Yearling Testudo graeca ibera, "Ankara" locale

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
43,132
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I said an adjustment should be made, said where I felt I made a mistake AND what I planned to do to change it.

You just seem to want to argue. I posted my pictures. You keep carrying on about minor pyramiding that has "just started" and which I intend fully to address. Maybe go look again close up on those tortoises before you keep proclaiming this absolutely doesn't work. Definitely re-read what I said. I soak my tortoises 1x a week, not even always that.

Truth is a matter of perspective, and you can't see past yours.

The truth is, you won't be satisfied unless I say that open-tops/outdoor rearing don't work, or have pictures years from now proving they did not get ugly pyramided. If my daily soaking doesn't make a difference, I will re-evaluate and reconsider whether this is a fail. I'm trying to provide the best for my tortoises, not prove a point to a stranger. Still the over-emphasis and tunnel-vision in regards to pyramiding in the face of other arguably equally important parts of care is mind-boggling. There is no interest in the fact that this *could* work, with daily soaking. How truly sad.
And I said, I'd love for it to work and have ideas of what might make it work. I also said, once it starts, it's hard to get it too stop. It may not read this way, but I would love for you to get it to work. I believe I said this to you too. So many newbies start out with the open top table. They are heart broken thinking they have everything right after spending tons of money. Then are told by me and members they need a closed chamber, because their tortoises have already started to pyramid. Its heart wrenching to them that they thought they did their research just to find out its not working. I'd much rather be able to say add a humid hide or add more plants etc. However, been on here much longer than them and you to know those easy fixes just don't work.
Don't know about you, but I'd love to see my tortoises be the way they are supposed to look. Nice and smooth. Too late for mine, not to late for those newbies in most cases.
I would love for an easier fix to tell them. So far I haven't seen one and your sources dont share any of their successes if they have any!
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
43,132
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I said an adjustment should be made, said where I felt I made a mistake AND what I planned to do to change it.

You just seem to want to argue. I posted my pictures. You keep carrying on about minor pyramiding that has "just started" and which I intend fully to address. Maybe go look again close up on those tortoises before you keep proclaiming this absolutely doesn't work. Definitely re-read what I said. I soak my tortoises 1x a week, not even always that.

Truth is a matter of perspective, and you can't see past yours.

The truth is, you won't be satisfied unless I say that open-tops/outdoor rearing don't work, or have pictures years from now proving they did not get ugly pyramided. If my daily soaking doesn't make a difference, I will re-evaluate and reconsider whether this is a fail. I'm trying to provide the best for my tortoises, not prove a point to a stranger. Still the over-emphasis and tunnel-vision in regards to pyramiding in the face of other arguably equally important parts of care is mind-boggling. There is no interest in the fact that this *could* work, with daily soaking. How truly sad.
Sadly you got it totally wrong! You are dead set in being right because this is how you want to do it! Good for you. I do hope you can get it figured out and it does work. Maybe cost does play within what you can do. That's fine and understand. Many have the same problems. This is why I suggest much cheaper options then buying a closed chamber that runs over 200 and last a very short time for most species. I don't need you to admit anything, I already seen that so far the guide line you are following isn't working. I pointed that out and gave suggestions that might help make it work. I just know that everything that has been tried so far hasn't worked. The one difference in yours to the others is the canopy like plantings you have going on. Could this make the difference with added soaking of both tort and enclosure, who knows. I am on your side for wanting this to work. I don't understand though why you are so against something that has already been proven to work!
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux I appreciate your kind words!! First, here is the Greek Care Guide written by Chris Leone which can address some things more in-depth if you want to deep dive. I have tried my best to answer all of your questions, but let me know if I missed one.

The Testudo graeca ibera is the hardiest subspecies of all the Testudo and can tolerate a range of conditions and temperatures, even as babies. Chris recommends these be housed outdoors and has posted in the forum that a temperature drop at night is important. This species can tolerate 60 degree nights just fine. Since you're familiar with the area I will add that because we have such wonderful day temps, nights can be cooler and babies can get right to temp once the sun comes up. The tub works similar to a potted plant, warmed on the sides by the sun, it brings the soil temperature up even before they emerge to bask.

They can get in the 9-11" range from my understanding. Chris said the Ankara locale I have get 6-8" for males and 8-10" for females. A member I've noticed has gone MIA used to have some awesome information on their website that differed slightly, but no idea her source and her website is now inactive. They will eventually live in a group in at least a 30'x30' space. They are very aggressive and need to be able to escape each other. I have the ability to really give them as much space as I want, 60'x60' even. At their current size of 3" with their first brumation around the corner I've decided to leave them in this enclosure until they wake up in Spring. At that point they will get a bigger space. I haven't decided dimensions, but thinking in the 4'x8' range. Bigger would be lovely I just need to be sure they have a super sturdy lid to protect them from my dog, kids, and predators so it won't be excessively large due to that limiting factor. My dog is on the upper end of intelligence scale and requires a heavy lid she cannot open.

The tub I believe is 4' x 2' and has a natural sloping design to draw water down to one section aiding in drainage when I hose everyone down. The weeds inside were randomly chosen from the yard and planted in their already moist substrate. Sometimes they would die, sometimes it would just give them enough time to wilt more slowly as they were nibbled (notice, there are NO dandelions in there despite me planting them. The ones that survived they do nibble but are not their favorite, they just kept growing and became woody. My male climbs on top of the pigweed plant daily, basking and munching simultaneously. It's really cool how they filled in and the three main ones you see were in there all winter and took off once they went out in Spring. I've pulled a few out and trimmed as needed so they leave enough space underneath for movement. They keep sprouting on their own, especially the pigweed. Local weeds are the way to go for overhead cover I think. I sometimes plant the low spreading weeds I feed like purslane instead of putting it on the feeding rock and it lasts longer in the heat. They nibble it, explore it, burrow under it, etc. If it becomes too scraggly I pull it out and put in a new one, or five.

I have not measured the UVB with a solar meter. The top is constructed with 1/4" mesh hardware cloth and is large enough to allow sunlight through. I do not measure the exact humidity. With the open top I'm sure it fluctuates drastically throughout the day and would be too difficult. My Topsoil was from Home Depot I believe, Earthgro is the brand. Honestly, I pulled out an empty bag to look at the brand for you and it does have a regular ingredients list and a secondary side comment "In California, this product is formulated from manure, processed forest products, and compost." I don't know if I missed that or what when I bought it, but I've used it for a year with no visible side-effects. Still, I cannot guarantee that does not mean there are not any. I will agree that Topsoil is a risk each person has to weigh, and the manure additives are one of the things that concern people so user beware. After having them a year I couldn't imagine not giving them a substrate that allowed them to burrow. Reading this now doesn't make me want to remove it all in favor of orchid bark. Burrowing is such an important natural behavior, especially the way I raise them.
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Sadly you got it totally wrong! You are dead set in being right because this is how you want to do it! I don't understand though why you are so against something that has already been proven to work! Maybe cost does play within what you can do. That's fine and understand.

I just don't agree on your comments that essentially throw the baby out with the bathwater. To say it doesn't work in totality because it needs an adjustment is ridiculous, especially considering the way those tortoises look. Maybe you will understand if I put it this way... when someone comes in with a closed chamber with temps or humidity incorrect and a sick tortoise the suggestion is not to scrap the whole thing, and admit it's not working. You tell them to make adjustments as needed.

I can see that you do not understand where I am coming from. I do not think I can explain it better than I have. Cost is not a factor, I'm not being cheap. I do wholeheartedly believe this is better for my animals. I will try one more time to explain, but most likely we will have to agree to disagree.

