Setting up for a Russian Tortoise - Constructive comments welcome

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
44
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
@wellington
@Alex and the Redfoot
@Tom

Going to get a baby tortoise so will not need this right away but figured I would ask to plan, make sure I do not plant any trees or shrubs and such.

What would the minimum square footage of a outdoor encloser for a "Russian"?

Will not get to it this year. Project for early next spring. Will walk around the yard and post a video somehow showing you the yard, sun placement, kids area, dog area, sun, shade as soon as the dust settles and with the interior enclosure.
 

SinLA

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
2,181
Location (City and/or State)
Los Angeles
@wellington
@Alex and the Redfoot
@Tom

Going to get a baby tortoise so will not need this right away but figured I would ask to plan, make sure I do not plant any trees or shrubs and such.

What would the minimum square footage of a outdoor encloser for a "Russian"?

Will not get to it this year. Project for early next spring. Will walk around the yard and post a video somehow showing you the yard, sun placement, kids area, dog area, sun, shade as soon as the dust settles and with the interior enclosure.
4 x 8.

Mine is 10x12 and its big for him, I could split it in two have two of them... I have one sectioned off into a space he can be overnight or if I go away he will be safe from predators. That section is 4 x 10 in this photo.
 

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Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,605
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@wellington
@Alex and the Redfoot
@Tom

Going to get a baby tortoise so will not need this right away but figured I would ask to plan, make sure I do not plant any trees or shrubs and such.

What would the minimum square footage of a outdoor encloser for a "Russian"?

Will not get to it this year. Project for early next spring. Will walk around the yard and post a video somehow showing you the yard, sun placement, kids area, dog area, sun, shade as soon as the dust settles and with the interior enclosure.
I prefer to "cage" smaller species, and Russians are escape artists, so caging helps. I like these from Tractor Supply:
IMG_1050.jpg
IMG_7276.jpg
These are 8x8 and I think that is a good minimum for outdoors. Bigger would be better, but it become more difficult to keep them covered as the cat gets larger.

My stars are in a 30 x 32 foot cage divided into four 8 x 30 foot strips. I made that one with pressure treated 2x4s and 4x4, with 1x2 inch welded wire.
 

Pippen's Pal

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2024
Messages
39
Location (City and/or State)
Port Elizabeth South Africa
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

View attachment 368973

View attachment 368974
View attachment 368975

View attachment 368976

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
Hi David, welcome to the forum. I hope you and Sandy will have many happy years together and I'm sure
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

View attachment 368973

View attachment 368974
View attachment 368975

View attachment 368976

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
Hi David, welcome to the forum. Sorry for your loss. You have done a super job researching how best to care for your Tortoise and It sounds like Sandy is going to be a very much-loved member of your family.
 

Kala

Active Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2024
Messages
122
Location (City and/or State)
Sittingbourne, Kent
4 x 8.

Mine is 10x12 and its big for him, I could split it in two have two of them... I have one sectioned off into a space he can be overnight or if I go away he will be safe from predators. That section is 4 x 10 in this photo.
This is incredible, tortoise home goals! I want to plan building something like this for when our hatchling is bigger. Is there any way you could possibly share a step by step how to? 😃

I wanted to check, does it not need a wire cover to protect from predators? I live next to a creek, which brings a wonderful variety of wildlife, but equally that means more risk to a tortoise. I worry 😅
 

Kala

Active Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2024
Messages
122
Location (City and/or State)
Sittingbourne, Kent
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

View attachment 368973

View attachment 368974
View attachment 368975

View attachment 368976

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
So sorry for your loss David. What a wonderful choice of companion to help focus your energy whilst you grieve your lovely wife ❤️

I think you sound like an incredible tortoise owner already. Good luck in your journey! 😊
 

SinLA

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This is incredible, tortoise home goals! I want to plan building something like this for when our hatchling is bigger. Is there any way you could possibly share a step by step how to? 😃

I wanted to check, does it not need a wire cover to protect from predators? I live next to a creek, which brings a wonderful variety of wildlife, but equally that means more risk to a tortoise. I worry 😅
If it’s not a baby (honestly I’m not sure how long it takes a baby Russian to reach full size) @Yvonne or @Tom can advise) then most likely not, unless you have daytime raccoons or loose dogs or something like that. That said a lightweight wire cover would certainly not hurt if it’s within your ability to offer.

Another thing to consider is if the wood frame I have would more likely rot in your area. If so, you may want to consider a big Wire kennel cage, and you could get that pre-purchased and save yourself a lot of hassle….
 

