Introducing Merla

Merle

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Joined
Aug 24, 2022
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10
Location (City and/or State)
Neptune Beach, FL
Hey Gang. Just wanted to introduce Merla. We got her in April of this year. We were told she was a male when we first got her. After buying and reading The Redfoot Manual I realized she was no he. So we made a slight name adjustment from Merle to Merla.

We were told she is 2.5 years old. But if anyone has any age indicators they can share I would be interested to hear about it. She is about 13" long.

She did get out a few weeks ago and I appreciated all of the support from this community during the tort hunt. I under estimated her climbing ability and she climbed over a wall and squeaked through a compromised portion of a wood fence panel. She was gone for a week from us but she was found the next day a street over. A neighbor brought her to a friends house that has a pretty good size Salcutta. They shared the same backyard space during this time.

We live in Jacksonville, FL and its a fair bit cooler in North Florida than South Florida in the winter time. Seems like most of the posts on here the caretakers are in Central or South Florida. I am curious what Zero Pilot or any other Floridians with Redfoots think about the climate difference. My plan is copy Zero Pilots set up with the warm box and bring her in if it dips into the 40's.

We found a reptile vet in the area and we are in the process of trying to get her in for her first check up with us.

Also curious if some of the Floridians on here could give me some insight on some of the local vegetation on what she should or should not be eating. Thanks!
 

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ZEROPILOT

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Hello
I feed hibiscus flowers and leaves. Purslane. Any local fruits that are in season. Thistle. Cactus pads and fruit. And if I can find any....Dandelion to name a few items.
I've done well with my un insulated heated night boxes. If the temperature overnight will be below 60f I place my tortoises into the two houses and block the door with a cement block. Because they will wander back out. When it's going to be below about 52 I bring them indoors for the night.
Here that is only 5 or fewer days each
winter. You will probably need a higher wattage CHE than I use and you may need an insulated house (or two or more) more like what @Tom does with his tortoises.
As you know there is a pretty dramatic difference in the climate here in south Florida. So I honestly can only guess what you'll need to do. But it seems like you have a good idea of what it'll take already
 

Tom

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Our climate here in SoCal is generally very mild, but its not like FL. One feature here is that the day to night difference is usually 30-35 degrees, and sometimes as much as 50 degrees. So an 80 degree January day can see night temps drop in to the 30s. Its pretty common for winter night temps to be in the 30s and low 40s, but day time highs are usually in the 70s and almost always sunny. Like FL, we get occasional colder winter spells, but they are not frequent and don't last long. Unlike FL, we get all of our annual rain during a few months in winter, and ZERO rain from about April/May through November.

In any case, my usual type of night box should work perfectly for anyone in Northern Fl or Southern GA. I built one of these for some friends with a pair of sulcatas near Atlanta, and it served them well last winter. Occasionally my night temps dip into the 20s, and these boxes keep everyone warm. I have too many and they are too large to bring inside, so I have a good Honda generator at the ready too, in case of power outages.

Questions are welcome:
 

zovick

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At only 2 or 2 1/2 she will look like a female. They all do when too young to sex. You have a couple years yet before s/he can be sexed for sure unless it's a he and he flashes you.
@ZEROPILOT can help with native foods.
@wellington It would appear you didn't notice that OP says the tortoise is 13" long. It is very probably old enough and large enough to sex at that size.

@Merle Your tortoise is far older than 2.5 years of age. It looks like maybe 15 to 25 years old would not be out of the question.
 

wellington

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@wellington It would appear you didn't notice that OP says the tortoise is 13" long. It is very probably old enough and large enough to sex at that size.

@Merle Your tortoise is far older than 2.5 years of age. It looks like maybe 15 to 25 years old would not be out of the question.
No I didn't see the length. Only the age. At that size, the age has to be off or she's half pig lol.
 

zovick

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No I didn't see the length. Only the age. At that size, the age has to be off or she's half pig lol.
Yes, it is the age estimate which is way off. Looking at the picture, it is obvious that the tortoise is much older than 2.5 years.

That number was possibly a "guesstimate" from a pet store employee (all of whom seem to grossly understate the ages of the tortoises in their stores).
 

wellington

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Yes, it is the age estimate which is way off. Looking at the picture, it is obvious that the tortoise is much older than 2.5 years.

That number was possibly a "guesstimate" from a pet store employee (all of whom seem to grossly understate the ages of the tortoises in their stores).
I thought she looked big in the pic. But pics can be so decieving, specially when taken up close, so I took the age for what it said.
 

Merle

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Neptune Beach, FL
Wow that's wild to think she is 15-25 years old. She may be wiser than I know.