I think our differences reside mostly in a difference of philosophy. I choose to keep my animals as naturally as possible. Keeping an animal in a box inside for 1-3 years with only one temperature is "proven" to you, and a sad existence to me. I have chosen a species that is not so sensitive that it requires extra heat or indoor head-starting. I don't understand how those animals can have good health, immune systems, or tolerance to life. I do not have the experience to make any claims about raising that way, and I truly do not wish to put down how other people feel is best to raise their animals, but it does go against my philosophy as a keeper. You ask me why, the short answer- I want the best for them and I do not think that is inside a sterile box at a constant 80 degrees/80% humidity even if it provides a smooth shell. FULL STOP.

Should we not try to provide more because the closed chamber works? Pretty shell or not, do they not deserve more than that? Do you really believe tortoise husbandry should never advance more than this, that no one should ever question anything because someone else has provided one way already? How would Tom have been able to conduct his experiments to come to the knowledge you prize without some experimentation, without drive to do better for his animals? (Please don't misunderstand my intent here, I do not think I know better than anyone, especially not Tom, that's not the point I'm trying to make.)

Again, I am not reinventing the wheel, the top Testudo breeders I know of do not use closed chambers and actively advise AGAINST it for Testudo species.

I use all of my life experiences when I look at things, because there is always some overlap in concepts IMO. For lack of a better example, if you grow something from seed outdoors and one inside, they will exhibit differences. The one outdoors will take longer to sprout, and must fare the weather, bugs, the animals, etc. The one indoors sprouts with no adversity almost immediately, which outwardly seems like a good thing, but it is thus weakened. If you do not artificially create wind or physically bend the indoor plant it will not strengthen. If the lights are too far they stretch and fall, even the moisture that would otherwise feed it becomes too much and it rots it instead. You need the adversity to create a strong plant. You can grow things indoors absolutely, but the end quality is not the same. Try to transplant a squash grown indoors outside, it will never be as happy or productive as the one that was directly sown outside.

When you plant a tree, people often incorrectly plant it with the stake next to the trunk, tied to it. This holds the tree up, making a pretty straight trunk, but this does not teach the tree to stand on it's own, and the ties provide the risk of girdling. The tree can grow on that stake for years and still fall once the stake is removed. To truly support the tree you must stake the tree by providing two stakes on either side, allowing it to move in the wind. About 6 months later, the stakes can be removed and the tree that would have snapped in half without them now can stand on it's own, as having been tossed around by the wind it has strengthened from the inside. It stands to reason to me that a tortoise grown indoors, like a plant that is greenhouse or indoor grown, will face potential health and hardiness disadvantages throughout it's life once put outside. The healthier plant overall will be the one that had to learn to grow outdoors from the start, and was forced to stand on it's own. This may not apply at all to tortoises. Still, these are my thoughts. I am a gardener and this is part of my basis for my philosophy on how I raise my animals.

Don't worry @wellington, I will be back as they grow with pictures.
 

Gijoux

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
May 28, 2014
Messages
460
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux I appreciate your kind words!! First, here is the Greek Care Guide written by Chris Leone which can address some things more in-depth if you want to deep dive. I have tried my best to answer all of your questions, but let me know if I missed one.

The Testudo graeca ibera is the hardiest subspecies of all the Testudo and can tolerate a range of conditions and temperatures, even as babies. Chris recommends these be housed outdoors and has posted in the forum that a temperature drop at night is important. This species can tolerate 60 degree nights just fine. Since you're familiar with the area I will add that because we have such wonderful day temps, nights can be cooler and babies can get right to temp once the sun comes up. The tub works similar to a potted plant, warmed on the sides by the sun, it brings the soil temperature up even before they emerge to bask.

They can get in the 9-11" range from my understanding. Chris said the Ankara locale I have get 6-8" for males and 8-10" for females. A member I've noticed has gone MIA used to have some awesome information on their website that differed slightly, but no idea her source and her website is now inactive. They will eventually live in a group in at least a 30'x30' space. They are very aggressive and need to be able to escape each other. I have the ability to really give them as much space as I want, 60'x60' even. At their current size of 3" with their first brumation around the corner I've decided to leave them in this enclosure until they wake up in Spring. At that point they will get a bigger space. I haven't decided dimensions, but thinking in the 4'x8' range. Bigger would be lovely I just need to be sure they have a super sturdy lid to protect them from my dog, kids, and predators so it won't be excessively large due to that limiting factor. My dog is on the upper end of intelligence scale and requires a heavy lid she cannot open.

The tub I believe is 4' x 2' and has a natural sloping design to draw water down to one section aiding in drainage when I hose everyone down. The weeds inside were randomly chosen from the yard and planted in their already moist substrate. Sometimes they would die, sometimes it would just give them enough time to wilt more slowly as they were nibbled (notice, there are NO dandelions in there despite me planting them. The ones that survived they do nibble but are not their favorite, they just kept growing and became woody. My male climbs on top of the pigweed plant daily, basking and munching simultaneously. It's really cool how they filled in and the three main ones you see were in there all winter and took off once they went out in Spring. I've pulled a few out and trimmed as needed so they leave enough space underneath for movement. They keep sprouting on their own, especially the pigweed. Local weeds are the way to go for overhead cover I think. I sometimes plant the low spreading weeds I feed like purslane instead of putting it on the feeding rock and it lasts longer in the heat. They nibble it, explore it, burrow under it, etc. If it becomes too scraggly I pull it out and put in a new one, or five.

I have not measured the UVB with a solar meter. The top is constructed with 1/4" mesh hardware cloth and is large enough to allow sunlight through. I do not measure the exact humidity. With the open top I'm sure it fluctuates drastically throughout the day and would be too difficult. My Topsoil was from Home Depot I believe, Earthgro is the brand. Honestly, I pulled out an empty bag to look at the brand for you and it does have a regular ingredients list and a secondary side comment "In California, this product is formulated from manure, processed forest products, and compost." I don't know if I missed that or what when I bought it, but I've used it for a year with no visible side-effects. Still, I cannot guarantee that does not mean there are not any. I will agree that Topsoil is a risk each person has to weigh, and the manure additives are one of the things that concern people so user beware. After having them a year I couldn't imagine not giving them a substrate that allowed them to burrow. Reading this now doesn't make me want to remove it all in favor of orchid bark. Burrowing is such an important natural behavior, especially the way I raise them.
Thank you for the care sheet, I will enjoy reading it and learning about Greek Tortoises. I totally understand how important the burrowing must be for them, but I am really worried more about the compost component of the soil. I have read sad stories about babies, which were doing great, just begin to become unwell and it seems to go back to ingredients included in composted soils. It sounds like you have a bit of property, so perhaps you could use your own dirt next year when you create them a bigger space. It improves the humidity as well when they can burrow in. I would love it if you could get something like a Sensorpush Thermometer/Hygrometer device that you could attach just above the soil. I have mine attached by velcro and you can put the velcro in different places and get very accurate readings, by moving it from place to place at different times of the day. I think this would be very helpful for you this winter and interesting for you to see how the temps and humidity change throughout the day and night because you can look back to see on the recordings. You get the Sensorpush App and put it on your phone and you can see the temperature/humidity gradients you have created. I really like the Sensorpush devices.

How cold can these babies get while brumating during winter? I have to provide the Leopards heated night boxes because they just slow down during winter, but do not hibernate. They continue to eat and need to be warm enough for digestion to continue. Will your plants be able to survive the winter too? It sounds like the plants are doing fine in the tub. You could use a blanket on the box too. I'm sure you have already started to plant your outdoor enclosure, so it will be full of all these wonderful plants thriving, when the babies can go outside in the yard itself in a few years.

