Tennessee Tortoise in the Winter

George's Mom

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Sep 6, 2020
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maryville, TN
George, the best tortoise in the world (according to our family), is a 6yo cherry foot tortoise. However, George has outgrown his 2x3 enclosure. So he routinely, like most days, is allowed to roam the downstairs common rooms during the day. He likes roaming, and hasn't really caused any problems. The first place he goes is to the dog food bowl, and gets stuck in it sometimes! But he LOVES being in the backyard. During the summer, that is easy. He just goes out with me while I garden, and darn if he isn't pretty quick to find someplace new to wander. He loves foraging under the pear trees! But since we need a new enclosure for him, and he loves being outside, and he's not a baby anymore....can you safely house a cherry foot outside in the mountains of TN. Temps get down to 10s at night and 30s during the day. I have seen enclosures that are quite large outside, with plants and little water soaks, and things to investigate. He would definitely have an insulated, heated hidey-hole. He just seems bored staring at his wood box. And an outside enclosure could be much, much larger than anything we do inside. Anyone else kept a cherry foot around Knoxville? OR what is the lowest temp range anyone has safely kept their friend outside? Thank you!
 

Tom

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What you are doing there is likely to result in the death of your tortoise. He needs to be contained in a large indoor closed chamber enclosure in the cold winters, something around 4x8 feet, and a large outdoor enclosure in the warmer months would be great. These tropical tortoises need temps in the 80s year round. Can they survive lowers temps some of the time? Yes. This doesn't mean its good for them.

Free roaming is a recipe for disaster. Many tortoises are killed, injured, or made sick this way in a variety of ways. We see it here all the time, and my tortoise vet friends see it regularly in their practice. It can't be made safe, and you can't supervise enough to make it safe.

Our own @Markw84 makes the most perfect tortoise cages ever, and if for some reason that doesn't work out, look into Animal Plastics enclosures.
 

George's Mom

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Sep 6, 2020
Messages
11
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maryville, TN
Hello from North Florida, and welcome to the Forum!

@Toddrickfl1 lives in the Atlanta area, and @ZEROPILOT lives in South Florida, although he's originally from the Carolinas. Both are redfoot keepers.

How big is George now?
He is about 11in nose to tail. He just loves outside so much in the summer. When he "roams" outside it is only while I am with him in the garden. He is in fescue grass with some clover and Bermuda. He likes digging in the Bermuda.
 

George's Mom

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Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
11
Location (City and/or State)
maryville, TN
What you are doing there is likely to result in the death of your tortoise. He needs to be contained in a large indoor closed chamber enclosure in the cold winters, something around 4x8 feet, and a large outdoor enclosure in the warmer months would be great. These tropical tortoises need temps in the 80s year round. Can they survive lowers temps some of the time? Yes. This doesn't mean its good for them.

Free roaming is a recipe for disaster. Many tortoises are killed, injured, or made sick this way in a variety of ways. We see it here all the time, and my tortoise vet friends see it regularly in their practice. It can't be made safe, and you can't supervise enough to make it safe.

Our own @Markw84 makes the most perfect tortoise cages ever, and if for some reason that doesn't work out, look into Animal Plastics enclosures.
Guess I am asking too much for year round outside. Maybe we can take a side of the garage and make him a big winter home. And then when temps warm up make an outside home. He follows us around from kitchen to living room (where his box is now). He really wants out of his box, climbing the edges, sometimes tips over and cant get back. In the wild, do they roam alot, or do they have a small territory? Is there a website to see the boxes he sells?
 

ZEROPILOT

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Making a secure outside enclosure that will keep him from escaping during the warmer months can be very simple and inexpensive.
I've enclosed a photo of one I just put up for less than $70. It's 12x12 and can be removed or added to very simply.
I never leave mine outside in anything under 52ish degrees. And my night houses are heated.
Redfoot are tropical.
One will very quickly get ill and die if kept for more than a day or so at temperatures much less than that.
80 to 86 is your target temperature 24/7 365 days.
High humidity is also required.
 

