My two sulcatas like being together, should I still separate them?

NewTortEnthusiast

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Hello all, I'm here asking for anyone's opinion on if I should separate my two 2 year old sulcata tortoises, even though they really love being around each other.

I've had them for almost a week now, I purchased them from my close neighbor who gave me a ridiculously low price for them. I'm somewhat new to caring for sulcatas, but have had experience owning older tortoises. The breeder (of my knowledge) raises them dry and gives them a poor diet. I chose Steve and George out of a group of 14 he had. They are small for their age and I am currently working on building them enclosed chambers.

The man I bought them from, aside from his poor raising techniques, had done little to organize and separate his tortoises. I have since told him all this and he has acknowledged his mistakes. He is not an old man that has been doing this for years and years, he told me this was his second batch he was selling and was more than happy to change his enclosures (regardless of him being a genuine tortoise lover or him wanting to make more money) anyway future hatchlings will get better lives.

However their past lives were with their previous owner, Steve and George are inseparable. They have been walking together, sleeping together, basking together, and have even aided each other with obstacles like when either of them have gotten stuck the other would push against them and free them from the tight spot they were in. They have been doing this all on their own accord. Prior to beginning construction of 1 or 2 enclosed chambers for higher humidity to help with their pyramiding, I kept them in a temporary 15ft X 30ft walled area with many edible plants, plenty of sun and basking areas as well as places to go off into the shade and sleep.

Should I separate them and build 2 enclosed chambers, or build a somewhat larger one to accomodate both? I feel that they would be sad if they were separated. I am aware this is unusal behavior but still.

IMG 5428 IMG E5463 IMG 5435
 

Tom

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They don't "like" each other, and they will not be "sad" if separated. They are also not "helping" each other.

Everything you just described is tortoise aggression. This is one tortoise telling the other to: "Get out of my territory!" You need to separate them ASAP.

They are solitary animals in the wild. They do not like, need or want any company. They don't make friends and they don't get lonely. Living as a pair is highly stressful for both of them and the chronic stress can make them sick and eventually kill them. Groups of juveniles usually do okay together, but not pairs. Pairs are much too personal. One is dominant and one is subordinate, and neither of them want the other one around.
 

TechnoCheese

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Sadly, Tom is correct. “Cuddling” and sleeping together is one tortoise trying to stress the other out of its territory, and “following” is really chasing. Definitely not affectionate.
 

wellington

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Yes, separate them. What you are describing is bullying. You are putting human words and thoughts too them. Tortoises don't help each other. They ram each other. An experienced person might be able too keep two together in a very large yard size like a 1/2 to 1 acre with lots of sight barriers and hides, etc. that experience though teaches them what bullying is and they don't put human emotions etc to it.
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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Thank you for adjusting my view on them. It makes so much sense now. I will separate them once my first enclosed chamber is built at least. I know I will now face even more difficulties, like attempting to explain to my parents why they HAVE to be separated. They are 100% supportive of me taking on such a huge challenge raising these two, along with dealing with their pyramiding.
 

teresaf

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One of the ways tortoises try and deal with competition in their territory is to chase another tortoise away (or flip them over) so they have all the food and breeding rights in the area...

I remember the video on YouTube where everyone thought it was so sweet and cute that a tortoise was "helping" his overturned "friend" get flipped back over because he was on his back.....

Soooo...in all actuality what was happening was he was trying to flip him....again.

Tortoises are relatively stupid. If they see another tortoise and that tortoise doesn't run away, they'll flip them. That's all they know to do. They don't realize the other tortoise isn't running away because it CAN'T... It just goes with its instincts and tries to flip him.

Unfortunately they need separated as soon as possible. They can really hurt each other. If one of them gets turned over underneath the heat lamp it could very easily die.

I have a pair of Burmese mountain tortoises that never showed any signs of chasing each other or any aggressiveness at all and then one day when they were eating one of them reached over with an open mouth and was going to bite to the others face and luckily I was there to stop him. He could easily have blinded the other in that one moment...
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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I will separate them tomorrow. My parents are giving me a spending limit of $400 for their enclosed chambers. I believe that is more than enough to build them with the idea I have. It is similar to a very recent post by another individual who decided to use a bookshelf from Ikea. Buying 2 large yet rather cheap bookcases plus replacing the backing for something more waterproof and tough, wood to make the lid to close it, along with a sheet of acrylic for each will be the bulk of my project. I intend to use no UVB/A lights, just heating, as I still have their original intended enclosure outside where I will have them for several hours each day.

As for now, I have made some rather poor top cover container enclosed chambers. These will be used for only one or two days until I go out and buy the bookshelves.

Wish me luck.
 

Tom

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I will separate them tomorrow. My parents are giving me a spending limit of $400 for their enclosed chambers. I believe that is more than enough to build them with the idea I have. It is similar to a very recent post by another individual who decided to use a bookshelf from Ikea. Buying 2 large yet rather cheap bookcases plus replacing the backing for something more waterproof and tough, wood to make the lid to close it, along with a sheet of acrylic for each will be the bulk of my project. I intend to use no UVB/A lights, just heating, as I still have their original intended enclosure outside where I will have them for several hours each day.

