Outdoor Desert Tortoise Enclosure - avocado trees? ...and other questions

thelifeofbuttons

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Hey,
I'm in the beginning stages of building an outdoor habitat/enclosure for my young CA Desert Tortoises. They currently live in a modified rabbit hutch, which I plan to continue to use, to house them at night; we have racoons and possum that roam the neighborhood. I'd really like some feedback in creating the ultimate habitat for my tortoises to thrive in.

As for the area, I have chosen a space at the back of my property, that would be large enough for them to grow into, once they become adults. My major concern is that I also have two avocado trees in the same area. I could create the perimeter of the enclosure to leave the avocado trees on the outside of the enclosure, but that would cut their space in half, at the least. I've read mixed information about avocados and tortoises, so I'm hoping to hear what you all have to say about the safety of including the trees in their living space. Is it too risky to have the avocado trees in their almost-full time enclosure??? They seem to gravitate towards the trees for shade, and protection. I have seen my bigger tortoise take a bite of a leaf and move on, and haven't noticed either of them trying to eat the leaves since then--I do keep a pretty close eye on them when they are out grazing.

So far, I've only gotten my ideal perimeter (including the trees within the enclosure) trenched out to 18 inches deep, and buried bricks to create a below-ground barrier, and removed most of the gravel that was already there. I plan to create the enclosure walls out of railroad ties and stacked rock next.

As for dirt, any opinions on the best kind of dirt to put in the bottom of the enclosure? Decomposed granite, perhaps? I plan to do a lot of planting to create a native plant/tortoise garden (I'm in CA so the two should hopefully go hand in hand). I'm actually really excited to try and also make it double as a butterfly garden...we'll see ;)

Water system...I really wanted to create a shallow, bubbling water feature, but I don't think that running electrical is in the budget. So I guess I'll just stick with a shallow, but large flower pot saucer?

Any and all advice and thoughts are welcome. I really want to make this a super rad space for my tortoises, and I want to make it the best, from the beginning, since I'll be putting so much work into it.

Thank you in advance!
Kelly
 

ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
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An answer to at least part of your enquiry is: There are several pretty cheap, but reliable solar powered air pumps for fish ponds on E-bay. Most come with a section of hose and an air bubble stone. (No electrical lines needed.) There are also solar powered flood lights, etc. As for the predators, you'll need a hinged, wire mesh framed top or tops to protect the tortoises. There are several good posts here with photos. Luckily, were I live, that is not an issue, so I can't give you any first hand info.
 

mini_max

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I can be of zero help because I'm in Canada with a Russian tortoise, but I just wanted to say: your plans sound fantastic, and your tortoises are super lucky! Please post pics along the way!
 

thelifeofbuttons

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Oct 25, 2014
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Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
An answer to at least part of your enquiry is: There are several pretty cheap, but reliable solar powered air pumps for fish ponds on E-bay. Most come with a section of hose and an air bubble stone. (No electrical lines needed.) There are also solar powered flood lights, etc. As for the predators, you'll need a hinged, wire mesh framed top or tops to protect the tortoises. There are several good posts here with photos. Luckily, were I live, that is not an issue, so I can't give you any first hand info.

Oh! YES!! What a great idea for a solar powered water pump! Thank you for the great idea. I'll look into it right away.

As for the hinged wire framed tops, do you think those will be necessary during the day, as well, to prevent birds from getting to them? The racoons and possum only come out at night, and I do plan to return them to their reinforced tortoise hutch at night, for safety until they are big enough.

Thanks so much for your help!!
Kelly
 

thelifeofbuttons

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Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I can be of zero help because I'm in Canada with a Russian tortoise, but I just wanted to say: your plans sound fantastic, and your tortoises are super lucky! Please post pics along the way!

Thank you!! I've had both Desert tortoises since they are hatchlings, and they were indoors for a few years, and just two years ago, I moved them to the reinforced rabbit, now-tortoise hutch, and I feel like they seem small for their ages. I'm hoping a big space to sun and roam during their awake months will be just what they need for some good growth spurts. I'll definitely take photos along the way! I'm just so excited to get this together for them!

thank you again!
kelly
 

ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
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It would be unusual for a bird to mess with a tortoise of a certain size. There are many birds of prey here and they leave mine alone. Yes. During daytime you should be good.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I have a circuit wired up for my dog house heater but I have solar and rechargeable flood lights and wireless motion sensing everything.
 

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ascott

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Thank you!! I've had both Desert tortoises since they are hatchlings, and they were indoors for a few years, and just two years ago, I moved them to the reinforced rabbit, now-tortoise hutch, and I feel like they seem small for their ages. I'm hoping a big space to sun and roam during their awake months will be just what they need for some good growth spurts. I'll definitely take photos along the way! I'm just so excited to get this together for them!

thank you again!
kelly

What part of California do the tortoise live in? I live here in the High Desert....I ask because if their earth in the designated area is natural dirt then I don't see a reason to try to add/replace that earth....also, if you keep the mass of avocado and the leaves raked up then there should be no problem with the trees being included in their enclosure....even if the tort scores some avocado bites they will be fine....you say "both" tortoise, are they both males both females one male/female? This will be a very important factor as they age...by what you say they are only at about 4-5 years old? The age factor is going to rapidly play into the "harmony" of the space ...so you will want to keep in mind that you may actually end up with two torts and their own individual spaces...so what ever space you set up you may want to also keep in mind that space may eventually need to be divided to accommodate for two very tenacious tortoise...also, you would want to avoid a male/female pairing--forced captive breeding is not a desirable practice....
 

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