Single Tortoise Night Box

Radnoisseur

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@Tom

My yard has no dirt. It is 95% grass and the little dirt area is about 10 sq ft at the area in front of each of my heated houses.

There are a ton of local ads that gives away free "clean dirt" from people redoing their landscape or home. They should be tortoise safe yes? How would I be able to know if the dirt is too dusty or not? :)
 

Tom

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@Tom

My yard has no dirt. It is 95% grass and the little dirt area is about 10 sq ft at the area in front of each of my heated houses.

There are a ton of local ads that gives away free "clean dirt" from people redoing their landscape or home. They should be tortoise safe yes? How would I be able to know if the dirt is too dusty or not? :)
You'd have to look into each source fo dirt and see what, if anything it was previously treated with.

All dry dirt is dusty, so I don't know how you'd tell if it was "too dusty". I just grab a shovel full of whatever dirt is close by on my dirt ranch.
 

Cleopatra 2020

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Out of curiosity, it is inevitable that tortoises will defecate and urinate in their outdoor heated house; however, have anyone experienced less with certain "substrates"?

Which one is easier to clean essentially?

Bare wood
Bare cement
Dirt
Cedar
Orchid Bark
Etc?
I believe dirt's a good choice
 

Elka Mars

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I like my larger tortoises to live outside full time. My climate permits this year round with a little help. For people who live where it snows all winter, this type of box is still good for warmer weather, getting them out earlier in Spring, and keeping them out a bit later into fall. You'll need something else for the dead of winter. Or you can move South! :)

The top of this box is half a sheet of plywood, insulated and sealed, so 4x4 feet. The inside of the box ends up being around 40x40 inches when its all done. I use an 18x28 inch Kane heat mat on the floor, and a 21" radiant heat panel on the top. Both are controlled by the same thermostat: https://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
I lower the RHP so that it is within 6-8 inches of the tortoises carapace that lives in the box. I like to screw a plastic shoe box to the back of the box to contain all the extra wires and thermostat. Weather strip seals the top where the hinged lid meets it, and I use plastic freezer stripping across the door to hold in heat when the door is open. The door drops down like a drawbridge and makes a ramp fro the tortoise to get in and out easier. I latch the door shut every night and open the door every morning.

In summer our daytime highs are usually right around 100, with night time lows around 65. I unplug the boxes during this time and temps stay between 70 and 90 in them. In Fall, we have warm sunny days usually into December, so I set the thermostat to 80. As soon as the weather turns cold in winter, I bump the thermostat up to 86, so they always have an area to get warmer in on a cold rainy day here. Spring time brings back warmer sunny days, so I lower the box temp back down to 80. This routine works great for any tropical species like Stars, radiata, sulcatas and leopards.

Here is the box during construction. I frame the plywood walls with 2x4s and use 1.5" rigid foam as insulation. Then I seal it with silicone caulking and cover the walls with plywood inside.
View attachment 291639

Here is all the electrical stuff going into it:
View attachment 291640

View attachment 291641

Here I want to show the weather stripping in place, and the drip loop. The drip loop is simply draping the cord down a bit so that when it rains, the water drips down the cord to the ground instead of following the cord downhill right into the box.
View attachment 291642

Ready to keep a tortoise warm and safe at night:
View attachment 291643

This is a great way to house a large leopard or sulcata in a relatively warm climate. We get cold winter nights in the 20s and this box, built and heated this way, keeps them in the 80s. Because my climate is so dry, I usually add a 5 gallon bucket or some tubs of water to generate some ambient humidity inside the box. People in the South East US wouldn't need to do this.

Questions and conversation are welcome! :)

For larger tortoises, multiple tortoises, and a different heating strategy, see this thread:
 

Elka Mars

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I really like your set up. I live in Texas with lots of humidity and pretty mild winters. I have a huge dog house that is the size of those big play houses kids have. It’s insulated and wired with a outlet at the top. The ramp that closes is a really great idea. For right now I’m going to have a 12x12 built and add on in the spring. My big question is do I put down flooring and then fill with dirt? I’m really afraid she will dig out.
This was so unexpected and I wasn’t the least bit prepared. Apparently the owner went to prison and the family member that inherited her did not want her on the property. I immediately said I’d take her because I have had a lot of experience with snakes and figured that knowledge would come in very handy. Plus I didn’t want her going to some crack head.
I have no knowledge of her history and don’t even know how old she is since I don’t know how fast they grow. When she came to me on Friday she looked horrible and had been left outside without a heater. I will post before and after below.
Tomorrow I will take pictures of the dog house.
 

