SoCal Sulcata winterizing

Ellie Mae

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So, it's been almost a year since a 45 lb. (and growing) Sulcata walked into my life. Have learned a lot, and he has had a wonderful summer free ranging daily around my acre and a half fenced property (and sometimes into the house...) I had a heated insulated dog house for him last winter, but in the spring he chose to move into an dogloo in a stall, where he returns each evening and burrows in the straw. With cooler nights and winter approaching, am getting a bit worried about housing. He never really liked the dog house as it had a wooden floor, and now that his habit is going into the stall, I think it's going to be difficult to persuade him to use the dog house or any other heated enclosure, and he's getting too heavy for me to move. It's also not very safe to bring the electricity out to the stall with all of the other animals around to interfere...I guess what I'm asking is could he be OK burrowing in the igloo, perhaps I could cover it with rugs and put plastic flaps over the door?? Appreciate the feedback and/or suggestions.
 

Yvonne G

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Well, I guess our first question would have to be - how cold do your winters get there in SoCal?

In my opinion, you should find a safe way to bring an electrical line into the stall - overhead maybe?
 

Ellie Mae

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I think the nights are generally around 40 + with occasional dips. The problem is there are goats, pigs, and chickens etc that can interfere with cords. I spent several hundred dollars running electricity out to his previous house, but now he has chosen to move another 15 feet further into the stall....
 

Ellie Mae

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Also, was using an oil- based radiator heater and am nervous about using that or any other source of heat where there is a lot of straw and bedding.
 

Yvonne G

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It can be made safe. For one thing, you put the wire in conduit and attach the conduit either to the ceiling, the wall, or bury it.

You can build some sort of "house" for the heater so it can't be tipped over. Just some sort of 2x4 framework.
 

Tom

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Dog houses don't work well because they aren't designed for tortoises. Even with modification, the door holes are too big and the ceilings too high.

Wood floors are not a problem. I've been using them here in SoCal for well over a decade with no issues.

Your tortoise absolutely needs heat over winter. Heck, its too cold right now! It got down to 54 here last night. That's just way to cold for a tropical tortoise. If he's chosen that spot as his "home base" your life will be much easier if you put the heated box where he already wants to be. You don't have power anywhere in your barn? No lights or anything out there? Its not that hard to rent a trencher from Home Depot and run some power out there in a safe way. I've done it here many times. I have electrician friends that help me out with all the details and connections, but I do the manual labor myself.

If you make a box somewhat following this design, you can still use grass hay inside the box.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/

With this design, you couldn't use hay inside the box, but it makes more sense for a single tortoise:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/

I've tried to do this many ways over many years. I've tried to find cheap and easy solutions for this problem, and I've watched many friends, neighbors, and family implement their own ideas too. What usually happens when it isn't done right is a sick tortoise, a burned tortoise, or a dead tortoise. I'm not trying to shock or scare you, but I do want to emphasize the importance of getting this right and not trying to cut corners for convenience. A lot of trial and many errors go into these assertions I make. I'm offering you a shortcut in the steep learning curve before your tortoise comes to the same harm I've seen so many others come to.

I hope this info helps, and please ask more questions, and feel free to grill me on the details. I'm really happy to help.
 

Razan

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When your sulcata discovers an 80 degree insulated 4' X 4' box he will not want to be anywhere else at night. Like you, we took on an adult sulcata without knowing everything there is to know about keeping them. This forum is a life saver for us and our tortoises. Building Tom's box is a one time deal that your tortoise will use and appreciate for years. Our sulcata loves his night box and does not dig or make burrows. We hope it will stay that way. The electricity issue was/is somewhat resolved. I have 200 feet of extension cord going from the exterior of the house to his night box in the lower yard. It works. It could be better (underground and done all proper) but it works. The tortoise is cozy safe and happy.


DSCF7916

Yes, tortoises do poo...The key thing is he is cozy, safe and happy. What else do we want?
 
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Big Charlie

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You could build a new tortoise house closer to your house or in the old location where you already have electricity and eventually he will learn that is where he should go. I have mine on my porch where there were already outlets to plug in his heating equipment. You may have to block access to his current house in order to teach him where you want him to go.
 
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