Building an Enclosure for a Baby Redfoot

LemmyBites

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Jul 20, 2015
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Hi there, I am user Rutibegga's other half. We live in Philly and just bought a redfoot baby from a breeder on this site. While I was originally very apprehensive of my partner's tortoise obsession (we already have a bunch of furry mouths to feed), the fact that I get to build a cool indoor tropical enclosure sold me. I have been researching and working on the enclosure for the past few days. Trogdor the Burninator (the baby) will be living primarily indoors for the first year and definitely during the winter, so I want to be sure this enclosure will work for ~4-5 years. So far, this is my plan:

Layout:
  • 3' x 4' fully enclosed wood table with a 1 x 3' upper level accessible via ramp, for a total of 15 sqft
  • Plywood floor will be sealed with a wood sealant and covered with a shower curtain
  • 20" walls with plexiglass viewing windows on 2 sides
  • plexiglass and plywood hinged top
  • Basking rock on upper level approx. 8" below the UV + heat lamps (is this OK?)
  • food and water dishes + several hiding areas on bottom level
  • Plants: aloe, a few tortoise-safe herbs, lamium, maybe some moss. All will be organic.
  • Rocks & driftwood to add interest
  • Substrate - still researching what's best for babies. Looks like sphagnum moss and coco coir?

Equipment:
  • ZooMed combo lamp fixture and turtle lamp combo pack
  • LED or compact fluorescent strip for plants (TBD)
  • MistKing system with 2 misting nozzles and a timer (unsure of how often to mist - anyone know?)
  • ZooMed digital thermometer/humidity gauge placed at substrate level
Does this all seem OK? Is there anything you would change? I will be sure to post photos as I go along.
 

Ida K

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May 28, 2014
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I've read somewhere that it's best if the tortoise cannot see the outside through any clear material because they will try to go through it and it will stress them out. Anyone correct me if I'm wrong.
 

LemmyBites

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Jul 20, 2015
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Thanks, Ida! I've seen a number of enclosures on here that have windows, and mine are above substrate level, so I'm hoping they'll be ok. If not, I can black out or cover the lower half.

Here's what we've done so far--it took a lot of cursing and splinters, but we have a basic box.
 

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LemmyBites

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Today I added some hairpin legs:
image.jpg1.jpg


I fitted the upper level:
image.jpg1_1.jpg


And then the first coat of stain went on. I also waterproofed the base on the inside:
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Side view:
image.jpg3.jpg


Tomorrow the second coat of stain goes on, then I'll start the foam rock walls!
 

mijojr

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The tortoise wI'll definately spend all day trying to get out I'd they can see through it. I guess you can test it iut, But I believe you will find the same result
 

Rutibegga

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It's hard to tell, but there's about nine inches between the bottom and the window. Even with substrate, it should be above eye level for the first few years, after which we will be transitioning to a larger enclose and an outdoor one.

If it's a problem, we will just have to block it with something.
 

Lyn W

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It is a good size for babies but not sure it will last you 4/5 years as your tort will need much more room as he grows, so depending on your torts rate of growth you made need to update sooner.

When you say foam rock walls are you planning on making artificial rocks out of foam? Only I think that could be dangerous if the tort tries to nibble them and bits break off - he could choke.

Also I don't know what sort of bulbs those are in your list but just make sure they are not coiled in any way.
 

Rutibegga

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Not coiled bulbs!

The foam walls are going to be coated with cement and a masonry sealant. @LemmyBites can explain in better detail, but they'll be very hard, safe, and not at all edible by the tort. They're just to add visual interest.
 

LemmyBites

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Hopefully the windows won't be a problem; if they are, we will adapt the enclosure as needed. I based the design partly on this enclosure built by Vicki Hale, which I've seen referenced in quite a few places.