It would be great if you could purchase or borrow a Solar Meter to measure the UV at the soil level under the mesh, just to be sure. Your babies look good, so it appears to be high enough UV, but again people have been very shocked and disappointed to find their UV levels are not high enough with wire meshed covers. The 1/4 inch mesh distorts the UV rays depending on the time of the year and the angle of the sun. Just for peace of mind, because it is obvious you care about your babies. You could always remove the mesh top while working outside watering plants and such, but you will need to be very cautious with the kids and dog.

I eventually had to fence my dogs out of the Tortoise yard, because they will find every piece of poop I miss and eat it and the tortoises will eat the dog poop if I missed that. One time I was cleaning out one of my enclosures outside and I had placed the baby out in a small area right next to where I was working. I swear my little dog thought I was looking for the baby in the enclosure and the dog (10 lbs) carefully brought me the baby and gently set it down in front of me, looking quite proud of himself for finding the baby. Tom will roll his eyes at this, and he is right to do it, because dogs can do so much damage to tortoises. One little part of one of the babies scutes had been pulled back slightly and we were able to super glue it and luckily there were no repercussions from it. Plan on fencing the area now, if you haven't already.

I look forward to more posts from you as time goes on. I know from experience that depending on the time of the year and the weather, conditions can change quickly. Above all, have fun, which you appear to be doing.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
43,132
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I just don't agree on your comments that essentially throw the baby out with the bathwater. To say it doesn't work in totality because it needs an adjustment is ridiculous, especially considering the way those tortoises look. Maybe you will understand if I put it this way... when someone comes in with a closed chamber with temps or humidity incorrect and a sick tortoise the suggestion is not to scrap the whole thing, and admit it's not working. You tell them to make adjustments as needed.

I can see that you do not understand where I am coming from. I do not think I can explain it better than I have. Cost is not a factor, I'm not being cheap. I do wholeheartedly believe this is better for my animals. I will try one more time to explain, but most likely we will have to agree to disagree.

I think our differences reside mostly in a difference of philosophy. I choose to keep my animals as naturally as possible. Keeping an animal in a box inside for 1-3 years with only one temperature is "proven" to you, and a sad existence to me. I have chosen a species that is not so sensitive that it requires extra heat or indoor head-starting. I don't understand how those animals can have good health, immune systems, or tolerance to life. I do not have the experience to make any claims about raising that way, and I truly do not wish to put down how other people feel is best to raise their animals, but it does go against my philosophy as a keeper. You ask me why, the short answer- I want the best for them and I do not think that is inside a sterile box at a constant 80 degrees/80% humidity even if it provides a smooth shell. FULL STOP.

Should we not try to provide more because the closed chamber works? Pretty shell or not, do they not deserve more than that? Do you really believe tortoise husbandry should never advance more than this, that no one should ever question anything because someone else has provided one way already? How would Tom have been able to conduct his experiments to come to the knowledge you prize without some experimentation, without drive to do better for his animals? (Please don't misunderstand my intent here, I do not think I know better than anyone, especially not Tom, that's not the point I'm trying to make.)

Again, I am not reinventing the wheel, the top Testudo breeders I know of do not use closed chambers and actively advise AGAINST it for Testudo species.

I use all of my life experiences when I look at things, because there is always some overlap in concepts IMO. For lack of a better example, if you grow something from seed outdoors and one inside, they will exhibit differences. The one outdoors will take longer to sprout, and must fare the weather, bugs, the animals, etc. The one indoors sprouts with no adversity almost immediately, which outwardly seems like a good thing, but it is thus weakened. If you do not artificially create wind or physically bend the indoor plant it will not strengthen. If the lights are too far they stretch and fall, even the moisture that would otherwise feed it becomes too much and it rots it instead. You need the adversity to create a strong plant. You can grow things indoors absolutely, but the end quality is not the same. Try to transplant a squash grown indoors outside, it will never be as happy or productive as the one that was directly sown outside.

When you plant a tree, people often incorrectly plant it with the stake next to the trunk, tied to it. This holds the tree up, making a pretty straight trunk, but this does not teach the tree to stand on it's own, and the ties provide the risk of girdling. The tree can grow on that stake for years and still fall once the stake is removed. To truly support the tree you must stake the tree by providing two stakes on either side, allowing it to move in the wind. About 6 months later, the stakes can be removed and the tree that would have snapped in half without them now can stand on it's own, as having been tossed around by the wind it has strengthened from the inside. It stands to reason to me that a tortoise grown indoors, like a plant that is greenhouse or indoor grown, will face potential health and hardiness disadvantages throughout it's life once put outside. The healthier plant overall will be the one that had to learn to grow outdoors from the start, and was forced to stand on it's own. This may not apply at all to tortoises. Still, these are my thoughts. I am a gardener and this is part of my basis for my philosophy on how I raise my animals.

Don't worry @wellington, I will be back as they grow with pictures.
We will have to agree to disagree. I do wish you luck in what you are doing and do hope it works. I also do hope you keep us updated not only on how they are growing but also keeping notes on all you do so in the future, if it does work out, you can create a caresheet we can share for those that do not want to do a closed chamber.
 

mark1

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2015
Messages
1,650
Location (City and/or State)
ohio
your tortoises look very healthy ,i've seen many pics of smooth shelled t.graeca that were clearly unhealthy .......

t.graeca has an enormous climatic range, from northern africa to russia ....... while i've never kept them ,i've kept enough foriegn and exotic species to not believe t. graeca with little to no help cannot be kept outside their entire lives in almost all, if not all, of the united states ....... there are climates they naturally occur in where between hibernation and estivation they are active maybe 3 months per year ..... they are found in sahara to rainforest humid bioclimates, from sea level to 7000 feet , annual rainfalls from a couple inches to 4-5feet............

when the climate is appropriate , outside imo is always better than inside ...their lives revovle around the sun , to duplicate the sun and daylight cycles you'd need to be NASA , if even they could do it ...... an eastern mud turtle native to florida can be kept outside successfully 24/7/365 in ohio no problem ....... they can be kept outside inappropriately as much as inside ........
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,960
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I've officially outted myself as not using a closed chamber. Here are my one year old Greek babies from Garden State Tortoise. They, and I, await your judgment! I've been anxious to do this for a while now. I'm afraid to be torn down, but I also feel I may have something to offer. I realize the group is only worth anything if people share, and my torts and I have benefitted so much from others sharing their experiences. So, here are my babies!!

I've been trying to decide if there are any signs of minor pyramiding, obsessively running my fingers over the scute seams, but it's really difficult with not having more experience. Not knowing what perfect growth looks like or feels like in person- is there no texture at all, or is there some texture regardless??? I've looked at all the up-close pictures I can. I sent pictures to Chris and he was very happy with them.

I want to hear your thoughts on the babies first, then I would be happy to share their setup, and care. They are a year old, and evaluating how they are doing is important to me. Please do not think I must not love them because I do things differently. I have another trio coming my way and have been obsessively researching to be sure these are doing well, if I should raise the next set the same, or if adjustments should be made. I'm open-minded to make needed adjustments, but please don't shoot us down just because we are rebels. ;)

@wellington, what do you think? First two photos taken yesterday, soaking pictures from last month.


View attachment 348649 View attachment 348650 View attachment 348651 View attachment 348652
There is nothing "wrong" with doing it the way you are doing it. Over the decades, I did it that way many times with many species, and in a similar climate to yours. Many people all over the world do it this way. You can raise a healthy happy animal that way. If you prefer to enjoy your tortoises in this manner and raise them this way, then have at it. You are CLEARLY looking out for their best interest, studying and learning as much as you can, and paying close attention to your animals and the results of your efforts. This is as it should be.

