Apartment Porch Enclosure

tortoiseton

New Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2021
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Austin, Texas
Hello Tortoise Forum!

New user here, but have owned my little 1-2 year old sulcata for almost 1 year now (Rescued it from a parent who couldn't take care of it). Just moved into Austin, Texas and am living on a corner apartment with a large porch (VERY rough estimate of at least 40 sq ft). Right now my poor tortoise has been walking on the concrete and getting used to it, but I want to give him a real enclosure. I wanted to get some advice.

1. Would it be acceptable for half of the porch to be a closed off enclosure with substrate but to give him access to a concrete part? The reason for this would be the sunlight doesn't reach the porch all too great in the corner and only shines on the porch in the afternoon so I want him to have access to the whole porch for some sunlight.

2. Any basic recommendations for material to build the wall out of? I haven't personally worked with wood before. Also, would it be okay just to wall off the parts that lead to the porch but use the sides of my apartment as walling for his enclosure? Not sure what the wall is made of but it is painted white.

3. How could I separate the substrated part of the enclosure from the concrete part in a way that is accessible to my tortoise, won't cause him to flip, but also wont get substrate all over my porch.

4. Any recommendations on tortoise hide? I have seen Tom's thread on the large 4' by 8' night box but I kind of want to avoid that while I am in an apartment and planning to move out after a year or two. Also, I figure my environment already has a decent amount of warmth, I just want to correct for the humidity
 

Chubbs the tegu

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Ma
Hello Tortoise Forum!

New user here, but have owned my little 1-2 year old sulcata for almost 1 year now (Rescued it from a parent who couldn't take care of it). Just moved into Austin, Texas and am living on a corner apartment with a large porch (VERY rough estimate of at least 40 sq ft). Right now my poor tortoise has been walking on the concrete and getting used to it, but I want to give him a real enclosure. I wanted to get some advice.

1. Would it be acceptable for half of the porch to be a closed off enclosure with substrate but to give him access to a concrete part? The reason for this would be the sunlight doesn't reach the porch all too great in the corner and only shines on the porch in the afternoon so I want him to have access to the whole porch for some sunlight.

2. Any basic recommendations for material to build the wall out of? I haven't personally worked with wood before. Also, would it be okay just to wall off the parts that lead to the porch but use the sides of my apartment as walling for his enclosure? Not sure what the wall is made of but it is painted white.

3. How could I separate the substrated part of the enclosure from the concrete part in a way that is accessible to my tortoise, won't cause him to flip, but also wont get substrate all over my porch.

4. Any recommendations on tortoise hide? I have seen Tom's thread on the large 4' by 8' night box but I kind of want to avoid that while I am in an apartment and planning to move out after a year or two. Also, I figure my environment already has a decent amount of warmth, I just want to correct for the humidity
Ur in a tough situation with a sulcata. They grow super fast in the correct environment. They should be in an outdoor pen with weeds and grass to graze on all day not on a substrate on a porch.
 

tortoiseton

New Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2021
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Austin, Texas
Ur in a tough situation with a sulcata. They grow super fast in the correct environment. They should be in an outdoor pen with weeds and grass to graze on all day not on a substrate on a porch.
Yeah, I'm aware of the growth rate. I'm in a good position and do not expect to live in an apartment for more than 1-2 years, so I'm hoping to get it better conditions eventually. However, for now, I still do want to get it quality conditions given what I am working with :)
 

KarenSoCal

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How big is your sulcata? What is the length of him? I believe that
as a 1-2 year old he should have been living, and still should be, in a closed chamber. In your post it sounds like you are planning for him to live on the porch full time. I would call that living outside vs indoors, and he is too small to be living outside. He certainly can and should go out in good warm weather for a few hours, but needs to live inside til he grows some more. A closed chamber is also much easier to maintain the proper temps and humidity.

But he still needs an outdoor enclosure, so in regards to your porch, I'll comment by numbered item.

Hello Tortoise Forum!

