Newbie, can I get a bit of help?

Smurtle's Mom

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Hello! we have been given Smurtle, he's a 14 year old DT and has no issues with URTI but was not being fed properly two years ago and was quite "yellow". My close friend who is an ACO (animal control officer) gave us Smurtle with his permit/tag, giant glass tank, walnut hull "sand" and a variety of supplements, pellets, calcium powder and a bag of organic kale. She had him in his tank due to having large dogs and he "hibernated" (idk if that is the right word, sorry!) this past winter just fine. He grew quite a bit during that time and is a very gentle, sweet guy.

We live just north of Bakersfield Calfornia, it is normally quite hot and dry especially during the summer. We would prefer to let Smurtle have roam of the backyard so he can freely graze and get sun. We have two small dogs that have their own securely fenced section of the yard so he will be "king of the castle" our cats are not at all interested in him either. What concerns me is that this winter we have actually gotten quite a bit of rain (for California anyway) and even hail. Throughout this weather the temperature stays between 50-60 and we have plenty of shade for him to retreat too when it does reach 90-100+. It rained lightly last night so I brought him inside as he's acclimated to an indoor temp and I didn't want him to get sick. Can I let him go outside this morning? It's 57 right now and cloudy, it's going to be in the mid to upper 60's today with slight rain/thunder later this evening.

NOTE: When we got home with him yesterday afternoon, he was thrilled to munch on clover and dandelions! It was so great to see him foraging and enjoying the sun. We do not use any pesticides at all in our yards or around our home. Everything is organic even the soil we use to plant trees/flowers.

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Rue

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He's a cutie! Congrats!

You will have to build him a 'house' of some sort to help provide enough warm temperatures.

However, I live far north of California, so I won't even try to make suggestions...

In the meantime you can get a temperature gun/reader and go around and see what the temps are in various parts of yard. I recently got both a tortoise and a temp gun and have been surprised at some of the ground level temps - both hotter and cooler than I expected.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

The tortoise is a beautiful example of a desert tortoise, and I'm so glad you're thinking about his living outside instead of in the house.

I'm in Clovis, about 2 hours north of you, and my desert tortoises live outside year round. For their shelter I have a cinderblock house that is under a mulberry tree and never gets any sun. So it's a perfect hiding place summer or winter. I block them inside if it's going to rain, and I also block them inside during the winter.

Desert Tortoise Shelter 4 5 14 b

Since your tortoise isn't acclimated to living outside, I wouldn't let him be outside on bad weather days.
 

Gillian M

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A cute little tort. GOD bless.

Please read the different threads and the "Beginners Mistake" that I'm sure will help you. And do not hesitate to ask any question whenever in doubt.

A very warm welcome to the forum.
 

Smurtle's Mom

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Thank You! My husband was asking if we needed to build him a house outside, so I will let him know that we do. That's something I was wondering about with the hot weather coming here in the next month or two.

How do I acclimate him to outdoors from being inside? Slowly over the course of a few weeks I was thinking, is that right?

Is there a thread for the different types of shelters to build for these guys so they can be safe and comfortable outside?
 

Yvonne G

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With my burrowing species, like sulcata or desert tortoise, I like to have a floor in the shelter so they can't dig down under the shelter. I use the masonry caps. They look like rectangular stepping stones and are made to fit over the cinder blocks. I lay out the floor, then stack cinder blocks around the edge for walls, leaving an opening for the door. I use a thick piece of plywood for the roof. With the plywood, I can open the roof to tend to inside the shelter if the need ever arises.

Make sure your husband builds the shelter in complete shade with no sun at all. This keeps it cool enough for the tortoises when we get up to 100+ degrees.

Here's a link to lots of pictures of outdoor shelters:

http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/ideas-for-outdoor-enclosures.65797/

You can put him out on sunny days, but bring him inside at night. You don't need an indoor set up, a cardboard box for night time will do. He's just going to sleep. Once the night time temperatures stay consistently above 60 or 65F you can start leaving him out. But make sure he's inside the shelter, and block the door.
 

Smurtle's Mom

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Thank you so very much this is exactly what I was wondering about. We have one corner of the yard that is completely shaded so that's where we will build his house. Do we need too dig down a little to make sure the cinder blocks are beneath the earth a bit? Or do we add some soil, then the pavers to make sure that it doesn't flood in case we get summer rain?
 

Yvonne G

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If that corner is a low spot, then yes, I would add some dirt. But I lay the masonry caps right on top of the ground. That puts the floor about an inch and a half above the ground. I pile the cinderblock walls on top of the caps.
 

Smurtle's Mom

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Thank You, we will build his little house this weekend! Your advice is priceless Yvonne, Smurtle will love it. Today he dug a little hole and crawled in to sleep but it wasn't covered so I brought him insidenfor the night.
 

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Tom

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Here is how I care for them. This was written for russians, but the care is identical:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

This one is good too:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

Outdoor housing. This works really well in the hot summers too:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/semi-underground-russian-box.98590/#post-922226
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/heating-an-outdoor-russian-night-box.116180/#post-1077261

The walnut substrate is an impaction hazard and should be replaced with something safer.

Be sure to soak your little guy 2-3 times a week to ensure good hydration.
 

Smurtle's Mom

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We built him a cinder block hide with a plywood cover in a shady corner of the backyard. We just need to get dirt and cover it up. I have been bringing Smurtle inside at night because it's not quite 65 here through out the night. What can I use if the walnut hull substrate is an impaction hazard? He doesn't eat while in his tank it's just for sleeping and I have his water in there too. He doesn't like to be soaked! Should I soak him in the tub so he can't escape?
 

Yvonne G

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I like orchid bark. It's clean fir bark. Some use coco coir, some use cypress mulch.

Soaking is good for him. He'll get used to it. Use something he can't climb out of.
 

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