Here is the but... but until you do it both ways, side by side with multiple clutch mates, how do you know which way is "better" and what the results will be? You make it sound like living indoors in a climate controlled protected area in ideal conditions is somehow inferior to the great outdoors. If I've misperceived your sentiment, please forgive me. I too use to strive for "natural" tortoise keeping. The problem is that our perceptions of "natural" are not natural. Our artificial re-creation of what we think "the wild" is, leads to problems and often poor results. This varies tremendously by species, but does pertain to all species. All the sulcata books say they are from an "arid region" and warn that if you offer them so much as a water dish in the enclosure, they will get shell rot and a respiratory infection from the humidity. This is totally false and wrong, yet I can cite many seemingly credible authors that have all said this wrong info. Me being me, defiant and rebellious, I decided to try it a different way back around 2008 after many failed attempts doing it "their" way. In my travels I saw sulcatas raised in the humid rainy south that looked fantastic and were growing at 10 times the rate of mine. Wait... what? Humidity is supposed to make them sick, and "fast" growth is supposed to be bad, right? But these were some of the best looking healthy sulcatas I had ever seen in high humidity year round. How could this be? I started my experiments and got input from many sources. In went the damp substrate, and on went the top cover. Daily soaks, shell spraying, ever wetter conditions. I was called all sorts of names and insulted continuously, yet I saw no shell rot, no RI, and my tortoise thrived. I did it again the next year with hatchlings, and same result. Other people started doing it, and got the same result. Come to find out from someone who actually lives in that part fo the world and studies wild tortoises in the wild, babies hatch at the start of the rainy season. Hot, wet, super humid, with puddles, marshes and green growing food everywhere. I knew it worked, but I couldn't explain WHY it worked until I met Tomas Diagne. Now I had the how AND the why it works.

That was 2011. Since then I've been doing annual experiments sussing out the various variables to figure out what works BEST, and why. I have done side by side experieimnts with clutch mates of several species, including Testudo. The results were universally the same. When kept outdoors all or most of the day we get slow growth and some pyramiding inspite of damp substrate, frequent water sprays and heavy vegetation. Each batch got soaked daily side by side in identical tubs with water from the same bucket. Each group got fed the same amount of the same food from the same bucket. Each group slept indoors in the same divided enclosure, but one group stayed outside most of each day and one group stayed inside in the closed chamber most of each day. Every time I did this experiment the result was the same: Smooth indoors, bumpy outdoors. But what was most fascinating, and what I still cannot explain is the growth rate. The indoor groups grow at 3 times the rate on the same amount, or less, of the same food. Same size enclosure indoors and out, so its not exercise or enclosure size. Activity levels seemed to be about the same inside and out. Hides were available inside and out, so why the difference in growth rate? And why would a small slow growing baby living on damp earth with heavy vegetation pyramid so obviously while its clutch mate in an indoor enclosure did not?

Your way of thinking is logical and sensible. I would rate you in the top 5% of tortoise keepers. This is a respectful and friendly argument/discussion, but here again it is a one sided argument that I have had many times. I have kept many many tortoise of many species the way you are keeping yours, for many years. You are arguing for that method and find it to be preferable and superior, yet you have never tried it the way I find superior and advocate for. Its an unfair, one sided argument. I know what the results of your method are. Seen it hundreds of time literally all over the world, both in person and here on the forum and internet. For us to have a meaningful discussion about this, you and the people you cited, will need to do it the way I advocate, side-by-side, with clutch mates, at least a few times with a few species for us to argue on a level playing field. How can I say a Honda is better than a Harley if I have never ridden a Harley. If I haven't spent years riding both, working on both, and owning multiples of both, do I really have an argument? Does my argument have a leg to stand on?

First and foremost, you are not a bad tortoise keeper. Quite the opposite, you are an excellent tortoise keeper. I applaud your success, and find it truly heartwarming how much you love your tortoises. I thank you for posting pics and braving this discussion that you knew would be coming. This is a tortoise forum. We are here to talk tortoises, and you have fueled that conversation. Many people find my method of communication, shall we say, "disagreeable", but I know of no other way to talk than to simply spell things out in a direct manner. I mean no insult by it. Its just how I talk. You are happy with your method, and that is fine. Your animals are healthy, well cared for and this is what matters most. My only criticism, if you can call it that, is that you have not tried it the way you advocate against. You clearly find outdoor housing preferable, but you don't have the experience of raising them in a primarily indoor situation in a large closed chamber. I know what you will discover if you try it both ways side-by-side with clutch mates and no other variables. You and the people you have cited do not.

Another critical detail in this discussion that is frequently overlooked is that we are talking ONLY about methods for starting small babies. This is NOT about housing adults, which I believe do far better with the methods you are using when climate and weather allow for it. There are many examples and studies of how adults of many species live in the wild. There is almost nothing on hatchlings and babies. "The Lost Years". With such a dearth of info on their lives in the wild, our best resource for how to house and raise them in captivity is comparing and contrasting the results from the various captive housing strategies.

I don't want to you leave feeling attacked, belittled or slighted in any way. I don't want you to be fearful of posting or sharing what you observe with your tortoises. You have wonderful tortoises with excellent housing in an excellent warm sunny climate. The whole point of my post is only to point out that there is a whole world of tortoise keeping that works better than what you are doing, and most of the tortoise keeping world is STILL ignorant about it. The reject these ideas without ever trying them, and many of them attack the person who is trying to enlighten them. You might be a little guilty of the former, but definitely not the latter. I've literally been threatened with bodily harm for sharing the results and details of my experiments, in addition to myriad other threats and insults. You will NOT be threatened or insulted here, but when you feel like people are "against" you, please remember that our only intention is to talk tortoises, share ideas, learn and teach what we've learned. Barb has a brash style of speaking, much like my own. I find Yvonne's manner of speaking to be eloquent thoughtful. Neal, who I wish would post more often, has a very grounded sensible style of speaking, relying on observed facts and leaning well away from emotion or baseless opinion, and he will not waiver in the face of an argument he believes is false or yet unproven. We all do it differently, but we are all friends with a common interest here, and the goal is always to be the best tortoise keepers we can be, and to help others do the same. Sometimes egos get bruised and feelings get hurt in this process. Gotta break a few eggs if you wanna make an omelet, right? Whenever I have had heated arguments in the past, which os most definitely NOT the case here in this thread, I try to remind myself of why I am arguing. What is the point? The point is advancement of knowledge. Even if my opponent wishes to remain willfully ignorant, many the people reading along do not. I'm referring to past heated arguments, not you, and not this thread. You are not "my opponent" in this discussion, and you are not willfully ignorant.

I hope that you keep posting and allow us to observe the results of your "experiment" as the months and years pass. We will all learn from it as you provide another useful and helpful piece to this great big puzzle we all want to solve. As with my own experiments, whether the results are good or bad or somewhere in-between, the goal is to learn from it and advance tortoise care knowledge.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
t.graeca has an enormous climatic range, from northern africa to russia ....... while i've never kept them ,i've kept enough foriegn and exotic species to not believe t. graeca with little to no help cannot be kept outside their entire lives in almost all, if not all, of the united states ....... there are climates they naturally occur in where between hibernation and estivation they are active maybe 3 months per year .....

when the climate is appropriate , outside imo is always better than inside ...their lives revovle around the sun , to duplicate the sun and daylight cycles you'd need to be NASA , if even they could do it ...... an eastern mud turtle native to florida can be kept outside successfully 24/7/365 in ohio no problem ....... they can be kept outside inappropriately as much as inside ........
Did you mean to say you do NOT believe the T. graeca ibera can survive anywhere? or that you DO?

I am definitely with you on feeling there is no substitute for the sun. I've seen some sad lizards/tortoises deformed from MBD, I'm sure many of us have. With the technology of lights being all over the place, a supposed superior product offered and celebrated, to later realize it's no good or even harmful.... it's hard to feel truly confident using them for me. I just feel like the sun has less margin for error.