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Toddrickfl1

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George, the best tortoise in the world (according to our family), is a 6yo cherry foot tortoise. However, George has outgrown his 2x3 enclosure. So he routinely, like most days, is allowed to roam the downstairs common rooms during the day. He likes roaming, and hasn't really caused any problems. The first place he goes is to the dog food bowl, and gets stuck in it sometimes! But he LOVES being in the backyard. During the summer, that is easy. He just goes out with me while I garden, and darn if he isn't pretty quick to find someplace new to wander. He loves foraging under the pear trees! But since we need a new enclosure for him, and he loves being outside, and he's not a baby anymore....can you safely house a cherry foot outside in the mountains of TN. Temps get down to 10s at night and 30s during the day. I have seen enclosures that are quite large outside, with plants and little water soaks, and things to investigate. He would definitely have an insulated, heated hidey-hole. He just seems bored staring at his wood box. And an outside enclosure could be much, much larger than anything we do inside. Anyone else kept a cherry foot around Knoxville? OR what is the lowest temp range anyone has safely kept their friend outside? Thank you!
I wouldn't advise keeping one outside year round in your area. What I do is have an outdoor and indoor enclosure. You can make a pen outside and put your Tortoise out when the weather is good. It doesnt take much to build something. This is mine IMG 20200906 180958246 Then have a smaller indoor enclosure for the winter months.
 

pawsplus

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Aug 28, 2020
Messages
154
Location (City and/or State)
Columbia, TN
I'm in Middle TN and there is no WAY that I would keep my adult redfoot outside in the winter!! She has 3-4 months when she can be outside all day (but not at night, due to raccoons), and another month where some days are warm enough and some are not. Tropical tortoises do not have as much temperature tolerance as, say, Mediterranean torts. They just don't. You need to make a large indoor enclosure, provide adequate humidity, heat, and UVB, and keep George indoors in the winter, as well as much of the Fall and Spring. That's just how it is. :) At least where we live the summers are ideal -- nice and humid. A good outdoor pen with places to hide and get out of the sun will make George very happy in the warm season.
 

George's Mom

New Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
11
Location (City and/or State)
maryville, TN
Making a secure outside enclosure that will keep him from escaping during the warmer months can be very simple and inexpensive.
I've enclosed a photo of one I just put up for less than $70. It's 12x12 and can be removed or added to very simply.
I never leave mine outside in anything under 52ish degrees. And my night houses are heated.
Redfoot are tropical.
One will very quickly get ill and die if kept for more than a day or so at temperatures much less than that.
80 to 86 is your target temperature 24/7 365 days.
High humidity is also required.
Oh George would.love that! Guess he and I will have a talk about winter indoors and a nice new box inside for winter!
 

jeannettep

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Joined
Oct 28, 2019
Messages
113
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
I love these topics, my husband less so because it usually means I got a new idea. My torts, get the stomping around attitude that I'm changing something again... it's great to be thinking about this now. I had to go running around & in a hurry with an early winter starting my 1st year. So what I did was build a version of Tom's heated house. I'm overly scared of fire & something alive being trapped. I lined the inside of my tort house with this silver roll insulation with bubble wrap look to the inner part. Cheap at the hardware store. Floor is various reptile mats & misc so they can choose what they want. Difficult to obtain in tx, thick foam board insulation with pretty rock look to the outside. I had to order it shipped to my house from home depot, who conveniently used a 1 in. Insulation board to cover the rock. I didnt calculate right so I had to order 2 more, so I got another extra board. I put this insulation foam on all sides, areas, top & bottom where the torts could not eat it if they would try. I got a greenhouse set up in front of their house so they can enter it when they choose. I have the heater inside their house electric radiator, Tom has on his write up & several others. I got one with variable temperature & 2 wattage choices. I also got an inkbird automatic temperature so it turns off. I put a humidifier inside their house, but I learned I dont think I needed it. The effect of my greenhouse, made it tropical. I put a coop heater on the house outside hung out of their reach and connected the greenhouse. I lightly spray painted the bottom portion of the greenhouse so they couldnt see out. But lightly because it would melt the plastic. I laid around the outside some mulch with some logs because they will push on it & could cause escape. Then I added more mulch to the outside for insulation. I made sure if they got out, they could not get out of their primary enclosure. Also left some space for fresh air to enter, toward the bottom, but not allow them to get out. I went with the idea heat rises. Most of the time the coop heater was on low. Surprised that I didnt have to water the plants & grasses in the greenhouse. It always looked tropical. We dont get as cold here, but under 40 I would put a couple emergency blankets over everything silver side down. When it got below 30 I felt the need to use more wattage on the coop heater. Never used the higher wattage of the radiator. I use a cheap temperature gun & regularly checked temperature & the far corners in windy sleet @ night at 18 degrees was 76. They stayed away from that areas or I could have blocked it off or more mulch. They went thru a winter slowdown & hung out mostly in their house anyways. On warm sunny days I unzipped their greenhouse. I was always prepared to bring them inside if I could not keep their area tropical. Plants & grass grew like crazy all winter. I have to do changes this year because I had to separate my 2 red foots. Although they have their own house with the radiator separating them, they would have to share a greenhouse & I'm not going to try it. I found using garden timbers, stacked & hammered rebar in the ground, one on either side toward the end of the timbers was easy & I can rearrange easy too. I put no dig spikes in the ground that are about 32 inches long by 10 in deep around the outside just in case & also our ground isnt level & it is hard clay soil. So I'm not digging. Just a thought to put around your garden area. Or I use for my juvenile leopard tort the wire storage bins that are just wire squares attached with zip ties & I made a cage out of it & zip tied some spare boards to the outside so she couldnt see out. So it's easy to move about whenever I'm doing things outside. I think I might have posted pics last year of my winter set up. But again, this is tx & it does not get much bad weather. I have no idea how greenhouses work over there.
 

