Nervous new desert tortoise parent

cbs

New Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2018
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Malibu, CA
Hello all tortoise/turtle families!

We adopted a 3 year old desert tortoise from a family that was moving to a colder climate. We adore her, she blows me away with her persistence in exploring. We live by the coast in Southern California. I would love to get any and all tips you have to offer. We have never owned a tortoise before, and I worry that I am not meeting all her needs. (We think it's a her, the other family thought she might be...)

Currently she is very picky about eating.... She eats collard greens, pansies, zucchini, dandelion greens. The previous family fed her almost strictly butter lettuce, which I've heard isn't good for her, so we use that as a little treat when she doesn't seem to be eating much. She noses and ignores geraniums, roses, hibiscus, red leaf lettuce, turnip greens, timothy hay, mustard greens. If anyone has any tips on any other foods she might be interested in, I would be grateful! Also, should I be dusting some of the greens with calcium? If so, any brand that is best? And how often would I dust?

We haven't noticed her drinking water, I have a water dish in her yard. I worry about that, so I've washed her veggies and left them wet, hoping that helps with her liquid intake.... Sometimes, when she is on my lap eating, she urinates quite a bit. So I know she is getting fluids, but is that through veggies, or?

She roams around a yard just for her, it's about 30' x 20', fully fenced. We take her out in the morning and bring her in the evening. In the evening, she "parks" herself in her "garage" a reptile tunnel like thing that appears as if it is made out of tree bark. The nighttime enclosure is also lined with bark.

I've noticed that people talk about giving their tortoises baths, is that true for desert tortoises? If so, are there any helpful directions on how to do that? We don't currently have a heating system. The yard has sunny and shady areas. But should we have some type of heater for her nighttime enclosure? And if so, do you have any suggestions on the best type?

I also have questions about hibernation. Does this naturally occur? Does it have to happen, would it be bad if she didn't hibernate? I heard it could be dangerous, if she doesn't get enough nutrition before. How do we know if she is starting the hibernation process? What temperature should the room be, when she is hibernating?

Thank you in advance to everyone that read all of this! I do appreciate any suggestions/tips you have to offer. We have had her since July, and just adore her!

zucchi.jpg
 

T Smart

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Oct 25, 2012
Messages
460
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Chicago, IL
Hi. Welcome to the forum. You've come to the right place!

I know nothing about DTs, but other members will most certainly help! Best of luck with your little gal.
 

Yvonne G

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I forgot to mention that at three years, your tortoise is too young to be able to tell if it's male or female. All young tortoises have female characteristics and the shell and tail don't start changing to male until they're close to breeding age.
 

cbs

New Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2018
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Malibu, CA
I forgot to mention that at three years, your tortoise is too young to be able to tell if it's male or female. All young tortoises have female characteristics and the shell and tail don't start changing to male until they're close to breeding age.
I’ve heard mixed answers on what breeding age is. What age is that?
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
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Actually, it's not "age," it's size. So it's different for each tortoise.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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54,485
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello all tortoise/turtle families!

We adopted a 3 year old desert tortoise from a family that was moving to a colder climate. We adore her, she blows me away with her persistence in exploring. We live by the coast in Southern California. I would love to get any and all tips you have to offer. We have never owned a tortoise before, and I worry that I am not meeting all her needs. (We think it's a her, the other family thought she might be...)

Currently she is very picky about eating.... She eats collard greens, pansies, zucchini, dandelion greens. The previous family fed her almost strictly butter lettuce, which I've heard isn't good for her, so we use that as a little treat when she doesn't seem to be eating much. She noses and ignores geraniums, roses, hibiscus, red leaf lettuce, turnip greens, timothy hay, mustard greens. If anyone has any tips on any other foods she might be interested in, I would be grateful! Also, should I be dusting some of the greens with calcium? If so, any brand that is best? And how often would I dust?

We haven't noticed her drinking water, I have a water dish in her yard. I worry about that, so I've washed her veggies and left them wet, hoping that helps with her liquid intake.... Sometimes, when she is on my lap eating, she urinates quite a bit. So I know she is getting fluids, but is that through veggies, or?

She roams around a yard just for her, it's about 30' x 20', fully fenced. We take her out in the morning and bring her in the evening. In the evening, she "parks" herself in her "garage" a reptile tunnel like thing that appears as if it is made out of tree bark. The nighttime enclosure is also lined with bark.

I've noticed that people talk about giving their tortoises baths, is that true for desert tortoises? If so, are there any helpful directions on how to do that? We don't currently have a heating system. The yard has sunny and shady areas. But should we have some type of heater for her nighttime enclosure? And if so, do you have any suggestions on the best type?

I also have questions about hibernation. Does this naturally occur? Does it have to happen, would it be bad if she didn't hibernate? I heard it could be dangerous, if she doesn't get enough nutrition before. How do we know if she is starting the hibernation process? What temperature should the room be, when she is hibernating?