I had an Eclectus parrot for a short time, even birds require outdoor time in the sun for proper health. This also plays a factor into part of the basis for my philosophy.
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux Thanks for the tips! I had told my husband this week that if I posted my enclosure, TFO was going to want humidity and temp numbers. I may consider the system you recommended.

I have a 5' no-climb horse fence around my DT enclosure. I'm not giving my dog ANY chances. I know her too well, and it's well documented here dogs are unsafe.

I always appreciate useful tidbits like that which you mentioned about UV and hardware cloth. Here currently the sun is directly overhead. I've learned in my gardening to pay close attention to the sun's trajectory and the amount of sun/shade during different times of years, learned a lot about microclimates from that hobby too which apply to my tortoise keeping as well. I will be carefully observing the sun as they move into brumation and the sun begins to move toward a more southern position instead of overhead. During the winter last year I used a smaller sterilite type container for them to get some outdoor time and the large one you see was brought indoors, placed on a tarp and under a window. I would cant a table at an angle and place the smaller enclosure on so they could get more sun. It looked ridiculous! But I knew they didn't get the sun without the angle.

If you have any easy links saved handily to post on compost/topsoil I would love to read them! I will have to take some time to read up on this again myself soon. I need to set up my new baby enclosure very soon and I've been playing with ideas of using something smaller to start this time.

Regarding brumating babies. I don't see a specific number written down, and don't have one off the top of my head, but I believe it is very low, below freeze point of 32d. The care guides just state it is the most hardy and can take low and high extremes. I will keep looking, I believe the answer may be in one of the many GST videos on Greek tortoises. I know I've heard a number thrown out (for some reason "even into the teens" is stuck in my head, but I will have to confirm this). I do know that Chris stresses that there is no differentiation in climate tolerances for babies and adults.

That's a good question about the weeds. I am not sure. I do tend to slow or stop watering my regular plants in Winter which could be the cause of some die-off of them in normal circumstances. Generally we are warm enough we have weeds available all winter for food, but some are seasonal. Mallow for example seems to do better in the cooler months and I relied on that heavily as a staple food before. Yesterday I found some seed off an old one and pushed it down into the enclosure; hopefully some will sprout. You could plant in winter alternates as a possible fix if they die. Since they are being kept moist consistently they could potentially survive outdoors. I will update on that as I go along. Good question!! I do have an insulated building option, a room that is cold, I have considered moving the entire tub indoors in the dark. I have not kept detailed info on the consistency of the temps in there and have not got quite to researching brumation again yet. I am trying to assess their care currently and decide if they need changes and how I will move forward with the next trio. I know some people prefer a more stable brumation temp inside and that is something I will need to research and consider. Always more learning to do!
 

mark1

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2015
Messages
1,650
Location (City and/or State)
ohio
i do not believe that t.graeca cannot be kept outside 24/7/365 in most if not all of the united states , for their entire lives ..... i never knew other "turtle & tortoise people" until the internet and these forums, it was something i did on my own .... i've been running an "experiment" on keeping them for over 50yrs ,closer to 60yrs....... and i've come to the conclusion outside is of the utmost importance .....if you can't keep them outside, imo, you got a big negative going against you ....can it be overcome ? i'd need to see all these 30+yr never been kept outside turtles or tortoises ? the long term ones kept totally inside i've seen ,are visually at best just surviving their predicament .......

properly , imo, is a large enough pen to provide sun/shade, access to the natural ground , permanent water supply and access to food .......if they hibernate ,they need as perfect of a hibernacula as can be provided ..... it's not hard to provide a better hibernacula than most can find in the wild , all you got to do is know what the purpose is ....
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@mark1

I think that is an important distinction that people realize these Testudo subspecies are very hardy and thus very different from many of the other tortoises available.

I really took my time to choose a species of tortoise, taking to heart the advice on the forum by knowledgeable members to not fight your climate. I started out in love with Redfoots and Burmese Mountain Tortoises. I would not have felt confident trying to raise those tropical water-loving animals that require supplemental heat and do not brumate. Eventually I started to only be attracted to Testudo looks-wise. I don't think there is a more perfect tortoise for me.

A large reason I am confident this will work is because this species is particularly well suited to outdoor rearing. I was sure to choose a species that suited my climate, and my choice of how to raise them. I think choosing the right tortoise is an essential part of the equation in being successful raising them.
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux This is from the Greek Careguide. I'm sure there is more info somewhere, but it's a start.

"Hardier subspecies like Testudo graeca ibera can handle overnight temperatures down into the low 50s (fahrenheit) during the active season and will remain at temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s underground for winter. This even goes for hatchlings!"
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Tom So many things I want to respond to! I'm a chatterbox too, so sorry in advance. Sometimes I try to shorten my blabber and feel like I leave out crucial details or come off short or direct myself.

First, thank you for being so kind and your compliments. I do not feel this is an argument and I look forward to your input and educational discussion. I want to learn, and healthy debate is good for the forum. I think it's important to maintain respect even if we disagree, and I felt that in your response so thank you again! I felt fairly confident you would appreciate what I was trying to do here, even if it wasn't your preference for raising your own babies. I appreciate some clarification on the finer details of your experiments. They are referred to often and I believe I've found some older posts with some of that info, but certainly not all of them and the pictures are unfortunately expired.

Very true, I do not know which is better without the side-by-side comparison. I do think we can not all be afforded to run side-by-side experiments as we lack in the access to the sheer numbers of animals you had to work with. Those sulcatas sure pump out the babies! Admittedly, I could choose to try with the new ones and that is a valid point. I think at the end of the day we can all only do what we FEEL is best and that is largely subjective, so much mystery remains in animal-keeping. I absolutely understand all of your valid points here. I do feel an outdoor life is best or more accurately I should say preferable, but I do not have the experience or data to back up those feelings. They are just my feelings. BEST is what works to grow a healthy tortoise and there can be more than one way to meet that end IMO. I would not say that reading about breeders changed or formed my opinion so much as I naturally gravitated to a species and breeders that fit my somewhat preconceived notion of what is "best." Similarly, I found myself enamored with lizards, but a monitor is not practical and a water dragon was similarly inappropriate. Finding animals that can thrive here, that I can provide a somewhat human-flawed attempt at creating something natural for them was a priority in my species selections on both accounts. If my animals were failing outdoors they would be inside and babied regardless of what initial daydream I came into this with.

I think you have made great strides in getting people to understand desert doesn't mean what people think it does, and moisture is an essential component for life. I can appreciate that rebel nature of yours, that endless questioning and needing to find answers. Your mark on the Tortoise world and the countless animals this information helped is remarkable and you should be applauded. Even if I choose to rear outdoors, I know that hydration is of the utmost importance for healthy animals. I did soak my tortoises more often as babies, conflicted in the differing advice, and fully prepared to switch things up. When my babies were pulled in they had just started to lose a few grams from the cold- I think I waited a week or two too long to bring them in. Immediately I started to soak more often and the babies gained back rapidly. It was during these winter months they saw the most soaking, and something I attribute their turnaround to. As I said, I am open to challenging my own ideas and doing what is best for my tortoises.