Max2

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Joined
Aug 17, 2020
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Alvin texas
I love these topics, my husband less so because it usually means I got a new idea. My torts, get the stomping around attitude that I'm changing something again... it's great to be thinking about this now. I had to go running around & in a hurry with an early winter starting my 1st year. So what I did was build a version of Tom's heated house. I'm overly scared of fire & something alive being trapped. I lined the inside of my tort house with this silver roll insulation with bubble wrap look to the inner part. Cheap at the hardware store. Floor is various reptile mats & misc so they can choose what they want. Difficult to obtain in tx, thick foam board insulation with pretty rock look to the outside. I had to order it shipped to my house from home depot, who conveniently used a 1 in. Insulation board to cover the rock. I didnt calculate right so I had to order 2 more, so I got another extra board. I put this insulation foam on all sides, areas, top & bottom where the torts could not eat it if they would try. I got a greenhouse set up in front of their house so they can enter it when they choose. I have the heater inside their house electric radiator, Tom has on his write up & several others. I got one with variable temperature & 2 wattage choices. I also got an inkbird automatic temperature so it turns off. I put a humidifier inside their house, but I learned I dont think I needed it. The effect of my greenhouse, made it tropical. I put a coop heater on the house outside hung out of their reach and connected the greenhouse. I lightly spray painted the bottom portion of the greenhouse so they couldnt see out. But lightly because it would melt the plastic. I laid around the outside some mulch with some logs because they will push on it & could cause escape. Then I added more mulch to the outside for insulation. I made sure if they got out, they could not get out of their primary enclosure. Also left some space for fresh air to enter, toward the bottom, but not allow them to get out. I went with the idea heat rises. Most of the time the coop heater was on low. Surprised that I didnt have to water the plants & grasses in the greenhouse. It always looked tropical. We dont get as cold here, but under 40 I would put a couple emergency blankets over everything silver side down. When it got below 30 I felt the need to use more wattage on the coop heater. Never used the higher wattage of the radiator. I use a cheap temperature gun & regularly checked temperature & the far corners in windy sleet @ night at 18 degrees was 76. They stayed away from that areas or I could have blocked it off or more mulch. They went thru a winter slowdown & hung out mostly in their house anyways. On warm sunny days I unzipped their greenhouse. I was always prepared to bring them inside if I could not keep their area tropical. Plants & grass grew like crazy all winter. I have to do changes this year because I had to separate my 2 red foots. Although they have their own house with the radiator separating them, they would have to share a greenhouse & I'm not going to try it. I found using garden timbers, stacked & hammered rebar in the ground, one on either side toward the end of the timbers was easy & I can rearrange easy too. I put no dig spikes in the ground that are about 32 inches long by 10 in deep around the outside just in case & also our ground isnt level & it is hard clay soil. So I'm not digging. Just a thought to put around your garden area. Or I use for my juvenile leopard tort the wire storage bins that are just wire squares attached with zip ties & I made a cage out of it & zip tied some spare boards to the outside so she couldnt see out. So it's easy to move about whenever I'm doing things outside. I think I might have posted pics last year of my winter set up. But again, this is tx & it does not get much bad weather. I have no idea how greenhouses work over there.
Brilliant! Thanks so much!
 

