Newbie needing help

sunshinedd8

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I am brand new to sulcata tortoises (ALL tortoises, actually) and definitely need some guidance. I aquired this tortoise quite by accident..... She was given to my daughter ..... long story but someone knowing we were involved in dog rescue and farm animals mistakenly thought we would be the "perfect" home for this tortoise. We said yes thinking we were getting a much smaller turtle. Yes, we should have looked into this farther beforehand, but here she is and the more I learn, the more I think she has not been well cared for her whole life. Please dont judge us too harshly. Remember that we are here because we want to learn and want to do our best for this tortoise.

I am told that she is 10 years old. She only weighs 12 lbs and has huge scutes. She doesn't feel light for her size... she just isnt very big. her shell is maybe 10" wide? We live in upstate ny where winters are long and cold. (Why is she even in NY? She should be in Florida!) We are currently keeping her in a 5'x5' dog kennel with a kiddie pool in it which is filled with "Repti-bark". We have placed a spill-proof dog dish in the center with water but she quickly fills it with the bark. We have a UVB bulb on her during the day. I feed her a head of romaine every other day as instructed by the previous owner. I often take her into my bathroom when I shower, then place her in the wet tub for a few minutes when Im done. I have heat lamps in there so I have started feeding her in the bathroom and leaving her in there for a few hours afterwards with the lamps on as it stays quite warm and gives her more room to safely roam.
I'm very concerned about her small size and would love some guidance on how to help her reach her full potential and keep her as happy and healthy as possible given our less than ideal situation.
Thanks for any advice you can give us.
 
M

Maggie Cummings

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She's small because she's being fed totally wrong.I live in the PNW and even in the sno my Sulcata did well. I see a lot wrong with how she is kept, however, you are asking for help and for that you should be commended. Keep asking, no question is stupid and the only harmful one, is the question that's not asked. I believe you need more help than my old hands can type. So I'm going to give you some links, please print them out, ask questions, read them etc. You'll have tons of advice from others with younger fingers....welcome....

http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/african-spurred-tortoise-sulcata-care-sheet.52524/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/sulcata-diet-sheet.64290/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/

Guess that's enough reading for you for now....
 

Grandpa Turtle 144

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Hello
ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1451181048.354328.jpg can you post Picts of the tort and its enclosure ! Relax we have good people here , and remember they said 12 years ( but could it be 11 years or Evan 10 years )
 

sunshinedd8

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Thank you, Maggie for your quick response. In regards to feeding.... Id like to get some hibiscus, geraniums, and maybe some alfalfa and grow them in pots around the pool I have set up for her. Have others had success in growing those in an indoor enclosure? Im a bit concerned that any potted plants that i might buy at a local store will have been treated with pesticides. Any suggestions on how to acquire safe plants to start off with?
 

sunshinedd8

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ariel nov 2015.jpg
I forgot to mention that we have also tried feeding her some hay. It is a good quality mix that we feed to our horses. Mostly timothy grass which we purchase from a local farmer who is a good friend of ours. She nibbles on it but doesnt seem to like it as much as the romaine. We will work on finding better things for her to eat this week!
 

leigti

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Mix a little hey with the Romain. And keep increasing the amount of hay. Romain is like tortoise crack, they absolutely love it. So you can use it to get them to eat other things too. Just mix it with other things and they'll get used to those other better items.
 

Big Charlie

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Thank you, Maggie for your quick response. In regards to feeding.... Id like to get some hibiscus, geraniums, and maybe some alfalfa and grow them in pots around the pool I have set up for her. Have others had success in growing those in an indoor enclosure? Im a bit concerned that any potted plants that i might buy at a local store will have been treated with pesticides. Any suggestions on how to acquire safe plants to start off with?
There are some threads about this and a whole section about food on the forum.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/forums/tortoise-diet-and-food.21/
Odin's gma is an inspiration for anyone who wants to grow tortoise food: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...ndoor-winter-gardening-thread-sulcata.126673/
 

leigti

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You're right, any plants in the store are going to have pesticides or fertilizers on them. It's best to grow your own or see if any of your friends have some that they haven't put chemicals on. There are some good tortoise specific seed mixes you can buy and grow indoors or outdoors. See if your local grocery store has dandelion greens, and dive, escarole, or even cactus pads.
 

leigti

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If you have farm animals do you have an extra stock tank just sitting around? That could make a decent enclosure for the winter if it's big enough. One of those 8 foot round ones would be great :) :)
I really appreciate people that can do animal rescue. It would break my heart. My tortoises have all come to me in various degrees of "bad shape". I've been lucky to have good outcomes in most situations but not all and those are very hard to deal with. It's frustrating, I don't understand why people can't treat their animals right. All those threads Maggie listed are great. Keep asking questions and keep us posted on how she is doing.
 

