Sulcata shed conversion

DarkerGraphic

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I’ve spent the past three weeks rehabbing an old 10 x 12 plastic shed in order to house my three 22 year old sulcatas (all males). I’ve had them since hatchlings. Shed was existing and I thought it could suit my hide box/cold temp needs.

-The sheds plastic roof had deteriorated so I replaced it with a metal roof.
-I used gap filler spray foam for all crevices.
-I used three-quarter inch horse stall mats for the entire floor.
-I used 2 inch thick foam for all walls and ceiling. I installed a 2x4 as a joist to hang the insulation and secure lights to it. I installed a shop grade power strip for all electrical connections.
-I used 5/4 inch deck board for all of the pen sides including two removable panels and one removable door panel.
-I use foiled ducted tape to secure all insulation seems.
-I installed two shelves one to house the ceramic heater and one for storage. These are metal L brackets and extra shelf pieces (zip tied). I also drilled holes in the base mount for the heater to zip tie to the shelf.
-All lights will be on thermostats with heat detection nodes. 2 LED shop lights are on timers.
-Cameras installed to monitor torts and temp

Next step will be insulating the doors and then installing an in-line duct vent for excessive heat temperatures during the summers.

Eventually I will add three exit doors to an outdoor greenhouse section before extending into the outdoor enclosure.

Figured I’d share at this point in case it gives anyone some ideas. Enjoy! Located in the FL panhandle.

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Tom

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Where are you?
Does it hold the temp above 80?
How cold is the floor?

The heat lamps are burning the tops of their carapaces. You can see the damage in the pics. Heat lamps are not effective for large tortoises like these. Time to switch to something else.

I wouldn't use pine shavings either. If you want something dry, I'd suggest orchard grass hay.
 

DarkerGraphic

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Where are you?
Does it hold the temp above 80?
How cold is the floor?

The heat lamps are burning the tops of their carapaces. You can see the damage in the pics. Heat lamps are not effective for large tortoises like these. Time to switch to something else.

I wouldn't use pine shavings either. If you want something dry, I'd suggest orchard grass hay.
Hey Tom,
As I said, FL panhandle, big bend region. Floor is consistently around 70 which hasn’t been an issue for them in prior enclosures. The shed is on a wood frame which is filled with insulation. Internal temp varies from 65-90 depending on other heat sources. Plan to install pig blankets next as the heat lamps are only supplemental at this point. They don’t get the heat lamps except Dec-Feb and I believe the shell spots you see are from their recent burrowing escapades (I had to dig them out just last week). The ceramic heater keeps the ambient temp mostly stable. The bedding is aspen, not pine. I do a base layer of aspen, then add cypress mulch, then add orchard grass. You got shots of them in the new set up prior to the extra layers as I just placed them in the new setup for the first time this evening. It’s obviously still under construction per the post. Their outdoor set up is approximately 2 acres, cinder block walls.
 
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wellington

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If you could put a roof/ceiling on each ones section, it would likely be much cheaper and easier to heat. A small radiator type heater for each, like Tom uses in his night boxes would probably be all they would need. Even if you did half with a ceiling. Just a suggestion.
Otherwise it looks great.
 

DarkerGraphic

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If you could put a roof/ceiling on each ones section, it would likely be much cheaper and easier to heat. A small radiator type heater for each, like Tom uses in his night boxes would probably be all they would need. Even if you did half with a ceiling. Just a suggestion.
Otherwise it looks great.
That’s a great idea. I’d considered just going low at one point, but we have a healthy population of rattlers in the area and I didn’t want any unwelcome surprise guests once I cut the door openings. I might do that during the cold months though, I can always make them removable.

Speaking of which, does anyone have advice for keeping other reptiles from sneaking into hides?
 

Turtulas-Len

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What you've done looks great. I'm guessing that the 3 co- mingle when out in the yard, if so why are you separating them on chilly nights? I don't use any type of substrate in my sulcatas houses mainly because the substrate works as an insulator and the floor under the substrate stays cooler. With all your heat coming from above the tortoise even acts an an insulator and they will always be setting on a chilly floor. That's why some form of bottom heat is important.
 