jeannettep

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2019
Messages
113
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
Fyi use a short greenhouse. My brilliant idea with that's a cool greenhouse with shelves to grow grass & keep the tort below. Bad idea. The wind was a pain cause it acted like a balloon. The short greenhouse where it zips almost to the ground on one side to about the middle of the top is perfect. I left it unzipped in the front & attached to the opening of their house. I used cup hooks & zip ties so I could pull it back when I wanted. They were really cheap on amazon. The ones like a mini popup tent are awesome, roll it up, cram in bag, remove from bag & it springs back up. The work is putting a makeshift frame around it. If they see out or can push out, they get out. But keep a close eye on them & be prepared to bring them inside like Tom said especially if you lose power. We have a generator.
 

Blackdog1714

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Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,396
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
I love these topics, my husband less so because it usually means I got a new idea. My torts, get the stomping around attitude that I'm changing something again... it's great to be thinking about this now. I had to go running around & in a hurry with an early winter starting my 1st year. So what I did was build a version of Tom's heated house. I'm overly scared of fire & something alive being trapped. I lined the inside of my tort house with this silver roll insulation with bubble wrap look to the inner part. Cheap at the hardware store. Floor is various reptile mats & misc so they can choose what they want. Difficult to obtain in tx, thick foam board insulation with pretty rock look to the outside. I had to order it shipped to my house from home depot, who conveniently used a 1 in. Insulation board to cover the rock. I didnt calculate right so I had to order 2 more, so I got another extra board. I put this insulation foam on all sides, areas, top & bottom where the torts could not eat it if they would try. I got a greenhouse set up in front of their house so they can enter it when they choose. I have the heater inside their house electric radiator, Tom has on his write up & several others. I got one with variable temperature & 2 wattage choices. I also got an inkbird automatic temperature so it turns off. I put a humidifier inside their house, but I learned I dont think I needed it. The effect of my greenhouse, made it tropical. I put a coop heater on the house outside hung out of their reach and connected the greenhouse. I lightly spray painted the bottom portion of the greenhouse so they couldnt see out. But lightly because it would melt the plastic. I laid around the outside some mulch with some logs because they will push on it & could cause escape. Then I added more mulch to the outside for insulation. I made sure if they got out, they could not get out of their primary enclosure. Also left some space for fresh air to enter, toward the bottom, but not allow them to get out. I went with the idea heat rises. Most of the time the coop heater was on low. Surprised that I didnt have to water the plants & grasses in the greenhouse. It always looked tropical. We dont get as cold here, but under 40 I would put a couple emergency blankets over everything silver side down. When it got below 30 I felt the need to use more wattage on the coop heater. Never used the higher wattage of the radiator. I use a cheap temperature gun & regularly checked temperature & the far corners in windy sleet @ night at 18 degrees was 76. They stayed away from that areas or I could have blocked it off or more mulch. They went thru a winter slowdown & hung out mostly in their house anyways. On warm sunny days I unzipped their greenhouse. I was always prepared to bring them inside if I could not keep their area tropical. Plants & grass grew like crazy all winter. I have to do changes this year because I had to separate my 2 red foots. Although they have their own house with the radiator separating them, they would have to share a greenhouse & I'm not going to try it. I found using garden timbers, stacked & hammered rebar in the ground, one on either side toward the end of the timbers was easy & I can rearrange easy too. I put no dig spikes in the ground that are about 32 inches long by 10 in deep around the outside just in case & also our ground isnt level & it is hard clay soil. So I'm not digging. Just a thought to put around your garden area. Or I use for my juvenile leopard tort the wire storage bins that are just wire squares attached with zip ties & I made a cage out of it & zip tied some spare boards to the outside so she couldnt see out. So it's easy to move about whenever I'm doing things outside. I think I might have posted pics last year of my winter set up. But again, this is tx & it does not get much bad weather. I have no idea how greenhouses work over there.
Photos oh pretty please photos! Your descriptions are awesome but adult learners need photos! ?
 

