Outdoor enclosure ideas for a cherry head? Seattle area

GingerRaph

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2024
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Tacoma, WA
Long story, but we recently took on an 8yo cherry head named Raph. Pretty sure he's lived most of his life in a small aquarium (less than 2x4). We have had him for about a week and it didn't take me long to realize he's been in too small of an enclosure for so long! We live on a half acre with lots of trees/plants/shade etc. but for the time being I am focused on getting an outdoor space for him as quickly as possible and wanted some ideas based. The area I was thinking of is just a 2 1/2' x 20'ish strip of barked area. Used to be a planter of some sort. I was thinking of making some sides with some used cedar fencing I have laying around and then planting some shade plants at either end (hostas maybe)? Also would like to build a shade of some sort out of fence boards to get some deep shade at either end? Do I need to pull up the landscaping fabric under the bark so he doesn't dig into it? I was thinking of scraping the top 2-3" inches of dirt and bark and throwing down organic top soil instead? His back legs don't work right (he has a wheel glued to his shell) so mobility over terrain might be tough for him for now. I am hoping that this enclosure will all him to regain strength in his back legs via excercise and vitamin D.

If I have enough shady spots will he just find the shade when he gets hot? I plan on bringing him in at night but would like to be able to leave him out there most of the day. The issue is it does get hot in our area these days. 97 this weekend apparently!

Like I said, there are probably better areas in our yard for him but I need to get something setup quick to get him out of that aquarium!!!!

IMG_9418.jpg
 

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,342
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Long story, but we recently took on an 8yo cherry head named Raph. Pretty sure he's lived most of his life in a small aquarium (less than 2x4). We have had him for about a week and it didn't take me long to realize he's been in too small of an enclosure for so long! We live on a half acre with lots of trees/plants/shade etc. but for the time being I am focused on getting an outdoor space for him as quickly as possible and wanted some ideas based. The area I was thinking of is just a 2 1/2' x 20'ish strip of barked area. Used to be a planter of some sort. I was thinking of making some sides with some used cedar fencing I have laying around and then planting some shade plants at either end (hostas maybe)? Also would like to build a shade of some sort out of fence boards to get some deep shade at either end? Do I need to pull up the landscaping fabric under the bark so he doesn't dig into it? I was thinking of scraping the top 2-3" inches of dirt and bark and throwing down organic top soil instead? His back legs don't work right (he has a wheel glued to his shell) so mobility over terrain might be tough for him for now. I am hoping that this enclosure will all him to regain strength in his back legs via excercise and vitamin D.

If I have enough shady spots will he just find the shade when he gets hot? I plan on bringing him in at night but would like to be able to leave him out there most of the day. The issue is it does get hot in our area these days. 97 this weekend apparently!

Like I said, there are probably better areas in our yard for him but I need to get something setup quick to get him out of that aquarium!!!!

View attachment 373324
Hello!

Your plan sounds good.

Hostas are good and safe plants for shade. And so are carex (sedge), coleus, prayer plant and boston fern. Spider plants are good as well if you have a good dense clump of them. When he will gain some strength pothos and wandering jew can be added.

For substrate it's better to leave just plain dirt - as you mentioned, he is not in the best shape for the obstacle course, so coarse bark could be challenging to walk. Top soil isn't a good choice either, unless you have composted it yourself and know for sure that there were no toxic plants and chemicals. Redfoots aren't great diggers, so no need to put fabric under the dirt.

To protect him from sun I would place a shade sail over the whole area: in 97 he can overheat easily and may not be able to get in the shaded area timely. Shade sails don't block 100% of sun rays and redfoots are fine with mild lightning.
 

GingerRaph

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2024
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Tacoma, WA
Hello!

Your plan sounds good.

Hostas are good and safe plants for shade. And so are carex (sedge), coleus, prayer plant and boston fern. Spider plants are good as well if you have a good dense clump of them. When he will gain some strength pothos and wandering jew can be added.

For substrate it's better to leave just plain dirt - as you mentioned, he is not in the best shape for the obstacle course, so coarse bark could be challenging to walk. Top soil isn't a good choice either, unless you have composted it yourself and know for sure that there were no toxic plants and chemicals. Redfoots aren't great diggers, so no need to put fabric under the dirt.

