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For Those Who Have a Young Sulcata...

Discussion in 'Sulcata tortoises' started by Tom, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Over and over I type up and answer diet questions and try to get people feeding the right stuff, but I find that the "norm" is grocery store food. Grocery store food is expensive, a hassle to obtain, and very low on the list of what is best for sulcatas.

    These tortoises are GRASS eaters. From the moment they hatch, until the day they die, grass should be a large part of their diet. Spring mix, romaine, kale and other greens are okay as a small part of a varied diet, but should not be the bulk of the diet. If someone must feed grocery store foods, the pile should be sprinkled with grass clippings or "Salad Style". For those who like the convenience of pre-packaged, easy to handle stuff, "Salad Style" is basically finely blended up grass hay that can be sprinkled over any other food to add bulk and fiber. I got my "Salad Style" from Tyler at tortoisesupply.com.

    For those that have a lawn, or access to one: Get a tub, get some scissors, get down on your knees, and go to work! It is so EASY to cut a few handfuls of fresh, green, tender, young grass, and dramatically improve your baby sulcatas diet. Any kind of grass will work. Finely chop it for little tortoises and sprinkle it all over the other food, or feed it by itself in a pile. Do be careful about lawn chemicals and pesticides. If you have a gardener, or its not your lawn, use extreme caution. Live in a condo or apartment complex? Don't do it. Not worth the risk, no matter what they tell you. Just grow your own grass in pots on your patio or window sills. Friends, family and neighbors might be able to help you out here.

    For those who still just love the grocery store: Most stores are now selling little plastic pots of live, freshly sprouted, organic wheat grass. You can find it at many pet stores too. This is a great way to add grass to the diet of a young sulcata. Get your scissors, hold the pot over the food pile and chop away. Water it and keep the pot in a window sill, and in a few days, you'll have more. You might need several pots as your baby grows, or you can buy seed from one of our site sponsors (Thank you Carolina Pet Supply) and sprout even bigger trays of it yourself.

    Some of you may find that your "grass eating" tortoise wants nothing to do with eating grass. This should surprise no one, since most breeders and most keepers never even attempt to feed actual grass to their grass eating tortoise babies. So sad! I can tell you from first hand experience with literally HUNDREDS of babies, they WILL eat it. It may take a month or more to slowly introduce it, but PLEASE, slowly introduce it.

    Other items that are good for babies and young sulcatas:
    Mulberry leaves
    Grape vine leaves
    Hibiscus leaves
    African hibiscus leaves
    Blue hibiscus leaves
    Rose of Sharon leaves
    Rose leaves
    Geraniums
    Gazanias
    Lavatera
    Pansies
    Petunias
    Hostas
    Honeysuckle
    Cape honeysuckle
    Leaves and blooms from any squash plant, like pumpkin, cucumber, summer squash, etc...
    Young spineless opuntia cactus pads

    Weeds:
    There are soooooooo many...
    Dandelion
    Mallow
    Filaree
    Smooth Sow thistle
    Prickly Sow thistle
    Milk thistle
    Goat head weed
    Cats ear
    Nettles
    Trefoil
    Wild onion
    Wild mustard
    Wild Garlic
    Clovers
    Broadleaf plantain
    Narrow leaf plantain
    Chick weed
    Hawksbit
    Hensbit
    Hawksbeard

    Other good stuff:
    "Testudo Seed Mix" from http://www.tortoisesupply.com/SeedMixes
    Pasture mixes or other seeds from http://www.groworganic.com/seeds.html
    Homegrown alfalfa
    Mazuri Tortoise Chow
    ZooMed Grassland Tortoise Food


    When sulcatas get a little older and bigger, usually around 10-12" for me, they will start munching on plain, dry grass hay, all on their own. I like orchard grass hay the best for this, but I also used bermuda grass hay for years too. When they hit this stage, life gets MUCH easier. Just make sure you have drinking water readily available when they start eating hay, and consider soaking regularly if you are not 100% sure your tortoise is drinking enough, or if you live in a really dry area, like me.

    I live in a desert and yet there is still green stuff all around me. I beg you to take a walk and learn about all the green stuff around you, INSTEAD of driving to the store again. Instead of a trip to the grocery store, take a trip to a local nursery for some weed IDs, and tips on growing your own stuff. What could be better than stepping out into your backyard and collecting all the free, healthy tortoise food you can carry? Think of the gas savings! Anyone who is a tortoise keeper, ought to be somewhat of a gardener too.

    I beg of you... PLEASE stop the grocery store MADNESS!!! :D
  2. sulcata101

    sulcata101 Active Member

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    That was really helpful!. My tortoise is on zooMed and I take him out almost every day to graze in my 5 acre yard. For a treat i give him organic romaine lettuce, lately though I've started growing him lettuce. I'm so with you, stop grocery store madness! :D
    Linda Fry, Meela21, Liam Owen and 2 others like this.
  3. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Great thread Tom. Now breath and reboot, your going to have to keep updating this thread, or restating it often:p :D
    Now, how about us with leopards that won't eat grass or hey:(. I keep trying, he keeps refusing:(. Any tips?
  4. Caboose

    Caboose New Member

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    Thank you sooo much this is exactly what i need someone to tell me. My sulcata is my baby and i love him. Thank you


    My Sulcata Michelangelo[TURTLE]
    and my RedFoot Raphael [TURTLE]
    [hr]
    Now if i could be told what i need for my Redfoot


    My Sulcata Michelangelo[TURTLE]
    and my RedFoot Raphael [TURTLE]
  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Actually, this is completely applicable to South African leopards. My 12 inchers are already readily munching on orchard grass hay, and thank goodness, because they are total pigs and eat a ton every day...