Cathie G

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And thank you to those who have mentioned the "escape Artist" trait of Russians. somehow they are able to wedge them selves up a wall and over....sneaky lil :tort:
I've watched Sapphire walk up a wall if he can fernangle his furniture the right way. 😉He usually manages.🐢 The funny thing is he doesn't have the good sense to sneak. He does the great escape right in front of me kinda. I have a habit of just sitting back and watching my animals do what they do. In the meantime I'm sitting outside of their aura of awareness ( if that makes sense). It teaches you a lot about how to set up safe habitat. So watch .🐢
 

David Steere

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44
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SECOND ROUND...

Tortoise arriving April 16th, 2024 bought from Tortoise Supply! Thanks Tyler! The tortoise, named Sandy, is a 8-9 month old Russian Tortoise.

@Ink @wellington @Alex and the Redfoot @Tom @Yvonne G @SinLA @Cathie G @jaizei @Pippen's Pal @Kala @MenagerieGrl @TylerStewart

Thank each of you for all the advise! Will be fine tuning everything in preparation for my new companion.

Any concerns with my new setup please let me know.

Table - Inside.jpg
Inside Table
Table Outside.jpg
Outside of table ( covered when not viewing). Area where refrigerator, sink and tortoise stuff is. All contained in same area.
Basking and Water.jpg
Basking and Water
Feeding Stone.jpg
Flat rock for food
Hide.jpg
Humid Hide

TO DO

I believe I tried to address everyone's concerns as best I could. Only thing left is as follows.
  1. Install a sink ( using the spare sink that is upstairs )
  2. Add the drain if excess water builds up on the bottom of the substrate.
  3. Buy some plants and other things to create obstacles for the tortoise to go around and investigate.
  4. Go to the grocery store to get some leafy produce.

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married to for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figured I would get something I always wanted but never got around to getting. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I then thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and set up a tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with talking to my family members on how their day was.

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.


GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must have done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I pass away there will always be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close to my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way let's talk about the setup.


TABLE
  • A Russian Tortoise requires a lot of space. My end goal is making a 48”x 120” x 16” interior enclosure.
  • Currently my table is a 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent the tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of the table is 16" off floor. Ground is always colder!
  • Inside walls are 16" high. For our Russian escape artist.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing next year.
  • For day and night cycles as well as controlling all lighting and humidity I created a closed chamber on top of my table. Skin is BLACK 42 Gal. Heavy Duty Clean-Up Bags. They have a thickness of 3 mil. Stretch, Overlap and staple/tape seams to 2x construction. Viewing area is 36 in. high by 48 in.wide which will be covered when not in use to prevent light from getting in and keep temperatures and humidity from getting out.
  • Plants to add. Christmas Cactus, Spider Plant and Aloe vera plant. ( Replace soil with organic potting soil. )
  • Enclosure is pitched to one corner. Along the 48” and 72” sides. Since I do not mist but shower a large amount of water into the enclosure I will install a drain so NO STANDING water is left in the enclosure.
This allows me to completely control all of the light, temperature and humidity of the entire enclosure.


SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • Plan on keeping the Coconut Coir very moist to help the tortoise hydrate. Especially in Winter months since the basement is dry.

LIGHTING

NOTE: All temperatures are done by placing a rock about the height of a tortoise ( 4 inches off substrate ) and targeting it with a Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun.
Tortoises need day / night cycles. All lights are off within the enclosure from 8pm - 6am.
All lighting is within the enclosure for more control. Hanging lighting from the 2x6 roof.

  • Basking -125-Watt Clear BR40 Dimmable Incandescent 120-Volt Infrared Heat Lamp Light Bulb - ( timer: 6am-8pm - temp: 90 - 100 degrees )
  • Ambient - 3-Light Socket LED bulbs - ( timer: 6am-8pm )
  • UV - Arcadia 584504 Pro T5 UVB Kit 24W Desert with D3+ 12% Reptile Tube, Approx. 57.5 x 6 x 4.5 cm - ( timer: 11am-2pm / 3 to 4 on the meter ) - placed near the basking light.
  • Heat - Zoo Med Repticare Ceramic Infrared Reptile Heater, 100-watt - ( 4 in total / thermostat controlled set at 75 degrees / timer: 6am to 8pm. ( This will allow the enclosure to cool a bit during night cycle. )
  • Above Humid Hide - Fluker's Basking Spotlight Reptile Bulb - ( timer: 6am-8pm - temp: 80 +/- degrees )
Day temperatures of the enclosure range from 70 - 100 degrees +/- for daylight cycle ( All enclosure lighting is ON ).

Night temperatures of the enclosure range from 65 - 70 degrees +/- for night time cycle ( All enclosure lighting is OFF). Basically room temperature which is never cold.

HIDES
  • Tipped over the large planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 12”"x18"x8" - ( timer: 6am-8pm - temp: 80 +/- / 80% to 100% humidity 24/7. )

DIET

NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.

Feeding on a large flat rock. This allows the beak and nails to be trimmed naturally.
Water dish is 12 in. Large Terra Cotta Clay Saucer

  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoise's shell once a day. Placed on a large flat rock. Add more at noon if the tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, watercress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
Need to become a Botanist.