To protect him from sun I would place a shade sail over the whole area: in 97 he can overheat easily and may not be able to get in the shaded area timely. Shade sails don't block 100% of sun rays and redfoots are fine with mild lightning.
Those are good ideas! I will need to look into a shade sail. Has anyone tried those corrugated plastic roofing materials that are translucent? The gray ones let some light in. So do the opaque white ones. I was thinking this might be better for the long skinny area. They come in 2x12 sections I think so that would cover the majority of it. And there is a fence on the backside? Also, in 85+ temps I would probably keep an eye on him often even with the shade until I go through with my temp gun and verify the ground temps at various areas throughout the day.

Also, when you say "plain dirt" what exactly do you mean? Any time I've needed "dirt" it's been topsoil of some variety.

1720026407238.png
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2024
Messages
891
Location (City and/or State)
Finland
By plain dirt Alex probably means the natural dirt in your area/yard. I am going to try to find an example of hanging shade for you.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2024
Messages
891
Location (City and/or State)
Finland

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,342
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Those are good ideas! I will need to look into a shade sail. Has anyone tried those corrugated plastic roofing materials that are translucent? The gray ones let some light in. So do the opaque white ones. I was thinking this might be better for the long skinny area. They come in 2x12 sections I think so that would cover the majority of it. And there is a fence on the backside? Also, in 85+ temps I would probably keep an eye on him often even with the shade until I go through with my temp gun and verify the ground temps at various areas throughout the day.

Also, when you say "plain dirt" what exactly do you mean? Any time I've needed "dirt" it's been topsoil of some variety.

View attachment 373328
Corrugated roofing as many other plastics and glasses will filter 100% of UVB. Some amount still will be available from the open side. I'll try to make a rough measurement tomorrow of how much UV will be left.

As for the shade sails - look for the balcony HDPE privacy screens or pergolas. They would better match enclosure dimensions.

"Plain dirt" - is just some ground from your yard, no pesticides, washed from fertilizers. Loam is fine, sand and gravel - obviously not. The goal is to make firm, even surface with good traction and some opportunities for muddy puddles. If you can pack down top soil to be solid - it will work. Bagged soils aren't 100% safe, even organic ones (poisonous ivy or oleander used for compost are 100% organic, also some weird things like hairs, plastic pieces or screws can be found).
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,466
Location (City and/or State)
UK
This special needs little guy you’ve taken on has really pulled at my heart strings! Thank you so much for taking them in and putting time and effort into improving their life❤️
I look forward to following your progress on here!🥰
 

GingerRaph

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2024
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Tacoma, WA
Here are some photos of Raph! I have some concerns regarding his health (hump on shell, flaking/peeling on skin, bubbles in his eye) but the soonest I could get a vet appointment in end of July! If anyone sees anything alarming I'd like to know! I also knew nothing about tortoises until we got Raph so I am learning as quickly as I can!

IMG_9421.JPGIMG_9421.JPGIMG_9427.JPGIMG_9425.JPGIMG_9423.JPGIMG_9424.JPG
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,466
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Here are some photos of Raph! I have some concerns regarding his health (hump on shell, flaking/peeling on skin, bubbles in his eye) but the soonest I could get a vet appointment in end of July! If anyone sees anything alarming I'd like to know! I also knew nothing about tortoises until we got Raph so I am learning as quickly as I can!

View attachment 373399View attachment 373399View attachment 373400View attachment 373401View attachment 373402View attachment 373403
Oh bless his little heart he is a bit of a state bless him😔
The amount of glue on his plastron is a bit of a concern and will hopefully either wear off or can safely be removed, my fear would be the effect on the growth underneath, looking at it I’m worried it could have a similar effect to those horrific painted shells you see on turtles(photo example attached😭) not saying that will happen here because it’s underneath, and it’s not like he’s a hatchling, so maybe it won’t have the same effect.
Hopefully more experienced members can chime in there, I’ve not personally come across something like this yet.

He definitely appears to be suffering with MBD looking at that shell, hopefully the vet can talk you through managing his condition.

