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Question For Those Using Tom's Night Box

Discussion in 'Tortoise Enclosures' started by Yvonne G, Nov 29, 2019 at 7:05 AM.

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  1. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I'd really like to know what those of you who live in cold winter climates do with the tortoises that are confined to a night box (read 'small space') on those many, many cold, maybe snowy, winter days.

    We encourage new sulcata keepers to build a night box according to Tom's design, but what if they build the night box and the tortoise is snowed in? I'd really hate to see a sulcata penned inside a small night box for most of the winter. We're always telling people they need at least a 4'x8' enclosure for indoors, but what about that small night box in the winter?

    At least when my sulcata has to stay inside because it's cold, he's got room to move around inside his 10'x8' shed.

    I'm not being a smart alec, I really want to know?
  2. Relic

    Relic Well-Known Member

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    I've kind of wondered that as well, with the idea of building a night box for my YF next year since it will probably be too large for it's current indoor set-up. You open the box up each day for food/water/maintenance chores and flood the box with very cold air for a few minutes and then wait for the heating system to restore warmth over perhaps a few hours?

    I think your shed arrangement is very good. You can slip inside, do the daily chores required, and slip back out without a huge thermal disruption. I may build a box inside my shed (unheated but generally warmer than the ambient outside temps) next year...
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  3. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I'm thinking more of the tortoise's moving around area. It's too small for a tortoise to live 24/7 with no room to walk around, no?
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  4. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    It gets cold, below freezing, with plenty of snowstorms here in Maryland. Our Summer ends about 1 October and summertime warm temps start in early May. During these “frozen times” our Sully has his own heated indoor room, about 400 sq feet, with a heated night box kind of like Toms, but not double walled. Night box has a kane heat pad on the floor, RHP in the ceiling connected into a thermostat. Out in the larger enclosure I also have a space heater, misc lights. Grazing area, some slate pieces under a basking light. A few large terra cotta food dishes.

    Here’s a quick pix of the night box before moved into “Sullys” room. Night box size 6x3x2 feet.
    1FFE0CE0-DB0C-4A3C-AC80-AF5021D8B47F.jpeg


    Hope that answers a few questions.

    I think @vladimir up in Pennsylvania has a similar arrangement.
  5. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    So your night box is actually inside a room. See? I don't think we tell new folks that the night box needs to be inside and not outside. There's a gal posting right now about her sulcata in its burrow in Arizona and we've told her to build a night box. So where is she going to build it? Outside? Maybe the day temperatures in Arizona are such that the tortoise can still go outside during the day, that's fine, but what about all those new folks we advise who live in snowy winter areas. We don't mention a thing to them about where to build their night box.
  6. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Exactly. Yes, I have two night boxes, a summertime one thats outside and a wintertime one that is inside our house. I saw the AZ sully posts (and commented) - far too cold at night, even the days are cold (for a Sulcata).

    Current temps...note “our house” temps vs the warmth of Sullys house

    4BFBAB4C-B2CA-4F34-9EE9-768C2905124B.jpeg
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  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I've stated many times that these boxes are only good in the southern US where winter days are generally warm. I don't know how people house them in the frozen north. I don't think a heated shed is big enough for them to walk around in either.
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  8. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I don't remember ever seeing it stated that the box is only good in the southern US. I think when advising new tortoise keepers to build a night box this should be clearly stated each time. And for the gal that's posting now in Arizona, it should be brought to everyone's attention that maybe the daytime temps in her area are such that the tortoise will be able to go out during the day.

    I think we're giving the impression that the night box, while an extremely good idea (I have them myself), is suitable for everyone, every climate.
  9. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Understood. I'll do it.
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  10. vladimir

    vladimir Well-Known Member

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    Currently we have a 4x4 night box inside, in a larger 16 x 8 enclosure that has an insulated ceiling and plastic walls to hold the heat inside the enclosure. This is on the main floor of our house.

    I plan to build a 8x4 night box for outside next summer, but I still plan to bring him inside for winters.
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  11. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Mark, I'm trying to picture this. Did you actually take a room of your house and dump substrate on the floor? How do you have the lights, mat etc? How big is Sully? Does he ever try to break out, or smash your walls? When you move to FL, will this room be habitable?

    I'm sure these questions will be amusing to you, but when I hear of a sulcata in a room, I picture devastation. LOL

    Would you post a picture of his room?
  12. maggie18fan

    maggie18fan Active Member

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    I live in Oregon. I had a 125 lb male sulcata (Bob) who lived in the tort shed by himself and for 7 months out of the year he would pace in circles banging at the walls of said shed at every opportunity. BUT, he was also big enough and smart enough to have mostly free access to his outside pen, snow or ice. Now I have 2 male Sulcata in his shed (he died). One is 60 pounds and one is abt 25. The shed is 20'x12' heated and insulated. With sleeping boxes with pig blankets for both. They are seperated. So actually they have half the room that Bob did, are not smart enough or old enough to go outside in the winter at their will. So they are making a lot of noise out there, they are plain mad.
    Bob was smart, bright, fun, goofy and popular here in Corvallis. I simply loved him with all my heart and soul and only now, 4 years later, do I realize that he truly suffered here in the cold weather. All 3 Sulcata had the light set up, humidity hay great food and still today that shed stays at 90 degrees. But after I adopt these two Sulcata out I won't have and actually will say I don't think it is fair to keep Sulcata in the colder climates.
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  13. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Plywood floor, about 1/3 is substrate and timothy hay and cypress mulch. Three of the walls are concrete, the fourth is about 2 feet tall using 2x12 framing boards. Lights are dome lights hanging down, plus a few “LEDs for brightness. I had it like this last year too. All is easily undone. Impossible for damage to occur. Sully is pushing 65-70 lbs. I’ll see if i can get a good pix.
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  14. queen koopa