SUPPLEMENTS
  • Zoo Med Banquet Block Tortoise Food, 5-oz
  • Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3 Reptile Supplement - Twice a week
  • Penn-Plax Bird-Life Natural E Cuttlebones Bird Supplement, 2 count

SOAKING
  • Once a day at 6am. While soaking I will prepare the tortoises food.
  • Also will spray the entire enclosure with warm water from a garden hose to increase the enclosure's humidity each morning. Peaks at 99% but tapers off during the day.

HUMIDITY
  • Humid hides constant 80% to 100% humidity and temperature is 80 +/- degrees when lights are on.
  • Enclosure 50% to 100% depending on time of day.

MISCELLANEOUS

Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff. Plan on picking up the tortoise as little as possible to limit stress. Wash hands before and after to try to prevent any contamination.
  • Tortoise Table
  • Sink - ( Hot/Cold water. Garden hose attached to faucet to spray water into enclosure if more humidity is needed ).
  • Refrigerator
  • Counterspace
  • Also already have an outside house generator/ hooked up to the house electric box in case power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
Temperature, Humidity and UV readers
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • 6 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table. ( 4 in each corner, 1 in the middle of the enclosure and the other outside the enclosure for quick spot checks.

DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food. Document temp and humidity.
  • 12pm = change the water dish and more food if needed.
  • 6pm = change the water dish if needed.
  • 8pm = lights will automatically shut off in the enclosure. Tortoise time to sleep.
  • 1am = Lights out in the whole room. Owner time to sleep.
Will create a table and document all temperatures and humidity and post so others can confirm that my setup is correct.


MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice any issues. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
 

Yvonne G

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Oh my. . . That's an awful lot of fixtures. Seems an awful lot of lighting with only two shade places (not much choice for him to hide away from the always shining 'sun'). How about a couple three or four potted plants, either real or fake. Remember, baby tortoises are prey, and they are VERY uncomfortable being out in the wide open spaces like your enclosure is.
 

David Steere

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Joined
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Rhode Island
Oh my. . . That's an awful lot of fixtures. Seems an awful lot of lighting with only two shade places (not much choice for him to hide away from the always shining 'sun'). How about a couple three or four potted plants, either real or fake. Remember, baby tortoises are prey, and they are VERY uncomfortable being out in the wide open spaces like your enclosure is.
@Yvonne G

I have a rather large ( 12" high and end touching the soil ) bed of Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'. Never used any kind of fertilizer or spray of any kind in area.

Could wash them off, get rid of all dirt and use organic potting soil and place four of them in a shallow ceramic bowl and place them in a corner. Probably a 2 foot circle a grass.

Found this in the Tortoise Table.
1713052810346.png

Would this satisfy your shade issue for now?

Plan on getting more plants soon.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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@Yvonne G

I have a rather large ( 12" high and end touching the soil ) bed of Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'. Never used any kind of fertilizer or spray of any kind in area.

Could wash them off, get rid of all dirt and use organic potting soil and place four of them in a shallow ceramic bowl and place them in a corner. Probably a 2 foot circle a grass.

Found this in the Tortoise Table.
View attachment 369254

Would this satisfy your shade issue for now?

Plan on getting more plants soon.
Maybe it's better to spread them around the enclosure or put in the center for a stealthy, shady walking trail (like in "Metal Gead Solid").

And there is a bulb fixture (bottom right corner) just over the hide box, looks like another basking light. I think you can remove it for now. They hide from the sun and heat, not only from predators.

The box has 16" walls and around 4 inches of substrate. On the photo UVB light is hanging in-line with enclosure walls and I suspect it's about 12 inches high over substrate. At that height lamp should give UVI more than 7, which is dangerous. Maybe it's just an optical illusion, but please re-check. SolarMeter should be positioned straight under the middle of the lamp, sensor pointed towards the lamp.
 

Tom

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On the photo UVB light is hanging in-line with enclosure walls and I suspect it's about 12 inches high over substrate. At that height lamp should give UVI more than 7, which is dangerous. Maybe it's just an optical illusion, but please re-check. SolarMeter should be positioned straight under the middle of the lamp, sensor pointed towards the lamp.
I noticed that too.

@David Steere What type of UV tube is that, and how high above the substrate is it mounted?

Also, I prefer to use terra cotta saucers for food AND water to keep the food more contained and more off the substrate than a flat rock.
 

David Steere

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Hi @Tom @Alex and the Redfoot

1. You both where correct. UV light was way to low it would of nuked the tortoise. Hopefully I would of double checked before the tortoise arrived but you never know. You both made a great safe.