What do you all think about those nails. Typical length? or unhealthy long?

Also she hasn't been eating her greens lately. Thinking she is starting to get picky
 

zovick

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Wow that's wild to think she is 15-25 years old. She may be wiser than I know.

What do you all think about those nails. Typical length? or unhealthy long?

Also she hasn't been eating her greens lately. Thinking she is starting to get picky
The nails do not appear to be overly long. They look fine to me.
 

OliveW

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Branford, FL
@Merle hello and welcome! I live in Branford, just a tad southwest of Lake City, so we share the same weather for the most part.

This will be our first winter with our Sulcata, but we will be building @Tom's night box. There are usually only a couple of weeks worth of nights that it will need to be heated. Currently, our boy has a night box that is more of a steel cage that incorporates his burrow, where he sleeps. It's only to protect him from predators at night, but doesn't stop him from a bit of grazing. We have it weighted down with cinder blocks. He doesn't rise and shine until 10 am anyway, and we have it off by then.

We are going to start off with a full size night box to avoid having to rebuild it as he grows. We've been waiting for cooler weather to work outside building it, and his permanent enclosure. I know his long term night box can't incorporate his burrow, as Tom said it's too cold for him to be in the ground on cold nights. We will have it done no later than November so he can get trained to sleep in it. Our cold nights don't usually hit until Jan/Feb, but we want to be prepared early.

I'm not 100% sure what we're going to use to heat his box yet. Obviously it will have to be something he has no access to. We likely won't run electric to it, just use an outdoor extension cord since the heat won't be needed most of the time since it warms up quickly during the day. I have not found any other local here with a Sulcata that uses any heat at all. 😢 It seems to be the consensus that they don't need it because they "survive" the cold. I don't want our boy just surviving, I want him to be warm and comfortable at his optimal temperature.

Anyway, your Merla is absolutely gorgeous! She looks so proud and majestic! I'm so glad you've found each other. 🥰
 

Maddoggy

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Vero Beach Florida
Hello from Vero Beach. Here are some pics of the nightbox that I am using. I duplicated Toms boxes with the exception my box is much taller then it needs to be. Im heating with a oil filled radiator style heater and small computer fan on a Zilla Thermostat. I keep the box at a constant 80 . My torts retreat to it after feeding or sometimes when it is too hot or to cold. The removable roof makes it super easy to clean. Running electric to it was not hard at all and I used a waterproof poly case on the outside to house the recepticle boxes and thermostat.I found that it was so much easier and manageable to have a good sized nightbox that I can depend on.
 

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OliveW

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Hello from Vero Beach. Here are some pics of the nightbox that I am using. I duplicated Toms boxes with the exception my box is much taller then it needs to be. Im heating with a oil filled radiator style heater and small computer fan on a Zilla Thermostat. I keep the box at a constant 80 . My torts retreat to it after feeding or sometimes when it is too hot or to cold. The removable roof makes it super easy to clean. Running electric to it was not hard at all and I used a waterproof poly case on the outside to house the recepticle boxes and thermostat.I found that it was so much easier and manageable to have a good sized nightbox that I can depend on.

Looking at your pics just gave me a good idea. We have an RV outlet that we ran many years ago for a travel trailer. We sold the camper earlier this year and have no plans on buying another. Since there is already an electric box there, maybe that's where we will build his night box and just change it from a 50 amp plug to a regular 110 outlet.
 

OliveW

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@Maddoggy do you monitor the temps inside your night boxes in the summer? Since we are starting our permanent night box construction this weekend, things are popping into my head that make me worry. I'm worried it will be too hot in there in the summer. I'm thinking about maybe making steel cage "windows" that allow ventilation, but pieces of wood that can be fitted over them for cool season.

This whole thing is going to be a big adjustment for all of us, especially our tortie boy who is used to sleeping in his burrow. I don't want to reinvent the wheel, I just don't want it to be too hot for summer and want something he gets used to sleeping in year round. Since we have basically the same climate, I figure what works for you will work for me.

What do you use for substrate in your night boxes?
 

Maddoggy

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Vero Beach Florida
@Maddoggy do you monitor the temps inside your night boxes in the summer? Since we are starting our permanent night box construction this weekend, things are popping into my head that make me worry. I'm worried it will be too hot in there in the summer. I'm thinking about maybe making steel cage "windows" that allow ventilation, but pieces of wood that can be fitted over them for cool season.

This whole thing is going to be a big adjustment for all of us, especially our tortie boy who is used to sleeping in his burrow. I don't want to reinvent the wheel, I just don't want it to be too hot for summer and want something he gets used to sleeping in year round. Since we have basically the same climate, I figure what works for you will work for me.