It was a productive weekend! I finished staining the wood (darker than I wanted, oh well) and installed the plexiglass windows. Cutting the plexi turned out to be a chore, and I made a rather expensive mistake and cracked a sheet. Ultimately, I had to use an angle grinder.
f0A-P2mdzhtgchwGSJzqGwKm_kMSmi-x5as3F9d9l6M.jpg



Next I started cutting and fitting the rock walls, which are made from insulating foam. In addition to decoration, I am hoping they will help retain a bit of heat in the winter months. I managed to cut my finger :(
yOdbMKChsS0uRk6xWQynxNgwiqnQYrN8fU-oLoNuXv4.jpg


When we're done, the foam will be covered with 2 coats of unsanded grout, painted, and mortar sealant so it will be very hard and tortoise-proof. Rutibegga helped me apply the first coat:
0NTWRjHCmyNPO40vOjJxUmnOJEvG69f03m-bgqOciVU.jpg


Then I fit and stained the lid. The back has a hole cut out for the heat/UV lamps, and the front is plexiglass, so it is 100% enclosed. There will be hinges in the middle so the front half can be lifted up easily for feeding and cleaning.
wtI61oe4khelPW2HlzhjD4YjEDxbMqbTjYERPW4sNmc.jpg
 

LemmyBites

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We've been working on the rock walls for the past couple of evenings. First, we applied 2 coats of grout. Last night we finished painting them. Tonight, I'll put the first coat of masonry sealant on to make sure they are completely inedible :) Next up is figuring out how to make the top level safe so the little guy can't fall off. I need to build some kind of wall...
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I also did more research on CHEs and UVB. It turns out the bulb I got (ZooMed) was one of the bad coiled ones, so it's going back. I ordered a Mega Ray MVB 70W to supplement outdoor time, and a CHE with a rheostat for nighttime heat.
 

Lyn W

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Your welcome!
 

LemmyBites

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Last night the CHE ceramic socket and bulb arrived, so we got those set up. It will be ~8" from the top of the substrate, is hanging from a secured hook (not clamped), and is positioned to radiate heat throughout the enclosure. It will be connected to a rheostat and timer, and the cord will be secured and run through a hole in the back wall. Does this set up look OK to experienced folks? *Edited to add that we will obviously test the heat/light system before the tortoise goes in. I am thinking we may need to raise the CHE up another inch or two.
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CHE is in the front left corner. Basking light/halogen lamp will be in the middle/back over the upper level:
8AFqiiEMlo3D4egL8WVMospYXHKwkUb_jgvHHJhBCis.jpg
 

johnsonnboswell

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With a closed habitat, you may not need night heat in the summer. Says the person without air conditioning. Just check your temps.

You can put a trailing plant on the habitat to screen the window. I keep large houseplants in front of mine. The tortoises feel safer & screened, but I can still see in. The plants benefit from the lights in the habitat, too.
 

LemmyBites

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Thanks @johnsonboswell! That's very helpful. I don't think we will need the heat for a few weeks--the ambient temp is 80 to 85 in that room at the moment. We may need it at night; we'll see. Great idea about the plant as well.
 

LemmyBites

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We added some coco coir substrate (need more), plants, a ramp, and a wall to prevent the little guy from tumbling. The wall is made of branches and is well secured with wood glue and several dozen wooden dowels drilled through the pieces and into the plywood. Plants so far include lamium, mondo grass, and small hostas. I'm hoping to add moss or another trailing plant the wood wall.

We also added lighting. We've got two T8 lights for the plants and a MVB on the top basking area. Now we need to add enough coco and sphagnum moss to plant the plants! Also a hide for the back corner. Temp is 82 this morning and humidity is at 85% on the bottom level.

20150802_092647.jpg
 

LemmyBites

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I decided against the hostas (probably will get too big) and ordered some tort-safe houseplants plants I think the baby will enjoy, and which will look better in a tropical enclosure: 2 parlor palms, a dwarf snake (mother-in-law's tongue) plant, and a red prayer plant. Eventually, I'd like to find a trailing plant with smaller foliage than the lamium. Anyone have ideas?
 
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