New user here, but have owned my little 1-2 year old sulcata for almost 1 year now (Rescued it from a parent who couldn't take care of it). Just moved into Austin, Texas and am living on a corner apartment with a large porch (VERY rough estimate of at least 40 sq ft). Right now my poor tortoise has been walking on the concrete and getting used to it, but I want to give him a real enclosure. I wanted to get some advice.

1. Would it be acceptable for half of the porch to be a closed off enclosure with substrate but to give him access to a concrete part? The reason for this would be the sunlight doesn't reach the porch all too great in the corner and only shines on the porch in the afternoon so I want him to have access to the whole porch for some sunlight.

2. Any basic recommendations for material to build the wall out of? I haven't personally worked with wood before. Also, would it be okay just to wall off the parts that lead to the porch but use the sides of my apartment as walling for his enclosure? Not sure what the wall is made of but it is painted white.

3. How could I separate the substrated part of the enclosure from the concrete part in a way that is accessible to my tortoise, won't cause him to flip, but also wont get substrate all over my porch.

4. Any recommendations on tortoise hide? I have seen Tom's thread on the large 4' by 8' night box but I kind of want to avoid that while I am in an apartment and planning to move out after a year or two. Also, I figure my environment already has a decent amount of warmth, I just want to correct for the humidity
1). My thought is that he may decide that he likes the concrete area. If you intend for him to have access to it all the time, that's ok. But if you want to be able to confine him to the substrate area, he will be a terror trying to get to the concrete. You can't give part time access.

2). Wood is the first thing that comes to mind. But since he is still little, you could use concrete blocks. When they get huge and strong, the blocks need to be filled with dirt and held in place with rebar. You would need to stack them so he couldn't get a foothold to climb over.

I would not use the wall as the enclosure wall. Often, torts scrape their walls with their shells when they do their laps around the perimeter. You rent...the owner/manager may not be thrilled with grooves worn into the sides of the building.

3). Leave a gap of 1 or 2 concrete blocks at the top edge of the wall. Then build a small platform on the wall, and a ramp on each side. Torts learn to use ramps very quickly. Just be sure to make railings so he can't fall, and something on the ramps for grip, like wood strips.

4). A hide could just be a properly sized bin, upside down, with a hole cut in the end for a door. That's if he's brought inside at night.
If he stays out at night, he will need a heated night box. There are plans for how to build one for a single tort. I think it's 4' x 4'. "A decent amount of warmth" isn't going to do the job...he needs to be 80° or higher all night long, and even in the daytime if it's chilly or rainy. For the heat you would use a radiant heat panel (RHP) on the ceiling, and a Kane heat mat on the floor, both controlled by the same thermostat so they are only on when necessary. At 4' x 4', when you move you can get all the big brawny guys to carry it for you, and help you set it up at your house.

I know I haven't actually helped you with your dilemma. But I believe this is how he should be housed. I'm going to tag another member and see if he agrees with me. Maybe he'll say what you want to do is just fine and my meddling isn't needed. I hope it is that way for you.

@Tom

In the meantime, here is our tort care sheet, written by the member that I tagged.

 

tortoiseton

New Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2021
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Austin, Texas
How big is your sulcata? What is the length of him? I believe that
as a 1-2 year old he should have been living, and still should be, in a closed chamber. In your post it sounds like you are planning for him to live on the porch full time. I would call that living outside vs indoors, and he is too small to be living outside. He certainly can and should go out in good warm weather for a few hours, but needs to live inside til he grows some more. A closed chamber is also much easier to maintain the proper temps and humidity.

But he still needs an outdoor enclosure, so in regards to your porch, I'll comment by numbered item.


1). My thought is that he may decide that he likes the concrete area. If you intend for him to have access to it all the time, that's ok. But if you want to be able to confine him to the substrate area, he will be a terror trying to get to the concrete. You can't give part time access.

