.

After 1 week of this I saw a 6 gram (11.3%) weight gain which appears encouraging so far (though I don't expect that percentage weight gain to be sustainable. Biggest downside is that in the heat of the day, as the carrying capacity of the air goes up, RH can drop as low as ~65% if not regularly wetted. Water vapor concentration stays roughly similar throughout the day though and I'm not sure which matters more, the actual concentration of water in the air or relative humidity.

I do find that he's very active for the first couple hours outside though and tends to sleep the hide or a corner for the next couple hours so that may be an indication that it's time to just go inside. Anyways, open to any feedback I can get. Thanks!
 

Tom

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Very young still, about 60 grams. tbh I wouldn't make the argument at all for another climate but we average 75% humidity here and it gets higher because I spray it down regularly while he's out there, higher still inside a hide. Really the difference if I continue this protocol would be between 2 hours a day of outside time in the more conservative approach you've outlined and 4-5ish hours under a higher outside time schedule.

When it comes to the comment on insects and protein, the vet was making the argument that a natural part of their protein intake comes from insects that happen to be sitting on vegetation they eat, not that they will intentionally eat insects. The reasoning is that spending more time outside will result in a more natural protein composition to their diet that is closer to what they evolved for. Obviously there is a fair amount of speculation involved with that though and not likely the most important benefit.

After 1 week of this I saw a 6 gram (11.3%) weight gain which appears encouraging so far (though I don't expect that percentage weight gain to be sustainable. Biggest downside is that in the heat of the day, as the carrying capacity of the air goes up, RH can drop as low as ~65% if not regularly wetted. Water vapor concentration stays roughly similar throughout the day though and I'm not sure which matters more, the actual concentration of water in the air or relative humidity.

I do find that he's very active for the first couple hours outside though and tends to sleep the hide or a corner for the next couple hours so that may be an indication that it's time to just go inside. Anyways, open to any feedback I can get. Thanks!
The observations from my personal experiments are the same all over the world. Climate and current conditions don’t matter. That’s why I included the reference to their native range, Florida, Indonesia, Hawaii, etc… Babies unanimously do better when kept mostly indoors.
 

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