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Tom

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I really like your set up. I live in Texas with lots of humidity and pretty mild winters. I have a huge dog house that is the size of those big play houses kids have. It’s insulated and wired with a outlet at the top. The ramp that closes is a really great idea. For right now I’m going to have a 12x12 built and add on in the spring. My big question is do I put down flooring and then fill with dirt? I’m really afraid she will dig out.
This was so unexpected and I wasn’t the least bit prepared. Apparently the owner went to prison and the family member that inherited her did not want her on the property. I immediately said I’d take her because I have had a lot of experience with snakes and figured that knowledge would come in very handy. Plus I didn’t want her going to some crack head.
I have no knowledge of her history and don’t even know how old she is since I don’t know how fast they grow. When she came to me on Friday she looked horrible and had been left outside without a heater. I will post before and after below.
Tomorrow I will take pictures of the dog house.
Dog houses don't work, and it gets cold in Dallas in winter. A box like the one in this thread will work much better, or here is an 8x4 foot version with a different heating strategy:

The tortoise will not dig out.
 

Elka Mars

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Dog houses don't work, and it gets cold in Dallas in winter. A box like the one in this thread will work much better, or here is an 8x4 foot version with a different heating strategy:

The tortoise will not dig out.
This is the dog house. It was made for a huge mastiff. It’s totally insulated. We have mild winters where I am and very few below freezing days. I will probably be bringing her in the house at night. We will be cutting the door and building a closing drawbridge.
 

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Tom

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This is the dog house. It was made for a huge mastiff. It’s totally insulated. We have mild winters where I am and very few below freezing days. I will probably be bringing her in the house at night. We will be cutting the door and building a closing drawbridge.
As I said, dog houses don't work. They are designed for dogs. The doors are too big, they are too tall, and they are not insulated well enough. I don't see any insulation in yours. I see bare particle board on the inside, and that isn't going to hold up well with all the moisture and humidity.

Inside the house doesn't work well either. Its too cold unless you keep the house at 95 degrees so the floor where the tortoise is stays 80.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but better you find out here and now in this conversation than after your tortoise has too many cold nights and gets sick.

Try it. Find a warm place to keep your tortoise, and then run your heating out there in the dog house and see what the temperatures do. It would be great if I am wrong and it all works as is and maintains the correct temps. Give it a go. If it isn't maintaining 80 degrees on cold nights, you can try to retro-fit it and modify it.
 

GoGamora

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Almost done. Need to drop the IR panel with chains and add insulation to the ceiling. Will also re-trim out the door and add better door hardware (not liking the cheap stuff on there). Need heavy plastic strips for the entry too. Turned out okay.

Thanks Tom
 

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Tom

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Almost done. Need to drop the IR panel with chains and add insulation to the ceiling. Will also re-trim out the door and add better door hardware (not liking the cheap stuff on there). Need heavy plastic strips for the entry too. Turned out okay.

Thanks Tom
Looks great. You went thick with those walls! What did you use for insulation? I've thought of going that way many times, but I haven't done it yet.
 

GoGamora

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Looks great. You went thick with those walls! What did you use for insulation? I've thought of going that way many times, but I haven't done it yet.
I sandwiched 2 X foam insulated panels with insulating foam spray and used even more spray as adhesive to the exterior wall. Went heavier because it can get into 40s here sometimes 38!
 
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Radnoisseur

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Almost done. Need to drop the IR panel with chains and add insulation to the ceiling. Will also re-trim out the door and add better door hardware (not liking the cheap stuff on there). Need heavy plastic strips for the entry too. Turned out okay.

Thanks Tom

Looks super sturdy. Great job!
 

Kmomzee

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Most of them learn to use their houses as shelter from the cold and the elements. However, there are no guarantees. Most of the time mine put themselves away on cold days and nights. Most of the time... Every night I go around the whole ranch and make sure each and every tortoise has found its way back into its night box before shutting their doors for the night. Every once in a while, one of the female leopards will be parked over in a corner of the yard somewhere.