DarkerGraphic

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What you've done looks great. I'm guessing that the 3 co- mingle when out in the yard, if so why are you separating them on chilly nights? I don't use any type of substrate in my sulcatas houses mainly because the substrate works as an insulator and the floor under the substrate stays cooler. With all your heat coming from above the tortoise even acts an an insulator and they will always be setting on a chilly floor. That's why some form of bottom heat is important.
I’ve actually had to keep them separated for the past 5 years. They use to live together without issue, but bullying became a problem and I’ve since divided everything into thirds. Any advice on how to overcome this with males would be appreciated. The ramming behavior injured one of my guys and that’s when I started separating them.

Duly noted on the heat btw, I think I’ll try Tom’s radiator idea. The pig blankets haven’t been durable enough in the past.
 

Turtulas-Len

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I’ve actually had to keep them separated for the past 5 years. They use to live together without issue, but bullying became a problem and I’ve since divided everything into thirds. Any advice on how to overcome this with males would be appreciated. The ramming behavior injured one of my guys and that’s when I started separating them.

Duly noted on the heat btw, I think I’ll try Tom’s radiator idea. The pig blankets haven’t been durable enough in the past.
I use the Stanfield mats from Osborne Industries and never heard anything bad about the Kane mats about durability. Got my first Stanfield mat in 2006 for Walker who weighed about 80 pounds at the time and now is about 150 pounds and it's still working fine now. No help on the bullying problem. I had 2 adult males and 3 adult female sulcatas that had free range and never had a problem. The males bedded down in their separate house's and the females all slept together in the same house nightly.
 

DarkerGraphic

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I use the Stanfield mats from Osborne Industries and never heard anything bad about the Kane mats about durability. Got my first Stanfield mat in 2006 for Walker who weighed about 80 pounds at the time and now is about 150 pounds and it's still working fine now. No help on the bullying problem. I had 2 adult males and 3 adult female sulcatas that had free range and never had a problem. The males bedded down in their separate house's and the females all slept together in the same house nightly.
Thanks for the tip on the stanfield mats. Do you use farrowing or nursery mats? I don’t remember what brand we use to use, it was from a local feed store, but we only got 4 years out of our last one. Willing to give the Osborne/Kane mats a try though, have equally heard good things about them.
 

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Just curious - how do the doors "work"? They look like they are nailed shut?
 

DarkerGraphic

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I use any of the mini radiant oil heaters in my 4x8 boxes. Walmart sells them for about $35.
Hey Tom, so I read some of your other threads and wanted to get your opinion on Kane mats vs. mini oil heaters for my set up. Which do you think would benefit the my setup and torts best? Thanks, Rick
Just curious - how do the doors "work"? They look like they are nailed shut?
The panels that separate the torts are one piece and slid between 8 L brackets (4 per side). I made them out of 4 5/4 deck boards with 3 vertical pieces. They’re all screwed together and about 50lbs or so to lift, but easy enough to pop out for cleaning.

The door block is of similar design except I didn't use L brackets but made a slide by screwing a deck board into a 2x4 into the wall board. Created a C channel that the wall piece easily slides into.

The exterior doors to the shed push close and have a top slide latch on one panel that holds both closed. There use to be a bottom one too, but it broke off long ago. I use a 6x6 piece at the base outside as a weight to give me some extra peace of mind that it stays shut. Will make a more permanent closing method soon.
 
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SinLA

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interesting... I would worry about wood swelling on those doors tho, esp in a humid environment. But looks cool!
 

DarkerGraphic

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interesting... I would worry about wood swelling on those doors tho, esp in a humid environment. But looks cool!
My deck is made of the same stuff and does fine, but I’ll check/replace the bottom boards if they deteriorate. It’s all easily removable with screws.
 

Tom

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Hey Tom, so I read some of your other threads and wanted to get your opinion on Kane mats vs. mini oil heaters for my set up. Which do you think would benefit the my setup and torts best?
I like both: You could have two full size radiant oil heaters set on low shelves, just out of tortoise reach. Set them each on their own thermostats with one a couple of degrees lower than the other. Then if one fails, the other will save the day. During your rare winter cold spells, both could kick on and keep it warm enough. I only run that type of heater on "low" which is usually 600 watts. I find the higher wattage settings unnecessary and taxing on the normal household wiring. Further, I'll take the time to set the built in thermostat on the units to kick them off a little higher than what my thermostat is set for. I do this because if a cheap thermostat fails, they usually fail by sticking "on", and can cook your tortoise over night. The thermostat that is built in to the heater doesn't work well enough to use instead of a reptile thermostat, but it can act as a fail safe should the reptile thermostat stick on one day. It could kick the heater off at 90 or 95, instead of the heater staying on and going to 120+.