I am most interested to hear your thoughts more deeply on the rapid weight gain associated with indoor rearing. I have concerns about this. I've seen you note it before, but am not sure I understand how you determined this is a healthy or favorable result. Genuinely, I am so curious to hear what you must have worked out as you attempted to make sense of your results! This is one of the things I have a hard time with. As you said, one of the arguments between the two ways of rearing is the "unnatural" weight gain. I am not sure I've seen the statement the gain was despite exact same amounts of food so that is a new piece to the puzzle for me. Do you believe the caloric output of the outdoor tortoises is more? With other animals they burn calories to stay warm, etc. so perhaps it is the consistency of ideal temps that provide less caloric needs for your indoor torts? Did they actually eat all of the food outdoors vs indoors? I know that the necessity of hiding on and off from the sun plays into the frequency with which outdoor babies eat. Another thought I have had is whether tortoises can physiologically handle this abundance of food, as they were evolutionarily designed to adopt this browse/pause/browse/pause, even less browsing due to estivation/etc.? I guess in the end the total amount of food is controlled by you. Perhaps with Sulcatas they do not experience an estivation period like the T. graeca ibera, I cannot claim to know. I'm sure you have already pondered and researched these topics so I would love to hear your thoughts.

I also think it's important to not get tunnel vision in regards to pyramiding to the exclusion of other aspects of health. Which is something I do not think you or even most do/encourage, but could be something others new to the site could takeaway who do not do the research (or stick around long after getting initial setup help) may not consider. Using animal conformation as an example (you have more experience with this than I), breeding an extreme to the opposite extreme in an attempt to correct something doesn't work, and only focusing on one area versus keeping a balance on the entire picture is also detrimental to the breeder's end goal and can result in unexpected (possibly foreseeable in some cases) setbacks.

Lastly, I should say I do not wish for anyone to feel I advocate against any one method. I was last night thinking to myself, I really hope I didn't offend anyone saying I feel closed chambers at one temp make me sad. I know people who choose that method feel they are doing the best for their tortoises, and I feel the same about my method. Each person must do what they feel is best and we can certainly not all be expected to agree. Your logic is sound and your experience backs it, my logic makes sense but my point of view may evolve the longer I raise tortoises and gain my own hands-on experience. All each of us can do is what we feel is best after being presented all of the information. I do feel like the outdoors is often shut down for babies, and that makes me sad, so it is only my wish to say- this is a possibility too! I fully understand you tried to make this work in a way you felt was satisfactory to you and have moved on from this idea after finding what works best for you.

I hope in my experiments I have something worthy to add to the collection of information and conversation here, whichever way it goes. I will be happy to share, because I have learned so very much from ALL of the members here in the past few years researching here on TFO. I plan to provide updates as they grow to contribute back to the community.
 

Gijoux

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
May 28, 2014
Messages
460
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux Thanks for the tips! I had told my husband this week that if I posted my enclosure, TFO was going to want humidity and temp numbers. I may consider the system you recommended.

I have a 5' no-climb horse fence around my DT enclosure. I'm not giving my dog ANY chances. I know her too well, and it's well documented here dogs are unsafe.

I always appreciate useful tidbits like that which you mentioned about UV and hardware cloth. Here currently the sun is directly overhead. I've learned in my gardening to pay close attention to the sun's trajectory and the amount of sun/shade during different times of years, learned a lot about microclimates from that hobby too which apply to my tortoise keeping as well. I will be carefully observing the sun as they move into brumation and the sun begins to move toward a more southern position instead of overhead. During the winter last year I used a smaller sterilite type container for them to get some outdoor time and the large one you see was brought indoors, placed on a tarp and under a window. I would cant a table at an angle and place the smaller enclosure on so they could get more sun. It looked ridiculous! But I knew they didn't get the sun without the angle.

If you have any easy links saved handily to post on compost/topsoil I would love to read them! I will have to take some time to read up on this again myself soon. I need to set up my new baby enclosure very soon and I've been playing with ideas of using something smaller to start this time.

Regarding brumating babies. I don't see a specific number written down, and don't have one off the top of my head, but I believe it is very low, below freeze point of 32d. The care guides just state it is the most hardy and can take low and high extremes. I will keep looking, I believe the answer may be in one of the many GST videos on Greek tortoises. I know I've heard a number thrown out (for some reason "even into the teens" is stuck in my head, but I will have to confirm this). I do know that Chris stresses that there is no differentiation in climate tolerances for babies and adults.

That's a good question about the weeds. I am not sure. I do tend to slow or stop watering my regular plants in Winter which could be the cause of some die-off of them in normal circumstances. Generally we are warm enough we have weeds available all winter for food, but some are seasonal. Mallow for example seems to do better in the cooler months and I relied on that heavily as a staple food before. Yesterday I found some seed off an old one and pushed it down into the enclosure; hopefully some will sprout. You could plant in winter alternates as a possible fix if they die. Since they are being kept moist consistently they could potentially survive outdoors. I will update on that as I go along. Good question!! I do have an insulated building option, a room that is cold, I have considered moving the entire tub indoors in the dark. I have not kept detailed info on the consistency of the temps in there and have not got quite to researching brumation again yet. I am trying to assess their care currently and decide if they need changes and how I will move forward with the next trio. I know some people prefer a more stable brumation temp inside and that is something I will need to research and consider. Always more learning to do!
I was thinking the Sensorpush, which are very accurate, will be very helpful for you during their brumation time to be able to follow the temps and humidity without having to disturb your set up because you can just look at the app on your phone.

I learned about compost by visiting "One Stop" which is a huge operation that makes composting soil. You do not want to see what is in these soils. Let it suffice to say EVERYTHING you can think of is in those soils. It does not matter if they say Organic or Natural. Composted Oleander is definitely organic and natural, as well as poisonous. This is why some people used it for years with absolutely no problem and then one time they use it and every baby they put in the enclosure died.

The only other thing I would like to mention is that UV does not come through glass or screens on windows. You would want to remove the screen on your window for sunning.

I admire all you keepers of tortoises that hibernate/brumate because it scares me to death. I chose Leopard Tortoises because they do not hibernate, nor do the burrow. They love a good hole that some other animal dug however. I admit I am a big wimp and a big worry wart.

I am looking forward to the years ahead, as your babies grow and you eventually will be posting about digging up eggs to incubate. Above all, you want to enjoy your tortoises.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,960
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I am glad you don't feel like you are being attacked, and I will try to keep it that way. I do the same thing about missing important details that I meant to include. I'd love to talk more about several of your points, and try to hit the things I missed. This is great tortoise conversation. This is the sort of thing we do at TTPG every year. A bunch of tortoise nerds sitting around talking about tortoises for hours.
Very true, I do not know which is better without the side-by-side comparison. I do think we can not all be afforded to run side-by-side experiments as we lack in the access to the sheer numbers of animals you had to work with.
I realize that very few people ever will do, or will want to do, what I have done, and that is why I felt it important to do the experiments publicly and share the methods and results over time as things progressed. People like Barb and Yvonne and so many others that were around back then witnessed it all first hand, and then tried it themselves. That is why they argue for it. That is why when someone comes along and says what they are doing is "better", those of us that know both methods will argue. The way you are doing it is fine. Its not harming the babies. But I think what Barb is trying to get across, is that what you are doing is not better, and it doesn't matter how you or anyone else "feels" about it. Evidence is evidence. I'm not trying to convince you to change anything. I'm arguing with the idea that outdoors is better for babies, because I know and have proven many times over that it is not better in any way you want to measure it. I'm proving it again and again right now with yet another species. And its not about what is best for you or best for me. Its about measurable health benefits for the tortoises. Anyone can prefer whatever method they want, but personal preference is different than saying a method is 'better". We can measure and quantify what is better based on facts and evidence.
I am most interested to hear your thoughts more deeply on the rapid weight gain associated with indoor rearing. I have concerns about this. I've seen you note it before, but am not sure I understand how you determined this is a healthy or favorable result. Genuinely, I am so curious to hear what you must have worked out as you attempted to make sense of your results! This is one of the things I have a hard time with. As you said, one of the arguments between the two ways of rearing is the "unnatural" weight gain. I am not sure I've seen the statement the gain was despite exact same amounts of food so that is a new piece to the puzzle for me. Do you believe the caloric output of the outdoor tortoises is more? With other animals they burn calories to stay warm, etc. so perhaps it is the consistency of ideal temps that provide less caloric needs for your indoor torts? Did they actually eat all of the food outdoors vs indoors?
I'm glad you brought this up, and there are many points to hit. First and foremost in my mind is the reminder that most of the "old" care info for most species has been thoroughly proven wrong. Can we agree on that as a generality without having to debate each and every fine point? Included in that wrong info, I would propose to you that the statements about "unnatural growth" or "fast growth" that you have read are preposterously wrong. I will explain: Life in the wild is exceedingly difficult. Have you read my falconry thread? Drought, famine, aestivation, brumation, predator evasion, disease, parasite, conspecific aggression, floods, weather extremes, etc... It should be no surprise to anyone that growth rates in the wild are exceedingly slow. Most babies, anywhere from 300-1000 don't even survive for each one that does. I propose that the growth rates we see in captivity with a good low protein, high fiber, high calcium, varied diet, along with good hydration and higher than ambient humidity like what they would find in the microclimates that babies would be exploiting is a "normal" growth rate. No one knows what babies do in the wild, but is it any surprise they grow slowly given all the impediments to survival.