2). Wood is the first thing that comes to mind. But since he is still little, you could use concrete blocks. When they get huge and strong, the blocks need to be filled with dirt and held in place with rebar. You would need to stack them so he couldn't get a foothold to climb over.

I would not use the wall as the enclosure wall. Often, torts scrape their walls with their shells when they do their laps around the perimeter. You rent...the owner/manager may not be thrilled with grooves worn into the sides of the building.

3). Leave a gap of 1 or 2 concrete blocks at the top edge of the wall. Then build a small platform on the wall, and a ramp on each side. Torts learn to use ramps very quickly. Just be sure to make railings so he can't fall, and something on the ramps for grip, like wood strips.

4). A hide could just be a properly sized bin, upside down, with a hole cut in the end for a door. That's if he's brought inside at night.
If he stays out at night, he will need a heated night box. There are plans for how to build one for a single tort. I think it's 4' x 4'. "A decent amount of warmth" isn't going to do the job...he needs to be 80° or higher all night long, and even in the daytime if it's chilly or rainy. For the heat you would use a radiant heat panel (RHP) on the ceiling, and a Kane heat mat on the floor, both controlled by the same thermostat so they are only on when necessary. At 4' x 4', when you move you can get all the big brawny guys to carry it for you, and help you set it up at your house.

I know I haven't actually helped you with your dilemma. But I believe this is how he should be housed. I'm going to tag another member and see if he agrees with me. Maybe he'll say what you want to do is just fine and my meddling isn't needed. I hope it is that way for you.

@Tom

In the meantime, here is our tort care sheet, written by the member that I tagged.

Thank you so much for writing this out.

I'm not so sure how big it is, forgot to bring a ruler in the move haha. I am probably going to grab a tape measure or ruler soon, but if I had to guess my tortoise is probably 10" lengthwise.

Previously, it was living in a 2'x4' storage container, I wanted it to be out on the porch to get some more "natural" space. I guess now I realize I should try to use some sort of mixture to keep it well and healthy. I did read through that page, and it gave a lot of great advice. Perhaps I may even flip that storage container upside down, cut a hole in it, and use it as a night box for now with some proper heating.

Thanks for the advice on the ramp/enclosure, sounds really awesome and doable for me.

A lot of great advice! Thanks for all the help! :))
 

DJ Kirk

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Aug 7, 2019
Messages
96
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Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Sulcatas require huge areas to live. Most sulcata owners use an entire backyard and let the tort roam. My cousin in Louisiana reinforced her fence with cinder blocks 4 ft deep with another row above ground and then her fence. Her tort is about 25 years old and very large as the last time she measured it was 32" long at the carapace and weighed 113 lbs. The tort has about 1100 sq yds and that's barely enough. A balcony in an apartment is not enough room for a sulcata. Young sulcatas should be kept in a very humid closed chamber until at least 2 years old in captivity.
 

tortoiseton

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Joined
Jul 23, 2021
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Austin, Texas
Just in case you aren't sure about how to measure a tortoise, here's pics showing 2 ways. It's called SCL, straight carapace length.
View attachment 330155 View attachment 330154
Hey Karen!

Thanks again for all the advice, I was able to go back and measure my little one today. In terms of SCL, roughly 6 inches. Also, I got better measurements of my porch and I have roughly 110-120 sq ft on there. Again, I realize it is not ideal and many members here have large open areas with grass and weeds, so my goal within the next two years is to get to a place like that for my tortoise. For now, I will try to give it warmth, humidity, and fresh air that it needs based on all the advice above. Thanks everyone.
 

Yvonne G

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You could put a row of bricks across the area to keep the substrate in, and on the concrete side of the bricks add something across it that is shorter than the bricks so he doesn't have such a high step that would induce tipping over.

As for the night box, seeing as how the tortoise is only going to use it as a shelter, and not to live in 24/7, you don't need to go 4'x8'. Just make something big enough for him to be able to turn around in. For a small tortoise, 2'x2' would probably be big enough.
 
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