Thank you in advance to everyone that read all of this! I do appreciate any suggestions/tips you have to offer. We have had her since July, and just adore her!

Hello and welcome. I'll answer your questions in order:
  1. Tortoises eat what they are used to eating. New and different foods will have to be introduce slowly and in small amounts. Seldom will they just walk up and eat something they aren't used to eating. Chop up a tiny amount of the new food and mix it in with a big pile of the butter lettuce or other favorites. Gradually, over time, add more and more of the new stuff. In time the new stuff will become familiar and be seen as food.
  2. I like the RepCal or ZooMed brands of calcium. A tiny pinch a couple of times a week is all that is needed.
  3. Feeding wet greens is good.
  4. All tortoise should be soaked regularly. Babies should be soaked every day. Older ones 2 or three times a week. Use a tall sided opaque tub with warm water and soak for about 30-45 minutes. The water should come about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the shell. This is very important. This is also the right tome to inform you that most care sheets for this species are old, outdated and wrong. So many babies die every year because of those typical care sheet and the conditions they recommend. Older ones commonly die from bladder stones which are also the direct result of dehydration. In addition to soaks, many DTs like to drink from puddles made by the hose trickling in the yard.
  5. They do not have to hibernate. Some try harder than others. If you don't want him to hibernate you will need a large enclosure and it will need to be heated and properly lit all winter. In the garage won't work unless you make a large insulated closed chamber that can be kept at the correct temps. If you want to hibernate, read this thread. I lay it all out in post #19: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/looking-for-an-rt-hibernation-mentor.128790/. 45-50 F is the best temp to hibernate DTs at.

Now I have some bad news, but you need to be aware. DTs do not usually do well near the coast. The cold clammy air makes them sick. It can be done, but you'll need special heating and lighting. Keep a close eye out for these problems, and have a plan "B" in place to move the tortoise inland to somewhere warmer and sunnier if a problem develops. Watch for nasal discharge, excessive yawning or gaping, lethargy and lack of appetite. Lethargy and lack of appetite are pretty typical in fall, so it can be difficult to diagnose.

Care for these guys is the same as it is for Russians. The main differences would be larger enclosures due to the DT's larger size, and the addition of some grass in the diet for a DT. Read these for care info: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

I typed this one up for sulcatas, but the same thing applies to DTs, with a bit less emphasis on grass.
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
 

Savina

New Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2019
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Reno, NV
I got my tortoise through Tortoise Group and so far I've gotten all of my information from them. They are based in NV, where I live, so I figured that info would be best for me. I have found contradicting information, but I kind of put it all together and so far my tortoise has been doing well these past 3 years. This is their website:https://tortoisegroup.org/
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
3,118
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
Welcome and best of luck! I love your tortoise.
 

ascott

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2011
Messages
16,147
Location (City and/or State)
Apple Valley, California
Hello all tortoise/turtle families!

We adopted a 3 year old desert tortoise from a family that was moving to a colder climate. We adore her, she blows me away with her persistence in exploring. We live by the coast in Southern California. I would love to get any and all tips you have to offer. We have never owned a tortoise before, and I worry that I am not meeting all her needs. (We think it's a her, the other family thought she might be...)

Currently she is very picky about eating.... She eats collard greens, pansies, zucchini, dandelion greens. The previous family fed her almost strictly butter lettuce, which I've heard isn't good for her, so we use that as a little treat when she doesn't seem to be eating much. She noses and ignores geraniums, roses, hibiscus, red leaf lettuce, turnip greens, timothy hay, mustard greens. If anyone has any tips on any other foods she might be interested in, I would be grateful! Also, should I be dusting some of the greens with calcium? If so, any brand that is best? And how often would I dust?

We haven't noticed her drinking water, I have a water dish in her yard. I worry about that, so I've washed her veggies and left them wet, hoping that helps with her liquid intake.... Sometimes, when she is on my lap eating, she urinates quite a bit. So I know she is getting fluids, but is that through veggies, or?

She roams around a yard just for her, it's about 30' x 20', fully fenced. We take her out in the morning and bring her in the evening. In the evening, she "parks" herself in her "garage" a reptile tunnel like thing that appears as if it is made out of tree bark. The nighttime enclosure is also lined with bark.

I've noticed that people talk about giving their tortoises baths, is that true for desert tortoises? If so, are there any helpful directions on how to do that? We don't currently have a heating system. The yard has sunny and shady areas. But should we have some type of heater for her nighttime enclosure? And if so, do you have any suggestions on the best type?

I also have questions about hibernation. Does this naturally occur? Does it have to happen, would it be bad if she didn't hibernate? I heard it could be dangerous, if she doesn't get enough nutrition before. How do we know if she is starting the hibernation process? What temperature should the room be, when she is hibernating?

Thank you in advance to everyone that read all of this! I do appreciate any suggestions/tips you have to offer. We have had her since July, and just adore her!

View attachment 251945

Beautiful.
 
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