Along these lines, I would define "fast growth" as what we see when people run high temps day and night and load the diet with higher protein foods. I know of one guy who lets his tortoises eat dog poo and his tortoises grow at twice the rate of mine which eat grass, weeds, leaves, and opuntia pads. Another keeper in FL let his tortoises eat cat kibble out of the cat's dish. Certainly not what I would consider a good idea, but his tortoises certainly grew "fast". I would not call wild tortoise growth rates "normal". I'd call them slow because the animals are often barely surviving.

To answer your question: In all of my side by side comparisons, both groups ate all the food that was offered. The outdoor groups had the option to graze on whatever was growing in their enclosures since it was all tortoise safe and edible. They took advantage of this and so its safe to say that the outdoor groups had even more food than the indoor groups. I don't think anyone will argue that more food would make them grow slower.

I once read somewhere that as endotherms, 95-98% of the calories we consume are used for temperature maintenance, and ectotherms can use all of those calories for growth and locomotion since they need zero calories for heat generation, unless you want to count the calories needed to move in and out of the sunshine.

I don't know why they grow faster indoors. I speculate that its because our enclosures are unnatural. Like sea turtles, no one knows where they go are what they do from the time they hatch until they reach subadult size and we see them in the wild again. This is what I was referring to as "the lost years" previously. Everyone has seen tiny baby sea turtles hatching and running across the beach to get to the water. Everyone has seen adult sea turtles. Have you ever seen a 4-12 inch sea turtle? I haven't. Where do they go? What we do know is that baby tortoises are NOT out walking around exposed to the elements in the wild like they are in our small enclosures. We simply cannot provide them with whatever they are finding in nature in our tiny-by-comparison home made enclosures. They quickly desensitize to us, get comfortable in their environment, hopefully never get harassed or attacked, and they walk around out in the open all day completely and unnaturally exposed. If they did this in the wild, they'd be dead in seconds. In the wild they stay hidden in the underbrush and leaf litter. They dig in and find or create their own micro-climates. In our outdoor enclosure they are exposed. In my stable, protected, temperature controlled, moderately humid for Testudo, indoor enclosures, I speculate that conditions are more similar to optimal wild conditions than in an open air exposed tortoise table or backyard enclosure. I view it as an indicator of good health and thriving if one animal is growing three times faster on the same amount of the same food as another animal. Three times faster. That is 100 grams vs. 300 grams in the span of 5-6 months. Siblings. Same mother and father. Incubated side by side in the same shoe box in the same incubator. Started in the same brooder boxes. Sleeping at night in the same dived indoor enclosure. Soaking side by side for the same amount of time daily. Eating the same foods. One group is indoors 23 hours a day, and the other group is outdoors 6-12 hours a day. Would you argue that outdoors is better, given these facts? Personally, I don't care about the growth rate. Fast or slow matters not. I care about the tortoises health. Starting babies mostly indoors is more healthy any way you look at it, as long as its done correctly. Indoors in a small aquarium with the wrong temps, wrong lights, wrong substrate etc... is not what we are talking about here. Just as outdoors done incorrectly is not relevant. I would say that your outdoor enclosures are excellent, and someone like @Markw84 has excellent closed chambers for starting babies.
I also think it's important to not get tunnel vision in regards to pyramiding to the exclusion of other aspects of health. Which is something I do not think you or even most do/encourage, but could be something others new to the site could takeaway who do not do the research (or stick around long after getting initial setup help) may not consider. Using animal conformation as an example (you have more experience with this than I), breeding an extreme to the opposite extreme in an attempt to correct something doesn't work, and only focusing on one area versus keeping a balance on the entire picture is also detrimental to the breeder's end goal and can result in unexpected (possibly foreseeable in some cases) setbacks.
I agree with you on this point, but if someone is following my care sheet and recommendations, they will have both a healthy animal and smooth growth. The balance that you refer to is achieved. I have seen lots of examples of healthy tortoises that were pyramided, and unhealthy tortoises that were not. Overall good health is my goal, but pyramiding can be an indicator that something in the care routine is not right. Your tortoises do not appear to be pyramiding. We'd need profile pics to really evaluate that. If there is any pyramiding happening in your tortoises, it appears to be slight in the pics you've posted. I don't consider slight pyramiding to be an indicator that someone's husbandry is lacking. I've produced lots of mildly pyramided tortoises under supposedly "ideal" conditions and this is just one of the reasons why I say we still have much too learn. When I can grow any species 100% smooth 100% of the time, then I will say we fully understand pyramiding. We are not there yet. We are still missing some of the pieces to that puzzle.

Lastly, I should say I do not wish for anyone to feel I advocate against any one method. I was last night thinking to myself, I really hope I didn't offend anyone saying I feel closed chambers at one temp make me sad. I know people who choose that method feel they are doing the best for their tortoises, and I feel the same about my method. Each person must do what they feel is best and we can certainly not all be expected to agree. Your logic is sound and your experience backs it, my logic makes sense but my point of view may evolve the longer I raise tortoises and gain my own hands-on experience. All each of us can do is what we feel is best after being presented all of the information. I do feel like the outdoors is often shut down for babies, and that makes me sad, so it is only my wish to say- this is a possibility too! I fully understand you tried to make this work in a way you felt was satisfactory to you and have moved on from this idea after finding what works best for you.
I think the crux of the whole "argument" is contained in the above quoted paragraph. Indoors in closed chambers is better for babies. Its not what "works for me" or what I "feel is best". I didn't try it one way with one tortoise and another way with one other tortoise, and then go with what seemed better after reading some stuff on the internet. I've run dozens of long term experiments with 100s of tortoises and there is no doubt about this. In spite of what you have read (I've read those sources too), and in spite of your feelings about outdoors or indoors, we know what works better and have at least a pretty good educated guess about why. The way you are doing it does work, but it is unnatural, and has drawbacks. I say its unnatural because babies do not live that way in the wild. Adults live that way in the wild, and the way you are housing your babies is as close to "natural" as I think we can get for housing adults in captivity. The people who wrote what led you to believe the things you've expressed here in this thread neither understand nor agree with what I've been expaining here in this thread. They have also never done the experiments and raised tortoises in the variety of ways I have done it, and seen it done. Remember the one sided argument concept I spoke of earlier. These Harley riders have never ridden or owned a Honda, but they write all about how much better Harley's are and how much Hondas suck. Even if that were true, these people couldn't possibly know that.