What do you use for substrate in your night boxes?
I do monitor the temps in the box all year long . The polycase on the outside of the box makes it extremely easy just pop it open and an active thermometer is always working.I dont use substrate, I just clean any poop at first site. That really isn't a problem just move over the removable roofs and sweep or scrape. The box does have some ventilation and I keep both doors open . Even in our moist climate the inside of the box stays amazingly dry. I do have doors to close them in but I only have to do that for my female albino . Albino sulcata have a slight vision impairment and she hasn't figured out what is her warm safe home, My male Ivory retires every night after feeding and goes to the same corner and stays there until everything outside the box is right for him to come out . Go for it you'll be happy you did
 

Merle

New Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2022
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Neptune Beach, FL
Hello from Vero Beach. Here are some pics of the nightbox that I am using. I duplicated Toms boxes with the exception my box is much taller then it needs to be. Im heating with a oil filled radiator style heater and small computer fan on a Zilla Thermostat. I keep the box at a constant 80 . My torts retreat to it after feeding or sometimes when it is too hot or to cold. The removable roof makes it super easy to clean. Running electric to it was not hard at all and I used a waterproof poly case on the outside to house the recepticle boxes and thermostat.I found that it was so much easier and manageable to have a good sized nightbox that I can depend on.
Great set up! I am about to start building a small brick night house. Gonna incorporate things from almost all of the examples shared. Will you please share some more information on the vent fan & zilla thermostat?

I am planning to forgo the heat matt. I am thinking I am just going to go with CHE ceramic bulb for my heat source. What wattage bulb do you guys think I should go with and how many?

The floor will be dirt. Probably going to put in two small windows on the sides with the drawbridge door on the front.

Thinking my structure is going to be 4' wide x 3' deep x 2.5' tall. Plywood roof with plastic corrugated roof material that can lift up to access the inside.
 

Maddoggy

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Nov 22, 2021
Messages
167
Location (City and/or State)
Vero Beach Florida
Great set up! I am about to start building a small brick night house. Gonna incorporate things from almost all of the examples shared. Will you please share some more information on the vent fan & zilla thermostat?

I am planning to forgo the heat matt. I am thinking I am just going to go with CHE ceramic bulb for my heat source. What wattage bulb do you guys think I should go with and how many?

The floor will be dirt. Probably going to put in two small windows on the sides with the drawbridge door on the front.

Thinking my structure is going to be 4' wide x 3' deep x 2.5' tall. Plywood roof with plastic corrugated roof material that can lift up to access the inside.
Sorry it took so long for a reply the storm had us in heavy duty clean up mode.I would strongly putting in an slightly elevated wood floor. With all the rain we get I like to keep the inside of the box as dry as possible mainly to protect the heater . I am very happy with using an oil filled radiator style heater as Tom pointed out the oil radiator heats up evenly and retains the heat that along with the computer fan spreads the heat quite nicely. Im not sure the purpose of the windows? If its for ventilation you can build the roof to provide a half inch slot around the top for ventilation That seems to be working good for me but I have 1 inch holes cut in my doors for a little updraft when the doors are closed and plenty of ventilation when doors are open.I used Suntop Foam polycarbonate panels for the roof . They are light, strong and wont deteriorate in strong sunlight
 

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Merle

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Neptune Beach, FL
Sorry it took so long for a reply the storm had us in heavy duty clean up mode.I would strongly putting in an slightly elevated wood floor. With all the rain we get I like to keep the inside of the box as dry as possible mainly to protect the heater . I am very happy with using an oil filled radiator style heater as Tom pointed out the oil radiator heats up evenly and retains the heat that along with the computer fan spreads the heat quite nicely. Im not sure the purpose of the windows? If its for ventilation you can build the roof to provide a half inch slot around the top for ventilation That seems to be working good for me but I have 1 inch holes cut in my doors for a little updraft when the doors are closed and plenty of ventilation when doors are open.I used Suntop Foam polycarbonate panels for the roof . They are light, strong and wont deteriorate in strong sunlight
I just sent this today so you are quick on the reply.

Would this heater work? cut and past that into amazon search bar.


Dreo Space Heater, 2022 Upgraded for Bathroom and Indoor, Portable 1500W Ceramic Electric Heater, 40-95°F Digital Thermostat, 70°Oscillating, 5 Modes, Remote, 12h Timer, with ALCI Safety Plug​


You don't think the noise of this heater in the tight space would be irritating?

Thinking I would raise this heater off the ground if I do go with this.
 

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