    queen koopa Active Member

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    Hey all, thanks Yvonne, this is my favorite topic and constantly contemplating better ways to keep heat and humidity in. I’m in nevada and we often experience very strong winds and very low humidity. Koopas (34 pounds 6 yrs to old Sulcata) got a 10 x 10 shed with a sectioned 8 x 8 area coco coir substrate. In the 8 x 8 she has a night box with a kane mat inside. There is an oil filled heater in the shed as well. Just added a plywood ceiling to reduce air space. With no wind out, the shed is 75 at night, with wind it will drop to 60-65. During the day its above 80. I close her in until the sun comes out, then open her door if The wind is minimal. She had just been inside for 3 days due to our weather, opened her door yesterday and she came out and ate cactus pads (it was probably 48F outside) she goes back in on her own, and I shut her in for the night.
  15. Animals1315

    Animals1315 New Member

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    Sulcta Tortoises are actually most not sold where I live and most of upstate New York. We actually have a tortoise season here when they are for sale only. And it's only the small breeds that work with this climate. Russian, Hermans and Greeks. I've seen a few Redfoots and Yellowfoots here as well. The bare minimum for these species the smaller ones is a Zoo Med Tortoise House which is what I have. He used to have a cement mixing tub but when I got cat he had to be permanently be moved to the tortoise house which was usually just for the summer. Unfortunately he is currently lost and I asked you guys on here. If he'd survive if had burrows. I'm positive he has multiples at this point. And I'm sure he made a nice winter one. Well I guess hopefully I can catch him in the spring. It will be a nightmare taking him out for walks though because now we're going to have to keep our eyes glued to his shell otherwise he'll just escape to one of his burrows again. Anyways in Upstate New York which is where I live we are advised not to get a sulcta because of their size.
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  16. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    ZooMed tortoise houses are too small for an adult of any species, and they are no good for babies because they are too open.

    No tortoise be be "taken for walks". You should have a safe and secure outdoor enclosures, or you will lose him again, as you said.
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  17. normav

    normav New Member

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    I live in North Dakota. Because my climate sucks for most reptiles, I sent my pair of YF torts to Hawaii last July. They are living the Dream. However, they overwintered for 15 years in a room in my home. They had a Menards black powder coated steel 5 x 5 covered dog kennel in the center of the room. I chained 2’ x 4’metal shelving on the back and side wall (chains through the top panel of the Kennel)to house a box turtle table, plants, and to hang fluorescent lights. The configuration of the interior actually changed every year dependent on their needs. The lowest shelf was the ceiling of their hide box. The sides of their hide box were 2 2’x4’ nasco heat mats mounted vertically to form a rectangular hide box that stayed 82-84 degrees and had humidity pumped in and the entire kennel had cypress mulch flooring. There were two clamp lamps outside the hide box for basking. The entire kennel sides and top were wrapped in plastic and the interior 4 walls had plastic (BPA Free) shower curtains hanging down that had a jungle motif. The hide box front and shelves were covered with a camo style cloth cover that is used to make hunting blinds. The entire pen seemed cozy, warm, humid and rainforest like. The tortoises really liked it until about February, which was when their internal clocks said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, and they started raising hell and wanting to go outside. They don’t have to worry about that anymore. I’m not saying my pen was perfect, but just describing what I used. A large tortoise would not fit in 5 x 5. My room also has a triple bay stainless steel sink (perfect for bathing) and they had their own dishwasher in there.
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  18. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    I usually try to state they need a heated shed if I know they are asking about what to do in the cold winter. That the night box could be the hide in the shed.
    Someone in AZ could just have a night box outside unless they live in the mountains where they do get snow. Most of AZ has warm days and cold nights. The night box should work fine there with likely zero days locked inside. In the cold snow areas they need a shed.
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  19. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    Totally agree with Tom. The enclosure is too small.
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  20. AzDesert

    AzDesert Member

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    Being from the metro Phx area on farm land, we have 3 adult sulcatas outside. We have a heated LARGE house for them for the nights. We go out every evening, ensure they are all inside, shut the doors, and turn on the radiant heater. Keeps temps about 80-85 in there. I keep it on until outside temps hit at least 65 & sunny. Each morning I go out and open the doors so they have access if they want to go out. Our days typically get from the mid 60s to mid 70s all winter but the nights do get cold....into the 30s and 40s. We made the tortoise house big enough that if they are stuck "inside" for a couple days, they have room to stretch their legs. It's a "process" each morning and evening going out and opening/closing doors and such, but it's worth it for them. For our other, younger tortoises (galaps, stars) we put them outside in their pens when the sun is out and 'warm', but before sunset we bring them in. We have a large box for each species w/ lights, heat, substrate, and hide box. AZ climate is fortunate to be sunny and typically warm enough for a few hours each day to get outside. I feel bad for the colder states....I'm sure it's hard!
    Well, that's how we do it in AZ...….... :)
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