Hi,
This was my question. When they’re big enough to be outside. Should I close the door to the outdoor enclosure and keep them. In their box when it’s night time or just a cold day? Is it ok to keep them in the box when it’s cold out? We live in Georgia and today it’s 22 degrees out. What would you suggest? We’re getting a bab, so he or she will be inside for the next 1-2 years, but I’m trying to think ahead to make sure we can provide a long term/forever home… or until the tortoise outlives us, lol.
 

GoGamora

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Definitely wouldn’t let them out if it’s 22° outside, but if you need an enclosure for most days at any given stretch, you probably need an oil radiator heated 10x10 shed with its own heated hide box.

Today it’s raining here at 50°. Kaiju isn’t outside full time yet, but my dry run of the less insulated box above has me at 70° this morning. Needs to be 80° all night before I’ll be comfortable with her in there. On a rainy day, I’d leave it open
 

Tom

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Hi,
This was my question. When they’re big enough to be outside. Should I close the door to the outdoor enclosure and keep them. In their box when it’s night time or just a cold day? Is it ok to keep them in the box when it’s cold out? We live in Georgia and today it’s 22 degrees out. What would you suggest? We’re getting a bab, so he or she will be inside for the next 1-2 years, but I’m trying to think ahead to make sure we can provide a long term/forever home… or until the tortoise outlives us, lol.
They should be locked in each and every night. This keeps them warm, but also safe from nocturnal predators of all types.

I open the door on cooler days in the 50s or 60s, and sometimes they come out to eat and walk around, and sometimes they don't. I wouldn't let them out when its any colder than that.You will need some sort of giant heated housing for your colder winter days. Its not good to have them cooped up in a little heated night box for weeks on end.

I'm familiar with the Atlanta area. Spent a lot of time in Peachtree City, Newnan and Senoia. I see a high of 55 in Senoia today. Where are you that its 22?
 

Kmomzee

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They should be locked in each and every night. This keeps them warm, but also safe from nocturnal predators of all types.

I open the door on cooler days in the 50s or 60s, and sometimes they come out to eat and walk around, and sometimes they don't. I wouldn't let them out when its any colder than that.You will need some sort of giant heated housing for your colder winter days. Its not good to have them cooped up in a little heated night box for weeks on end.

I'm familiar with the Atlanta area. Spent a lot of time in Peachtree City, Newnan and Senoia. I see a high of 55 in Senoia today. Where are you that its 22?

Hi,
Yeah, we’re in north Georgia. The other morning it was about 25 in the morning and last winter we got down to 2 degrees through Christmas. Mostly our cold fronts are about in the 25-40 degrees, but I’ve only been here for a year or so. Like today was a low of 42 and a high of 57, but it always warms up when it rains… Then it says early next week it will drop onto the high 20s for the beginning of the week…. again… I’m only going off our last year here. A lot of people have told us though, last year was colder than the usual. We actually moved here last year from nor cal.
Thanks for the info.
 

Tom

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Hi,
Yeah, we’re in north Georgia. The other morning it was about 25 in the morning and last winter we got down to 2 degrees through Christmas. Mostly our cold fronts are about in the 25-40 degrees, but I’ve only been here for a year or so. Like today was a low of 42 and a high of 57, but it always warms up when it rains… Then it says early next week it will drop onto the high 20s for the beginning of the week…. again… I’m only going off our last year here. A lot of people have told us though, last year was colder than the usual. We actually moved here last year from nor cal.
Thanks for the info.
I've spent a lot of time south of Atlanta near Peachtree City. I know the weather there fairly well, but I don't know about northern GA. I'm told its colder, and that is exactly what you are reporting. Not good tortoise weather up there...
 

Kmomzee

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I've spent a lot of time south of Atlanta near Peachtree City. I know the weather there fairly well, but I don't know about northern GA. I'm told its colder, and that is exactly what you are reporting. Not good tortoise weather up there...

Totally what I’m worried about… but we will keep them indoors for as long as possible and then make them an outdoor enclosure that fits their needs for the winter.
 

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