In addition to the radiant oil heaters to maintain ambient temperatures, the Kane mats are a great way for the tortoises to warm their whole bodies during colder weather. The problem with your set up and these mats is that you can't use any sort of substrate or hay with them. I don't think you need any substrate and I would not use the shavings in any case. You could make a base with plywood and flat 2x4s to set the Kane mats on and use the hay on the other end of the enclosure, with no "substrate" in-between. All three Kane mats could run on one thermostat with the probe set somewhere down low and away from the other heat sources. You don't need the Kane mats with the rheostat of thermostats. Just the standard regular Kane mats already have built in thermostats for safety, and you will be running them on your own thermostat. I use dry dirt from the yard under sulcatas in their night quarters. It makes clean up easy with a flat head shovel, and suits the tortoises just fine.
 

DarkerGraphic

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I like both: You could have two full size radiant oil heaters set on low shelves, just out of tortoise reach. Set them each on their own thermostats with one a couple of degrees lower than the other. Then if one fails, the other will save the day. During your rare winter cold spells, both could kick on and keep it warm enough. I only run that type of heater on "low" which is usually 600 watts. I find the higher wattage settings unnecessary and taxing on the normal household wiring. Further, I'll take the time to set the built in thermostat on the units to kick them off a little higher than what my thermostat is set for. I do this because if a cheap thermostat fails, they usually fail by sticking "on", and can cook your tortoise over night. The thermostat that is built in to the heater doesn't work well enough to use instead of a reptile thermostat, but it can act as a fail safe should the reptile thermostat stick on one day. It could kick the heater off at 90 or 95, instead of the heater staying on and going to 120+.

In addition to the radiant oil heaters to maintain ambient temperatures, the Kane mats are a great way for the tortoises to warm their whole bodies during colder weather. The problem with your set up and these mats is that you can't use any sort of substrate or hay with them. I don't think you need any substrate and I would not use the shavings in any case. You could make a base with plywood and flat 2x4s to set the Kane mats on and use the hay on the other end of the enclosure, with no "substrate" in-between. All three Kane mats could run on one thermostat with the probe set somewhere down low and away from the other heat sources. You don't need the Kane mats with the rheostat of thermostats. Just the standard regular Kane mats already have built in thermostats for safety, and you will be running them on your own thermostat. I use dry dirt from the yard under sulcatas in their night quarters. It makes clean up easy with a flat head shovel, and suits the tortoises just fine.
Thanks for all the advice, super helpful!

Couple questions:
What type of thermostats do you use on the mini heaters? I’ve had mixed success with thermostats so would appreciate any brands/models you recommend. I think I’m going to add 2 minis (one on each end along the same long wall). I’ve had a few full size ones melt down on me and prefer the 700W variety after doing some looking. These were my initial thought: https://a.co/d/3lzcURi

You mentioned not needing a thermostat for the Kane mats if they’re self regulating, but you also said I could have them on their own thermostat. If I added 3 self regulating ones, do I need a thermostat for them? And if so, one for each? Also any thermostats you recommend if I went with 18” x 28”? Would the above work for these too (if needed)?

Also, for the Kane mat. Could I sit them on the horse stall flooring? Or do I need to install wood first?

I might make a lip and move the bedding to only occupy 1/2 the space. The orchard grass alone molds too quickly. I’ve used soil/sand mix before and found it too messy. I generally like the cypress mulch because it’s somewhat absorbent and yet heavy enough that it’s not thrown everywhere.

Thanks a bunch for the replies!
 

Tom

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Thanks for all the advice, super helpful!

Couple questions:
What type of thermostats do you use on the mini heaters? I’ve had mixed success with thermostats so would appreciate any brands/models you recommend. I think I’m going to add 2 minis (one on each end along the same long wall). I’ve had a few full size ones melt down on me and prefer the 700W variety after doing some looking. These were my initial thought: https://a.co/d/3lzcURi

You mentioned not needing a thermostat for the Kane mats if they’re self regulating, but you also said I could have them on their own thermostat. If I added 3 self regulating ones, do I need a thermostat for them? And if so, one for each? Also any thermostats you recommend if I went with 18” x 28”? Would the above work for these too (if needed)?

Also, for the Kane mat. Could I sit them on the horse stall flooring? Or do I need to install wood first?