He does appear quite dry, I’d keep up with daily soaks for now and keep his humidity up. The eye bubbles could be a sign of dehydration, sometimes it’s an indication of something respiratory or something irritating the eyes, but him being so dry I’m inclined to say it could be dehydration.

He does also appear to need a little bit of a beak trim, though it might not be too far gone that it can’t be worn down naturally, giving feeds on a large serving slate can definitely help with this in the meantime, but see what the vet thinks when you go, they should be able to safely trim it down for you🙂
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1979.jpeg
    IMG_1979.jpeg
    115.8 KB · Views: 2

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,601
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Here are some photos of Raph! I have some concerns regarding his health (hump on shell, flaking/peeling on skin, bubbles in his eye) but the soonest I could get a vet appointment in end of July! If anyone sees anything alarming I'd like to know! I also knew nothing about tortoises until we got Raph so I am learning as quickly as I can!

View attachment 373399View attachment 373399View attachment 373400View attachment 373401View attachment 373402View attachment 373403
He actually doesn't have a 'hump' like you thought, what he has is a sunken in carapace over the back end. This is probably MBD (metabolic bone disease) from lack of calcium and UVB. Now that YOU have his care responsibility, he's going to get better.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,601
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
@Littleredfootbigredheart : You win!!! That little RES is much worse than ANY picture I've ever seen. I'm trying to suss it out. Are you saying that the decoration put on the babies caused that portion of the shell to not grow? People are so damned stupid!
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,466
Location (City and/or State)
UK
@Littleredfootbigredheart : You win!!! That little RES is much worse than ANY picture I've ever seen. I'm trying to suss it out. Are you saying that the decoration put on the babies caused that portion of the shell to not grow? People are so damned stupid!
Yes essentially the horrible paint stuff, or I’m not sure if it’s some sort of plastic😭 Stops that part of the shell being able to grow, it’s looks as though that part of the shell stays stuck underneath, whilst the rest of the animal grows around it, causing that horrible pinched in look😔

Not saying anything like that will happen here, but whenever I see anything stuck to the shell of a tortoise or turtle that still has growing to do, those pictures always come to my mind😣
 

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,342
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Here are some photos of Raph! I have some concerns regarding his health (hump on shell, flaking/peeling on skin, bubbles in his eye) but the soonest I could get a vet appointment in end of July! If anyone sees anything alarming I'd like to know! I also knew nothing about tortoises until we got Raph so I am learning as quickly as I can!

View attachment 373399View attachment 373399View attachment 373400View attachment 373401View attachment 373402View attachment 373403
Poor guy! I'm really glad you've got him, he needs some love and proper care.

1. A hump on the shell is likely a metabolical bone disease (it's not a hump, but depressed bottom shell part). Trouble moving rear legs is a common symptom as well. UVB, exercise and good calcium-rich diet will help him to recover to some extent.
2. His skin and scales should look better with hydration (soaks and humidity). Cleaning with a soft bristle toothbrush once a week could help too.
3. Perhaps, the wheel does more harm than good. Maybe it can be removed if you cut glue ridges with a an office knife.

Please, keep us updated on how is he doing. And ask any questions you have, we'll try to help.
 

GingerRaph

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2024
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Tacoma, WA
Poor guy! I'm really glad you've got him, he needs some love and proper care.

1. A hump on the shell is likely a metabolical bone disease (it's not a hump, but depressed bottom shell part). Trouble moving rear legs is a common symptom as well. UVB, exercise and good calcium-rich diet will help him to recover to some extent.
2. His skin and scales should look better with hydration (soaks and humidity). Cleaning with a soft bristle toothbrush once a week could help too.
3. Perhaps, the wheel does more harm than good. Maybe it can be removed if you cut glue ridges with a an office knife.

Please, keep us updated on how is he doing. And ask any questions you have, we'll try to help.
I think the wheels definitely do more harm that good. I am going to build a bigger enclosure for him ASAP for indoors combined with the outdoor space. I am working on removing the wheels as well to see if we can recover without them. I will be working on a 3D printed "wheelchair" with rubber bands as well if he ends up needing the wheels long term.
 
Top