In my early days on this forum, some considered me a heresy spouting idiot for saying that "desert" species should be raised with humidity and hydration. I was attacked and insulted publicly and privately for years. They didn't understand what I had been seeing and learning, and could not conceive of how they could have been wrong for so many years. I was one of them parroting the same wrong info they were still parroting for nearly two decades. My results told me that I and they were wrong, and it took a long time to figure out what was right, and even longer to figure out WHY it was right. Now, my heresy has been translated into many languages and tortoise keepers all over the world are raising smooth, natural looking, healthy tortoises. China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam, and many more that I'm not aware of. Look up posts from @Bee62 in Germany and see her beautiful sulcatas.

You may find some insight here:
I hope in my experiments I have something worthy to add to the collection of information and conversation here, whichever way it goes. I will be happy to share, because I have learned so very much from ALL of the members here in the past few years researching here on TFO. I plan to provide updates as they grow to contribute back to the community.
There is tremendous value in what you are doing. It serves as a demonstration and comparison point. The details of what you learn and how you do it will help others to learn and do it better. I said before that doing what you are doing and doing it so well, is not "bad". Not at all. All of these words typed above are simply to say that the evidence demonstrates that the way you are doing it is not "better" than indoor closed chambers.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,960
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Gijoux This is from the Greek Careguide. I'm sure there is more info somewhere, but it's a start.

"Hardier subspecies like Testudo graeca ibera can handle overnight temperatures down into the low 50s (fahrenheit) during the active season and will remain at temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s underground for winter. This even goes for hatchlings!"
This is an area where I do agree with your cited sources, at least some parts of it. It is my personal opinion based on what I have seen, that species that brumate in the wild should be brumated in captivity as well. Even babies. I don't agree with waiting until they are "X" number of years old. Wild babies don't have that luxury. I will admit that keeping them up all winter every year appears to do no harm, but this seems "unnatural" to me.

Where I disagree strongly, based on personal experience and obvious climate differences, is about letting them brumate outdoors, subject to whatever weird weather phenomenon happens in a given year. This is foolish and often leads to their death. Some people get away with it in some parts of the country, but the list of deaths due to the cruel whims of Mother Nature is a long one. Regardless of some people getting the majority of theirs to survive the winter outside in some parts of the country, I will tell you emphatically that it does NOT work here in our climate. Our winters are too warm and too inconsistent. 90 degree week long spells in January, followed by a return to below freezing nights days later...

When the time comes, you will have to decide whether to brumate or keep them up. Sometimes they don't want to stay up despite our best efforts, and you end up having to brumate them anyway. That is the tricky part about temperate species. If you do decide to brumate, I hope you will let me offer you what I have learned about doing it here in the SoCal high desert. I have a 100% success rate doing it my way with lizards, snakes, and many tortoises of many species. My one failure happened when I brumated outside with my Argentine tegus, following the advice of a very knowledgable experienced person who grew up in Europe and lived in Alabama. What worked for him in AL and Europe does NOT work here in SoCal.

Brumation is easy and safe when done correctly. The people who say otherwise are not doing it correctly. The people who have terrible stories of how their animal died in one way or another, or didn't make it out of hibernation alive, have almost always done it outside, or incorrectly inside. If you want my insight, it is yours for the asking. Shall we talk about it in late October or early November? :)
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Shall we talk about it in late October or early November? :)
I have read some of your posts on the topic of brumation which is why I included the "TBD" on How's for now. I have more research to do for sure, and some ideas about possible outdoor alternatives (I believe you recommend a fridge, right? this is what made me consider my building). I would be interested to talk about it at a later date definitely. Chris recommended that since I did not have any experience brumating at all, that I skip it for hatchlings the first year to be safe. It is my understanding he brumates his own hatchlings.

On this note I tried to rewatch lots of Garden State Tortoise videos to find the information I swear I heard at some point for @Gijoux. I think he will greatly appreciate this link, along with others who are interested in Greeks, or tortoises at all!

In this Garden State Tortoise video titled Tortoise Health & Temperature Checks/Pre-Brumation Chris shares (starting around 2:30) that the previous night was 38 degrees. He walks around and finds the tortoises that are not confined to their brumation boxes and uses a temp gun on shells to demonstrate how much they can warm up the next day. Unfortunately we don't get to see babies, but the results are pretty awesome. I recommend everyone take a peek.

@wellington It occurred to me while watching GST videos last night looking for brumating temp info that maybe you had never seen any of these awesome information filled videos. You asked me why I would listen to what people say instead of what I have been shown, so I thought maybe you hadn't browsed the GST Youtube channel. If you haven't, I recommend it!! Those videos were/are an important part of my research and if you watch some you will find that Chris shares his experiences, his pens, and his animals freely. I don't wish to stir the pot, and definitely do not wish to fuel any animosity between two clearly knowledgeable breeders or their differences in opinion on husbandry. I think we can all learn from each other, and I don't expect these to change your mind at all- just a glimpse into the other side of the aisle, so to speak. There are some adult captive grown animals in the Baby Turtles and Tortoises video I think you would be interested to take a peek at. Around 9 mins baby pens are shown, and closer to 12:17 an explanation starts before adult captives are shown. The entire video is neat to me if you have the time :):tort:
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
43,132
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I have read some of your posts on the topic of brumation which is why I included the "TBD" on How's for now. I have more research to do for sure, and some ideas about possible outdoor alternatives (I believe you recommend a fridge, right? this is what made me consider my building). I would be interested to talk about it at a later date definitely. Chris recommended that since I did not have any experience brumating at all, that I skip it for hatchlings the first year to be safe. It is my understanding he brumates his own hatchlings.

On this note I tried to rewatch lots of Garden State Tortoise videos to find the information I swear I heard at some point for @Gijoux. I think he will greatly appreciate this link, along with others who are interested in Greeks, or tortoises at all!

In this Garden State Tortoise video titled Tortoise Health & Temperature Checks/Pre-Brumation Chris shares (starting around 2:30) that the previous night was 38 degrees. He walks around and finds the tortoises that are not confined to their brumation boxes and uses a temp gun on shells to demonstrate how much they can warm up the next day. Unfortunately we don't get to see babies, but the results are pretty awesome. I recommend everyone take a peek.

@wellington It occurred to me while watching GST videos last night looking for brumating temp info that maybe you had never seen any of these awesome information filled videos. You asked me why I would listen to what people say instead of what I have been shown, so I thought maybe you hadn't browsed the GST Youtube channel. If you haven't, I recommend it!! Those videos were/are an important part of my research and if you watch some you will find that Chris shares his experiences, his pens, and his animals freely. I don't wish to stir the pot, and definitely do not wish to fuel any animosity between two clearly knowledgeable breeders or their differences in opinion on husbandry. I think we can all learn from each other, and I don't expect these to change your mind at all- just a glimpse into the other side of the aisle, so to speak. There are some adult captive grown animals in the Baby Turtles and Tortoises video I think you would be interested to take a peek at. Around 9 mins baby pens are shown, and closer to 12:17 an explanation starts before adult captives are shown. The entire video is neat to me if you have the time :):tort:
I have seen some of his stuff. I couldn't tell ya which ones. I will take a look though. I love watching anyone's tortoise videos, good, bad or ugly lol. Thanks.
Just keep in mind to anyone reading and watching. You have to take into account your location compared to whoever you are listening too. Tweaks might need to be made for location reasons. This goes for species too.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
43,132
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
@Tom should watch the video that was linked for me. I'd love your thoughts on the hatchlings hatching and staying in container until egg sack absorbed.
Fun to watch video. Love seeing so many different ones. I'd have to do it outside with that many too, or give them my whole house.
 
Top