As for now, I have made some rather poor top cover container enclosed chambers. These will be used for only one or two days until I go out and buy the bookshelves.

Wish me luck.
I've never had any luck re-purposing stuff like book cases. Its much easier and much better to just buy the plywood and 2x3s and build what you need in my experience. Most book shelves these days are built very flimsy and use particle board which sucks up water like a sponge and disintegrates.

For $400 you can buy 4 sheets of plywood and lots of 2x4s and 2x3' to make two solid 4x8' enclosures with stands. One sheet will be the bottom and the other sheet can be cut into 12" high walls.
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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I've never had any luck re-purposing stuff like book cases. Its much easier and much better to just buy the plywood and 2x3s and build what you need in my experience. Most book shelves these days are built very flimsy and use particle board which sucks up water like a sponge and disintegrates.

For $400 you can buy 4 sheets of plywood and lots of 2x4s and 2x3' to make two solid 4x8' enclosures with stands. One sheet will be the bottom and the other sheet can be cut into 12" high walls.


I believe I will do that instead. Now its my father's job to build it. He's... proud of his work... I'm not saying he's bad. He's a really good carpenter and built planes before so he knows a lot. Its just... sigh he's going to do it all by himself and yell at me and not let me do anything. I've been avoiding asking my dad for help building the closed chambers since he is very busy and its an extra burden.

I will give an update later if he yelled at me and said yes.
 

daniellenc

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You should have him teach you! Male bonding and a skill set you can carry forever!!
 

Yvonne G

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In my experience, having more than one baby tortoise in the same enclosure is beneficial, as it causes them to eat better (competition for the food). However, once they are eating and have settled in, that soon changes and you will have one more dominant than the other. Quite often this is detrimental to the less dominant baby. Domination is shown by crowding, following, sleeping together, sitting on the food, etc. You say, "Oh look, how cute, they're cuddling." But really the dominant baby is telling the less dominant baby that this is HIS spot. It can be very stressful for both tortoises.
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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You should have him teach you! Male bonding and a skill set you can carry forever!!

He has taught me a lot of things. I could very well build the closed chamber by msyelf. Granted, it would be nowhere near as perfect as he could build it. He still wouldn't let me help on something like this. Out of all of us, my 3 older brothers and myself included, my father has told me I have the most patience and ability to understand. My other brothers, I do not know how they are functioning adults. They ask him about everything. My father has told me many times that he believes I will grow up to be a great: father, adult, and handyman years in the future, and that he is proud of me for doing research and wanting all this "outlandish sounding stuff" for my tortoises. I'm about to ask him if he can help me build them, he's doing electrical stuff rn.
 

TechnoCheese

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Another option for the sides of the enclosures is to take a sheet of ply wood and cut it into 3rds, so that you have three 96x16 inch strips. Use two strips for the 8 foot sides, and cut the remaining one in half so that you have a 48x16 inch strip for the 4 foot sides. That way you would have some taller sides that would make it easier for a thick layer of substrate and lighting, and you would likely need 3 sheets per chamber(not taking account for the glass/window). If you create a strong frame, you might be able to use thinner ply wood for cheaper.
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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Another option for the sides of the enclosures is to take a sheet of ply wood and cut it into 3rds, so that you have three 96x16 inch strips. Use two strips for the 8 foot sides, and cut the remaining one in half so that you have a 48x16 inch strip for the 4 foot sides. That way you would have some taller sides that would make it easier for a thick layer of substrate and lighting, and you would likely need 3 sheets per chamber(not taking account for the glass/window). If you create a strong frame, you might be able to use thinner ply wood for cheaper.

Thank you for your own input on how I should construct my closed chambers. I'm running a lot of things past my father, and he's getting some ideas of his own. Within a day or two we will begin construction. I'll make a new thread in enclosures to keep you all updated.
 

TammyJ

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You are an interesting and interested young person and I am glad to see your enthusiasm!
While this construction is taking place, start giving your beautiful tortoises some much needed long, warm soaks. They are quite pyramided due to lack of moisture/humidity/soaking.
Looking forward to progress here! All the best.
 

NewTortEnthusiast

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You are an interesting and interested young person and I am glad to see your enthusiasm!
While this construction is taking place, start giving your beautiful tortoises some much needed long, warm soaks. They are quite pyramided due to lack of moisture/humidity/soaking.
Looking forward to progress here! All the best.

Sorry for late reply. I give them 3 soaks every day. Each soak lasts about 30 minutes in warm water. I'm noticing the color between Steve's scutes has gotten noticeably darker once he is dry; like the outlines of his scutes where each scute meets. Is that a good sign? I'll post a picture later.
 

SheLLife

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Wow I learned some very valuable info on here! Thank you for being inquisitive and not being afraid to ask questions. Too many people are embarrassed or think they know it all bc they may have read one article. I have no doubt that you will have great success. I wish you the best. And thank you everybody else for ideas and information. I'm so hungry for knowledge!
 

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