George's Mom

New Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
11
Location (City and/or State)
maryville, TN
Fyi use a short greenhouse. My brilliant idea with that's a cool greenhouse with shelves to grow grass & keep the tort below. Bad idea. The wind was a pain cause it acted like a balloon. The short greenhouse where it zips almost to the ground on one side to about the middle of the top is perfect. I left it unzipped in the front & attached to the opening of their house. I used cup hooks & zip ties so I could pull it back when I wanted. They were really cheap on amazon. The ones like a mini popup tent are awesome, roll it up, cram in bag, remove from bag & it springs back up. The work is putting a makeshift frame around it. If they see out or can push out, they get out. But keep a close eye on them & be prepared to bring them inside like Tom said especially if you lose power. We have a generator.
where do you find a short greenhouse? Is it glass?
 

jeannettep

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2019
Messages
113
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
Oh no I would never use glass, I'm bad about dropping things. If glass is needed, I hope plexiglass will work. But plexiglass does not work to replace broken windows when a hurricane comes. Bad idea. Keep in mind, it only snows here a little in the winter after we have a hurricane during the summer. So might look into what type greenhouses work in your area. I looked for an older post I had put some pics up. Here it's rainy, windy, some winters cold. I used this set up when we had some really cold weather for SE Tx. I wouldn't think this concept would work if snow or ice would weigh it down. I don't know if maybe some corrugated panel above it supported with something more substantial would help to keep weight off.


wifi temp & humidity
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0834Q1JS8/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Like this greenhouse, it even has a vent opening in it
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07K8J5LN4/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Must have temp control
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01I15S6OM/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Fantastic heater I put for the greenhouse, has a way to hang it and low and high options
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LX9K1JI/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Since I use these somewhere all year, every day. I get a year maybe a little more out of these.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KK63PWY/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

If you need better air flow this works ok and light enough to zip tie to the greenhouse, don't trust their bracket.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07B89ZV32/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Cool idea, does not work if you line the inside of the house with the silver insulation
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07K8MBLSQ/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Bad idea greenhouse, I'm going to try using it but cutting off the back to be the ground and the narrow bottom attach to their house. Then it will be big enough to divide for this year, but I'll have to figure out how to keep water from ponding on the top.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RKKSM3H/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

This worked good, a bit small but here it is only 3 months needed. Not as easy to put together.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07P5PSGBM/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

This greenhouse was a shipping mess up and Amazon said to keep it. So I might try it somewhere.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ESKV0S4/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Please keep in mind, I'm not a vet and I have not run this concept by my vet.
 

George's Mom

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Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
11
Location (City and/or State)
maryville, TN
Wow! I need to step up my game! Thank you for all the information. My son comes home from college in a couple weeks (George is technically his tortoise) and we will come up with a plan.
 

jeannettep

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2019
Messages
113
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
I forgot to mention the wifi temp & humidity did not work for me since it says in the lined box with that silver stuff. My college son told me that's not going to work (with that tone I should have known) so I sent it back. I try to automate the temperature, then I don't have to think about it. I figure mulch can be spread out when winter is over. Logs are plentiful around here for free. I got the electric radiator at Ace Hardware in the mail, a cheap one. The foam board was pricey and I wish I hadn't spent the extra money on getting one with a pretty side on it. I liked the 2" thick. I used the free 1" Home Depot used to keep my order from getting damage in the mail you can see in one of the pictures. The back had the hole for the electricity, so I guessed that's why I needed it and it made a big difference. Those emergency blankets are not too expensive and I only needed it if it was cold & windy. One could skip the temperature thing that cuts off the electricity to the heater, since they usually have their own built in dial. Coop heater is probably what I should have put on the auto temperature instead. But I didn't so I had to remember on really cold days to go put it on level 2. Then remember to turn it off if it was a really warm day (it is normal for us to have 80 degrees most of the winter). To me it is easier to keep them where they are than build inside areas for them. But a lot of people put them inside for the winter. I probably get away with this set up because its tropical down here.
 

newCH

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Joined
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Messages
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So.FL
I would love to see a pic of George.
My Sheldon is a cherryhead same age and size like you describe George. Please post a pic. ?? They are great pets !
 
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