Winter Houses

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Neal

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I try to get all of my winter stuff set up by labor day weekend. Even though the end of this triple digit heat is no where insight, I like to be ready to go in case something happens.

Doesn't look too exciting now, but I'll add more pictures when the project gets further along. Every year I make these winter houses for the leopards and the stars. I start off making the base which is the most time consuming obviously because everything needs to be straight and level which takes about a whole day. The rest of the work needed will only take about 30 minutes.

Here is the leopards house:

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The full block in between the half blocks on the right will be removed and become the doorway. If I removed it now the tortoises would get in there and poop all over the place before winter even gets here. The end product will be 4 levels high, insulated, light fixtures placed inside, and topped with a panel roof. The enclosure is located on the West wall and will get the first daylight, the logic behind this is that the area just outside will heat up the quicker than if it were on the east side so am able to let them out as early as possible.

Here is the stars house.

019-3.jpg


This set up will be split in half by a 2* 8 to keep pairs separated. I removed the block for the door on the left side, another block will be removed from the right side so the separate pairs can access the house from their main enclosures. This is located on the north wall and their enclosures are situated to get the early to late afternoon sun.

This will be my fourth year doing this same winter house set up. It has worked very well in the past; always keeps them dry and warm during the winter. I really enjoy putting it all together. Someday I might make something more permenant, but this is the 3rd backyard we've built these in the four years so it ain't happenin anytime soon. Next update should be close to the end of September.

Here are the finished projects of last year...this year the stars house will be bigger.

032.jpg
 

Jacqui

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Neal, my first question as I started reading was... it sounds like you then tear these down come spring/summer. If so why?
 

Neal

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I'd rather not have them set up during the summer for a few reasons. One, I usually build these inside their normal enclosures which takes up a good amount of space. In the summer I'd rather let them have as much room as possible. Another reason being that if I left them up during the summer months they would become scorpion and black widow houses...that happens anyway when I stack them up on the side of the house for the summer...but at least they're not in the tortoise pens. I will also use these bricks to separate pairs during the warmer month breeding seasons.
 

CtTortoiseMom

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Look's great. How cold does it get in AZ and what is the duration of your winter. I have been curious about Arizona weather sice I joined TFO.
 

Neal

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Night times from Decemberish through as late as March can get in the 30's pretty consistently, sometimes we'll get to the upper 20's. Day time temps will get in the 60's - low 70's average. From about mid October lows will start dropping below 70 which is when I start putting them in these houses during the night. They would probably be just fine even in temps in the 50's, but I'd rather just play it safe.

The longest they stayed in these houses last year was three full days. It usually warms up pretty decently in the afternoons during the whole winter where they can sit in the sun and elevate their body temps to where they need to be.
 

CtTortoiseMom

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Wow, your winter's sound really nice. Now if I could only handle your summer's!!
 

DeanS

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Neal...do you give them access? Or do you dictate whether they can go out or not?!
 

Neal

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In the second picture you can see slits in the concrete blocks (I believe they are 3/4 inch? off the top of my head). I place a wood board inside the slits with a whole cut in the bottom that is just big enough for the tortoises to get through. This is their door which I will only keep unobstructed during the cooler days to give them the option of going in and out of the house freely. Most days during the winter I find that it's warm enough for them to be outside all day, and I don't want to waste energy, so I'll put another board in front of the door so they can't get in as seen in picture 3. When they go inside for the night I keep the board there so they can't get out.
 

mking

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How do you insulate the winter houses? I am always looking for ideas.

Mary
 

Neal

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R-Matte Plus 3 R-5.0 3/4 in. 4 ft. x 8 ft. Foam Insulation. It isn't the best, but it works for me.
 

jackrat

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Do you have any pics of the heat and light setup,Neal?
 

Neal

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I was going to make you guys wait. I'll take better pictures when the time comes, but here's what I had in the stars house:

029.jpg


I'm not an electrician, but had one look at this and he said it appeared to be reasonably safe. I can go into more detail later about exactly what I did. The fixture in the star house accommodates one MVB and one CHE.

The leopard house:

019.jpg


This one accommodates 2 MVB's and 2 CHE's. Keep in mind I'm an auditor, not an electrician so it may seem a little odd. :)
 

coreyc

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Neal said:
I was going to make you guys wait. I'll take better pictures when the time comes, but here's what I had in the stars house:

029.jpg


I'm not an electrician, but had one look at this and he said it appeared to be reasonably safe. I can go into more detail later about exactly what I did. The fixture in the star house accommodates one MVB and one CHE.

The leopard house:

019.jpg


This one accommodates 2 MVB's and 2 CHE's. Keep in mind I'm an auditor, not an electrician so it may seem a little odd. :)

Looks good to me Neal maybe you should be an electrician :D
 

Neal

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Phase two of the project. Got the bricks all up and the doors in place. The leopard house still needs a few bricks, but it's almost there.

087.jpg


085.jpg


086.jpg
 

JeffG

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Those look great Neal! You obviously put in a lot of work. I am going to be making some renovations to my winter housing this year and was considering using pig blankets or Kane heat mats. Have you ever considered underneath heating, and if so, why did you decide to go with the overhead?

Seeing your setups has really made me wonder if the heat mats are the way to go or not. I can see from the pictures that your setups work really well.
 

RianSeeking

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They actually fit very prettily into the enclosure landscaping. Sometime I'd love to see pictures of the entire area.
 

Neal

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JeffG said:
Those look great Neal! You obviously put in a lot of work. I am going to be making some renovations to my winter housing this year and was considering using pig blankets or Kane heat mats. Have you ever considered underneath heating, and if so, why did you decide to go with the overhead?

There are a couple of reasons why:

1) Easier clean up. It's a lot easier to rake up poop without having to scrub the poop off of a heat mat.

2) It gets very dry, very quickly in there. With all the movement in there it gets very dusty so I have to hose it down about once a week, and I of course would not want to get the heat mat wet.

Originally I had both the heat mats and CHE's. I didn't think everything through and after our first rain storm I ended up with about 4 inches of water in there. With the heat mats in there, of course the power switched off, so I just unplugged them and used the CHE's. After a couple of years of just using CHE's, they work perfectly, so no reason to change.

RianSeeking said:
They actually fit very prettily into the enclosure landscaping. Sometime I'd love to see pictures of the entire area.

Coming soon...I need to procure a couple more occupants.. ;)
 
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