    For regular leopards, or testudo, just skip the grass part, but the rest of the list is all good. I feed CDTs a fair amount of grass too, but not like a sulcata.
  6. Caboose

    Caboose New Member

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    My yard is spayed every month with chemicals to make the grass grow better. Sooo i shluld grow my own grass


    My Sulcata Michelangelo[TURTLE]
    and my RedFoot Raphael [TURTLE]
  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Yes. Or buy some of the wheatgrass at the store. For a single baby sulcata, 2 or 3 pots would be a good start. The stuff only costs a couple of bucks and it keeps on growing...
    Morty'sMamma, loopacia and DreReyes like this.
  8. Caboose

    Caboose New Member

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    When you measure a tortoises length do u go by the their shell?


    My Sulcata Michelangelo[TURTLE]
    and my RedFoot Raphael [TURTLE]
  9. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I do feed what I have in my yard, some is on your list and what ever seeds I threw out there, can't remember the kind, but lots. Neither one, Tatum or the Russian won't eat the grass and I can't get them to eat the hay either. Neither one is that fond of rose of Sharon or hibiscus. They will eat it, but not like they love it, maybe a flower or two and no leaves:( What is the best way to serve up the hay, wet or dry? I buy the orchard and alfalfa from the pet stores that are packaged for rabbits. Is there better I should look for?
    GreatestScott likes this.
  10. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    I wouldn't bother with hay or grass for a russian or babcocki leopard. Its not a "natural" part of their diet according to the studies I've seen.

    As far as the other stuff, you know the routine for introducing new good stuff... Finely chop it all up and just use a little of the new stuff with mostly the old familiar stuff. Gradually flop the ratio.
    OMary likes this.
  11. DawnH

    DawnH Well-Known Member

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    I am totally thrilled with the Testudo seed mix I bought before our little bugger arrived. In the kiddie pool I set up as well ad the two containers I plan on rotating in his/her indoor enclosure - it is sprouting like mad! I plan on waiting till it is 3-4" tall before I let him/her into it. Tonight we had a nice "salad" of weeds, St. Augustine, Rye Grass and some mustard greens. I also soaked one Mazuri pellet and broke it up in it as a topping...lol
  12. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    You are going to have an awesome tortoise experience! You bought from a great source. You are feeding and housing right. I would love to be your tortoise!
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  13. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Shoot, I have way more grass and can buy hay easier then the other stuff. Tatum does eat by grazing and some Mazuri, looking for a better winter diet. That's the hard time to feed the better stuff.
  14. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    This is a common issue for leopard keepers. When sulcatas get big, you put them in a big grass yard or drop a flake of hay and they are good to go. When leopards get big, you either grow a lot of leafy stuff or buy a lot of leafy stuff. I've seen a lot of the leopard subspecies hybrids that like the grass, but a lot of the "pure" babcockii don't touch it.
  15. alysciaingram

    alysciaingram Active Member

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    Can one of the Mods sticky this? This topic is very common. It would be great to just be able to point people in the right direction instead of 10 threads a week of "Is this diet ok?! ".
  16. Kameo37

    Kameo37 Member

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    I would just like to say that I took some advice from another thread that said to wet the grass and chop it up with other greens. That worked like a charm! Adding a little more grass each time and a little less grocery store greens should do the trick.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337 using TortForum mobile app
  17. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    There are several good care sheets out there for RFs. Just have a look.
  18. Teodora'sDAD

    Teodora'sDAD Active Member

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    I have not offered my sully any store baught food (yet) Her treat is a Dandylion flower once in a while. leafy weeds and grasses is all. I place her food around her enclosure in different spots to encourage her to to move around. (its my attempt to stimulate her little mind-lol) I place some under the heat lamp as well and that dries up pretty quick before she gets to it. so its almost like hay by that time. lol
    Darlene Hart likes this.
  19. farber2028

    farber2028 Member

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    We're approaching the fall months here, as we all know, and I have been thinking about this topic. I live in Iowa, we have very cold winters where almost everything stops growing. I don't want to have to rely on store bought foods for half the year. I've been thinking about making almost like a salad dressing puree from the different things I have growing now and weeds that are around. What are your thoughts on this? I'd do a few different purees, like a flower based one, weed based and so forth. My Idea with this is I can freeze it and still be able to provide the variety that my torts need all year round, just in a different fashion. I have even thought of making the puree and freezing it in ice cube trays to provide something like a homemade mazuri. Is this as good of an idea as I think it is?
    [hr]
    I know what I'm asking isn't really sulcata specific, but after reading the thread I thought it would fit in :)
    Darlene Hart likes this.
  20. sherminator

    sherminator Member

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    I must have a hybrid leo hatchling because all Sherman eats is grass and dandelion leaves which is his favorite. Doesn't really like Mazuri, lettuce, hibiscus, aloe or even most other weeds. I figure he's getting lots of fiber. I grow the grass/dandelions/other weeds in a plastic shoe box with holes and added organic calcium to the soil to make it better for him even. He seems quite happy with it.
    Lynny D and gbuiting like this.
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