UV is brand new right out of the box. Brand is Arcadia 584504 Pro T5 UVB Kit 24W Desert with D3+ 12% Reptile Tube, Approx. 57.5 x 6 x 4.5 cm - ( timer: 11am-2pm / 3 to 4 on the meter ) - placed near the basking light.
22"
<----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->
|
|
|
| 20 1/2"
|
|
|_3.3____________________________________4.3________________________________________2.7_|

Shutting of all lights except UV to get a perfect reading the above is the following readings. Does this look better to you? Normal for bulb to very like that?

20 1/2" of surface.
3.3 on one end
4.3 in middle
2.7 other end
22" bulb.

2. Humid Hide

Will take the bulb out over hide. What is the temp of humid hide suppose to be? Higher or Lower than outside the hide?

3. Plants

I have enough Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance' to cover the entire enclosure. Like your trail idea. Might take a little time. After the tortoise arrives. Any ideas of quick and dirty things you can use for temporary shade? Was thinking piece of cardboard, plastic, ect...

4. Food Dish

Will pick up another terra cotta saucers if things get messy. I thought the whole point of rock was to naturally trim beak. Will the terra cotta perform the same task?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Hi @Tom @Alex and the Redfoot

1. You both where correct. UV light was way to low it would of nuked the tortoise. Hopefully I would of double checked before the tortoise arrived but you never know. You both made a great safe.

UV is brand new right out of the box. Brand is Arcadia 584504 Pro T5 UVB Kit 24W Desert with D3+ 12% Reptile Tube, Approx. 57.5 x 6 x 4.5 cm - ( timer: 11am-2pm / 3 to 4 on the meter ) - placed near the basking light.
22"
<----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->
|
|
|
| 20 1/2"
|
|
|_3.3____________________________________4.3________________________________________2.7_|

Shutting of all lights except UV to get a perfect reading the above is the following readings. Does this look better to you? Normal for bulb to very like that?

20 1/2" of surface.
3.3 on one end
4.3 in middle
2.7 other end
22" bulb.

2. Humid Hide

Will take the bulb out over hide. What is the temp of humid hide suppose to be? Higher or Lower than outside the hide?

3. Plants

I have enough Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance' to cover the entire enclosure. Like your trail idea. Might take a little time. After the tortoise arrives. Any ideas of quick and dirty things you can use for temporary shade? Was thinking piece of cardboard, plastic, ect...

4. Food Dish

Will pick up another terra cotta saucers if things get messy. I thought the whole point of rock was to naturally trim beak. Will the terra cotta perform the same task?
1. UV tube readings sound perfect now.
2. Hide temp can be ambient. No need to heat it. I would try to put it on the warm side of the enclosure.
3. I like to use safe branches from outside for this purpose. I clip them and replace them as needed, usually every other day. Grape vines, lavatera or mulberry branches, etc...
4. This is one of those things that people read about that are just an old myth, that get repeated over and over. Overgrown beaks are the result of the wrong diet and incorrect living conditions. Flat rocks do nothing, and yes, a terra cotta saucer will do the same thing as a flat rock as far as this is concerned. All of my adult tortoises of all species live outside and either graze naturally during our rainy season from December through April-ish, and then they eat off off plastic fast food type trays the rest of the time. Indoor babies eat out of terra cotta saucers. I never have beak problems. In the past I have received rescues with over grown beaks, and the beaks right themselves before I even do anything about it.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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1. This way UVI looks fine. These lamps are usually placed at 18" or higher - that's what triggered me.
2. My understanding of how humid hides work is that more humidity is achieved through lower temperatures (relative humidity is higher with lower temperature) or through additional humidity source (such as wet sponge or terracotta saucer with water as ceiling). That's how a hide with a saucer looks like: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-make-a-clay-pot-hide.197183/
3. Sewage PVC pipes, halved plant pots/buckets, faux plants/branches placed out of tortoise reach, natural tree branches. Cardboard works too, but only on dry substrate
4. Terracotta saucers file beak the same way as slates. But only when tortoise tries to bite it (e.g. when banana slice sticks to it) - which is rare occasion. As Tom said, this is more a food quality/husbandry problem. Soft mushy foods with too much calcium and plant protein can be the reason (I'm not completely sure, hopefully someone will correct me on this). My redfoot has no problems with beak too, maybe because I don't bother cutting leaves and vegetables.
 

ecachuh

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I've watched Sapphire walk up a wall if he can fernangle his furniture the right way. 😉He usually manages.🐢 The funny thing is he doesn't have the good sense to sneak. He does the great escape right in front of me kinda. I have a habit of just sitting back and watching my animals do what they do. In the meantime I'm sitting outside of their aura of awareness ( if that makes sense). It teaches you a lot about how to set up safe habitat. So watch .🐢
🤣 Yep I've noticed if there is a corner my sulcata manages to use that object to get over the obstacle. I've learned a lot watching her as well.
 

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