Jodie

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Good for you taking her in and being willing to learn how to care for her. Sulcatas main food should be grass. I am in Spokane Washington, so it is not available. I feed 30% spring mix, romaine, escarole, endive, kale, collard greens, mustard greens...., 10% Mazuri or grassland tortoise food, and 60% hay. It's not easy to keep these guys in the frozen north, but can be done.
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome.

Your tortoise needs more warmth down there on the floor and more room to roam, but still in a safe, dedicated enclosure, not loose on the cold floor. They need an ambient temp of 80ish, day and night, and a large basking area of around 100 degrees all day long.

Those threads will have all sorts of good info for you. Here is another food sheet with spring and summer stuff:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
 
M

Maggie Cummings

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Told ya. lots of help....from people who know. Those links were written by experienced members of this forum....
 

sunshinedd8

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Wow! thank you, everyone! We'll go shopping today for some better food and Im going to look into growing our own. A few questions.....
Jodie, do you soak your hay or feed it dry? Should I soak for a tortoise of her size and age?
Tom, I hear you on the issue of warmth. We probably are not keeping he warm enough. Unfortunately, we dont have as much room as Id like to have for her. We have talked about moving her to a 4x4 wooden whelping box as we could probably keep her warmer in that than we can in the Kennel, but doesnt she need more exercise than that? We can get that bathroom up to about 80-85 degrees and I bet we could put a low heat lamp in there to create a basking spot. Just trying to give her some space to stretch her legs.

Also, what about the issue of humidity? Does a tortoise her size need to be soaked herself anymore? Is the humidity good or bad for her?
 

Lyn W

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View attachment 160052
I forgot to mention that we have also tried feeding her some hay. It is a good quality mix that we feed to our horses. Mostly timothy grass which we purchase from a local farmer who is a good friend of ours. She nibbles on it but doesnt seem to like it as much as the romaine. We will work on finding better things for her to eat this week!
I have a leopard who won't eat grass unless he grazes it himself so I grind 'Readigrass' almost to a powder in a blender and sprinkle it onto wet leaves, them spray with water again to make sure it sticks and he can't avoid eating it. Also try soaking the hay for a while to see if that makes it more appealing.
www.thetortoisetable.org.uk is a good guide as to what plants are tort safe for food and enclosures.

He will also need a source of uvb for the winter, I use an arcadia mini d3 mvb (mercury vapour bulb) which gives heat, light and uvb in one bulb. This is in a ceramic holder with a wide dome to reflect heat down. For additional heat when needed and at night, I use a CHE (ceramic heat emitter) also in a wide dome, run through a thermostat with a probe to keep temps even. Don't use coiled or long, thin loop type bulbs as these can damage torts eyes and red lights are not recommended by many keepers as they can confuse torts. Good luck and hopefully with the correct care he will soon thrive.
 
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Jodie

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Wow! thank you, everyone! We'll go shopping today for some better food and Im going to look into growing our own. A few questions.....
Jodie, do you soak your hay or feed it dry? Should I soak for a tortoise of her size and age?
Tom, I hear you on the issue of warmth. We probably are not keeping he warm enough. Unfortunately, we dont have as much room as Id like to have for her. We have talked about moving her to a 4x4 wooden whelping box as we could probably keep her warmer in that than we can in the Kennel, but doesnt she need more exercise than that? We can get that bathroom up to about 80-85 degrees and I bet we could put a low heat lamp in there to create a basking spot. Just trying to give her some space to stretch her legs.