I might make a lip and move the bedding to only occupy 1/2 the space. The orchard grass alone molds too quickly. I’ve used soil/sand mix before and found it too messy. I generally like the cypress mulch because it’s somewhat absorbent and yet heavy enough that it’s not thrown everywhere.

Thanks a bunch for the replies!
I use the exact thermostat you linked, and also a few other ones that are similar.

My reptile room is about the same size as your shed, and I use two full size radiant oil heaters set up as described. I think minis should also work, but they do offer less surface area. I only use minis in my night boxes because they are shorter and I'm heating a much smaller area. I've never had a full size one melt down when only used on the low setting. I'ave never had one melt down at all, and there have been a few times where an employee turned it up to high. Your thermometer will tell you if two mini are enough on the first below freezing night.

Kane offers their mats for sale with an in-line thermostat/rheostat. You don't need that version. Get the plain cheaper one that is simply "on" whenever it is plugged in. Your thermostat will turn it on or off depending on the temperature. One thermostat like the one you linked above will run all three mats. 18x28" is the size mat that I use and recommend.

Kane mats will be fine directly on the rubber stall mats. The bottoms don't get hot at all. And they are fine of the tortoise poops on them, or they get covered with dirt. You just don't want a pile of hay or shavings sitting on top of them. I suggested the plywood and 2x4 method to elevate them slightly in an effort to keep shavings and hay off of them. Knowing how sulcatas are, If half the enclosure has bedding of any sort, then the whole enclosure will soon have that same bedding. :)
 

DarkerGraphic

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I use the exact thermostat you linked, and also a few other ones that are similar.

My reptile room is about the same size as your shed, and I use two full size radiant oil heaters set up as described. I think minis should also work, but they do offer less surface area. I only use minis in my night boxes because they are shorter and I'm heating a much smaller area. I've never had a full size one melt down when only used on the low setting. I'ave never had one melt down at all, and there have been a few times where an employee turned it up to high. Your thermometer will tell you if two mini are enough on the first below freezing night.

Kane offers their mats for sale with an in-line thermostat/rheostat. You don't need that version. Get the plain cheaper one that is simply "on" whenever it is plugged in. Your thermostat will turn it on or off depending on the temperature. One thermostat like the one you linked above will run all three mats. 18x28" is the size mat that I use and recommend.

Kane mats will be fine directly on the rubber stall mats. The bottoms don't get hot at all. And they are fine of the tortoise poops on them, or they get covered with dirt. You just don't want a pile of hay or shavings sitting on top of them. I suggested the plywood and 2x4 method to elevate them slightly in an effort to keep shavings and hay off of them. Knowing how sulcatas are, If half the enclosure has bedding of any sort, then the whole enclosure will soon have that same bedding. :)
Great, I’ve got 3 of the mats on order now. Curious what you would set the radiant oil heaters thermostat to as the general temperature. My sulcatas are normally comfortable in the 70-80 range with 60 as a low and a 90-100 basking spot. If I stop using the lights as a heat source at all for basking, what do you recommend the overall temp be set to?

As a general statement: I’ve had to build a ton of enclosures for them over the past two decades especially as they’ve grown and I’m trying to make this a permanent - hopefully never have to do it again for a long time -set up.
 

Tom

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Great, I’ve got 3 of the mats on order now. Curious what you would set the radiant oil heaters thermostat to as the general temperature. My sulcatas are normally comfortable in the 70-80 range with 60 as a low and a 90-100 basking spot. If I stop using the lights as a heat source at all for basking, what do you recommend the overall temp be set to?

As a general statement: I’ve had to build a ton of enclosures for them over the past two decades especially as they’ve grown and I’m trying to make this a permanent - hopefully never have to do it again for a long time -set up.
Where sulcatas come from there is no winter. Daily highs are usually near 100 all the time, and they spend 95% of their lives underground where the temperature is consistently 80-85. This is how we should maintain them. This is what works best.

When days are sunny and warm the thermostat should be set at 80, because they can come out and bask to get warmer if they want. During winter cold spells, I bump it up to 86 since its cold and overcast and they can't get warm any other way. Your Kane mats will give them a way to warm up their core temp when the sun isn't shining, instead of the heat lamps.

70 is too low. 60 is WAY too low. It kills off certain flora and fauna in the gut biome when temps drop too low. They can usually survive that, but its not "good" for them to be that cold. In your humid climate, temps that low are likely to result in sickness.
 
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