Also, what about the issue of humidity? Does a tortoise her size need to be soaked herself anymore? Is the humidity good or bad for her?
Yes she needs plenty of hydration. High humidity and too cold equal sick though. I would use the whelp box as a humid hot area inside of a larger area. Perhaps connected to the kennel. Put her in the humid hot area at night. A CHE on a thermostat works well.
I do soak the hay. I have Leopards and a Sulcata. Mine is almost 50 pounds, so I make the above mix that is about 40% hay that has been soaked, feed the leopards, then add more dry hay to the remaining for Sully. For your girl I would soak it all, and start with less hay, more greens. You can increase the hay as she eats it better. I would soak this tortoise for an hour every other day. That can taper off to once or twice a week when she is well hydrated.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

I think you have three main concerns, diet, heat and a larger habitat. What's your garage like? Do you think you can set up a large stock tank in the garage and be able to keep it warm in the winter?

You can buy a nice variety of dark, leafy greens at the store - endive, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens (chicory), etc. then cut up some of your orchard grass hay with the scissors and set it in a bowl of water for a few minutes to soften it. Mix the grass all into the greens so he can't pick it out.

Yes, I think you need to soak this tortoise daily in warm water.

You've taken on a big project. Winters are going to be the hardest, but come summer, it's pretty easy to care for them.

I have a 110lb sulcata who lives outside year round. Do a search for "Housing a 100lb sulcata" and "Dudley's rebuild" and you can see two different 'houses' I've made for him. Also Tom has done a few night boxes:

http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/daisys-new-enclosure.28662/

Both these will give you ideas for when your tortoise can live outside year round.
 

Odin's Gma

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Im a bit concerned that any potted plants that i might buy at a local store will have been treated with pesticides. Any suggestions on how to acquire safe plants to start off with?
There are some threads about this and a whole section about food on the forum.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/forums/tortoise-diet-and-food.21/
Odin's gma is an inspiration for anyone who wants to grow tortoise food: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...ndoor-winter-gardening-thread-sulcata.126673/

Aww, thanks, Big Charlie!

Being in Minnesota food was a huge concern for me too when my son brought Odin home. I was fortunate to have a few older, tort safe plants already in the house and a yard full of weeds to get him started, but as you will see in the thread Big Charlie linked, and in my first indoor gardening thread, everything about this was foreign and fascinating and scary to me!
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/gmas-indoor-winter-gardening-and-sulcata-brag-thread.112815/

Both links have a ton of resources where I ordered everything that I have started and how I did it, without a fancy or expensive set-up.

I prefer to start as much as I can from seed, just for my own peace of mind, but there are plants that just won't cooperate in a timely manner, like opuntia, so I ordered pads that are sold as food, and planted them!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006ZQJEZA/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20
This is a good start because they love it, they can start eating it the day you get it, and you can plant the rest! Mine is still going gangbusters and continues to produce new pads even during the winter for my quickly growing little guy.

The quickest things you can start from seed are grasses, including regular yard grasses like bermuda and fescue, cat grass & wheat grass, radish, carrots (both for the greens, not the veggies) and clover. My favorite place to order clover and weed seeds is Outside Pride. Gotta love a place that seels all the weeds our torts love so much! (most of the "weed" seeds like dandelion and plantain are actually herbs, and listed as such)
http://www.amazon.com/s?marketplace...PMP96T0&merchant=A3KP4PUPMP96T0&redirect=true

Tortoise Supply comes highly recommended, but I have not yet tried any of their seed mixes:
http://www.tortoisesupply.com/SeedMixes

Welcome to torting!
 

sunshinedd8

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You folks have been so helpful. I gave her (Ariel is her new name) new food..... spring mix, mixed with arugula and alfalfa sprouts.... she loved it! I will clip and soak some hay and mix that in as well since that is the most economical thing to feed without sacrificing nutrients. We also put a new, better heat lamp and we are building a whole new inclosure. She already has a UVB bulb. We dont have a heated basement or garage so we are doing what we can to give her most of our playroom. I think the biggest we can go is 5x6. We're making it out of plywood as that should hold heat better than the kennel but I do still plan to give her the run of that bathroom when I take her there to soak. It can get very warm and since she is very active whenever I take her in there, I think she likes it.
Our winter temps often go well below zero and we often dont see the ground for months so outdoors year round is completely out of the question. I dont even think we could keep her outside at night in the summer. It just gets too cold at night.
I will definitely check out Odin's gma page about growing my own stuff. Thanks again, for those links!
 

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